Semper Fidelis - Semper Discentes

Posts Tagged ‘Dennis Paulson’

My First Entomological Expeditions in the Rockies

In Expeditions, Odonata on August 8, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Almost all the hubbub of moving, hauling, and unpacking is over, so I decided to sally forth on Tuesday and Wednesday, to see if I could locate any odonates here in Fremont County, Wyoming.  Almost ALL of the species I’m likely to encounter here are different than the ones I (more-or-less) had learned back in the Missouri Ozarks, so I’m starting all over again, with even WORSE taxonomic skills than before.

I drove south out of Lander, out toward the Sinks Canyon State Park, about six miles out of town.

This is what I get to look at, about five miles from my home.

This is what I get to look at, about five miles from my home.

The ubiquitous Popo Agie River, where I’d hoped to find lots of odonates, was pretty much a bust, as the water is very swift, full of large rocks, and has very little shoreside vegetation.

The  "rise" of the Popo Agie, Sinks Canyon State Park.

The “rise” of the Popo Agie, Sinks Canyon State Park.

After hitting a couple of sites n the river, I happened upon Central Wyoming College’s field station, just off the highway.  The Popo Agie runs through the station, but there is also a sweet little “seep” creek running through tall grasses on the property.  After swinging the net for a few minutes, I managed to capture two species of meadowhawks there, Sympetrum obtrusum (White-faced meadowhawk) and Sympetrum pallipes (Striped meadowhawk), both of which I believe are county records for Fremont County.

S. pallipes

S. pallipes

S. obtrusum

S. obtrusum








I then hit a small creek crossing the highway, about halfway back to town and there found several specimens of the damselfly Ischnura perparva (Western forktail), as well as another meadowhawk Sympetrum semicinctum (Banded meadowhawk) in a nearby hayfield.  All the bugs were found at 5400-5600′ altitude, awfully high for this Louisiana-born geezer.

Ishnura perparva

Ishnura perparva

Sympetrum semicinctum

Sympetrum semicinctum

The following day, I decided to range further afield, passing by the previous day’s collection sites, heading higher into the beautiful Wind River Range of the Rocky Mountains.

Climbing higher into the Winds, still only about ten miles from home.

Climbing higher into the Winds, still only about ten miles from home.









Inside the Shoshone National Forest, I found a lake, Worthen Meadow Reservoir,  In a small arm of the beautiful lake, kinda semi-marshy, with some pondside vegetation, I managed to grab four beautiful male Lake darners (Aeschna eremita), at 8871 feet above sea level, by far the highest altitude I’d EVER attained.

Aeshna eremita (male)

Aeshna eremita (male)

Same bug, dorsal view.

Same bug, dorsal view.



Isn’t that a FINE looking fellow?



On the way home, stopped back at the field station and grabbed a couple more of the previous day’s meadowhawks.  Later in the day, I grabbed Amanda and Susan, taking them back out into the field and up into the Winds, where I showed them Worthen Meadow Lake, and we explored another lake, Fiddler Lake, which lies at some 9400′ altitude.  Felt like I needed a couple of Sherpas and some supplemental oxygen.  Our apartment is at about 5500′ and I’ve not noticed any headaches or ailments in my first days as a Wyomingite, although I DO tend to get sleepy about ten o’clock in the morning.  Very dry, too.  I’ve lived my entire life in humid climates, and this is a BIG change.

As always, all my odonate specimens have been posted to Odonata Central (, and I’m grateful to Jim Johnson, one of the northwest’s premier “bug guys” for confirming the identity of the species.  I got about 75% of them right on the first try, which is GREAT for me.  Bob DuBois’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Rocky Mountains and Dennis Paulson’s indispensible Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West are gonna get a BIG workout here.

Come see us.


Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (and West)

In Books on April 9, 2013 at 1:48 pm

When I first became interested in dragonflies and damselflies in 2009, one of the very first books I bought was Dennis Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West.  As I was living in Missouri, the book BARELY covered the species I was accustomed to seeing, and I was delighted when his Eastern guide came out a couple of years later.  Now that we’re moving to Wyoming, I expect to be using the Western book more and more.

