Monday, November 26, 2018

Great Pondhawk

A Great Pondhawk, photographed and posted to the Arlington Bioblitz and iNaturalist by David Howell.

      Bioblitzes are always neat ways for people to contribute to citizen science efforts. The second one ever conducted in Arlington Virginia was scheduled for September 15th as a much smaller scale effort to document the natural history of Glencarlyn Park on that particular day. The results were quite encouraging and help not just add to the biotic inventory of the County and park, but help staff know a bit more about their efforts at natural resource management, add data for the upcoming revision of the natural resource management pan for the County, and help people realize just how wonderful the natural treasures in Arlington, as developed as it is, can be. A brief summary of the event is available here:
while information on bioblitzes in general can be found here:    
     As the information as posted is crowd sourced and open for people to help identify and confirm observations, it can sometimes take a while to get all the results back. While bioblitzes always provide good information and data, this last one provided a bit more of a last surprise. After one of the photo observations made by David Howell which he posted on iNaturalist started making the rounds, several people noticed what they thought was something quite interesting. The photo was sent to several experts and dragonfly discussion groups and the consensus was that what had been photographed was a Great Pondhawk Dragonfly (Erythemis vesiculosa).
     This appears to be a new state record for this mostly tropical dragonfly. While it is a very large and powerful flying dragonfly, it rarely strays North of Florida in the East, with the only previous record I could find of the next northernmost record being of one being near Savanah, Georgia back on September 18th of 2013 (interestingly 3 days and 4 years earlier). In fact, while it's been known to go as far north as Kansas in the West, it is never common anywhere in the USA.
     The Great Pondhawk, as its name suggests is a large and powerful dragonfly, often eating other large insects including other dragonflies. It is not uncommon in Mexico and has a range into South America as far as Argentina. It is such a strong flyer that it often ends up on Caribbean islands, even being featured on a few island's postage stamps. But it rarely strays north in the East, even in Florida.
     Some are theorizing that it was carried along with the strong storms over a week earlier and found a safe habitat in Arlington. Regardless, it adds to the knowledge and range of this species. It also shows that sharp eyed volunteers can add to the collective knowledge of our natural world, the value of events such as bioblitzes, and now adding a new species not only to Arlington County, but to Virginia as well. If you'd like to help citizen science and maybe make some interesting discoveries of your own, I encourage you to do so using, for example, the free iNaturalist application. Also, please join us for the next big biotic inventory event, the City Nature Challenge scheduled for April 26 - 29 of 2019. The DC Metro area has done well in this event in the past and we hope you can join our team to make next year's even better, while providing much needed observations and making your own discoveries of the natural world. For a wrap-up of last year's fun event, please check this out: