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Georgia, June 8 - 13, 2007
If you are trying to see as many dragonfly species as possible June is the month to be out. As spring begins its turn to summer, a great variety of species begin flying throughout the continent. But it is impossible to be everywhere at the same time. This year I've decided to stay mainly in the East and thus far been concentrating on the Southeast. As the weather continues to warm, I'll shift to species in the mid-Atlantic region and eventually points north.
But June in the Southeast brings yet another wave of species. I had hoped to get to Tennessee and look for some very range-restricted species such as Tennessee Clubtail and Acuminate Snaketail but I could not schedule enough time to adequately pursue them. With so many choices and needs, I decided on another visit to Georgia. Giff Beaton, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Georgia, guaranteed I would see Cherokee Clubtail, Gomphus consanguis and Splendid Clubtail, G. lineatifrons, so how could I turn that down?
I flew to Atlanta on Friday, June 8, which was horrible. While I sat in the plane, the noon flight out of LaGuardia was delayed 2 1/2 hours. Something about a FAA computer going down but my connecting flight was able to leave without me. I got all of 100 miles to Philadelphia and waited several hours for another flight to Atlanta. When I landed my rental car reservation was long gone and a couple of rental car companies only had SUVs and minivans left. I finally got a Dodge Charger which I guess is some kind of muscle car. After a few wrong turns I got to Giff's house in Marietta at 11:30 PM.
But the next day was great. Giff led me to Clarks Creek in Chattooga Co. where we walked an adjacent field and soon found both sexes of Cherokee and Splendid Clubtails. Male Cherokees are quite variable in appearance notably the amount of yellow on the club. We found some with large yellow spots and some with hardly any yellow at all. Along the stream, Giff would quickly assess then predict which stalk of vegetation would be a suitable perch for a Cherokee and more often than not a binocular scan would prove him right. The males would often choose prominent perches but low to the water.
The Splendid is an impressively large clubtail, like the the Blackwater, G. dilatatus, and bigger than the Cobra, G. vastus. They were seen in Kentucky during last year's national DSA meeting but I missed them and only saw the similar Handsome Clubtail, G. crassus.
Since we hit our main targets by 11:30 AM, over lunch we discussed the plan for the afternoon and the rest of my trip. We had targeted Sable Clubtail, G. rogersi for Monday but thought to try for them in the afternoon. Then Giff remembered a site for Appalachian Snaketail, Ophiogomphus incurvatus and although it was late in year for the species this site was far enough north in the State to produced some late records. It was a long shot but I decided to take it. We didn't get to the Jarrand Creek in Union Co. until around 4: PM which isn't a bad time for snaketails. Following the stream was not easy, the bottom was sometimes silty and deep and the shoreline was a tangle of vegetation and brambles. We saw a couple of Gray Petaltails, Tachopteryx thoreyi, my first of the year, and both Brown and Twin-spotted Spiketails, Cordulegaster bilineata and maculata, respectively. I netted a female Eastern Least Clubtail, Stylogomphus albistylus which I needed but in the end we saw no Appalachian Snaketails. However at a sunny spot along the creek I spotted a male Sable Clubtail perched on the shore. I waded over and managed to catch him so we got both Stenogomphus species in one day.
Giff had to work on Sunday so I drove a couple of hours east to near Augusta to look for Piedmont Clubtail, Gomphus parvidens. Although it was getting late for the year for them I felt pretty confident. I only needed a male since I had found a female on the previous Southeastern trip. I waded a couple of tannin-stained streams, one with the interesting name of Boggy Gut Creek. Common were Sparkling Jewelwings, Calopteryx dimidiata, and Powdered and Blue-tipped Dancers, Argia moesta and tibialis. In the shade lurked a few Blackwater Bluets, Enallagma weewa. I found a female Blackwater Clubtail, and a teneral female Laura's Clubtail, Stylurus laurae, both new Richmond Co. records. The most interesting dragonfly was one that got away. I flushed up a female Emerald, Somatochlora. She landed briefly and through binoculars I could see she was slim with long appendages. However she was on the other side of a deep pool in the stream. I started to work around along the edge but when I looked up again she had flown. And I failed to find any Piedmont Clubtails.
Unfortunately disappointment was to be the theme of the rest of the trip. On Monday, Giff and I tried to find a female Sable Clubtail but was cool and cloudy all morning and we didn't see any. Although Giff was having fun, I was reduced to looking for robber flies that Giff wanted to photograph and catch. We parted after lunch and I made a long drive to southeast Georgia to try for Smoky Shadowdragon, Neurocordulia molesta. I arrived at the big and wide Altamaha River near Jesup with a lot of time to spare so I had to wait a couple of hours until sunset to try to see this dusk flying dragonfly. Big Powdered Dancers flew by at sunset, and a large swarm of Prince Baskettails, Epitheca princeps, circled over the boatlaunch. At 8:30 a few dark dragonflies flashed by low over the water. I was perched on the rocks at the edge of the river. I couldn't go in very far as the bank sloped steeply into deep water. A couple of shadowdragons came nearly into net range and I took a couple of bad swings and missed.
I didn't worry about missing the first few. Giff had great success here in previous years. He had the dragonfly in such great numbers that he caught some of them just swinging his net blindly in the dark. I had no such luck. In the 15 - 20 minutes when they were flying, I saw only about a dozen individuals. Same date, different year.
The next day, Tuesday, I had to decide whether to try again or head back to Atlanta. My flight was scheduled for 9:30 AM on Wednesday. If I stayed for the Shadowdragon, I would be in Jesup late in the evening and Atlanta was about 5 hours away. If I caught any dragonflies on Tuesday I would have to photograph and scan them, another 2 hours. What could I do? I decided to stay. I would look for Royal River Cruiser, Macromia taeniolata during the day, then try for Smoky Shadowdragon until 9: PM. I would then drive to Macon 3 hours away and be at a motel at midnight. Take a shower and scan until 2: AM. Sleep until 5 and be on the road by 6 in account of Atlanta rush hour traffic and to fuel up and return the car.
Tuesday morning was cloudy but warm. There were a few passing showers but the sun came out strongly in the afternoon. I saw and caught one River Cruiser but it was the wrong species, the Georgia River Cruiser, Macromia illinoiensis georgina. Along the road in a wildlife management area there were a few Gray-green Clubtails, Arigomphus pallidus, Common Sanddragon, Progomphus obscurus, and Eastern Ringtails, Erpetogomphus designatus. I collected a couple of Arigomphus and Erpetogomphus so I would indeed have to scan that night.
That evening I prepared myself to be much more aggressive trying to net the shadowdragons. I was going to swing away at anything close. Unfortunately this night only a couple came close and the fifteen minute flight was over pretty fast. I was in the car by 9 and traveling 80 on I-16 got to Macon by midnight. Scanning, sleep, and drive to Atlanta went as scheduled but the incredibly long security line at the airport got me to the gate with only 5 minutes to spare. My connecting flight was looking good as we boarded on time but weather and congestion delayed my arrival home another hour and a half.