City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

October 8, 2016

October 8th

Filed under: Dragonfly, Variegated Meadowhawks — canopus56 @ 4:14 pm

True Name of the Dragon

10:00 a.m. At various times, I referred to dragonflies, but those references were generic and were without a identification of a specific species. On July 29th, I described dragonflies flying in a B-25 bombing formation, and on August 11th, I noted a dragonfly feeding frenzy. On August 22nd, I observed cliff swallows feeding on dragonflies. Dragonflies move so fast that a certain identification is impossible and they rarely cooperate by conveniently resting on a leaf or stalk.

This morning, insects are still recovering after the storm of October 5th, and a few dragonflies, cabbage white butterflies, and moths can still be found. However, because the overnight temperatures have been in the 30s, they are all sluggish. In the cool morning air at mile 1.2 and 1.6, I find two separate dragonflies sunning themselves on the road. They are so punch-drunk from the cold that they do not fly off when approached.

They have the clear perpendicular wings that are the mark a dragonfly, and their abdomens are segmented in brown and pale yellow stripes. Dragonfly eyes are unique and if they have 10,000 to 30,000 lenses in their compound eyes. This allows them to perform the precise acrobatic maneuvers needed to catch small insects. In contrast the house fly has 3,000 to 5,000 eye lenses in its compound eyes.

After taking a photograph and doing some research, field guides instruct that these dragonflies are immature Variegated Meadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum). The meadowhawks are a member of the skimmer dragonfly family (Libellulidae), and they differ from other families in that they have a distinctive lobe at the margin of each eye. I unable to distinguish this feature between photographs of various types of dragonflies.

The term meadow “hawk” is ironic. Although these hawks are a predominate predator of small insect world, the meadowhawks themselves are prey for the cliff swallow, the scrub jay, the Mountain chickadee, and the Northern flicker.

In the Norse and Germanic legends, knowing the true secret name of a creature gives one special powers, e.g. – the release of the miller’s daughter from the imp’s curse when she speaks his name, “Rumpelstiltskin”. When I return to the canyon tomorrow, I will in the style of a currently popular childrens’ book character, raise my wand and speak the true name of the meadowhawk, “Libellulidae sympetrum corruptum.”  I anticipate that the meadowhawks will continue in their aerial contortions and will remain oblivious to my bidding.



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