Thursday, September 4, 2008

Really Cool Dragons at the Sax Zim Bog

When we left the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary it was late we so we decided to stay the night at a hotel in the small town of Orr, MN. We got up early on the sixth and headed out right away. We did not have anything going that day, besides the 3 plus hour drive home, but since we were in the area I wanted to make a quick side trip and drive through the Sax Zim Bog area. The Sax Zim Bog is vast conifer bog located in north east Minnesota. The approximately 200 square mile area consists of a mix of spruce, tamarack, and northern white cedar bogs as well as hay fields and sedge meadows. It also includes 3 separate wildlife management areas.

The Sax Zim Bog is known as one of the best places, in the US, to see northern migrant bird species during the winter. Some of the species that you might see if you visit during the frigid months are northern goshawk, great grey owls, snowy owls, northern hawk owls, boreal owls, three-toed woodpeckers, black-backed woodpeckers, evening and pine grosbeak, common and hoary redpoll, crossbills, gray jays, bohemian waxwing, boreal chickadee and more.

We discovered that Sax Zim Bog is also a great place to photograph wildlife in the summer. Although we did not spend as much time as I would have liked exploring the different bog habitat, we still had a long drive home, we did find a lot to look at and photograph in the short time that we were there. Since it was July the dragonflies and damselflies where in high season and there were many around to photograph.
As I learned in the dragonfly workshop, which I took in August, it is difficult to tell the difference between damselflies with out capturing them and investigating them under a magnifying glass. My guess at the damsel above would be a familiar bluet but it is tough to be 100% positive with just a photo.
The chalk-fronted corporal, named for the pair of white stripes on the front of the thorax which resemble corporal stripes, are always a good thing to see. They are very social and often gather together in groups to feast on nasty pests like mosquitoes and deer flies.
There are also several types of meadowhawks that are very difficult to distinguish between. If you have captured a male, which in most cases are red in color, and are looking at it under a magnifying lens there are differences that you can see. However the females, which are a yellow color like the one above, are almost impossible to tell.
At first I believed that this was another female meadowhawk, but on closer examination of the photo I realized that it is actually a female dot-tailed whiteface. These were the first type of dragons that I spotted in the spring after the green darners. The males are black, with a single yellow dot on segment 7 of the abdomen and a white face.
The most exciting find of the day, and for me the most exciting of the trip, was a calico pennant. When I started photographing dragonflies last summer I visited several websites to help me identify the dragons that I had shot and get some info. At that point I spotted a picture of a calico pennant and thought that it was one of the coolest dragonflies that I had seen. From then on I had always hoped that I would see one and that Sunday was the day.
We had stopped to take a look at a shorebird that was perched on a rock in the midst of a small pool. The bird was pretty far away so I was easily distracted by some butterflies and dragonflies in the grass on the side of the road. I was on my way back to the car when I spotted a large dragon landing nearby. I went over to take a look and I was stunned to see this male calico in the grass. Before I could get a picture it took off and my heart stopped. Fortunately it did not go far, it landed and I was able to get several nice shots. Though they are not listed as a rare species in Northern Minnesota not many people that I know have seen them. In fact the leaders of the dragonfly workshop that I went to in August have been hunting dragons for about 10 years and they still have not seen a calico in Minnesota. So I was really excited to add it to my dragon collection and I am planning to use the first calico pic above as the February photo for my 2009 calendar.


Leedra said...

As usual absolutely fantastic photographs. Like the info, too! I just wondered across a post on Ivar's blog about you saying my blog should be checked out. I really appreciate it, I was just sorta delayed in knowing about it.

Gallicissa said...

That Calico Pennant looks a stunner. No wonder your heart stopped when it wandered off. I too bagged several big catches - one of them being a dragonfly that had eluded the experts over here - not making to the dragibfly guide as a result.

Ecobirder said...

Thanks Leedra, I always like to recomend blogs that I think that my readers would enjoy.

Thanks Gallicissa, you guys have some really cool dragons in your part of the world. I am not sure how it is over there but in North America it seems that dragonflies are overlooked a lot more then birds. I too have found several species that are not in their supposed range but I think that is because no body knows enough about dragons.