The Adirondacks is more than birds. It’s also dragonflies and butterflies. I was very excited to see some “life” leps and odes (my terms for Lepidoptera and Odonata) on my NJ Audubon trip to the Daks. The first odonate we saw were Ebony Jewelwings, Calopteryx maculata,flying in the shady areas of a little bridge in Bloomingdale Bog. Not a life damselfly for me (they are fairly common in New Jersey, just look in your nearest drain ditch!), but this beautiful damselfly was a lifer for many people in our group. This isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken of Ebony Jewelwing, but it gives you an idea how lovely it is.
I spotted this Four-spotted Skimmer, Libellula quadrimaculata, on the second day of the trip. We had stopped on the road in search of American Bittern, and, as is my wont, I wandered from the group and found several interesting odes by a brook. This wasn’t the first time I spotted Four-spotted Skimmer (or Four-spotted Chaser, as it’s known in Europe) during the weekend, but it was definitely the most cooperative, perching in front of a blue background and allowing a sliver view of its face. Another dragonfly I spotted here was the Crimson-ringed Whiteface shown below. Just goes to show what you can find on a random stop by the road!
Chalk-fronted Corporal, Ladona julia, was the most common dragonfly we saw, especially around Paul Smith’s College Visitor’s Interpretive Center. (That’s the lake in back of the VIC above.) They tend to inhabit acidic lakes and marshes and beaver ponds. Are beaver ponds acidic? I guess so.
There are several whiteface dragonfly species in the Adirondacks, genus Leucorrhinia. These are small black dragonflies with bright white faces and yellow or red markings, found in northern states and Canada. This can be a tricky id, so I double checked all these photographs with the dragonfly experts at the Facebook Northeast Dragonflies page. (Once again, Thank you, Ed Lam!)
Dragonflies are predators. Beautiful predators. Fred, a member of our group, pointed out this dragonfly to me Saturday afternoon, on the trail of Bloomingdale Bog south. I’m not sure what this Dusky Clubtail, Gomphus spicatus, is eating. Some kind of beetle? He was enjoying it so much, I think I could have picked him up and he still would have been chomp-a-chomp.
This is Lancet Clubtail, Gomphus exilis, the distinguishing detail being the pale tip. Most of the clubtails I see anywhere have slender clubs. For once, I would like to see something like Skillet Clubtail, you know, a dragonfly with one BIG fat club.
Still waiting on the definite word of this dragonfly. I’m guessing Beaverpond Baskettail, but feel an urge to just label it Ol’ Google-eyes….Oh wait! Breaking news! This is a Racket-tailed Emerald, Dorocordulia libera! Just got confirmation from three experts on FB Northeast Odonata, including Ed! I thought is was a baskettail because of the yellow spots on the abdomen, but the consensus is that the spots are a reflection. “Emeralds are shiny,” to quote one of my experts. I am a very happy dragonfly-lover right now, because Racket-tail Emerald was on my list of odes I wanted to see before I die.
I know, I know, where are the butterflies? We didn’t see as many as I expected, and I don’t know if that is how the Adirondacks is at mid-June or if it is part of the scarcity of butterflies I had been observing in New Jersey and New York. We did see many Canadian Tiger Swallowtails, Papilio canadensis. Just like Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, but smaller. A life butterfly for me. I think the flower is Blue Flag Iris, a wildflower that grows in Heron Marsh, behind the Paul Smith’s College VIC, where this photo was taken.
And, another lifer, Arctic Skipper, Carterocephalus palaemon. I saw several in Bloomingdale Bog, which made me almost as happy as viewing the Black-backed Woodpecker. Arctic Skippers are small, 29-32 mm, which is an inch and a smidge.
Northern Crescent, Phyciodes cocyta, was not a life butterfly, but it was only the second time I’ve seen one. A cousin of the Pearl Crescent seen everywhere in New Jersey fields. It feeds on asters, so I’m not sure what it was doing here.
And, here is a non-bird surprise that was one of the favorites of the group, a female Snapping Turtle, Chelydra serpentina, laying eggs. We saw mama Snapper on Sunday, a rainy cloudy day. I am not a Snapping Turtle fan (once you’ve seen one pull a Wood Duck to its sad death, it’s hard to root for them), but I have a lot of respect for moms who don’t let anything, including the weather, stop them from doing their generational duty.
The biodiversity that makes up the Adirondack bogs and forests is limited. This is not an environment where a wide variety of creatures can live. But, as I said in Part One. the birds, dragonflies, butterflies, plants, trees, and, yes, even the snapping turtles that live there are wonderful and unique. I am so happy New Jersey Audubon offers this trip every June. Scott Barnes and Linda Mack are fun, knowledgable leaders, and the rest of the group, who ran the gamut from very experienced to novice birders, were great company. So, next June, get thee to the Adirondacks! Black flies possible, but not probable.