Field Journal: Late Summer Dragons at Magnuson

A month ago I attended a dragonfly class at Magnuson Park with dragonfly expert, Dennis Paulson. He talked about the dragonfly’s life cycle during the class portion, then we went out to Magnuson Park in Seattle to look at the odes. The season had already begun to fade as many he had seen just a week ago were no longer flying. We did see many blue-eyed darners, cardinal meadowhawks, eight-spotted skimmers, blue dashers and western pondhawks. A single black saddlebag patrolled the pond. There were a few tule bluet and California spreadwing damselflies as well. I spotted one unfortunate blue-eyed darner which had become trapped in the water, only its head was above the surface as it tried to fly out, unsuccessfully. Paulson said that happens sometimes when the males fight, one will become stuck in the water and die. Some of the ponds had dried out, as they…

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Field Journal: Late Spring Insects at Magnuson Park

With the warm and sunny weather coming to a temporary end, I wanted to make the most of it to find some insects before the cool weather arrived. The day started sunny and although I arrived at the park in the morning, there was plenty moving around. The rose plants were full of small bumble bees and a few damselflies cruised around the edges of the ponds. I surveyed the grassy hillside where I often see dragonflies resting in the morning before they warm up enough to fly. While looking for dragonflies, I noticed a bright red insect sitting on a leaf. It was so colorful and large, it would have been difficult to miss. It was one of the few times I see something that really is unusual. When I got close enough to it, I could see it was a moth, but could very easily have been…

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Field Journal: Spring at Magnuson Park

I’ve visited Magnuson Park twice in the last couple of weeks hoping with the warmer weather to find my first dragonflies of the year. The first visit was on the 17th and although it was supposed to get warm that day, the morning was cloudy and cool. The sun did show up right as I was leaving naturally, but too late for insects to be active. However, I found some other interesting things to watch in the absence of dragonflies. Near where I usually begin my walk I heard the usual Red-winged Blackbirds and saw some activity in the reeds. While the males frequently trill from the tops of trees, the females are often harder to find, hidden near the ground among the plants. So I wasn’t surprised when a brown bird fluttered into view, obscured by the cattails. I immediately realized it was not a female, but a…

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Field Journal: First Dragonfly of the Year

It was one of the first truly warm days of the year so far and I wanted to find dragonflies. After dropping my daughter off at her forest preschool I walked down to the pond which I’d spent so much time at during my 365 Nature Project. Although it was fairly early in the day I had hopes of finding some odes. When I first arrived there wasn’t much flying over the pond so I had my lunch and waited for the sun to warm the air. I then surveyed the pond and discovered a few Pacific Forktail damselflies on the water’s edge. Then a large dragonfly zoomed by and it was easy to see it was a Common Green Darner, my first dragon of the year. It was the only one I saw but satisfying. 

As I watched for odes I noticed a trio of crows having a…

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Field Journal: Arboretum Bee Flies

Spring has brought more rain to Seattle but at times it’s also brought sun. Friday was one of those sunny spring days that brings everyone outside from whatever they are doing. I packed my camera and stayed at the arboretum after I dropped my daughter off at her outdoor forest preschool because I’d been seeing bee flies around and wanted to photograph them. I hopped from sun patch to sun patch through the forest and it wasn’t long until I found my first bee fly. It was hovering in a sunbeam along with other insects and I stopped to watch. It soon settled down on some woody mulch and I sat down to look at it. When hovering, bee flies have the tendency to stick their legs out, which gives the appearance of a skydiver. Other flies and bees usually tuck their legs in when they fly, which makes…

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Field Journal: Arboretum CNC

On the final two days of the Seattle City Nature Challenge I visited my daughter’s outdoor forest preschool at the arboretum. I talked to the kids about citizen science and how they could all contribute to science and then read a story about finding nature in the city. The kids of course, are already familiar with the concept of urban nature as they encounter it every day at school. They dig around for worms and centipedes, keep a close eye on the weather, watch the Bald Eagles and Barred Owls and visit the ponds to see dragonflies and turtles.

After our talk the class set out on a data gathering adventure. The kids explored, pointing out plants, lichens, mosses and bugs while myself and the teachers took photos to upload to iNaturalist. The kids were soon running around yelling they found ‘data’ and directing the adults to it. We added…

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