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New Brunswick, Take 2
August 10-15, 2009
My first trip to New Brunswick in June was pretty much a bust. I had a long list of species I wanted to see but it rained most of the time and I returned with only a single dragonfly, a female Zigzag Darner, Aeshna sitchensis for my efforts. I planned a second trip for August aiming for more darners and still hoping for emeralds, Somatochlora.
photo by Kristine Wallstrom
Monday, Aug 10: Again Kristine Wallstrom accompanied me for the long drive from New York. Setting out early in the morning, I wanted to make a stop in Maine at a location we had visited a couple years ago. The 1000 Acre Heath was a great place for emeralds so making a slight detour from our route could be worthwhile. At the head of the road into the heath we saw a few darners but we couldn't get to the best stretch of the road because someone had narrowed a bridge to exclude automobile traffic. We could have parked and walked further but we were up against the clock, needing to get to Canada. Without a bike or an ATV handy we turned away disappointed.
After crossing the border in the late afternoon, we stopped at a visitor center to check our lodging possibilities. The center and its parking lot was situated on top of a hill and all around us darners were swarming. We spend a few minutes swinging our nets at them. Most were Canada Darners, Aeshna canadensis with a few Shadow Darners, Aeshna umbrosa mixed in. Nothing special but a good sign of things to come I hoped.
Tuesday, Aug. 11: After spending the night in a motel in Doaktown we headed to the "Renous Bog" off of highway 108 in central New Brunswick. The weather forecast had improved and we wanted to take advantage of it. We had planned on meeting Denis Doucet, a biologist at Kouchibouguac Natiional Park at the bog, but he called us the evening before to cancel due to illness. We hoped we could find the bog ourselves, off the highway and up a dirt logging road to a point close to the coordinates Denis provided. We walked down a side road probing for an access point to the bog and trying to catch dragonflies. There were a few darners, Variable Darner, Aeshna interrupta interrupta being the most interesting to me. I saw a couple of emeralds and even got the net on one but it somehow escaped. White-faced Meadowhawks, Sympetrum obstrusum were common as were Green Comma butterflies.
We walked back to the main road still looking for the bog. We found one but access was difficult from the road. There were several deep open pools but at one point one could just manage to get onto the sphagnum mat. At this type of bog you walk carefully on a mat of floating vegetation. It's like walking on a wet sponge. It can be quite stable where it is thick but there's the possibility of hitting a weak spot and falling through into the water. Then it's difficult to get out because there's not much to pull up on. Because of this I left my camera in the car so I don't have any photographs of the landscape to share. At one point one leg did break through but luckily the mat under my other leg held.
However I wasn't sure this was the Renous bog, the GPS coordinates were off. Since I was alone on the bog at the time, I didn't venture very far from the road. I did see a few interesting species. A couple of male Zigzag Darners flew about but I couldn't get close to them. Then I caught a female emerald laying eggs in a little pool of open water. It was a female Incurvate Emerald, Somatochlora incurvata, and one of my targets. I expected this species to be common so it wasn't a surprise. Later I caught a male Ski-tipped Emerald, Somatochlora elongata flying over the road. His wings were quite tattered, an indication that the species has been out for a while. At the end of the day I saw several Ocellated Darners, Boyeria grafiana flying low along a stream. Kristine had not seen this species before so I was happy catch one for her to examine.
Driving back on the highway we encountered a huge congregation of feeding darners. I feared hitting them with the car and for several miles there was always a dragonfly in sight.
photo by Kristine Wallstrom
Wednesday, Aug. 12: We arranged to meet with Denis at Kouchibouguac at noon so we spent the morning on the road to Escuminac point. I did not see any emeralds but there were lots of Variable Darners foraging near the lighthouse. Also flying were several Cherry-faced Meadowhawks, Sympetrum internum. Males here actually do have reddish faces unlike the ones we have at home.
We spent the rest of the day with Denis and three of his interns. We added a new species to the park list, Azure Bluet, Enallagma aspersum but I did not find anything that was on my list until Denis netted a male Zigzag Darner. In the late afternoon Kristine and I found a small Aeshna swarm but didn't find anything different among the ones I caught.
