ODONATES Dragonflies
Photos & text © Don Roberson

Our visit in August 2008 was in the austral winter, and we did not expect to see many odes (or herps, for that matter). Rita saw one damsel (and one small lizard) that I missed, and there were a couple of larger odes in flight over the Avon River, northeast of Perth, that went unidentified. The only odes we watched at length together were a group of five 'darners' patrolling over a dirt road inside Dryandra Forest on 5 Aug 2008 (a poor flight shot, right). Their behavior was quite like some of the larger darners [Family Aeshnidae] in California, and eventually one did perch vertically (below), just as do our darners.

Tim Manolis kindly identified this ode as Australian Emperor Hemianax papuensis, the equivalent of the very widespread Common Green Darner Anax junius in North America. It is also in the family Aeshnidae, and details about identification and distribution are on the web. It is one of only two species in the genus Hemianax (more on the genus below the photo).

As some American readers will know, Common Green Darner Anax junius is a highly migratory species, and can be found far from water or breeding locales. Indeed, I collected the first record for pretty-much-waterless Esmeralda County, Nevada [okay, okay, so it hit my windshield and I stuffed it in an envelope; but it is now in a formal collection . . . but I digress]. It turns out that the Old World genus Hemianax has similar habits. This from Silsby (2001) Dragonflies of the World:

"There are two species of Hemianax and it is a genus with a strange distribution. H. ephippiger [Vagrant Emperor] is basically an African species that extends its breeding range into south-west Asia and southern Europe. A compulsive migrant, it is the only species ever recorded from Iceland. [I see on-line records from the U.K. also; DR comment]. H. papuensis is common in Australia, Papua New Guinea and the western Pacific islands. It enjoys a particularly long flight period and is one of only a few species that can be seen in the winter. In Queensland, it is probably the commonest aeshnid and the one that greets travelers as they walk out of the Brisbane Airport building! Neither species shows any sign of territoriality and, where present, they will often occur in large numbers."

Perth to Albany, W.A.
Alice Springs to Uluru
One day in
page created 13 Dec 2008
© Don Roberson 2008