Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Saffron-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum costiferum)

Attaining a length of up to 35 mm (± 2 mm), the Saffron-winged Meadowhawk appears larger in the field than the average Sympetrum spp, approaching the size of a Blue Dasher. This meadowhawk's behaviour also quite different from that of its cousins, it's wary and extremely difficult to approach, staying on the wing for long periods, and preferring to rest on the vegetation over the water rather than the shoreline plants.

The Saffron-winged Meadowhawk is reputed to be local and uncommon, and I had always considered it to be rare as it's seldom encountered in this neck of the woods, my last (and to date, only!) sighting was at Stoco Lake in early August, 2009.

But perhaps it isn't so uncommon after all, maybe successful "dragonhunting" is a matter of finding suitable habitat first and then looking for the dragonfly. Dry Lake, south of Marlbank near the intersection of Hog's Back Road and Moneymore Road (44.419895°, -77.107758°), is quite unlike other local wetlands – it's shallow and very calcerous, with a slimy, limy bottom, and several fen indicator plant species were present along the shoreline.

As often as not, different water conditions and plant life generally mean a different suite of dragonflies ... and on the afternoon of August 24, I lucked out and sighted two Saffron-winged Meadowhawks.

The sides of the Saffron-winged Meadowhawk's thorax are a rusty brown color, giving the insect a distinctly darker aspect in the field than other meadowhawks (we're talking about the mature male in these photos, females and young males are yellow-orange). According to the books the legs have fine yellow stripes, a feature lacking in this individual, but perhaps (this is guesswork on my part) this is an older insect and the marks on the legs have faded with age.

The veins along the front edges of the wings are saffron (this fades with increasing age), and the sides of the abdomen bear relatively thin black lateral markings rather than the large triangles of most of our other local Sympetrum species.

S8 and S9 usually have small black dorsal marks.

A mug shot.

The long pterostigmata are reddish-orange.

A ventral view of the abdomen and a closeup of the epiporoct.