Thursday, July 4, 2013

What's flying at Elk Island? July 4, 2013 Edition.

This week the evening skies are swarming with Variable Darners (Aeshna interrupta), large dragonflies whose mass emergence was triggered by the recent hot spell. 

What's to like about them? Lots! Not only is this one of the largest and most charismatic insects in the park, it also puts in long hours gobbling up many of the flies (mosquitoes, horse flies and deer flies) that bother some human visitors to the park.

In turn, these abundant dragons may themselves become food for insectivorous birds - Merlin, American Kestrel, Franklin's Gull, Black Tern, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martin and others - that forage in Elk Island National Park's mosaic of natural habitats.

When they're not looking for food, these dragonflies are relentlessly working to secure a future generation of Variable Darners. Watch for mated pairs flying in tandem near the shores of Astotin Lake or for females laying eggs on emergent aquatic plants, just below the waterline.

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