Thursday, Aug 13: After consulting with Denis the previous day, it was determined that we were at the right spot for the Renous Bog but I just didn't go far enough. To avoid the somewhat treacherous access point from the main road I decided to try to get to the bog from the other dirt road by cutting through some woods. The bushwhacking worked, the trees opened up to a large open bog with a good size lake. However we were looking for a series of smaller ponds but I thought if we worked back towards the main road we would encounter them. There was a fair number of dragonflies flying, darners around the lake, meadowhawks on the bog. I spotted a dull red meadowhawk, netted it and was pleased to see it was a Saffron-winged Meadowhawk, Sympetrum costiferum. We made our way across the bog to the Renous River were we hoped to find Sedge Darner, Aeshna juncea. However all I was catching turned out to be Canada Darners. Finally I caught a different species back at the lake. I was initially elated thinking it was a Sedge Darner but the thoracic stripes seemed too thin. Reluctantly I had to conclude it was a Subarctic Darner, Aeshna subarctica, nice, but not what I was hoping for.
We also found we couldn't access the rest of the bog complex. The deep inflow and outflow streams from the lake and the river cut us off from where we wanted to go. We had to back track our way to the road and we would have to access the bog from the main road after all.
I caught a male Zigzag Darner and saw a couple of emeralds when we first got onto the bog. We found the ponds but didn't see very much, just darners and almost all of them were Canadas. Over one of the ponds we saw a Lake Emerald, Somatochlora cingulata cruising. These large dragonflies are almost always seen flying in the middle of lakes which make them difficult to catch. I didn't have a chance with this one. We waited until the late afternoon hoping activity would increase. It didn't and my hopes of finding some of the rarer species on my list faded further. Driving back to Miramichi along the road where we saw hundreds of dragonflies swarming just a couple of days ago, we saw a scant few.
Friday, Aug 14: We drove southeast to visit the Scotland bog complex near Moncton. Off the road to New Scotland are three dirt roads leading into the wetlands. We started at the middle one but didn't find much. The third and longest was more productive. There were darners flying, mostly Canada and Shadow. I saw an emerald flying overhead, Kristine took a swing at it, missed and it was gone. From the size I guessed it was a male Incurvate Emerald, one I still needed. Further down the road I encountered several emeralds. They flew chest high in and out of the shade, often their green eyes was all I could see of them as they flew towards me. I managed to catch a few, and they turned out to be Brush-tipped Emeralds, Somatochlora walshii. At a small clearing we found another emerald circling above our heads. I waited for a lower pass and caught it. A female Incurvate Emerald. Judging from the brown tint and wear on her wings she was very mature. I wondered if I would be able to find males along the roads or would they all be on breeding territories.
We drove back to road number 1. It was wetter than the others and even had some shallow vegetated ponds reclaiming the former roadbed. We found our only Black Meadowhawks, Sympetrum danae for the trip, two young males outnumbered by the more common White-faced Meadowhawks. I saw one emerald flying low over some water before it disappeared into the woods.
We took a break in the early afternoon. I had been feeling ill since the night before so sitting down and getting something to eat would help. We drove into Moncton and had some typically bland Canadian pizza. We killed time having coffee at Tim Horton's and getting a new battery for Kristine's watch. Refreshed we returned to Scotland bogs in the late afternoon.
We tried the long road, number 3. Shadow Darners were out in force but I could only get glimpses of emeralds which I suspected were Brush-tippeds by their small size and low flight. Kristine reported seeing a couple of dragonflies flying over a brush/junk pile so I took a look and found that one was a darner but the other was an good-sized emerald, a male and likely an Incurvate. As it flew around me, the pressure mounted and I had way too much time to think. Wanting the perfect shot, I waited too long, took a bad swing and it was gone.
We raced around to the other roads. We were losing daylight and my chances of catching a male incurvata was dwindling. I flushed up a couple of darners on road number 2. Road number 1 was heavily shaded but we did find a young porcupine climbing slowly up a tree.
Last chance at road number 3, I headed back to the brush pile. Miraculously there were several dragonflies feeding there, darners and at least a couple of emeralds. I focused my attention on one of the emeralds and this time I did not miss. A male Incurvate Emerald, finally. I caught and released a few of the other dragonflies, mostly Shadow Darners but one Green-striped Darner, Aeshna verticalis. After a while, only a couple of darners could be seen in the dying light.
Saturday, Aug 15: With few options, we decided to head home. We met briefly with Denis to pick up a specimen of Canada Whiteface, Leucorrhinia patricia that he had caught a few weeks earlier. On the way back I got a call on my cellphone from Sheila Rosenberg in the Adirondack Mountains in New York. She and a couple of friends had gotten out that day and managed to catch a female Black Meadowhawk and a male Lake Emerald, both of which I needed. They would drop them off at my house on their way back to New York City so the specimens were waiting for me to scan when I got home that night.
I am grateful for the kind assistance provided by Denis Doucet and the staff at Kouchibouguac National Park. Thanks to Kristine Wallstrom, Sheila Rosenberg, Linda LaPan, and Ted Mack.