Wednesday, July 20, 2016 White-winged Crossbills, Dragonflies and Damselflies

Mile 15, Seward Highway 9

On the way home from Tern Lake, I stopped at the boardwalk at Mile 15. The once-open west end of the pond was completely covered in pond lilies, and the east side filled in with sedges and horsetails. I don’t know that this would be a suitable habitat for swans to nest anymore.

A family of MALLARDS poked along through the pond lily jungle, up and over the large leaves. None of them dove; all tipped up, sometimes in synchrony. If only they knew that they could really dive. They must have read the bird book about dabblers!

A flock of WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS flew overhead, briefly perched in the adjacent spruce trees, and then flew back across the highway. It’s nice to know they are around, though totally unpredictable.

Other than that, it was pretty quiet bird-wise, so I focused on other things with wings. Giant dragonflies patrolled their pond lily territories, hovering expertly midair to investigate me, and other possible intruders, then zoomed off to give chase or snap up a fly for lunch. Straight up, straight down, hovering, and flat-out straight; what incredible flyers! Occasionally, one would venture into the nearby sedges, rattling its wings.

It was very difficult to get the camera to focus on these beauties, so when I finally got a decent photo I was thrilled. I believe it is a Paddle-tailed Darner. When hovering, the wings worked independently, one set of wings was up and one down, effortlessly maintaining position. Then, off it zoomed, its excellent compound eyes having spotted something of greater interest.

The damselflies were much easier to photograph, landing nearby to bask in the sunshine. They looked like electric blue exclamation marks punctuated with black bands and stripes, the 2 pairs of wings neatly folded back to maintain its sleek lineal statement. The damselfly also has enormous, stunning, compound eyes, but widely separated, and in this species, a futuristic metallic blue. I think it’s a Bluet Damselfly.

If anyone can correctly identify these two species, please let me know.

It was a pleasure to have time to observe these fascinating, modern versions of the 300 million year old insects that once flew with dinosaurs.

Happy Birding!
Carol Griswold
Seward Sporadic Bird Report Reporter

Update: Thanks to Matt Goff for the following comments:
The flowerfly looks like Eristalis anthophorina; I agree the damselfly is a bluet (Enallagma sp), but I'm not sure if it's possible to tell which species from the photos (I just know that I can't do it). Nice capture of the dragonfly in flight! It does look like a Paddle-tailed Darner to me, as well. 

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