Monday, September 26, 2011

New Dragonfly Found on Ruffner Mountain

From my good friend Michelle Reynolds, Ruffner Mountain Board Member:

Springwater Dancer, Argia plana- a new Alabama record found at Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve's wetland. This new damselfly was found by Steve Krotzer.
On September 9th, the Friday morning before Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve's Flutter Fest, Steve Krotzer (a dragonfly/damselfly specialist) met Michelle Reynolds and Cindy Pinger and drove over to the preserve's wetlands. It was cool that morning and Steve did not expect to find many dragonflies flying around. He had never been to the wetlands before and wanted to scout out the location for a future class field trip.

As the group stepped onto the boardwalk, Steve spotted something very unusual for Alabama and asked for someone to go get the net and the camera from the car. He explained what it was he was excited about. It was a bright blue male Springwater Dancer. He photographed it and stated the female should be around somewhere close by.

The female is a drab grey and more camouflaged than the brightly colored male. The area where the damselflies were found were in the artesian well stream -- a very cool, shallow and constant water source.
The artesian well once served as the water source for the iron ore mining camps on the mountain. In 2009 the 3 ponds that make up the wetlands and the boardwalk were completed in Phase 1 of the Ruffner Mountain Nature Preserve's master expansion plan.

Information on the known range of the species: "... mostly east of New Mexico and south into northeastern Mexico, east to Wisconsin, Missouri, and Arkansas." Finding them in ALABAMA is a significant range extension to the east!

Habitat is "small to medium shallow streams, rocky and sandy, in or out of woodland; may be on quite small spring runs and hillside trickles, often at tiny seeps with no other species of Dancers. Considered indicative of springs in some parts of their range"--found in Dennis Paulson's "Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West"

Flutter Fest hikers on Saturday looked for the new damselfly with Dr. Mike Howell and Vitaly Charny. They indeed got to see the Springwater Dancer! Mike Howell is a former board member and helped in the planning of the wetlands. Charny and Howell are authors of Butterflies of Alabama and were the Flutter Fest field trip leaders to the wetlands to see butterflies, moths, dragonflies, and damselflies.
Steve Krotzer works as an Aquatic Biologist for Alabama Power Company and has been studying and photographing dragonflies and damselflies for 20 years. He is a member and past president of Dragonfly Society of the Americas. He is married to Mary Jane who works at Stillman College in Tuscaloosa. She also likes dragonflies!

I checked with the landscape architects to see if any of the plant material came from the west -- just in case the nymphs hitchhiked over here in the soil. This is why the delay in announcing the find. The plant material came from Alabama and Florida and most likely are not the source of the damselflies being here.
The first annual Flutter Fest was held on September 10. The festival celebrated all insects that flutter -- kids crafts, nature art, a caterpillar hunt, butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies, and moths all in one day of great fun for all ages.

Paulette Haywood Ogard and Sara Cunningham Bright (authors of Butterflies of Alabama: Glimpses into Their Lives), Mike Howell and Vitaly Charny (authors of Butterflies of Alabama), BSC professors Dr. Andy Gannon, Dr. Peter Van Zandt, Samford professor Dr. Grant Gentry, UAB professor Dr. Malia Fincher, Stoneshovel's Arnie Rutkis, and zookeeper Jamie Nobles all took part in the festival by leading field trips, talks and demonstrations.

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