IF I COULD OWN ONLY ONE ODONATE BOOK, IT WOULD BE ONE OF THESE GUIDES.  Here’s the review I wrote for Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East,when I received it in 2012.  Go out and buy one of these volumes.  You will not be sorry.

I’ve been waiting for nearly a year for the release of Dr. Dennis Paulson’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, a companion volume to his 2009 edition on species of the western United States.  I’ve never met Dennis “in person”, but he has become a valued Internet Friend, always ready to lend assistance to my floundering efforts and to answer my often banal questions.  He’s retired from the University of Puget Sound, somewhere WAY up in the State of Washington, and is one of the top “Dragonfly Guys” in the country.

I got a notice from Amazon last week, letting me know that my copy had been shipped; however, delivery services are rather slow here in the Missouri Ozarks.  I kept myself busy “tracking” the package on their website, and was delighted to learn, early this afternoon, that the book had finally arrived at our local postoffice.

Since our rural mailcarrier loads up his truck early each morning, finally delivering my mail around 4 PM, I knew that it would be late tomorrow before I got to open my parcel.  Therefore, I leaped into the Jeep, the Best Dog in the World, my faithful Boston terrier, Dobby, at my side, and sped into Mansfield to the post office.  Cathy, the postmistress (is that politically correct?  Whatever.) saw me coming, and knew why I was there.  “Got your book right here”, she said, retrieving it from the Postal Bowels (might be a better simile, but I’m in a hurry).  Tina, the postal clerk, is usually the one who takes care of my Entomological Postal Business; however, she was nowhere in sight.

“Do you know what this is?”, I asked.  “I’ll bet Tina could guess”.  Cathy thought for a moment.  “It’s gotta be a book, and I know it’s something odd.  Frogs?”

“NO!!!!” I shouted gleefully, ripping off the packaging right there on the counter, “Bugs!!!”  She looked at the cover and smiled.  “Dragonflies and damselflies.  That’s cool.”  “If I may say so myself,” I replied, “I probably know MORE about dragonflies and damselflies that ANYONE ELSE in ALL of Douglas County, Missouri.”  “Does anybody else know anything about them?”  “Probably not.”

“So, are the female dragonflies called ‘damselflies’?”  I started to laugh, then realized, “That’s a pretty good question.”  I then gave her the brief speech on the difference, before racing home to loll in the tub with the book.

You really NEED this book!

I own a well-thumbed copy of Dennis’s western book, and was curious as to whether he’d just taken the information from the older book, updated it a bit with maps of the eastern U.S., then foisted it on an unsuspecting public.  I’ve used the western book a lot.  Although it technically doesn’t cover anything east of Kansas and Oklahoma, there’s a lot of overlap, and the information has been most useful.

After an hour’s perusal, I’ve decided this is NOT a rehash of the western book, but a completely reworked edition, with substantially more information, and much more (to my eyes) user-friendly. 

I’ve been chasing, collecting, TRYING to identify, and documenting odonates for about three years now.  In the case of damselflies, I’ve finally gotten to the point where I am semi-reliable in identifying the broadwings and pond damsels quickly down to genus (haven’t had much contact with spreadwings–the other category–yet), although my efforts to determine species are usually painful to watch.  This new book points out differences in a very helpful way, as typified by the following entry from the section on the Dusky dancer (Argia translata):

Western guide (2009):  “No other dancer, or pond damsel for that matter, has blue on abdomen tip exactly as male of this species.”  Helpful, I suppose, but how close is “exactly”?

Eastern guide (2011):  “No other dancer…has abdomen almost entirely dark in male.  Limited blue on abdomen tip not shared by any other species.”  This is what I need to know, and this edition covers ALL of Missouri, as well as Arkansas and Louisiana, two other states where I often find myself swinging a net!!!

The book, like its predecessor, is beautifully written and illustrated, and I’m already going through it, marking it up with a highlighter, so that the important field marks will jump out at me.

Dennis has done a splendid job with Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East.  Sort of a Robert E. Lee‘s Birthday present to myself.

It would be just great if I could talk him into coming down from Washington state and spending a week with us down here in the holler.  Bet I could learn some stuff.  I’d even drive him around and keep him fed and well-hydrated.