Some Early Season Damselflies and Dragonflies

During recent weeks, as temperatures have warmed into the 70s and 80s, early season odonates—damselflies and dragonflies—have taken to the wing along our watercourses and wetlands to prey upon small flying insects.

Vegetated Stream
In addition to wetlands, many vegetated streams, ponds, lakes, and rivers are prime locations to find a variety of damselflies and dragonflies.
Common Whitetail and Eastern Amberwings
A male Common Whitetail (top) and some Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) patrol the edge of a verdant pond in search of small flying insects.  In addition to defending territories for hunting, many males will begin chasing off potential rivals as the breeding season gets underway.  Both of these dragonflies are tolerant of mud-bottomed waters during their aquatic larval stages of life and may be the only species found at places like farm ponds.
Male Fragile Forktail
The Fragile Forktail is common throughout the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed.  It is the most likely damselfly to colonize garden ponds, wet ditches, and other small bodies of water.
Female Fragile Forktail
Having just mated with the male seen in the previous image, this female Fragile Forktail prepares to oviposit (lay her eggs) among the submerged plant matter in the shallows of this pond.  After hatching, the larval damselflies will spend an entire year as aquatic predators before taking flight as adults next spring.
Male Blue Dasher
The Blue Dasher is a common dragonfly around streams, ponds, and wetlands.  It can frequently be found perched in sunny woodland clearings, even those quite a distance from their breeding area.
Male Eastern Forktail
The Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis) is a common damselfly around almost any calm, vegetated waters.  They frequently perch on emergent plant leaves and stems.
Common Baskettail
The Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) is currently numerous around tree-lined pond and lake shores.  They spend nearly all of their time on the wing and frequently dart in and out of the shade while hunting and defending their territory from other dragonflies.  Unless you happen to catch a quick glimpse of them in good sunlight, these hyperactive insects will appear completely black in color.
Common Baskettail
Another Common Baskettail, this one mostly lacking any black coloration on the base section of the hindwings.
Lancet Clubtail
The Lancet Clubtail is a handsome early season dragonfly of slow clear streams, ponds, and wetlands.  They spend much of their time perched, watching for prey.
Lancet Clubtail
We found this Lancet Clubtail about 100 yards from a mountain stream perched on the ground atop some debris on a seldom-traveled forest road,…
Lancet Clubtail
…and this one clinging to some shrubs along the shore of a clear woodland pond.

If you’re out and about in coming days, you’ll find that flights of Common Green Darners, Black Saddlebags, and other species are underway as well.  As the waters of the lower Susquehanna valley continue to warm, an even greater variety of these insects will take to the wing.  To help with the identification of those you see, be certain to click the “Damselflies and Dragonflies” tab at the top of this page.

Fall Foliage at the Peak of Color

Have you noticed?  Foliage throughout the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed has been painted with the brilliant colors of autumn, so now is the time to get out there and have a look.  Why not make a collection?  You can pick up an inexpensive scrap book or photo album at the craft store to press and label the varieties you find.  Uncle Tyler Dyer is already busy adding to the project he assembled last year.  You can use his exhibit as a reference for identifying and learning a little bit more about the leaves you find.

To identify the leaves you discover, click this image.
Leaf Collection Mounted in a Photo Album
The editor’s 1995 collection of leaves from the Susquehanna River floodplain at Conewago Falls.


(Public Domain image by RCA Manufacturing Company)

A brief test procedure has rubbed the epithelial cells in one of your editor’s critical organs the wrong way, thus prompting them to let loose with cytokine proteins all over his body.  Shortly put, it’s like experiencing the aftermath of a major heart attack for a second time.  We’ll be back when the action-packed reenactment is over.

Saharan Dust Cloud: Get Your Camera Ready

It appears that the Saharan dust cloud has at last wandered our way.  The plume is presently advancing across Texas and the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys.

The stream of Saharan dust making a right turn across the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico into Texas and the Mississippi valley.  The leading edge can be seen over Ohio approaching western Pennsylvania.  During its long journey, the dry air in the plume has become too diluted to have much impact on the formation of convective clouds.  (CIRA/NOAA image)
A dense segment of the plume can be seen pushing into clear air over Tennessee and the southern Appalachian Mountains.  (CIRA/NOAA image)

Be sure to get outside and have a look at the sunsets and sunrises in the coming days.  They just might be a photo-worthy spectacle!

The Layover

After nearly a full week of record-breaking cold, including two nights with a widespread freeze, warm weather has returned.  Today, for the first time this year, the temperature was above eighty degrees Fahrenheit throughout the lower Susquehanna region.  Not only can the growing season now resume, but the northward movement of Neotropical birds can again take flight—much to our delight.

A rainy day on Friday, May 8, preceded the arrival of a cold arctic air mass in the eastern United States.  It initiated a sustained layover for many migrating birds.

