Dragonfly Society of the Americas annual meeting
Springerville, AZ., July 28 - 30, 2007

Thursday, July 26
I woke up at 4 AM, a half hour later than I had planned. I had mistakenly set the alarm to 3:30 PM so I was fortunate to wake up at all. I still had enough time to get to LaGuardia Airport to catch my 6 AM flight. Usually I avoid such early departure times because I hate getting up before the sun. There is also no practical pre-dawn public transportation to the airport from the suburbs where I live. But during this extraordinary summer of airline service hell, early flights make sense because they tend to be more on time. In fact I made my connection in Atlanta without incident and landed in Phoenix right on schedule.

Jerrell Daigle of Tallahassee, FL was waiting at the baggage claim just as we arranged and we set off to pick up the rental car. I had reserved a compact but was offered only SUVs and mini-vans. Not wanting a gas guzzler and after a wait, we eventually had to settle on a PT Cruiser although later I would wonder if it was the right choice.

We headed to Springerville, a drive of about 220 miles. Stopping at a Dairy Queen along the way who should we run into but Dennis Paulson also stopping for a sandwich. He'd already been dragonflying at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum outside of Phoenix. Tired and jet-lagged, Jerrell and I decided not to push all the way to Springerville, instead stopping in the town of Show Low for the night.

Friday, July 27
I had expected (and packed for) sun and heat for the trip but as we made our way through the mountains and the Apache National Forest, we hit clouds and rain. We stopped at a lake along Rte 260. Only Blue-eyed Darners, Rhionaeschna multicolor were flying in the chilly, gray morning so we spent a couple of hours trying to kick up damselflies in the grass. We stopped at a couple of stream crossings, and while the habitat looked good, there was nothing flying. Some streams were swollen and made muddy by the rain.

When the sun finally broke through we were at a campground along the south fork of the Little Colorado River. It is a pretty little stream, running through woodland. We started seeing Dancers, Argia along the hiking trail and then on the stream. The first new species for me was a large, dark damselfly, the Tonto Dancer, Argia tonto. There was also the purple form of Springwater Dancer, Argia plana. We would find both species to be common throughout the trip.

The first dragonfly I caught was a Variegated Meadowhawk, Sympetrum corruptum. Not very exciting but then Jerrell caught a male Riffle Darner, Oplonaeschna armatus. It's common name is a good one. Males patrol along the stream riffles, looking for prey and females and flying rather slowly making them easy to catch. I waited along the stream hoping for one of my other targets, the Apache Spiketail, Cordulegaster diadema. I was looking upstream when a yellow and black missile flew over a tree and headed straight for me. I swung and tipped it, the dragonfly tumbled slightly then recovered to shoot away down the stream. I think it was a spiketail but I didn't see any others that day.

We cut the day short since Jerrell, the acting host of the meeting, had to confirm arrangements. We got to the the motel at Springerville where the socializing had already begun in the parking lot. A thunderstorm moved in with more of the rain that would plague us throughout the week.

Saturday, July 28
Saturday was spent indoors for presentations and the business meeting. I was good this year and did not skip out to look for dragonflies until after the meeting (although a few others did and everyone kept an eye on the weather, a mixture of sun and threatening clouds). I was all prepared to take careful notes on Mike May's presentation on a genetic analysis of the Baskettails, genus Epitheca, and to find out which were good species and which ones could be lumped. Turns out the DNA results were less than revealing, and this group remains a real mess.

Sunday, July 29
errell and I had Dave Halstead from Saskachewan and Paul Bedell from Virginia in the car as we headed to the Campbell Blue River. We were hoping to find spiketails and the Arizona Snaketail, Ophiogomphus arizonicus. Again the morning was cool and very little was flying. But stream looked really good, clear, rocky, and lined by wildflowers and trees so we were willing to wait until conditions improved. When the sun came out a few dancers took their places on the rocks and Riffle Darners started flying along the stream. Paul caught the intricately patterned Red Rock Skimmer, Paltothemis lineatipes. But it was Jerrell who came up big as he came back from a long trek downstream with specimens of Arizona Snaketail, Serpent Ringtail, Erpetogomphus lampropeltis natrix and the exquisite Painted Damsel, Hesperagrion heterodoxum. He also caught a female Riffle Darner that I needed. Paul spotted a spiketail along a stream feeding into the river so we waited for them during breaks in the clouds. George Harp probably got the best look at one but all I saw was a distant dragonfly dipping beneath the swing of his net.

Later in the afternoon it was a female Arizona Snaketail that got away from me. As I stalked her, she flew directly at me. As I fumbled with the suddenly too-long net, she had the audacity to dip her abdomen in the water to lay eggs just below my knees then disappear behind my legs.

As we drove slowly down the gravel road, the guys felt a thumping in the back of the car. I stopped and I was shocked to find the right rear tire completely shredded. There was no fixing this tire. We changed it with the mini-spare and we drove very slowly back up the gravel dirt road, a nervous nine mile stretch. Then I kept below the speed limit on the highway as we limped back to Springerville.

Now we had a story to tell when we joined the rest of group at the motel and heard what the others had found. The most surprising dragonfly collected was Pacific Spiketail, Cordulegaster dorsalis, a new State record. I'm not quite sure who laid claim to the very first record since 3 or 4 specimens were taken but Dan Bogar of Pennsylvania let me scan the one he caught.

Monday, July 30
The next morning almost everyone headed to a location north of Springerville that had a good variety of habitat and a lot of good species reported on Sunday. After dropping off the PT Cruiser to get a replacement tire, we arrived a little behind the main group. Counting the cars, we figured that with the number of nets already deployed, the site would be well covered and decided to try somewhere else.

It seemed odd that no one had caught any Apache Spiketails, a species we all were looking for. So we tried (this time in Dave's rental car) at Benny and Rosey Creeks in Apache National Forest and at the west fork of the Little Colorado River in Greer where Spiketails were reported just a couple of weeks before. We found more Blue-eyed Darners, and caught Paddle-tailed Darners, Aeshna palmata at a beaver pond. Jerrell found a single male Striped Meadowhawk, Sympetrum pallipes. Again the habitat looked really good and for a while we had sun but there just wasn't many dragonflies flying. I had time to stop and photograph some butterflies including examples of the isolated Arizona population of Ruddy Copper.

In the afternoon we went to Carnero Lake, a high elevation open lake ringed by emergent vegetation. A bald eagle dipped down but missed a fish. Although it turned cool and cloudy, a few darners were flying offshore. Despite the temperature I elected to wade in but couldn't get very near any dragonflies. However perched atop a log, Paul managed to scoop one up, a male Variable Darner, Aeshna interrupta. This subspecies, interna, shows some structural differences in the appendages so I was happy to accept the specimen. Later I waded out and netted a female.

Our last stop was Becker Lake, another large, open lake right in Springerville. Its neighboring hills are home to prairie dogs and antelope jackrabbits. Blue-eyed Darners were abundant and I waded in to catch a pair of Eight-spotted Skimmers, Libellula forensis. We called it a day when some more rain rolled in.

This was the last day of the meeting. That evening we began to say our goodbyes but most of us would continue with the post-meeting trip. Springerville wasn't quite as productive as hoped but the weather was a major contributor to our troubles.

On to the post-meeting trip to Safford, AZ


Tonto Dancer
Springwater Dancer
Sooty Dancer
Riffle Darner
Red Rock Skimmer
Arizona Snaketail
Variegated Meadowhawk
Painted Damsel
Canyon Rubyspot
Serpent Ringtail
Pacific Spiketail
Paddle-tailed Darner
Ruddy Copper
Thicket Hairstreak
Variable Darner
Eight-spotted Skimmer
Flame Skimmer
Melissa Blue