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DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES
AT MOUNT DIABLO STATE PARK
A Preliminary Survey by Douglas Vaughan
Berkeley, California
May 2003 - May 2004

I conducted a preliminary survey of adult dragonflies and damselflies (Odonata) at Mt. Diablo State Park between May 2003 and May 2004. During this period, I made 12 visits to the Park, surveying each of four different sites two to six times. I made no visits during April, September, or the period between mid-June and mid-July—nor during the winter months. Two tables summarize my findings.Several points underscore the preliminary nature of this survey:

Unsurveyed sites, including Frog Pond on the south side of the mountain and Mitchell Canyon, might yield additional species.

Pine Pond, the largest water feature in the Park and site of the greatest observed diversity, is surrounded by dense stands of emergent vegetation; a more aggressive survey that penetrated this vegetation and reached the main body of the pond might produce additional species there.

During mid-season many dragonflies patrol meadows well away from water; I was unable to identify many of these insects.

Nonetheless, 25 of the 38 species currently known from Contra Costa County were found in the Park, including two observed only by others. I captured and examined in hand at least one individual of each of the 23 species I observed, except California Darner (Rhionaeschna [=Aeshna] californica), Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia), and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), which were confidently identified in flight.

Several additional species known from Contra Costa County seem likely to be present in the Park, especially Pacific and Black-fronted Forktails (Ischnura cervula and I. denticollis), Aztec Dancer (Argia nahuana), Exclamation Damsel (Zoniagrion exclamationis), Western Pondhawk (Erythemis collocata), Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctosa), and Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). Indeed, I briefly observed a probable male Widow Skimmer in Donner Canyon but was not able to identify it with certainty.

In addition, several species not yet found in Contra Costa County might be expected in the Park. Prominent examples include California and Emma’s Dancers (Argia agrioides and A. emma), Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), and Western Meadowhawk (Sympetrum occidentale).

The attached tables offer two presentations of the survey results. The annotated checklist indicates the dates on which the four sites were visited and the species found at each. The abundances indicated in the notes for each species should be taken as speculative. Species indicated as “uncommon,” in particular, might well be more common at other sites (or, say, within the perimeter of Pine Pond) or during periods I did not visit the Park. The second table provides a rough indication of seasonal distributions, though no conclusions should be drawn for species observed only once or twice. Note also that this table merges observations from March through mid-May 2004 with those of mid-May through October 2003. The dots in the four upper rows of the table indicate the approximate dates of visits to the four surveyed sites.

In conclusion, Mt. Diablo supports a significant diversity of dragonfly and damselfly species, especially in light of the relatively few ponds and perennial streams within the Park. Particularly notable were the large numbers of patrolling darners (mostly Blue-eyed Darners) over the meadows well away from water during much of the spring and summer, and the striking abundance of Black Spreadwings during the first half of the season.
TABLE ONE  -   MOUNT DIABLO ODONATA

Annotated Checklist

Chase Pond Donner Canyon Pine Pond Sheepharders
Pond
California Spreadwing
Archilestes californica
v

single male in vegetation; perhaps fairly common among inaccessible tules in late season
Spotted Spreadwing
Lestes congener
v

single male in perimeter vegetation; not recorded until fall, thus seasonal distribution unclear
Common Spreadwing
L. disjunctus
v

common in late season in pondside vegetation
Black Spreadwing
L. stultus
v

v

v

abundant in early season in pondside vegetation
Vivid Dancer
Argia vivida
v

v

v

abundant though most of the season; especially conspicuous along trails and fireroads
Boreal Bluet
Enallagma boreale
v

uncommon in pondside vegetation; found only on a single visit
Tule Bluet
E. carunculatum
v

uncommon among emergent vegetation; found only on a single visit
Familiar Bluet
E. civile
v

uncommon among emergent vegetation; found only on a single visit
Northern Bluet
E. cyathigerum
v

fairly common in mid-season
Arroyo Bluet
E. praevarum
v

v

uncommon in pondside vegetation
Western Forktail
Ischnura perparva
v

v

locally fairly common
Desert Firetail
Telebasis salva
v

uncommon
Common Green Darner
Anax junius
v

v

v

often common over meadows; perhaps overlooked among mosaic darners
Blue-eyed Darner
Rhionaeschna multicolor
v

v

v

v

often abundant, well away from water as well as near it; most mosaic darners probably this species
California Darner
R. californica
v

v

not examined in hand; probably more common than indicated
Walker’s Darner
Aeshna walkeri
v

documented by another observer, Pine Creek, 
11 August 02
Pacific Spiketail
Cordulegaster dorsalis
v

single male
Cardinal Meadowhawk
Sympetrum illotum
v

uncommon to fairly common in mid-season
Variegated Meadowhawk
S. corruptum
v

v

v

uncommon to fairly common near water and in meadows well away from water
Red-veined Meadowhawk
S. madidum
v

single male
Striped Meadowhawk
S. pallipes
v

only a few observed
Common Whitetail
Plathemis lydia
v

v

only a few observed
Flame Skimmer
Libellula saturata
v

v

common in mid-season near water
Red Rock Skimmer
Paltothemis lineatipes
photographed by another observer, Mitchell Canyon, 8 May 04
Black Saddlebags
Tramea lacerata
v

v

uncommon to fairly common with darners over meadows

 

                                            Sites visited

Chase Pond: 24 June 03
12 May 04
Donner Canyon: 8 June 03 
11 June 03
22 March 04
Pine Pond
(including Pine Creek downstream except 
28 May 03):
28 May 03   
5 June 03    
15 July 03    
29 August 03    
6 October 03     
15 March 04
Sheepherder’s Pond (including trail from Curry Point): 15 June 03 (including trail to Sheepherder’s Springs)    
24 June 03     
2 May 04
 
                       


 


 

TABLE TWO  -   MOUNT DIABLO ODONATA

Seasonal Distribution


March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

Chase Pond
Donner Canyon
Pine Pond
Sheepherder’s Pond • •
Archilestes californica v
Lestes congener v
L. disjunctus v v v
L. stultus v v v v
Argia vivida v v v v v v v
Enallagma boreale v
E. carunculatum v
E. civile v
E. cyathigerum v v
E. praevarum v v v
Ischnura perparva v v v
Telebasis salva v v
Anax junius v v
Rhionaeschna multicolor v v v v v v v v
R. californica v v
Aeshna walkeri *
Cordulegaster dorsalis v
Sympetrum illotum v v v
S. corruptum v v v v v
S. madidum v
S. pallipes v v
Plathemis lydia v v v
Libellula saturata v v v v v
Paltothemis lineatipes *
Tramea lacerata v v v

*See annotated checklist.

Below is a list of additional websites for information about dragonflies and damselflies:

Virginia's Natural Heritage Program at www.dcr.virginia.gov/dnh/odofact.htm
USGS Dragonflies and Damselflies of the United States at www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/distr/insects/dfly/dflyusa.htm
Worldwide Dragonfly Association at http://powell.colgate.edu/wda/Beginners_Guide.htm
Digital Dragonflies at www.dragonflies.org
Odonata Information Network at www.afn.org/~iori
Catching and Preserving Dragonflies FAQ at www.afn.org/~iori/morse2.html
Dragonfly Biodiversity at www.ups.edu/biology/museum/UPSdragonflies.html