Sunday, September 4, 2011

New to the Thunder Bay District...the Spot-wing Glider (with notes on the Wandering Glider)

The recently compiled odonata checklist for the Thunder Bay District was derived from more than 1700 records involving 63 dragonfly and 18 damselfly species. The dragonfly total increased by one on August 12 thanks to Haliburton naturalist Ed Poropat.

As Ed describes it:
The Glider was caught during the late morning hours of Friday, August 12. While camping at Neys, I needed to go out to the park store to pick up some ice. On my way out of the park near the highway, I remembered there was a large open field adjacent to the tracks, just east of the entrance road. I believe this field is mowed by park staff. I zipped down there for a quick look, mostly for darners and butterflies. There was very little flying....a few Variable Darners, several meadowhawks, and a handful of leps including a Western White, Atlantis Fritillaries, and some European Skippers. As I was preparing to depart, I spotted a larger "reddish" looking ode flying quickly toward me. I swung and remarkably captured it as it went tearing by about a meter above my head! Upon opening the net, I was very surprised to find the Glider. It was photographed and immediately released. I figured it was a good record but had no idea it was a first for the district! Interestingly, Spot-winged Gliders have turned up on the James Bay shoreline this summer near Moosonee. Perhaps the very warm summer further ignited their already vagrant tendencies and pushed them north of their known range?
[click on image to enlarge]

Many thanks to Ed for sharing the photo and the story behind it.

Closely related to the Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea) is the Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens). The Wandering Glider is a very wide ranging skimmer known from all continents except Antarctica. It is an irreuglar, sometimes common migrant to southern Ontario but until last year it had only been observed twice in our district: in 1999 and 2001, in Shesheeb Bay on the Black Bay Peninsula and at the Pigeon River, near the Minnesota Border. Last summer (2010) I observed a third Wandering Glider flying up and down a beach at the Prairie River Mouth Provincial Nature Reserve. 

During this summer (2011), between July 22nd and August 27th, I observed Wandering Gliders on five dates near the shore of Lake Superior, between the Black Bay Peninsula and McKellar Harbour, east of Terrace Bay. In most cases, they have been flying over open water, more than three metres above the ground. They tend to fly quickly and they're next-to-impossible to photograph. Usually they fly well out of net range. An exception was a female I caught foraging over a bog on the Black Bay Peninsula on July 24th.

[click on image to enlarge]

On July 2, 2011, Rob Foster and Darren Elder enountered another Wandering Glider near Lake Superior during The Dragonfly Dash, a Thunder Bay Field Naturalists' field trip to the Pigeon River watershed.

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