DSA 2019 Austin

Fairly brief report, see the flickr album for many additional photos.

Wednesday 7/10: Morning flight via Chicago. Arrived in Austin midafternoon, got the car quickly and headed somewhat north before pulling off and finding a supermarket. Got a few supplies then picked an area with hotels in Cedar Creek. First of many Scissor-tailed Flycatchers on the wires along the way. Dinner at Popeye’s.

Thursday 7/11: Had most of the day free before getting to the meeting hotel late afternoon. Plan was to try for the two central Texas endemic breeding birds: Black-capped Vireo and Golden-cheeked Warbler. It’s a bit late in the year but not impossibly so. The obvious spot for the vireo is the Shin Oak Observation Deck, so I pulled in there right at 7:30. It was a bit cloudy (and actually sprinkling a bit). I immediately realized I barely recognized any song. The bunting in the parking lot proved to be a Painted. Several vireos were singing, some were obvious White-eyed but others I wasn’t sure about (in hindsight, one was a Black-capped). I sat around for an hour without any sign before deciding to move on. Back at the car, some movement in the taller trees got my attention and turned out to be a warbler! Talking to locals later, this was a pretty good bird for the spot this late in the year.

Golden-cheeked Warbler

From here, I drove to the other end of Balcones Canyonlands NWR to the Warbler Vista. The trail itself was very quiet, basically nothing but White-winged Doves. Just before reaching the road to loop back I had my first new dragonfly, a Checkered Setwing. Along the road was a bit birdier but nothing too exciting. I started to drive out but heard a good deal of song right near the parking for the trail I came out on, so I pulled in and walked back a bit. A couple more warblers gave brief appearances and there was a Hutton’s Vireo, which was a known rarity at the spot. Unfortunately too far in to get photos.

Checkered Setwing

I started back towards the observation deck and stopped at Doeskin Ranch for a bit of a walk. It was really hot by now, but I walked the creek trail and down to the pond. Lots of dancers including my first Kiowa, Springwater, and Aztec along with rubyspots, Great Spreadwings, a Four-striped Leaftail, an Eastern Ringtail, a Comanche Skimmer or two, and some butterflies were all nice.

Dusky Dancer Little Yellow

A quick stop back at the platform was quiet, so I started towards lunch and the hotel. Lunch ended up being an ice cream sandwich. I got to the hotel area around 3, so drove around a bit before checking in. After a few hellos and a shower, I ended up going out to dinner to Guadalajara’s with the Donnellys, Jerrell, Hal, and Jim. Good food and company. I hung around the lobby a bit more talking to a few others before finally crashing.

Friday 7/12: Today was the first day of field trips. I joined the Hummels in the group that was heading to Southeast Metro Park and Hornsby Bend. The metro park was fun, if not my idea of great habitat. We had Jade Clubtail, Broad-striped Forceptail, Red-tailed Pennant, many saddlebags, and more around the pond. Along the wooded trail at the back we added Flag-tailed Spinyleg, Thornbush Dasher, Four-striped Leaftail, and the largest robber fly in the US, Microstylum morosum. A cruiser just before we left provided some interest but turned out to be a Swift River, which is the species in MA (although a different race).

Broad striped Forceptail Four striped Leaftail Flag tailed Spinyleg Microstylum morosum

The heat was pretty bad by now, but we gave Hornsby Bend a go. At the entrance building, we had an armadillo and some wheel bugs, then hit the trail. Cobra and Russet-tipped Clubtails and a Carmine Skimmer were the highlights before a few of us had enough and started walking back. We ended up hanging at the observation blind for a few and then strolled slowly enough that the rest of the group caught up by the time we got back to the cars.

Red tailed Pennant Carmine Skimmer

We left at this point, although some of the group apparently kept going. Back at the hotel I hopped out (a little quickly for some foreshadowing), zoned out for a few hours, then joined the Donnellys and Jerrell for dinner at Chili’s.

