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Thursday, April 12, 2012

Early morning frost & midday sun

The weather has been quite variable this past week.  On Sunday, 8 April 2012, the early morning air temperature was cold enough to produce frost:

California Blackberry (Rubus ursinus)

In contrast, on Monday, 9 April 2012, it was warmer (up to 65°F) and fairly still, producing good conditions for insects including this dragonfly that was basking in the midday sun:

 Cardinal Meadowhawk (Sympetrum illotum)

Cardinal Meadowhawks are ~3-4 cm long, with a wing span of 5-6 cm.  The mature male is bright red, hence the common name.  The individual above is a female, based on the golden brown color and the broad abdomen.

Note the amber wash along the leading edges of the wings and at the bases of the wings (near the body). Importantly (for field identification), there are also dark brown/black streaks at the bases of the wings (see blue circle below).

Cardinal Meadowhawks have a broad latitudinal range (southern Canada to Argentina) and are found at a variety of wetlands, e.g., ponds, lakes, marshes, streams, and rivers.  They are one of the first dragonflies to appear in the spring, and are generally on the wing from March to October in this area.  I don't know if they breed on Bodega Head.  If not, perhaps this individual wandered over from Salmon Creek?

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