On Saturday I headed west hoping for a few new dragonflies for the year (and for my county list). First stop was the Nashua River in Shirley, which is a good spot for Arrow and Zebra Clubtails (not that I’ve seen them yet). A few things flying around when I arrived proved to be mostly Illinois River Cruisers with a Black-shouldered Spinyleg or two, both new for the year. Unfortunately after maybe 15 minutes of wading around, it clouded up and activity dropped. I checked the radar, saw one little spot over where I was heading but figured it would clear by then, so off towards Ashby I went.


Arriving at Bennett Rd, it was still mostly cloudy. The walk in was quiet with just a few meadowhawks and a couple sprites at the wet spot. Starting up Watatic, I had a couple darners fly by. Setting up at the bigger field, I quickly had a Black-tipped in hand.

Black-tipped Darner

Good numbers of those flying around and one Shadow Darner by the beaver pond. A few Somatochloras joined in but stayed too high.

With the sun now out, I decided to follow the trail a ways up the mountain. Lots of darners but a few in hand and a few perched all were Black-tipped. Finally, a slightly different looking one perched. It was in a pine and fairly obscured for photos, so I took a careful swing and had it in hand.

Variable Darner

Interesting stripe pattern and a dark line on the face. I pulled out the book and compared a bit but wasn’t confident in any of the options other than it was something different and very good for the county. I eventually put her back on a tree and got a couple more shots including a clear view of the genitalia.

Variable Darner

Variable Darner details

I continued up the trail a bit, eventually getting (and losing) a Clamp-tipped Emerald. Deciding to head back down, another emerald landed for full frame photos.

Clamp-tipped Emerald

Other high flying emeralds looked more interesting, but high flying was the key. Back at the water, there were a few bluets. I chased one around and eventually caught it, finding it to be Hagen’s, which was new for me in the county. Also good numbers of Azure Bluets, none of which posed particularly well (and none of the Hagen’s ever settled down at all).

Hagen's Bluet

Azure Bluet

Back at the car, I posted one darner photo the the NE Odes facebook group, then headed for Townsend State Forest. A mating pair of Sweetflag Spreadwings was nice (and made ID much easier). Working my way around to the big pond, I found a few Frosted Whitefaces and a probable Canada Darner, but it clouded up and then started raining heavily. A check of the radar looked like it wasn’t going to stop quickly, so I headed home instead of Bertozzi or the Nashua again.

Back home, discussion of the darner had picked up, centering on Lake and Variable. I checked the manual, misread the diagram and threw Subarctic out. Fortunately, Jason Lambert was strongly in the Variable camp and was able to get a female the next day to show how I misread the genitalia. So, not the first in state in years find I was hoping for but still a new record for the county.

Cranberry Bog 6/9

Fun few hours with Alan Ankers today.



Two shots of Lilypad Clubtail


And the very similar Unicorn Clubtail


Dusky Clubtail


Finishing off a New England Bluet lunch.


Elegant Spreadwing

Start of Summer Bugs

I spent today poking around a few areas mostly in northern Middlesex county, mostly looking for bugs. Some highlights below:

Morning Snack

Lancet Clubtail with Slender Spreadwing snack


Presumed Laphria sp Robber Fly, also with snack.


Elegant Spreadwing


Common Buckeye (1 of 4!)


Brook Snaketail, the main highlight of the day, waiting for confirmation on some of the details but likely the northeasternmost for Mass. Also thought that spot should have a snaketail. Update: confirmed as first for the Merrimack watershed in MA.


Moustached Clubtail


Why it’s named

Also American Kestrel and a chickadee nest I could peer into, a very nice day.


Bugs of the Year 2010

And to follow up the birds of the year, some insects.

21 new odes, only 1 in Mass.

Runners up: Pygmy and Extra-striped Snaketail, Superb Jewelwing, Umber and Stygian Shadowdragon (DSA writeup still coming)

Best: Spatterdock Darner

10 new butterflies, 1 in Mass

Runners up: Mestra, Arctic Skipper, Pipevine Swallowtail

Best: Two-spotted Skipper

Barely looked for Tiger Beetles and Asilids this year, will have to change that next year.

Bear Creek 8/1

I joined an insect survey at Bear Creek Sanctuary in Saugus yesterday. It was a bit dry for dragonflies but the butterflies weren’t too bad. Some highlights:


Nicely posed Common Ringlet


Bug of the day: Common Buckeye

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider, this may be the first one I’ve seen land. Didn’t get particularly close before it took off unfortunately.


Spot-winged Glider. Semi-posed shot, I had caught him to show the group the spots and he paused here after I let him go.

DSA time

I never got around to posting about the DSA Northeast Meeting from last July, but it’s time for the annual meeting. Here’s a couple videos that somehow star me from last year to give a taste.


(there’s 1:15 of not much happening in the second one before I pop up)

Would have been nicer if I wasn’t swinging and missing as much.

Thanks to Meena Haribal for posting these videos.


A few bugs from Myles Standish State Forest today while I’m sorting through pelagic photos (not too many good ones this year I’m afraid).

Carolina Saddlebags:

Carolina Saddlebags

He wouldn’t slow down enough to get a shot off, so I just caught him for a few seconds.

Atlantic Bluet (presumably) and Beetle:

Bluet and Beetle

Frosted Whiteface:

Frosted Whiteface

Martha’s Pennant:

Martha's Pennant

Skimming Bluet guarding:

Guarding Bluet

Guarding Bluet

They were mostly in tandem pairs. This one appeared to be ovipositing. The male appeared to drag the female headfirst into the water down to some aquatic plant before letting go. He then hovered above the plant and appeared to be guarding while she disappeared. I’m not sure if she’s visible in either photo (I did see her climbing along the plant before I starting taking photos but haven’t found her in either one yet). Both can be enlarged by clicking and then on All Sizes.

And one of 4 Black Ducks on the pond, I’m wondering if they could have bred there.


Saturday Gossamers

I didn’t get out birding this morning as I was busy fighting Verizon’s overzealous filters blocking all Massbird, but I eventually got out for the Mass Butterfly Club’s trip to Horn Pond Mountain.

Horn Pond Mountain’s a great place to explore but with the recent two weeks of lousy weather it was on the quiet stuff. We did see most of the expected stuff but in low numbers. However, almost everything was spectacularly fresh, obviously having emerged in the last day or so at the earliest.

A couple highlights:

Basking Azure

Summer Azure basking with wings open (they almost never do so)


And no longer basking

Banded Hairstreak

This Banded Hairstreak was nearby

Edward's Hairstreak

And this Edward’s Hairstreak was stunning.