California Odes

I've been itching to 'go clubbing' — looking for gomphids like clubtails — for a long time. We didn't get interested in odes last year until July, and by then the gomphis season was nearly over [we managed 2 individuals in 5 months]. So I thought I'd try the foothill lowlands just east of Sacramento on 15 April. This was a foolish idea.

A storm front had passed through overnight but biting winds persisted. The Pipevine Swallowtails (right) could hardly hang on to a flower. It was 48 degree when I started at Sculpture Park in Roseville, Placer Co., at 9 am. . . where I saw exactly one ode [teneral Vivid Dancer] the first hour.

All photos this page 15 Apr 2007

The day would warm, but the strong winds increased in force throughout the day. Fortunately, there were quiet spots along the paths at Miners Ravine Reserve (above), a lovely little park near Granite Bay in Placer County. The Ravine was full of water – nothing on the few rocks above waterline – but the first ode I saw was a new one: Pacific Clubtail (left & below). They all sat in sunny spots on the loop trails through the Reserve.

My list for Miners Ravine Reserve PLA (1000-1130) was:

  • American Rubyspot 2 [photo right]
  • Vivid Dancer 200+ (abundant)
  • Pacific Forktail 8
  • Exclamation Damsel 1 male (ph)
  • Pacific Clubtail 37 (many photos)
  • Common Whitetail 1 female (ph)

My primary goal, though, was another gomphid – I hoped for my first snaketail. Having struck out at my first two sites, I drove to the opposite (west) side of Roseville to check for them along Dry Creek on Watt Avenue in Placer County. I arrived about noon to find that bridge under construction by a crew with a pile-driver. There was going to be no odeing here!

Checking the map, I found that Dry Creek ran into Sacramento County and through Gibson Ranch County Park. The wind was howling but I was here, so why not try? Paid my $4 entrance fee and drove to the northeast corner of the park where the very full Dry Creek streams past nice patches of riparian woods (right). And in this little sunny glade – up in the grass and away from the water's edge – was my quarry: Sinuous Snaketail! [below]

Sinuous Snaketail is one serious dragonfly! It might become my totem . . . what a cool critter. It was sharing the glade with a clubtail, several Twelve-spot Skimmers, and a cruising Blue-eyed Darner. I was snapping away at the snaketail (below) when the darn darner actually landed right in front of me, so I also shot that (second photo below).
As it turns out, Gibson Ranch County Park has lots of mowed grass for extensive picnic gatherings, horse stables, and a little lake that must be stocked with fish, given the fishermen lining the shores. Upstream of this manicured lake, though, is a pond and marsh ringed with cattails (below). A brief check revealed very young – even teneral – individuals of Blue Dasher (below left) and Western Pondhawk (below right). Yes, the green ode did choose to sit on the red flower of its own accord.

My list from Gibson Ranch County Park SAC (1200-1330):

  • American Rubyspot 6
  • Vivid Dancer 200+ (abundant in the woods)
  • Pacific Forktail 12
  • Blue-eyed Darner 2
  • Pacific Clubtail 4
  • Sinuous Snaketail 3
  • Blue Dasher 1 imm male
  • Western Pondhawk 1 teneral male
  • Twelve-spotted Skimmer 4

– D. Roberson

all photos © 2007 Don Roberson