A New Ode

Top Photo: Male roseate skimmer sallies forth from its perch on twig.

There’s been another species added to the list of odonata seen at the museum. With the addition of roseate skimmer (Orthemis ferruginea) seen on Saturday, September 18, I’ve recorded 42 species out of 188 listed for the state.

There are many species that will never be recorded here at the museum due to their specific habitat requirements and range. I didn’t expect to see this species. It’s a southern coastal plain specialty. But, it’s spreading north. In the last 10 to 20 years it has become almost expected on our southern coastal plain. So, I was surprised to see one zip by me as I stood at the railing of the museum’s Explore the Wild boardwalk last Saturday morning here on the piedmont.

At the time of the sighting, I didn’t have my camera ready. When I did break it out, I couldn’t relocate the dragonfly. That is, until later that afternoon when I went onto the Main Wetlands Overlook specifically to seek out the colorful skimmer. They like to perch on rigid sticks or twigs. I knew there were plenty of those visible from the platform of the overlook.

Sure enough, there he was some twenty feet away on a twig of a fallen shrub half submerged in the murky water of the wetlands. It was a bit distant to get a close-up, but the images I was able to get were good enough to document the insect and show here.

A wetlands first, male roseate skimmer.

I took a boat-load of pictures of the dragonfly then moved over to the other side of the wide deck, how many pictures of a far away dragonfly do you need? There, a bit closer this time, was the same dragonfly, or was it. I ran back to the place I’d just come from. There was a roseate skimmer still perched in the same spot as earlier, there were two of them!

A second roseate skimmer.

Roseate skimmers are uniquely hued dragonflies. No other ode in our area has quite the same shades of red, fuchsia, purple and or pink. There are a handful of red dragonflies that may show themselves locally, autumn meadowhawk, Needham’s skimmer, golden-wing skimmer, Carolina saddlebags, calico pennant and comet darner come to mind. But as strikingly colored as those dragonflies are, a roseate skimmer will make you stop and wonder.

These two dragonflies were probably just passing through. Their appearance in early fall suggest some kind of dispersal or migrational movement. Most North Carolina sightings are from the southeastern coastal counties from late August to the end of October.

There are many photos of this dragonfly on the internet, much better than the ones I was able to get and display here. But I think you get the idea. Hopefully, I’ll run into another one willing to perch close enough to the wetlands overlook for me to get a better image.


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