Thursday, November 10, 2011

Another late visit to Ice House Lake

Facing a forecast of 60°F and sunny skies on a day off from work, I couldn’t pass up the chance to get out to one of my favorite spots in the region and see what was still flying. I went out to Ice House Lake which is just off the Columbia River in Skamania County, Washington. I wrote about a previous visit here in Recent Outings on the Lower Columbia.

Many of the species I saw on that previous trip were still flying today, but in smaller numbers in some cases (as would be expected on this late date). The dominant species today where California Spreadwing (Archilestes californica) and Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum; the ovipositing pair above), both still going strong. There were also a few Saffron-winged Meadowhawks (S. costiferum), several darners—the two I saw well were Shadow Darners (Aeshna umbrosa), and a few Tule Bluets (Enallagma carunculatum). Below are a few photos from today...

California Spreadwings (Archilestes californica): two males sharing a perch on the left; a female on the right.
Male Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) on the left; male Saffron-winged Meadowhawk (S. costiferum) on the right.
Odonate Magnet

I was frequently used as a perch if I stood still in the sun. Mostly it was Autumn Meadowhawks that were trying to sun themselves on me, but a few California Spreadwings landed on me as well. One spreadwing landed on my thumb and just wouldn’t leave, so I took a few close-ups of him.

A male California Spreadwing (Archilestes californica) on my thumb.
A male Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) on my leg.

I found one male Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculatum) which was obelisking, but rather than for keeping cool on a hot day, it was trying to warm up on a cool day. This was the first time that I noticed an odonate obelisking for this purpose. Read more at Obelisking: Sticking it Where the Sun Shines. The pond damselflies don’t obelisk as much as some other groups of odonates, and when they do, they don’t really get the abdomen hoisted up very high. Maybe they don’t have the muscle strength needed to get that long abdomen (relative to the thorax) very far above the horizontal.

A male Tule Bluet (Enallagma carunculatum) obelisking in order to warm up—raising its abdomen up to absorb more solar radiation.
I also photographed an Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on the sunny side of a wooden stake. This oriented his body nearly perpendicular to the relatively low sun. In a sense, this was kind of a “lazy obelisk” since he was just hanging on the side of an object; or maybe “smart obelisk” is more appropriate since he was expending far less energy (I presume) than if he was holding his abdomen up in the air. What do you think?

Male Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).
Another Aeshna

Lastly, here’s a photo of a Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) which let me get one shot before it bolted. Can you see all the characters that point to this species? Review Sorting Paddle-tailed and Shadow Darners Out-of-Hand if you’re not sure.

Male Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa).


  1. So you'e still got quite a few species still flying. Nice photos!

  2. I've noticed this "lazy obelisking" behavior amongst our Minnesota Autumn Meadowhawks as well. They seem to be the one meadowhawk with a predilection for vertical surfaces; especially late in the year when the sun barely clears the tree tops, I find them on sunlit walls, sunlit tree trunks, sunlit legs and bellies and shoulders. They seem especially adept at finding the warm solar-collectors of fallen leaves. Even after a number of days with morning temps in the 20s and a little snow, I saw a few males at a small pond yesterday, November 12.

  3. @Elva Paulson Thanks, Elva. I think they might be done for now...

  4. @Scott King That's a good point, Scott. The meadowhawks were frequently landing on dead leaves, but I didn't make the mental connection.