As reports of migrating Swamp Darners (Epiaeschna heros), Common Green Darners (Anax junius), Wandering Gliders and Spot-Winged Gliders (Pantala flavescens and P. hymenaea), and even Black Saddlebags (Tramea
lacerata) rolled in from the eastern and midwestern portions of the continent, those of us on the West Coast waited and wondered, "Where are our Variegated Meadowhawks?!?". That question was answered at the beginning of September, when they began flying down the coast in what appeared to be record numbers.
From September 1-5, substantial flights were seen from southern Washington, including San Juan Island, down through the central coast of Oregon. On September 9, a large flight that appeared to be coming in off the surf was reported moving south on the Oregon coast just a handful of miles from the Oregon/California border. Local newspapers and bloggers caught dragonfly migration fever, and observers in northern California were poised to take up the counts when the meadowhawks crossed the state line. But then....a strange stillness descended. Variegated Meadowhawk adults were still emerging up in Seattle, Washington around the middle of September, and since only teneral (newly-emerged) adults were seen in the area, they were apparently flying south as soon as they were able. However, no further large flights were reported along the Oregon coast, and no migration flights were reported at all from California, despite the presence of primed and eager observers. Did migration continue, but in smaller, less noticeable numbers? And do Variegated Meadowhawks continue to migrate all the way through California, or do they overwinter within the state? Only continued observation and reporting can give us answers to these questions.
And for westerners who don't live on the coast and are feeling a bit left out, one of the more surprising reports came from a HawkWatch site above the Bridger Mountain Ski Area near Bozeman, Montana, at an elevation of about 8500-9000 feet, where counters saw thousands of unidentified dragonflies passing by on September 1. This inland, high elevation flight may seem odd, but similar reports were made from the Bristlecone Pines Visitor Center in the White Mountains of California, where "large numbers of large dragonflies" were seen on September 9. These particular dragons were likely Common Green Darners, as this species was noted moving north through the same area last spring.
With temperatures dropping and wind, rain, and snow blowing in, dragonfly-watching days are drawing to a close for the season for many of us in Canada and the US. But ode-watchers in states with more temperate winters can be on the lookout for odonates on the wing for a while longer, and Pond Watch observations made during this period will continue to refine what we know about emergence and over-wintering. As for the rest of us, we'll just have to wait until Spring!