A male Western River Cruiser (Macromia magnifica) — photographed on Pine Flat Road in Healdsburg, CA, on 2 May 2015.
I had a funny experience with this species today. I was walking along Pine Flat Road when a dragonfly shadow passed by. I looked up to see a very large dragonfly patrolling along the road. It was so large that its size caught my attention. I thought, "Well, that's larger than most darners — so it's either a darner I don't see very often or it's something else."
Luckily, the dragonfly landed. I didn't have my binoculars or camera at the time, so I ran back to the car for the camera, ran back to the site where the dragonfly was perched, and snapped a few shots just before it flew off.
When I was taking the pictures, I could tell that it was a river cruiser — an exciting observation for me, as it's my first in Sonoma County, and this is one of my favorite groups of dragonflies.
There are only 7 species of river cruisers in North America, and this is the only species found west of the Rocky Mountains.
At home, I tried to learn a little more about Western River Cruisers online. One of the first web pages I found was Don Roberson's where he said this:
"It is quite large — 3 inches long with a 4 inch wingspan — and thus is larger than all darners, except Giant Darner..."
Don's description made me smile because it was exactly what stood out to me upon first seeing a Western River Cruiser flying down the road.
Things to look for in the picture above: extremely long legs; large gray eyes; a single yellow stripe on the side of the thorax; pale leading edges of the wings; broad terminal abdominal segments, giving it a clubbed appearance; a slight arch to the abdomen. These are elegant dragonflies!