Friday, July 18, 2008: I made a second run to southern New Jersey to look for Emeralds (Somatochlora). Last week I had seen Treetop and Fine-lined Emeralds, Somatochlora provocans and filosa along Hunters Mill Road on the Cumberland / Cape May County border but I had only caught males. With a week's passage I hoped to find more females foraging on the road predicting that the males would be gravitating towards breeding habitat.
I also wanted to try a location for Coppery Emerald Somatochlora georgiana which is rarely seen anywhere in North America. I got up early and got to Wharton State Forest at 8:15 AM. It was already 75 degrees F and the temperature was rising fast. I drove down the dirt road peering through the windshield for emeralds. Tabanid flies swarmed around the car making the prospect of getting out to look around very uninviting. After following the road as far as I could and fearing the Prius would get stuck in soft sand, I turned around and cruised slowly back. Still nothing.
I pulled back onto the highway and drove to Hunters Mill Road 40 minutes away. Now 9:30 and 85 degrees, I hoped I wasn't too late to find Treetop Emeralds. There weren't as many flying as last week but almost all of them were young females. The first one circled high when a Dragonhunter Hagenius brevistylus made a run at her. The Dragonhunter missed but scared the emerald away. Down the road I finally netted a female Treetop. Success!
I caught a second one that had some markings at the base of the wings. Bob Barber who did a lot of dragonfly work in the area alerted me to look for this variation so I was very pleased to find one. Later I caught another female emerald that I tried to make into a Fine-lined but was a Clamp-tipped Emerald Somatochlora tenebrosa.
The emeralds disappeared as the temperature rose to 90. I caught one of the River Cruisers flying down the road, a Georgia River Cruiser, Macromia illinoiensis georgina.
At noon I was walking the railroad track over the Manumuskin River looking for an aberrant Common Whitetail Plathemis lydia that I saw last week. I wasn't very likely to find this individual and did not. I studied female skimmers, especially the various flavors of Needham's Skimmer Libellula needhami. When young they are bright yellow and when old they are brownish and even a bright orange like the male.
I headed back to Wharton State Park but stopped for lunch. It was the early afternoon and over 95 degrees and nothing would be flying in the heat. I was back on Park Road at 2:30, stopped and braved the flies but saw no emeralds. I checked out a pond and a swamp, saw a collection of Pennants Celithemis and other skimmers but nothing real interesting. I walked a forest trail hoping something might be hanging in the shade but I would have to wait until late afternoon to see if there were any emeralds present.
I waited, caught a River Cruiser, Alleghany this time M. alleghaniensis. No emeralds. Reluctantly I pulled away heading home into traffic on the NJ Turnpike.
|Treetop Emerald young female|
|Treetop female with wing markings|
|Clamp-tipped Emerald young female|
|Spangled Skimmer female|
|Alleghany River Cruiser male|