Bobolinks (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) in flocks of as many as fifty birds gathered in weedy meadows and alfalfa fields for the week.
A Bobolink sheltering in a field of Sweet Vernal Grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum) during the rain on Friday, May 8th.
Two of seven Solitary Sandpipers (Tringa solitaria) in a wet field on Friday, May 8.  Not-so-solitary after all.
Grounded by inclement weather, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus) made visits to suburban bird feeders in the lower Susquehanna valley.  (Charles A. Fox image)

Freeze warnings were issued for five of the next six mornings.  The nocturnal flights of migrating birds, most of them consisting of Neotropical species by now, appeared to be impacted.  Even on clear moonlit nights, these birds wisely remained grounded.  Unlike the more hardy species that moved north during the preceding weeks, Neotropical birds rely heavily on insects as a food source.  For them, burning excessive energy by flying through cold air into areas that may be void of food upon arrival could be a death sentence.  So they wait.

A freeze warning was issued for Saturday morning, May 9, in the counties colored dark blue on the map.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
This radar image from 3:28 A.M. Saturday morning, May 9, indicates a minor movement of birds in the Great Plains, but there are no notable returns shown around weather radar sites in the freeze area, including the lower Susquehanna valley.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
To avoid the cold wind on Saturday, May 9, this Veery was staying low to the ground within a thicket of shrubs in the forest.
This Black-throated Blue Warbler avoided the treetops and spent time in the woodland understory.  He sang not a note.  With birds conserving energy for the cold night(s) ahead, it was uncharacteristically quiet for the second Saturday in May.
A secretive Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis) remained in a wetland thicket.
A Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) tucks his bill beneath a wing and fluffs-up to fight off the cold during a brief May 9th snow flurry.
In open country, gusty winds kept Eastern Kingbirds, a species of flycatcher, near the ground in search of the insects they need to sustain them.
Horned Larks are one of the few birds that attempt to scratch out an existence in cultivated fields.  The application of herbicides and the use of systemic insecticides (including neonicotinoids) eliminates nearly all weed seeds and insects in land subjected to high-intensity farming.  For most birds, including Neotropical migrants, cropland in the lower Susquehanna valley has become a dead zone.  Birds and other animals might visit, but they really don’t “live” there anymore.
Unable to find flying insects over upland fields during the cold snap, swallows concentrated over bodies of water to feed.  Some Tree Swallows may have abandoned their nests to survive this week’s cold.  Fragmentation of habitats in the lower Susquehanna valley reduces the abundance and diversity of natural food sources for wildlife.  For birds like swallows, events like late-season freezes, heat waves, or droughts can easily disrupt their limited food supply and cause brood failure.
For this Barn Swallow, attempting to hunt insects above the warm pavement of a roadway had fatal consequences.
Another freeze warning was issued for Sunday morning, May 10, in the counties colored dark blue on this map.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
This radar image from 4:58 A.M. Sunday morning, May 10, again indicates the absence of a flight of migrating birds in the area subjected to freezing temperatures.  Unlike migrants earlier in the season, the Neotropical species that move north during the May exodus appear unwilling to resume their trek during freezing weather.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
On Sunday evening, May 10, a liftoff of nocturnal migrants is indicated around radar sites along the Atlantic Coastal Plain and, to a lesser degree, in central Pennsylvania.  The approaching rain and yet another cold front quickly grounded this flight.
After a one day respite, yet another freeze warning was issued for Tuesday morning, May 12.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
And again, no flight in the freeze area.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
The freeze warning for Wednesday morning, May 13.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
And the nocturnal flight: heavy in the Mississippi valley and minimal in the freeze area.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
The freeze on Thursday morning, May 14.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
At 3:08 A.M. on May 14th, a flight is indicated streaming north through central Texas and dispersing into the eastern half of the United States, but not progressing into New England.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)
The flight at eight minutes after midnight this morning.  Note the stormy cold front diving southeast across the upper Mississippi valley.  As is often the case, the concentration of migrating birds is densest in the warm air ahead of the front.  (NOAA/National Weather Service image)

Today throughout the lower Susquehanna region, bird songs again fill the air and it seems to be mid-May as we remember it.  The flights have resumed.

Indigo Bunting numbers are increasing as breeding populations arrive and migrants continue through.  Look for them in thickets along utility and railroad right-of-ways.
Common Yellowthroats and other colorful warblers are among the May migrants currently resuming their northward flights.
The echoes of the songs of tropical birds are beginning to fill the forests of the lower Susquehanna watershed.  The flute-like harmonies of the Wood Thrush are among the most impressive.
Ovenbirds are ground-nesting warblers with a surprisingly explosive song for their size.  Many arrived within the last two days to stake out a territory for breeding.  Listen for “teacher-teacher-teacher” emanating from a woodland near you.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update

As a public service to our visitors, Uncle Tyler Dyer has agreed to give us a summary of the news.  Uncle Ty is currently in self-imposed quarantine and will continue to remain in isolation until the threat from SARS-CoV-2 passes.  Despite his age, he’s not particularly concerned about exposure to the virus or the Wuhan flu; he’s worried about getting bit by one of the “friendly” dogs that are presently dragging their owners down the sidewalks and recreation trails throughout the Susquehanna valley on a daily basis.  Worse yet, he dreads the thought of winding up in the E.R. because he got bit by one of their kids.  So until the subdivision dwellers go back to work and school, Uncle Ty will remain, like always, out of sight.

