Cheraw, South Carolina, May 8 - 11, 2008
Thursday, May 8
After a 11 hour drive Fabrice de Lacour and I arrived in Cheraw, South Carolina, the site of the 2008 Southeast Regional DSA meeting. We left New York in the rain and didn't see the sun until we reached North Carolina. We were greeted by a lot of familiar friendly faces milling around the motel parking lot. Steve Krotzer handed me a live male Appalachian Snaketail Ophiogomphus incurvatus that he had caught the previous day in Georgia. What a tiny species. It's one I've looked for without success last year. I'm not sure I can count this one as a lifer but it was a great way to start the meeting.
Friday, May 9
The next morning we set off for Cheraw State Park starting at a tiny boggy area adjacent to a large lake. We found minute Elfin Skimmers Nanothemis bella, Calico and Ornate Pennants Celithemis elisa and ornata, and a few Mantled Baskettails Epitheca semiaequea hiding from the morning wind. Appropriately several Carolina Saddlebags Tramea carolina were flying. As we made our way around the lake, a couple of Clearlake Clubtails Gomphus australis were netted. Less of a surprise were a handful of Diminutive and Lancet Clubtails Gomphus diminutus and exilis braving the wind along the trail. At the spillway of the lake's dam I was hoping to find a target species Piedmont Clubtail Gomphus parvidens. Giff Beaton and I were standing in a sunny spot when a clubtail landed at Giff's feet. It was dully patterned and we both thought it might be an Ashy Clubtail Gomphus lividus but luckily decided to catch it to make sure. I extracted it from my net and my mind drew a blank. It wasn't lividus but a Gomphurus of some kind. It completely puzzled us and it took Steve to correctly identify it as a Septima's Clubtail Gomphus septima, and a new State record. The spillway and the little blackwater stream that flowed from it didn't look right at all for the species.
However we found more Septima's Clubtails throughout the morning including several on the fringes of a golf course. There was only a couple of sightings of Piedmont Clubtail in flight before we gave up and had lunch. Later a pair of Piedmont Clubtails were found and photographed at another stream crossing.
The afternoon was spent at Campbell Lake, a picturesque spot at the edge of the State Park. Little Blue Dragonlet Erythrodiplax minuscula was the only new dragonfly here but there was a good variety of damselflies. On the lake there were Attenuated and Cherry Bluets Enallagma daeckii and concisum. At the outflow stream there were numerous Blue-tipped Dancers Argia tibialis and Blackwater Bluets Enallagma weewa hiding in the shadows.
Late in the afternoon a couple of Baskettails Epitheca sp. started making patrol flights over the lake. We were speculating from their behavior that they might be Sepia Baskettails Epitheca sepia. Armed with a net Giff waded in. Eventually Steve, Jim Johnson and Fabrice joined the hunt. After an lengthy vigil Steve finally netted one but it turned out to be the common Slender Baskettail Epitheca costalis but at least we knew for sure.
At the stream Jerrell Daigle found a couple of exuviae he identified as Alabama Shadowdragon Neurocordulia alabamensis. This prompted several of us to return at sunset to hunt for the dragonfly. At dusk Vesper Bluets Enallagma vesperum appeared on the lake but at the stream no Shadowdragons were seen that evening.
Saturday, May 10
The next day we started at a spot just over the North Carolina line that Jerrell had visited many years ago. So long ago that we found very little and the property was posted, "No trespassing." We backtracked and found ourselves at another lake. A sign proclaimed it "Dragonfly Lake" which was inviting and the future site of a private gated community, which was not. We found several new species for the meeting like Prince Baskettail Epitheca princeps, Common Whitetail Plathemis lydia, and Eastern Amberwing Perithemis tenera. Of most interest to me were the teneral Double-ringed Pennants Celithemis verna that we flushed from the vegetation. I needed reference for the female and caught one. Giff wanted to get some photographs but they would flush and fly high into the sky, eventually landing up in the trees.
After lunch we went back to Cheraw State Park to look unsuccessfully for more bogs. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the spillway stream in the company of several Piedmont Clubtails. Fabrice, Jerrell, and I decided to stay and wait here for Shadowdragons. We passed the time trying to make each Piedmont Clubtail into a Banner Clubtail Gomphus apomyius but couldn't manage it. A golden Prothonotary Warbler sang and fed in the trees nearby and Fabrice caught a young Cottonmouth (which I insisted he release well away from where we were waiting in the falling light).
Jerrell spotted the first Shadowdragon at 8:15 pm. Fabrice got one in his net but didn't realize it so it got away (a Neurocordulia rookie mistake). I had a couple of poor, slow swings and misses. Eight minutes later by Jerrell's watch, the flight was over and we headed back to the motel shamefully empty-handed.
Sunday, May 11
It was forecast to rain and it did. Hard. So ended another enjoyable meeting and we headed home a little earlier than we had planned. I had hoped to look for Appalachian Snaketail and other species on the way north but with the weather not expecting to clear for a couple of days there was no chance of that.
Trip mileage in the gray Prius: 1375
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