By Angus Inksetter
On Saturday, August 24th, a dozen members and friends of Saugeen Nature met at the parking area for Saugeen Conservation’s Schmidt Lake property for the club’s eleventh annual dragonfly and damselfly outing. It is always a great opportunity to learn about these amazing insect predators and to explore new territory. Criss-crossing the open areas at the edge of the forest and following the trails to the viewing platform and the floating boardwalk, the group spent three hours finding, capturing, identifying, and releasing unharmed many of the aerial insectivores. By far the most numerous were the meadowhawks, a family of small dragonflies in the larger grouping called skimmers. There were many hundreds of white-faced meadowhawks actively patrolling the meadows. We found males, females, and immature specimens and also cherry-faced and au- tumn meadowhawks with which we learned the differences among the species. One common green darner was captured; it was admired for its large size and bright colours. This type of dragonfly is one that migrates south for the winter like the birds and returns in early spring to get back at eating our northern insects.
Few damselflies were seen on this outing. Sometimes they are numerous but this year only two were found, one slender spreadwing and one eastern forktail. The damselflies are predators like the dragonflies but are generally smaller, slimmer, less robust creatures than dragonflies and therefore are often eaten by dragonflies.
Photo by Julie Weinstein (Halloween Pennant)
As we approached the parking area at the end of the outing one final discovery was made, and it made the whole day a great success. That final capture was a Halloween Pennant, a brightly col- oured dragonfly in the skimmer group. The body is splashed with red in the males, yellow in the females, and both have orange and brown wings.
Beyond the dragonflies and damselflies, the group was also treated to several species of bird. On the lake were gulls, Canada geese, double-crested cormorants, and a kingfisher flying over. The forests and fields housed eastern wood peewee, house wren, goldfinch, robin, and phoebe. As we prepared to leave for home a pair of stately sandhill cranes flew over. A few very small frogs, three garter snakes (one very young), and interesting plants such as royal fern, sensitive fern, and the insect-eating pitcher plant were all found along our travels.
It was a satisfying morning for all. For more information about Saugeen Nature or to find out about upcoming events, go to www.saugeenfieldnaturalists.com.