Dragonflies of Mendon Ponds
My first birding excursion to Mendon Ponds, as reported earlier in the week, was an outstanding introduction to the abundant avifauna of my new stomping grounds. As a bonus, the bugs were pretty cool too. Every invertebrate seemed to be on the move but, like John at Born Again Bird Watcher, I was singing the Ode to the Odonata. What that means in English is that I was checking out dragonflies.
The first one I got a good look at was a grass green bug I’d admired many times before. A little research indicated that the object of my attention was a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), a fairly common dragonfly in those parts of the United States not ruled by the Western Pondhawk. How did I know the green one was a female? Because the male assumes a handsome powder blue veneer, like so:
Eastern Pondhawk (male)
Pondhawks are part of the Family Libellulidae, also known as the Common Skimmers. When I think of Libellula dragonflies, I always imagine the chunky ones with the dark wing patterns like the Common Whitetail. This last trip served up a similar skimmer flashing fancy dark patches on its wings but with a more modest abdomen. This, I learned, was a Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa), marked as a male by the milky shading on its wings:
Widow Skimmer (male)
Plenty more glittering dragons buzzed by, a kaleidoscope of bejeweled bugs. One that I got great looks at was a most uncommon purple from tip to tail, or more appropriately, terminal abdominal appendages. This amethyst aerialist, a damselfly, was a Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis), possibly even of the Violet Dancer subspecies. Apparently these delightful damsels are widespread but I’m sure I’d have remembered encountering so attractive an insect: