Monterey County — a large coastal county in central California — is well known for its diversity of birds (e.g., Roberson 2002), but rather little known for dragonflies. Tim Manolis wrote in July 2006: "Monterey has certainly been undersampled, at least based on what specimens are to be found in major statewide collections. My specimen data base of close to 10,000 records for California contains only 41 specimens of 23 species for Monterey!"

The obscurity from an odonate point of view is changing. As we embark on the acquisition of new information, it is well to look back at our history. Kathy Biggs has recently placed on-line "A Short History of California Odonata" and it seems worthwhile to also review the history of local odonata.

I divide the history of Monterey odonata into 3 periods: a distant past, centered around collections at Hastings Natural History Reservation; a quiescent 60 year "regency" period (1944-2003), and then the present (and future). Information on the Hastings NHR collections came to light only in 2006; this is actually "new" information that was not known to Tim Manolis when he wrote of MTY's "undersampling" in July 2006. It is possible — even probable — that some of what is set out below is incorrect, and that other historic information will still come to light. Corrections are welcomed.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: Walt Koenig and Mark Stromberg at Hastings provided essential information about the odonate collection that is now housed at the Oakland Museum. Thomas Steller, curator of that collection, graciously provided access to Tim Manolis, Douglas Vaughn, Rita Carratello and me in Aug 2006. Tim Manolis and Dennis Paulson went well beyond the call of duty in supplying information from their own personal files. Details and/or photos for specific records were graciously provided by Robert Behrstock, Tim Cashatt (Illinois State Univ.), Rob Fowler, John Hafernik (S.F. State Univ.), Paul Johnson, Bill Mauffray (Florida State Univ.), and Steve Rovell. I thank Tim Manolis, Dennis Paulson, and Dave & Kathy Biggs for their encouragement throughout this project.

D. Roberson (March 2007)

Beyond a single specimen collected in 1919, the first interest in MTY odes was at Hastings Natural History Reservation, a U.C. Berkeley research station in upper Carmel Valley. Between 1938 and 1943, the Hastings director, Jean Linsdale (left) and his son Don collected a wide variety of insects at Hastings. Among them were 15 species of Odonata.

Research interest in Odonata at Hastings was reawakened in the 1980s when Walt Koenig & crew (right) undertook a series of project on the ecology of Common Whitetail. The old Hastings collection was left mostly uncataloged and in poor condition until it was transferred to the Oakland Museum in the 1990s. This web site and a few prior publications are the first use of the information in the collection. In all, 16 species were added to the MTY checklist during this period but at least 5 of them remained unknown until 2006.


Hastings NHR photos courtesy W.D. Koenig

THE REGENCY: 1944-2003
During this quiet 60 year period — aside from the research at Hastings in the 1980s — the only folks looking for odes in MTY were the occasional visiting scientist or naturalist. Many of them stopped along the Arroyo Seco River (right) at or near Arroyo Seco Campground, a local hot spot for odonate diversity. Ten of the 17 species added during this period (nearly 60%) were from here.

Several 'big names' in odonology were among those contributing species to the local MTY checklist, including Dennis Paulson (left; in a 2005 photo from Texas), Robert M. Bohart (for whom the Bohart collection at U.C. Davis is named), and B. Elwood Montgomery, an entomologist from Indiana who collected San Francisco Forktail back in 1949, a species that now appears to be locally extirpated. Some 17 species were added during this 60 years (an average of a new species every 3.5 years), bringing the MTY checklist to 33 species.

photo courtesy Mike Quinn from Texas Dragonfly Days 2005

The dominance of professional entomologists and their collections as the primary reference point for MTY odes would change with the publication of Tim Manolis' field guide to California damselflies and dragonflies (Manolis 2003; the photo of Tim is from 1972). Tim was already well known in field ornithology. His guide made ode-watching accessible to interested local naturalists — many of them birders — and was supplemented by new Internet resources: a CalOdes listserv on Yahoogroups; Kathy Biggs's web pages on identification and distribution; and Odonata Central at U.C. Texas, with its potential for on-line contributions from amateurs.

photo courtesy Van Remsen

Since the publication of Manolis (2003), a dozen species have been added to Monterey's checklist. This is a rate of 4 a year during 2004–2006, or a pace 14 times greater than during the previous 60 years. What accounts for this is the interest of local amateurs. The first was Rob Fowler (left, with scope), an intern in summer 2004 at the Big Sur Ornithology Lab, aided from time to time by his friend Steve Rovell (far left in photo). In 2004 & 2005, they added six species, and Paul Johnson, naturalist at Pinnacles Nat'l Monument in adjacent San Benito County, added another. Most of the additions were sight observations but most were upgraded to full photo-documented status by the end of 2006.

Five more species were added in 2006, when Don Roberson & Rita Carratello (right) became interested. Another recent addition — Paddle-tailed Darner — was found by visiting Ohio birder William Hull. Don, Rita, and/or Paul Johnson added 3 more in 2007.

In addition to new species, much new information about local status and distribution has been learned. With new enthusiasm for this subject, the future looks very bright.

During the 11 years between 2005–2015, 17 species were added to the MTY checklist, bringing the county total to 50 species. It remains that today (updated June 2022).

A Chronology of the Checklist of Monterey Odonata


22 July 1919 Rhionaeschna multicolor Blue-eyed Darner Carmel fn3 #CAS
2 26 Jan 1938 Sympetrum corruptum Variegated Meadowhawk Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
3 20 May 1938 Sympetrum pallipes Striped Meadowhawk Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
4 26 May 1938 Lestes congener Spotted Spreadwing Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn2
5 3 June 1938 Cardulegaster dorsalis Pacific Spiketail Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
6 14 Aug 1938 Anax junius Common Green Darner Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
7 18 Aug 1938 Hetaerina americana American Rubyspot Hastings NHR #OakM: Linsdale fn1
8 11 May 1939 Ischnura perparva Western Forktail Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
9 23 Mar 1940 Enallagma annexum Northern Bluet Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
10 6 Apr 1940 Argia vivida Vivid Dancer Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
11 8 Sep 1942 Enallagma civile Familiar Bluet Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
12 27 Apr 1943 Sympetrum madidum Red-veined Meadowhawk Hastings NHR #OakM: Linsdale fn2
13 21 May 1943 Octogomphus specularis Grappletail Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn2
14 29 June 1943 Argia lugens Sooty Dancer Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
15 12 July 1943 Sympetrum illotum Cardinal Meadowhawk Hastings NHR #OakM; Linsdale fn1
16 17 July 1943 Aeshna walkeri Walker's Darner Finch Creek #OakM; Linsdale fn2
17 11 Aug 1946 Ischnura gemina San Francisco Forktail Salinas River

B. Elwood Montgomery

18 19 June 1949 Ophiogomphus bison Bison Snaketail Pfieffer-Big Sur SP P.H. Renaud, Jr. #ISU
19 20 May 1963 Pachydiplax longipennis Blue Dasher Arroyo Seco fn3
20 16 May 1965 Libellula saturata Flame Skimmer Arroyo Seco fn3
21 6 Apr 1968 Ischnura cervula Pacific Forktail Arroyo Seco fn3
22 18 Apr 1970 Enallagma praevarum Arroyo Bluet Arroyo Seco fn3
23 13 May 1972 Enallagma carunculatum Tule Bluet Arroyo Seco fn3
24 18 Aug 1973 Argia agrioides California Dancer Arroyo Seco Dennis Paulson, C.E. Turner #DRP
25 18 Aug 1973 Argia emma Emma's Dancer Arroyo Seco Dennis Paulson, C.E. Turner #DRP
26 18 Aug 1973 Paltothemis lineatipes Red Rock Skimmer Arroyo Seco Dennis Paulson, C.E. Turner sight*

* upgraded to photo 5 Aug 2006; Arroyo Seco River Don Roberson photo
27 27 May 1974 Gomphus kurilis Pacific Clubtail Arroyo Seco R.M. Bohart #UCD
28 27 May 1974 Libellula luctuosa Widow Skimmer Arroyo Seco R.M. Bohart #UCD
29 1 Sep 1977 Ischnura denticollis Black-fronted Forktail Salinas R., S of San Ardo Dennis Paulson #DRP
30 1 Sep 1977 Erythemis collocata Western Pondhawk Salinas R., S of San Ardo Dennis Paulson sight*
  * upgraded to photo 5 Aug 2006; Arroyo Seco Lakes Don Roberson photo
31 15 June 1983 Plathemis lydia Common Whitetail Blompond, HNHR Walt Koenig, Stephen Albano photo
32 1 July 1997 Progomphus borealis Gray Sanddragon Salinas River, Salinas Robert Behrstock photo
33 7 Aug 2002 Erpetogomphus compositus White-belted Ringtail west side, Pinnacles Nat' Monument Paul G. Johnson sight*
    * upgraded to photo 25 Aug 2007; San Lorenzo River P. Johnson, D.Roberson photo
34 8 June 2004 Pantala hymenaea Spot-winged Glider Big Sur R. mouth Rob Fowler sight*

