Dragonfly Society of the Americas annual meeting
Thursday, July 26
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
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
Sunday, July 29
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
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.
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