Saturday 7/13: Today was the indoor meeting, at the very nice McKinney Roughs center. Talks were generally good (the discussion at the end didn’t quite stay on the intended subject and went nowhere). Lunch was good, dinner was ok. The Black Witch on the wall of the center was pretty nice too.

Sunday 7/14: Second day of trips. Josh joined me with the group heading to Gonzalez for the iconic species of the meeting, Blue-faced Ringtail. After the hour’s drive, we reached the park (apparently the only public location for them in the US right now). I started to get my stuff together and discovered my net handle was now a screw-in instead of a clip. Oops. I sent a message out hoping for someone to contact Steve, then went off with a shorter net. Others had found Ringtails already and we all got good views of at least one male and female. Also in here were Eastern Ringtail, Cobra Clubtail, Russet-tipped Clubtail, and Five-striped Leaftail. I had a Diogmites robber fly pass by dragging a Powdered Dancer.

Blue faced Ringtail Russet tipped Clubtail Diogmites with snack

Having checked all around here, Josh and I headed north to Stokes Park in San Marcos. Along the way Steve called and we arranged to swap handles as soon as I got back to the hotel. That cut another stop out, but it was only for spreadwings so not a huge loss. At the park, we had plenty of Neotropical Bluets and eventually found a few Coral-fronted Threadtails (a new family for me) and some Desert Firetails. After spending some time trying for photos, we made a quick check of the Comanche Dancer and Gray-waisted Skimmer spots with success, then headed back.

Coral fronted Threadtail Neotropical Bluet Desert Firetail Gray waisted Skimmer Comanche Dancers

After trading equipment and saying goodbye, I ran to Whattaburger for lunch. Even though it was hot, I decided to head out and check another spot or two. After a quick return to the hotel (someone forgot something important in the car…), I went to Barkley Meadows. It was really, really hot but I found some cool robber flies, got good views of the Cliff Swallow colony, and a few other things. I eventually headed back then joined Josh and the Virginia crew for dinner at Neighbor’s.

Tiny Robber Cliff Swallow

Monday 7/15: I had given myself a day on either end to chase things, so had a second shot at the vireo. First though, I headed to Commons Ford Ranch, hoping to catch up with a few other birds. Didn’t get my target of Dickcissel and Rufous-crowned Sparrow but did have Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Lark Sparrow, plus Pale-faced Clubskimmer. I then went back to the observation deck, where after about 45 minutes a Black-capped Vireo flew through, stopping just long enough for a couple shots.

Fox Sqiurrel Pale faced Clubskimmer Black capped Vireo

With that success, I headed in the general direction of the airport, eventually deciding to check out Webberville Park. Too hot, but along the river I had a perched clubskimmer, some kind of underwing moth, and lots of Dusky-blue Groundstreaks. I gave the other section of the park a quick check but only had Russet-tipped Clubtails.

Underwing Scissor tail

After a bit of driving around, I settled on a Super 8. After a shower, I decided to zip into downtown Austin for the bat show. Took some time to find parking, then I grabbed a burger at the Burger Bar. The bats were disappointed, whether season, moon phase, or what, there were only a few hundred flying around when I gave up at 9:15, when it was almost too dark and I still had to pack. The ride back was a bit of an adventure with construction making for an extended loop but I got back and got everything together fairly quickly.

Tuesday 7/16: Returned the car, got on the plane, and was back in Boston early afternoon.

DSA 2018

All the way to Ludlow.

Thursday 8/2: Left the house around 8, was at the Longmeadow sand bar just after 9:30. About the second bird I saw was a juvenile tern, so doubled back for the scope. It appeared to be a Common (first one this year in the county). Decent bit of other stuff including an egret, a few other herons, a peep, etc. On to Fannie Stebbins. Hot and steamy plus wet trails made for a quiet walk. Tried Bondi’s Island next but I wasn’t up for dealing with the dump and moved on.Common TernCommon Tern


After a brief stop at Big Y for water, toothpaste, and lunch, I headed to Mt. Tekoa. Very quiet midafternoon and the distances in the directions didn’t line up (it said 1.1 miles to the reservoir, I went there and back and don’t think I hit one mile). Sapsucker was about the best thing. Made a couple stops along the river on Rt. 20 after but it was high and nothing was seen.

