Dragonfly Season

Blue Dasher Male June 27

A wave of dragonflies arrived this week, washed into the yard by the rising tides of summer’s heat.

Blue Dasher June 28

Blue Dashers are by far the most numerous, claiming spots near the ground in all of the iris beds.

Blue Dasher June 28

Blue Dasher June 29

Great Blue Skimmers seem to prefer the slightly higher perches provided by our trellises.

Dragonfly June 27

Higher yet, in the wax myrtle canopy, Halloween Pennants pivot in the wind like miniature weather vanes.

Halloween Pennant June 28

(At first glance, the next dragonfly seemed to be another Halloween Pennant, but the camera’s zoom function revealed inconsistent wing patterns. After consulting a few online resources, I believe this is either a female Common Whitetail or a Twelve-Spotted Skimmer. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identifications!) [Update added June 30: Possibly a Painted Skimmer, see comment from Gillian.]

Dragonfly June 29

These new dragonflies join an already-established population of Eastern Pondhawks, which began arriving in late May.

Eastern Pondhawk June 29

Eastern Pondhawk June 29

Now, no matter where I look in the yard, I find dragonflies. Summer wouldn’t feel the same without them.

Notes from the Yard

The yard isn’t exactly bustling, in this heat, but there are signs of life. Each day, more and more cicadas molt on the fence.

The young praying mantises have spread out into the iris beds.

And I’m still seeing pondhawks, though their numbers have decreased over the last two days.

Finally, I’m intrigued by this cocoon. What’s in there? My chances of finding out are slim, because it will likely emerge when I’m busy doing other things. Even so, I check on it several times a day. Just in case…

Pondhawk Invasion

Eastern Pondhawks have taken over the yard. Every available perch is occupied, every patch of grass claimed. Active and aggressive, they patrol one area for five or ten minutes, then attempt to move on. It’s hard to say who wins the resulting bouts of mid-air combat, because I have trouble distinguishing individuals. But it seems to me as if territories steadily shift, so that one dragonfly might begin her morning in the southwest corner, move by noon into the northeast corner, then rotate back to her southwest starting position by evening. As she moves, others crowd in behind her, so that the entire yard is continuously occupied.

Fortunately for all the other dragonflies, the Eastern Pondhawks appear to prefer ground-level hunting and rarely move into the trees.

Rainy Respite

This moth took shelter on our porch as a morning thunderstorm growled through the area. After the storm calmed, a steady rain settled over the yard, lasting all afternoon. It was a pleasant, sleepy kind of rain, gradually washing away the weekend’s heat and dust. Washing away the weekend’s bees and dragonflies, too, for the moment.

I believe the first dragonfly is an Eastern Pondhawk, and the second a Great Blue Skimmer. I haven’t found a possible match for the first moth, but the second seems to be a Grape Leaffolder moth. (I’m gaining confidence with dragonflies, but I’m a complete beginner with moths. Please comment with confirmations or corrections!)

Birds and Dragonflies

The blue jay babies are fledged, but they haven’t started foraging on their own. They continue to rely on their parents for food. (More about the blue jays here, here, and here.) While the adults flit back and forth, the babies explore the densest parts of our wax myrtle (where I can’t get a picture of them), exercising their voices and wings. There are at least three fledglings, possibly four, though it sounds like there might be a dozen when they shriek in unison.

During occasional blue jay lulls, when the parents forage in other yards (or simply take a break from their raucous brood), doves and sparrows share a turn at the feeder.

The doves gulp seed in greedy excess, then settle on nearby perches to preen and stretch as they digest their meals.

Along with birds, the yard is filling with dragonflies. Eastern Pondhawks have joined last week’s Blue Dashers.

I’ve also seen two or three species I can’t identify, like this golden beauty. (My best guess is a female Needham’s Skimmer. Can anyone confirm or correct that ID?)

Today was hot and humid, just right for June. I mowed through the heat, then sat on the deck to enjoy a fitful breeze stirred by approaching storms. I was tempted, for a moment, to call the yard “mine”. But a burst of blue jay racket reminded me that it isn’t mine at all.