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Monday, May 28, 2012

Gray-blue eyes

A beautiful male California Darner (Rhionaeschna californica) perched on a horsetail (Equisetum sp.) along Bay Flat Road at the north end of Bodega Harbor on 25 May 2012.

Note the gray-blue eyes and the very thin, faint stripes on top of the thorax (they're barely visible).  The thorax is the brown surface directly behind the eyes.  These field marks separate this species from the similar Blue-eyed Darner (Rhionaeschna multicolor) known for its brighter blue eyes and stronger blue thoracic stripes.

California Darners occur from British Columbia to Baja California.  Their spring flight season is unusual among the neotropical darners (Rhionaeschna spp.) and mosaic darners (Aeshna spp.).  They're on the wing as early as February.  Many of the other large blue darners fly during the latter half of the summer. 

This species is ~5.5-6 cm (2-2.5") long with a wing span of ~8-8.5 cm (3-3.5").  Watch for them chasing small insects in areas sheltered from the wind.

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