To get the latest scoop, be assured that Uncle Ty will poll his many exclusive sources, most of them unavailable to mainstream news reporters.  He not only knows people in high places, he knows high people in places.

Here’s the news.

Hey man, I’m Ty Dyer and here’s what’s happening.

The Flat Earth Coalition of Environmental Scientists is advising the public to be alert for an impending threat posed to those who exercise “social distancing”.  According to a forthcoming report, if everyone were to maintain a distance of six feet between themselves and all other individuals, those persons around the physical periphery of the mass of humanity will be dangerously close to the horizon’s end.  Despite the effects of COVID-19, the world population is still growing by more than 200,000 persons each day.  Soon, the earth will become overcrowded and people will begin falling off the planet, possibly within the next several weeks.  A spokesperson warned that pushing, shoving, and name-calling could precede the eventual dumping of the weakest from the crowd over the side to make more space.  F.E.C.E.S. would not speculate on the fate of those who take the dump; however, those living near the rim are advised to wear a face mask and a parachute while doing their business.  Critics were quoted as saying, “The F.E.C.E.S. movement is full of it.”

Meanwhile, the Face Mask Manufacturers Alliance is asking those who are not sick, are not healthcare workers, or have not been exposed to SARS-CoV-2 to stop misusing their products, particularly while there is a severe supply shortage.  They warn users that their masks are designed to prevent those who have been exposed to the flu virus or another contagion from transmitting it to others by capturing the aerosols produced by breathing, speaking, coughing, or sneezing.  For those who have no flu symptoms or other evidence of exposure, but who insist upon wearing a mask to prevent contracting the virus despite that use being an application inverse to its design, the manufacturers ask that you please turn the mask inside out before donning.  To alert others of your status, you are requested to wear your outer garments inside out as well.  If you are exposed to SARS-CoV-2, test positive for the virus, or have symptoms of the flu or other contagious illness, you are instructed to wear a mask as designed, right-side out, to prevent contaminating those around you.  You can also then turn your clothing right-side out as well.

There is controversy in several northeastern cities today after police officers arrested dozens of people for failing to practice safe “social distancing”.  Each of those cited was quickly released to avoid crowding of the precinct houses.  The controversy arose when representatives of the cities’ vice squads insisted that enforcing “social distancing” laws comes under their jurisdiction.  They reminded city officials that after all, it was the vice squads who for decades have made it clear that violations of “social distancing” laws are not victimless crimes.  They then accused city governments of underfunding their operations in an attempt to force them to surrender “social distancing” enforcement to patrol officers while the limited resources of the vice squads deal with the lingering jumbo soda epidemic.

Astronomers today released a statement saying that in deference to the importance of safe “social distancing”, they would eliminate using Gemini as the name of a well-known constellation until further notice.  The stars comprising the Gemini twins will now be divided among two new constellations called Hank and Marty.  Scientists pointed out that the stars comprising Hank and Marty are actually many light-years apart; it is our vantage point on earth that makes the two men appear to be violating the practice of safe “social distancing”.  Nevertheless, they didn’t want Gemini setting a bad example.

Radio broadcasters have announced that many classic rock and pop recordings have been edited and remastered to reflect increased awareness of safe “social distancing”.  Here are a few of the slightly amended hits you’ll be hearing on the airwaves soon.

The Beatles—I Want To Hold Your Hand (But My Arms Ain’t Long Enough)

The Beatles with Billy Preston—Get Back (To The Tape Mark On The Floor)

The Beatles—(This Really Isn’t A Good Time To) Come Together

The Captain & Tennille—Love Will Keep Us Together (But You Better Stand Over There) 

The Carpenters —(Not So) Close To You

The Jackson 5—I’ll Be There (Or Better Yet Over Here)

Michael Jackson—Beat It (extended remix)

Bette Midler—From A Distance (Remastered)

Olivia Newton-John—(This Is No Time To Get) Physical

Pink Floyd—Comfortably Numb (You Best Skedaddle)

The Police—Don’t Stand So Close To Me (32 minute extended remix)

The Police—Every Breath You Take (You’re Suckin’ In What I Just Exhaled)

Elvis Presley—Love Me Tender (From Over There)

The Rolling Stones—Get Off Of My Cloud (And Outta My Space)

Diana Ross & The Supremes—Someday We’ll Be Together (But Not Right Now)

The Temptations—I Can’t Get Next To You (Remix)      

Will the firm friendly handshake share a destiny with cocktails in the workplace, smoldering ashtrays on the desk, and the annual holiday office bash?  Coronaphobia, a rallying cause for the next authoritarian movement of do-gooders, is surely on its way.  (National Archives-White House image by Oliver F. Atkins)

And that’s what’s going on for April 1, 2020.  Ty Dyer saying stay home, don’t get strung up in the puppet show, and remember, there are two different Amazons out there, and the only good one is a river.


 Major funding for “Life in the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed: A Natural History of Conewago Falls—The Waters of Three Mile Island” is provided by…

denying an aging man the consumer comforts of adequate heat, modern appliances, reliable transportation, and a good haircut…

and by…

collecting loose change in a dangerous alley.