Got to the hotel a little after 4, went out with the group for dinner (forget the name of the place, decent chicken parm), and then got ready for the real meeting.

Friday 8/3: Started with a quick run to Walmart for the long-sleeved shirt I forgot. Drove with Dave, Shelley, and Lenore to the Wilbraham Cedar Swamp. Bit disappointing, we couldn’t find a way actually into the swamp and it was even hotter. Got lots of the usual odes, nothing exciting.

After lunch (forget where again, but good fish sandwich), we decided not to do the long walk at Conant Brook and just worked up the rivers a bit. All 3 dancers, a cooperative spinylegs, and a Swamp Spreadwing or two were the highlights. Got back to the hotel just ahead of a downpour. Later learned that the group that went to the dam had a large darner swarm right where they parked and no rain. Oh well.

Blue fronted DancerBlack shouldered Spinylegs

Swamp Spreadwing


Saturday 8/4: Rode with Glenn, Lenore, and Meena to Facing Rock WMA. Still cloudy (we were delayed an hour or two because of downpours) and nothing exciting here (ovipositing Shadow Darner below).

Ovipositing Shadow Darner

After a lunch stop (decent chicken wrap), we went to where Josh had found Tiger Spiketail last year. He forgot which street the trailhead was on and we ended up at a dead end. A dead end with a Tiger Spiketail flying around! After enjoying that, we found the right spot. I spotted another spiketail and a nymph was dug up.

Tiger Spiketail

Tiger viewing


We continued to a nearby river access where two Zebra Clubtails were flying around. The river was way too high however, and it quickly clouded up. Then started pouring. We bailed and headed towards the hotel but it cleared along the way, so we pulled in at Camp White. Big swarm of darners but all up high except for one Green-striped. Eventually gave up and got back to a car before an even heavier downpour started.

Green striped Darner

After getting back to the hotel, I checked in with Josh and found they had avoided the downpour. We met back up at Camp White but the rain apparently had ended the flight for the night. Stopped at Randall’s for ice cream instead of dinner.

Sunday 8/5: We started the day at Stebbins. It was fairly quiet again, but I did net a Brush-tipped Emerald. We eventually gave up and moved to the river. Turns out there was another access point. No luck with anything right at the river but Michael found a perched Riverine Clubtail and then I found a pair.Riverine ClubtailsRiverine Clubtail


It was pretty hot, so a few of us decided to head up into the hills. Glenn led us to the Keystone Arches Rail Trail. We had a presumed Ocellated Darner immediately but it wouldn’t cooperate. Moving further up the river, we found a bunch of clubtails. Most were Eastern Least but there was a Dragonhunter and 2 (still) unidentified Snaketails along with a Superb Jewelwing. Up the trail, we found a porcupine but no darner swarm. Back where we started, one Ocellated was  flying a regular enough pattern to net and confirm. And then I drove the 2.5 hours home.TetrigidOcellated Darner
Superb JewelwingDragonhunterLeast ClubtailSnaketails


Watatic bugs

Some highlights from the weekend


Belvosia borealis


Laphria sp (near sericea?)

Band-winged Meadowhawk

Band-winged Meadowhawk

Variable Darner

Variable Darner

Chalk-fronted Corporal

Chalk-fronted Corporal (ties my late date)

Clamp-tipped Emerald

Clamp-tipped Emerald

Azure Bluets

Azure Bluets

Spotted SpreadwingSpotted Spreadwing

Diogmites with lunch

Diogmites basalis with lunch


How’d this get in here? Two here plus a family nearby.

First Insects

All from last weekend

Springtime Darner

Springtime Darner, Assabet River NWRWhiteface

Dot-tailed White-faceBeaverpond Baskettail

Beaverpond BaskettailHenry's Elfin

Henry’s Elfin, Arlington Great Meadows


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