My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Saturday, September 10, 2011

There Be Dragons in This Place

Many years ago, when I would come and work once a month at Anahuc NWR, I always worked in theVisitor Center on Sundays, after working in the garden or working out of my canoe to spray water hayacinths and cattails on Saturdays. In the summer, we had few birds and fewer  customers so  I started watching dragonflies through binoculars to relieve the boardom and bought the book Dragonflies Through Binoculars. One slow day I remember watching a leopard frog trying to ambush dragonflies that landed on a bent piece of cattail. He would leap up and try to get them.  I think he missed over twenty times. 

Dragonflies are an important part of the food web at Anahuac and there are different species of dragonflies present at different times of the year. They often occur in swarms when we have our normal huge mosquito population. (According to one of my sources, we once had a group come in and trap mosquitoes across from the Visitor Center. The trap was set up in the evening and was to be checked in 12 hours.  When the investigators came back the trap had filled completely up and the weight had made it fall to the ground prematurely. The mosquitoes were spread out on the front of a van and covered it several inches thick.  The test didn't make it for the full time and still was a record. So there is lots of food for dragonflies.) The dragonfly larvae are also fierce predators.  Lots of birds catch and eat dragonflies including our Eastern kingbirds and scissortail flycatchers. And I'm sure common nighthawks, barn swallows, and purple martins also eat lots of dragonflies.

 I have  new method of watering that allows me to use a 3/4 inch diameter garden hose.  It makes watering MUCH easier but it now takes 5-6 minutes per tree to water it.  So sometimes I bring my camera and try to capture some dragonfly pictures and learn what species they are.

Here are some of our species. 

Meadowhawk Male

Common Green Darner


Seaside Dragonlet Female

Seaside Dragonlet Male

Halloween Pennant

 Blue Dasher

Varigated Meadowhawk

Four-Spotted Pennant

Black Saddlebags

Eastern Pondhawk female

My most exciting dragonfly picture never got recorded.  A couple of days ago, I was watering when I heard a rattling noise behaine me. I turned around and saw a tiger swallowtail butterfly on the ground fluttering madly. I walked closer and thought I saw a mouse tail.  Then I realized a pondhawk had the butterfly. I ran to the truck for my camera but, by the time I ran back, the dragonfly had already subdued the butterfly and flown out of sight.

Dragonflies are beautiful and terrifying (at least to their prey) creatures. They are associated with lots of different kinds of habitats and live their adult lives at different times of the year. There is a lot to learn about them.  So check out dragonflies where you live.