* upgraded to specimen 6 Aug 2006; Marina D. Roberson, R. Carratello #Ess
35 8 June 2004 Tramea onusta Red Saddlebags Big Sur R. mouth Rob Fowler sight
36 14 June 2004 Pantala flavescens Wandering Glider Big Sur R. mouth Rob Fowler photo
37 17 July 2004 Tramea lacerata Black Saddlebags Arroyo Seco Lakes Rob Fowler, Steve Rovell sight*

* upgraded to photo 24 July 2006; Arroyo Seco Lakes D. Roberson, R. Carratello photo
38 19 July 2004 Anax walsinghami Giant Darner Arroyo Seco River Rob Fowler, Steve Rovell sight*

* upgraded to photo 6 Aug 2006; Arroyo Seco River D. Roberson, R. Carratello photo
39 1 July 2005 Telebasis salva Desert Firetail Arroyo Seco River Steve Rovell photo
40 2 July 2005 Lestes stultus Black Spreadwing 5 km SW Junipero Serra Paul G. Johnson #PGJ
41 7 July 2006 Rhionaeschna californica California Darner Carmel River mouth Don Roberson, Rita Carratello photo
42 5 Aug 2006 Brechmorhoga mendax Pale-faced Clubskimmer Arroyo Seco River Don Roberson, Rita Carratello photo
43 19 Sep 2006 Libellula pulchella Twelve-spotted Skimmer Laguna Grande, Seaside Don Roberson photo
44 21 Oct 2006 Archilestes californica California Spreadwing Lake San Antonio Don Roberson photo
45 22 Oct 2006 Aeshna palmata Paddle-tailed Darner Elkhorn Slough Nat'l Estuarine Res. Reserve William Hull photo
46 6 May 2007 Macromia magnifica Western River Cruiser N fork San Antonio R. Don Roberson, Paul Johnson photo
47 13 May 2007 Zoniagrion exclamationis Exclamation Damsel Pajaro River at Pajaro Don Roberson, Rita Carratello photo
48 25 Aug 2007 Argia nahuana Aztec Dancer San Lorenzo R., east of King City Don Roberson photo
49 30 July 2015 Plathemis subornata Desert Whitetail Jack Ranch, se MTY Kyle Welchert photo
50 30 Aug 2015 Orthemis ferruginea Roseate Skimmer Pacific Grove Don Roberson photo
1 these specimens from Hastings NHR, now at Oakland Museum, predate later specimens that had otherwise placed this species on the county checklist
2 these specimens from Hastings NHR, now at Oakland Museum, retroactively added this species to the county list in Aug 2006 (review by Tim Manolis et al.)
3 the name of specific collectors has yet to be obtained from the specimen tag, so the credit line for individual collector is currently blank

Abbreviations & symbols: MTY = Monterey County. * = documentation level (sighting only) was upgraded, see following line. # = Specimen. Acronyms for specimen collections:

  • CAS (California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco)
  • DRP (Dennis R. Paulson personal collection)
  • Ess (Essig Museum, U.C. Berkeley)
  • FSU (Florida State Univ.)
  • ISU (Illinois State Univ.)
  • OakM (Hastings Natural History Reservation collection, Oakland Museum)
  • PGJ (Paul G. Johnson personal collection)
  • UCD (Bohart Collection, U.C. Davis)

All photos documenting species on the checklist are on file with Odonata Central, Univ. of Texas, and the identification has been accepted by the California experts assigned by that project. These experts have also vetted the identification of specimens cited.

Literature cited:
  • Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.
  • Roberson, D. 2002. Monterey Birds. 2d ed. Monterey Pen. Audubon Soc., Carmel, CA.
Web resources:
Major identification web sites with much information on California odes include: Kathy Biggs's site also has a useful selection of links about odes in California.

All photos © Don Roberson, except as otherwise indiciated


Page created 8-18 Mar 2007, updated 5 June 2022