Monday, August 8, 2011

Lake of the Woods, Oregon

Lake of the Woods is a large natural lake nestled in the southern Oregon Cascades within sight of the sleeping Mount McLaughlin. With easy access right off Hwy 140 and at almost 5000 feet elevation, it’s a popular summer retreat for hordes of campers, boaters, hikers, and day users of all sorts—a recipe which usually keeps me away, but there is a gem of a spot in the middle of it all which is great for odonates.

View Lake of the Woods in a larger map. The rectangle identifies Rainbow Bay.

The gem of a spot is at the easternmost shore of the bay on the eastern side of the lake. That’s Rainbow Bay, and there’s a sedge meadow there which is largely inundated when the lake is at its highest levels during spring and early summer, but becomes mostly dry by late summer and fall. A band of tules hugs the edge of the meadow in deeper water.

View Rainbow Bay in a larger map. The pin identifies the meadow.

This area is easiest to access from dirt pullouts on the side of Dead Indian Road where it passes at its closest. There is also a well-maintained trail that passes through here between the road and the meadow, and connects the Rainbow Bay day use area (to the north) with Sunset Campground (to the south).

This location is well known among Oregon odonatists as the only place in the state where Lance-tipped Darner (Aeshna constricta) can be found somewhat reliably, and I visited on 5 August 2011 in an effort to find nymphs and/or exuviae of that species. I was not successful, but there were plenty of other odonates around to keep me busy.

Things were definitely late up here, as they are all over the Northwest this year. That was most evident in the large number of Spiny Baskettails (Epitheca spinigera) still flying through the open forest around the meadow, and I even found one exuvia of that species still clinging to some vegetation. Normally that species is quite scarce up here by now. Lots of darners were feeding in a loose swarm over the area—three species were represented among the relatively few that I could catch, but the Lance-tipped was not one of them. Clouds of just emerged meadowhawks drifted up from the sedges as I wandered through them.

I haven’t tallied up the complete list of species found at the Rainbow Bay meadow, but below is what I recorded during a few hours on that recent visit. Following that are photos of several of those species taken that day.

    Damselflies (Zygoptera)
      Spreadwings (Lestidae)
      • Northern Spreadwing (Lestes disjunctus)
      • Emerald Spreadwing (Lestes dryas)
      Pond Damsels (Coenagrionidae)
      • Boreal Bluet (Enallagma boreale)
      • Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculatum)
      • Pacific Forktail (Ischnura cervula)
      • Western Forktail (Ischnura perparva)

    Dragonflies (Anisoptera)
      Darners (Aeshnidae)
      • Variable Darner (Aeshna interrupta)
      • Paddle-tailed Darner (Aeshna palmata)
      • Blue-eyed Darner (Rhionaeschna multicolor)
      Emeralds (Corduliidae)
      • American Emerald (Cordulia shurtleffii)
      • Spiny Baskettail (Epitheca spinigera)
      Skimmers (Libellulidae)
      • Chalk-fronted Corporal (Ladona julia)
      • Hudsonian Whiteface (Leucorrhinia hudsonica)
      • Eight-spotted Skimmer (Libellula forensis)
      • Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)
      • Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata)
      • White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum)
      • Striped Meadowhawk (Sympetrum pallipes)
      • Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum)

Male Boreal Bluet (Enallagma boreale).

Male Emerald Spreadwing (Lestes dryas).

Male Spiny Baskettail (Epitheca spinigera).

Male Chalk-fronted Corporal (Ladona julia).

Male Hudsonian Whiteface (Leucorrhinia hudsonica). This one has atypically small red spots on the abdomen.

Female Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella). Scarce in forested mountain areas.

Female Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata).

Male White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum).

Female Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) with quite a heavy load of parasitic water mites.


  1. A very nice report on Lake of the Woods and beautiful photos. Thank you, Jim.

  2. I really like the pictures you're getting. What kit do you carry and do you have a "recipie" to capture these fine images?

    greg haworth

  3. @gh1 Thanks, Greg. I use a 180 macro, usually with a 1.4x tele. I'm usually at ISO 500 with an aperture somewhere around F20 (which depends on the lighting and background), and I typically use a bit of fill flash from my 40D's built-in.

  4. Amazing diversity in one place. Having only a point-and-shoot myself, how far away are you from the odes? I rarely can get close enough to a dragonfly to capture them resting and I'm totally out of luck if they're flying. I've thought about going out in the early morning with hopes to find dragonflies resting, but it looks like it was midday when you took your shots. Often I don't fully appreciate how difficult it is to do things until I try it myself. These are incredible pictures, Jim. I love the water mites shot.

  5. @Katie (Nature ID) Thanks, Katie. For the bigger ones, I'd guess that I'm about six feet away; more like three feet for the damselflies and smaller dragons. I'm not actually sure since I don't think about it too much while I'm in the field.

    You won't find much in the early morning unless you come across some that are roosting—which doesn't happen for me. The middle of the day is when they are very active, but there are a lot more of them out too, so more opportunities to photograph. It certainly helps to be in a place that has a lot of odonates.

  6. Jim: thanks for the information -- i really appreciate it.

    I just started in with the odonates after birding for over 40 years. Cool thing is that as the birds go silent and hidden the odo's come out!

    Regularly use your blog and associated bogfoot site to extend my knowledge of the PNW odo bio-fauna. Only complaint is that you don't post to your blog often enough :)

    greg haworth

  7. @gh1 Thanks so much, Greg. I wish I had more time to post too!