Tuesday, July 12, 2005

ENV: Finding something cool

This story is going to take a little telling. A friend, Greg Lasley, and i have gotten bitten hard by the Odonate bug. We travel often (he's in Ontario as i write photographing fantastic boreal bugs i'll never see except by way of his incredible photos) looking for cool bugs, and to help fill in gaps in distribution. Well, i happen to live in a part of Texas that is loaded with great damselflies (and i'm particularly proud of that -- witness my last couple of posts from the "yard" and the "neighborhood").

Well, one of my quests for the last couple of years has been to find the threadtails that, in the U.S., are unique to central Texas (at least they were before a lot of us started looking, and SOME people started finding them elsewhere!). Nevertheless i considered them something of "backyard" specialties.

Except i couldn't find the dang things, despite a lot of clues and specific locations from Bob Behrstock and John Abbott (author of the latest field guide to odonates).

Then in May, i was in the Valley for Dragonfly Days with Greg and with Sid Dunkle (author of the first field guide to dragonflies), when we got word that Bob and Dennis Paulson and others had found both Amelia's Threadtail (Neoneura ameliae) and Coral-fronted Threadtail (Neoneura aaroni) at Anzalduas Park. That was a huge discovery for the Coral-front, and a not shabby report for Amelia's.

I'd seen one Amelia's a couple of years ago in Brownsville, after being put on to them by John and Greg, but the Coral-front was near the top of my want list. Greg and i made plans to go to Anzalduas, but before we could get there, Martin Reid found a gaggle of both species upriver at San Ygnacio and we opted for that instead, finding them both in some numbers and getting a bit of solid info on behavior that i think was most helpful. One of Greg's flight photos of the Coral-front now graces the homepage of TexOdes (our Odonate listserv).

So now the quest was down to finding Orange-striped Threadtail (Protoneura cara), the other hill country specialty. Well, the indefatigable Martin Reid soon located some on the Kendall/Comal County Line at Guadalupe River State Park, and Greg ran down with John and all got great photos (as well as looks at many Dragonhunters (Hagenius brevistylus) and Jade-striped Sylphs (Macrothemis inequiunguis)-- two of my other major quest bugs). Then Scott Young found Orange-stripes and Coral-fronts in Hays County, and i was about the only one left who hadn't seen the dang orange-stripey things.

[Then a week plus ago i found my first Dragonhunter at Lynxhaven Crossing near here -- which is great since my bigger quest has always been to find things in my county.]

As i said, i've quested after the threadtails for a couple of years. Kerr County has records for both and so i figured it was only a matter of finding the right spot. And i looked, and looked, and looked. And missed, and missed, and missed.

Then today i was down on the river filming some kids prepping for a canoe race when something caught my eye. I looked down and almost instantly locked into an orangey damsel. Well, i've had Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) here so i didn't get crazy too fast (i've done that before to my chagrin, eh guys?), but after a couple of minutes of observing, and noting the marks i've now got locked in my head, plus the same patrolling behaviors we saw at San Ygnacio, i was confident i had the bug. I started filming, and soon realized that as far down the bank as i could see there were these damsels flying. It wasn't long before i found a pair and watched them oviposit and was then absolutely certain (the characteristic oviposition position (that's redundant isn't it?) of the female is visible in my icky photos).

While my photos here are not great (the reach of my camera is not good and i was upbank from these guys) my film of them is full frame and sharp, with footage of flying and ovipositing bugs -- i now have footage of all three Texas threadtails, hah!

The kicker is this -- i've been searching all over the county, and in what i call my front yard (actually about 100 acres with a mile of river frontage), but never just walked out my front door to the bank and looked. And that's where they were -- with binocs i could've had them from my front door!

So, Greg and Sid, just 50 feet from the door of the cabin where you guys stayed, there were, my rough estimate, 40+ Orange-striped Threadtails patrolling today (only found the one pair, but i'll be back).

Just color me embarrassed . . .


Orange-striped Threadtail, Protoneura cara




Highlights today:
TX: Kerr County, Camp Rio Vista
20 Smoky Rubyspot, Hetaerina titia
24 American Rubyspot, Hetaerina americana
8 Stream Bluet, Enallagma exsulans
40 Orange-striped Threadtail, Protoneura cara
4 Blue-ringed Dancer, Argia sedula
1 Common Green Darner, Anax junius
1 Rhinoceros Beetle, Strategus antaeus
1 large Cicada
1 Gulf Coast Toad, Bufo valliceps
2 Yellow-throated Warbler
2 Eastern Wood-Pewee
2 Common Raven

Dusky Dancer, Argia translata (oops!)


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