Saturday, April 28, 2012

Lake Martin, Louisiana

 
A couple days ago I spent a little bit of dragonflying time at Lake Martin which is just a short drive from Lafayette, Louisiana. It’s a lush, beautiful lake with lots of Spanish moss-enshrouded cypress trees emerging from the lake waters (did you know that Spanish moss is actually a bromeliad?) and, of course, the occasional alligator playing “I see you, but you don’t see me.”

The conditions were not great since it was very blustery and the odonates were not too interested in posing for photographs. The diversity of species wasn’t too impressive either—not very different from what I saw at Avery Island a few days prior (see previous post), but I do have a few photos worth sharing.

The Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) was again king of the odonates in terms of conspicuousness, if not shear numbers. The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), another abundant species in southern wetlands, was a distant second this day. The rest of the dragonfly species were just in ones or twos. Of the damselflies, Rambur’s and Fragile Forktails (Ischnura ramburii and posita) were both abundant and the only other species I saw was a single bluet—presumably a Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile), even though I looked pretty hard for additional species.

Male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) devouring an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera)—those orange things are the wings. Pondhawks frequently prey on other odonates, so this isn't unusual. This was the only Amberwing I saw, however.
Female Eastern Pondhawk (E. simplicicollis). Just as with our species in the west, males start out green like the females, but turn blue with maturity.
A Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) exuvia on a water hyacinth leaf. The head is missing (if you weren't sure), which was probably taken by the gusty winds.
I showed you a male Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) in my previous post; here's an androchromatic (male colored) female with her exclamation point thoracic stripes.
A male Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida). There were only one or two of these around, and they preferred to perch over the gator-infested waters well out from the lake shore. I generally don't like this orientation in my dragonfly photography, but it does show off the wings pretty well in this case. Besides the four dark oval spots on the wings, note the almost pure white pterostigmas which is not a common feature of dragonflies.
There were a few darners (Aeshnidae) flying around, but not many, and I think I saw more exuviae (like the ones above) than I did flying adults. I didn't net any of them, but the flyers appeared to be Cyrano Darner (Nasiaeschna pentacantha) and Regal Darner (Coryphaeschna ingens). None of the exuviae appeared to be big enough for the latter, so I presume they were Cyrano Darner. I collected the top exuvia in the shot above, although I haven't keyed it out yet. I would have had the other one too, but when I grabbed that stick it came out with a jolt and most of the lower exuvia detached and blew away.

 
Postscript: I later realized that the aeshnid exuvia I collected (the top one in the photo above) contains a silk tunnel, and that dark shadow visible in the image was probably the occupant. After I had been walking around with the exuvia in my hand for a while (I neglected to put any vials in my pockets), I noticed a little jumping spider crawling around on my hand and I brushed it off without thinking. Now I really wish I had put the exuvia in a vial right away so that I could figure out which species of jumping spider that was. See my post on this topic for more information: Now THIS is Recycling: Jumping Spiders Using Dragonfly Exuviae.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing Jim- It's always fun to see what others are seeing- as well as getting to see some other species not found at home. Looking forward to more sharing of your adventure! Safe Travels.

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  2. Make sure you manage to snag one of those cool Roseate Skimmers while in Louisiana. It was the Ode Highlight of my trip down there last year.

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    1. I've only seen one of those so far--an immature male at Avery Island. Must not be high season for them yet.

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