Finally, odes! That is, dragonflies and damselflies. The first Fragile Forktail that caught my attention this season was on March 18 when one individual was seen taking its first flight after emerging. This sighting is nine days later than the first sightings of this species last year, which occurred on the 9th of March. By March 21 many of these tiny, teneral damsels could be seen flying across the path on the north side of the Wetlands in search of a secure place in which to dry out, harden their exoskeletons, and become mature Fragile Forktails. The image at left labeled “Fragile Forktail (teneral)” is of one of these rather dainty damsels only minutes after the larva crawled out of the water, emerged from, then abandoned, its larval skin (exuviae) and began to expand into its adult configuration. At this stage, it is still soft and very vulnerable (teneral).
Male Fragile Forktails emerge before the females. It may be a week or two before we see females, which are less colorful than the males. The image of the male at left labeled “Fragile Forktail (male)” is what the damsels look like after taking on the mature male coloration. The process can take several hours. The male pictured happens to be eating a small insect, perhaps a leafhopper (photo is from a previous season).
Three Common Green Darners were seen in the Wetlands on March 22 with one female and a pair in tandem. The male attaches itself to the female, transfers sperm to the female and both of them fly off together, in tandem, ovipositing (laying eggs) at suitable locations around the pond. The image at left is a rear view of a male in flight, quartering away.
Several Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were seen on the last day of the month (3/31) in Explore the Wild and Catch the Wind. These were the first-of-the-season sightings for this species.
Falcate Orangetips continue to be seen in small numbers. I’ve yet to see a female of the species this season (images at left). Like the Fragile Forktails above, male Falcate Orangetips emerge prior to the females. Falcates don’t sit still for long, most are seen while in flight so you often get only a quick glimpse as they flutter by. They are early season butterflies and are only seen in our area from mid-March to about mid-April.
Also observed during the last half of March is what appeared to be a Juvenals’ Duskywing. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a sufficient look to confirm its identity. These relatively small butterflies are overall dark brown to black and belong to a group of look-a-like species which can be difficult to differentiate. They perch on the ground which is where you’re most likely to find them, low to the ground, even while on the wing.