Damselflies and Dragonflies at Petrie Island

by Lynn Ovenden
A report on an OFNC excursion led by Gillian Mastromatteo on August 2, 2015

PetrieIsland-2August2015-GM

Petrie Island has quiet marshy interior bays, sandy beaches along the Ottawa River and lots of sunny openings in the forest in between. These make it a good place to find a variety of odonates. Gillian was hoping to find Slaty Skimmers, Blue Dashers, and Swamp Spreadwings, and we did – all within view of the parking lot.

Blue Dasher photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo.

Blue Dasher photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo.

We searched further west along the shores of the river, Crappie Bay, Turtle Pond, and Muskrat Bay and found several more species, including the Eastern Amberwing which is a Petrie Island specialty. It first showed up here in 2012 and is the only known spot in our region where they can be reliably found.

The most abundant damselflies were the Eastern Forktails, which come in three different colour forms (one for the males, one for immature females, and a third for the mature females). The most abundant dragonfly of the morning was the Autumn Meadowhawk (formerly known as the Yellow-legged Meadowhawk), which has yellow legs and is the last dragonfly on the wing in our area, often flying into mid-November.  The ones we saw were all yellow or brown, either females and immature males, instead of the bright red of mature adults.  Our only female Eastern Pondhawk took an interest in our group, landing right on one of the members!

A typical damselfly and perhaps the most common species in Ottawa. This is a brightly coloured young female Eastern Forktail. Caption and photo by Chris Traynor.

A typical damselfly and perhaps the most common species in Ottawa. This is a brightly coloured young female Eastern Forktail. Caption and photo by Chris Traynor.

Throughout the morning, Gillian explained the differences between damsels and dragons, their life cycle, and some feeding behaviours. For example, while some dragonflies perch and wait, others actively hunt for food on the wing.

We watched a Common Green Darner laying eggs by dipping its ovipositor in the emergent vegetation as it flew along from spot to spot just offshore. Gillian described the wheel-formation of pairs of mating damselflies and showed us how to see the tiny species-specific claspers at the end of the male’s abdomen of two different spreadwing species. You need a hand lens for that.

I especially enjoyed the skimmers along the marshy edge of Muskrat Bay: Twelve-spotted Skimmers patrolling back and forth, the shimmering orange wings of Eastern Amberwings either resting on pond lily leaves or chasing each other, and Widow Skimmers perched vertically in the coarse grass of the bank.

Bronze Copper butterfly photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo.

Bronze Copper butterfly photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo.

In addition, we saw three exceptional butterflies: a female Monarch (the first sighting of the year for many of the group) attempting to lay eggs on Swamp Milkweed, a Bronze Copper nectaring on Broadleaf Arrowhead flowers, and a Hackberry Emperor resting on a tree branch.

Overall, we found the following 17 types of odonates. See Gillian’s beautiful photos and notes on each species.

PETRIE ISLAND ODONATES, August 2nd 2015

Northern Spreadwing
Swamp Spreadwing
Hagen’s Bluet
Skimming Bluet
Stream Bluet
Eastern Forktail
Canada Darner
Common Green Darner
Racket-tailed Emerald
Blue Dasher
Eastern Amberwing
Eastern Pondhawk
Slaty Skimmer
Twelve-spotted Skimmer
Widow Skimmer
Dot-tailed Whiteface
Autumn Meadowhawk

The Eastern Amberwing, like the Blue Dasher, is a species fairly new to the Ottawa checklist. Appearing for the first time only a few years ago it has now built up a nice little breeding colony at Petrie Island. Very tiny and often not coming too close to shore it can be easily identified at a distance by those amazing amber wings that give it its name. Caption and photo by Chris Traynor

The Eastern Amberwing, like the Blue Dasher, is a species fairly new to the Ottawa checklist. Appearing for the first time only a few years ago it has now built up a nice little breeding colony at Petrie Island. Very tiny and often not coming too close to shore it can be easily identified at a distance by those amazing amber wings that give it its name. Caption and photo by Chris Traynor

Male, Eastern Pondhawk. Petrie is usually a good spot to find these bright dragonflies but only a few showed themselves to the group. Photo by Chris Traynor.

Male, Eastern Pondhawk. Petrie is usually a good spot to find these bright dragonflies but only a few showed themselves to the group. Caption and photo by Chris Traynor.

A female Eastern Pondhawk. While most females tend to be less colourful than the males this dragonfly may be an exception. Photo by Chris Traynor.

A female Eastern Pondhawk. While most females tend to be less colourful than the males this dragonfly may be an exception. Caption and photo by Chris Traynor.

Slaty Skimmer. Photo by Gillian Mastromatteo.

Slaty Skimmer. Photo by Gillian Mastromatteo.

Autumn Meadowhawk photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo.

Autumn Meadowhawk photographed by Gillian Mastromatteo.

Advertisements