California Odes
2007 California Ode Big Year: some random statistics & comments
Don Roberson
Boreal Bluet in wheel (below)
9 June 2007 at Bailey Creek LAS

In 2007, I observed and photographed 106 species of odonates. Most of them I found multiple times, but for these five species I had only encounters with only a single individual or tandem:

  • Black Petaltail (one male)
  • Russet-tipped Clubtail (one male)
  • Brimstone Clubtail (one tandem)
  • Ringed Emerald (one male)
  • Chalk-fronted Corporal (one male)

Another 23 species I found at only one site (but 2 or more individual odes at that site): Great Spreadwing, Black Spreadwing, Lyre-tipped Spreadwing, Lavender Dancer, Swift Forktail, San Francisco Forktail, Sedge Sprite, Canada Darner, Great Basin Snaketail, Sinuous Snaketail, Western River Cruiser, Beaverpond Baskettail, Spiny Baskettail, Mountain Emerald, Crimson-ringed Whiteface, Hoary Skimmer, Bleached Skimmer, Neon Skimmer, Desert Whitetail, Marl Pennant, Saffron-winged Meadowhawk, Cherry-faced Meadowhawk, Autumn Meadowhawk.

I traveled many places throughout California in 2007. In all, I looked for odes at 66 sites in 26 counties. Sixteen different sites were worked in my home county, Monterey, not to mention occasional observations elsewhere. Other counties with multiple sites checked included Lassen (9 sites), Inyo (6), Imperial (5), and Modoc (4). Lassen County has the second highest list of odes in California, which helps explain the emphasis there, but ironically I visited Shasta County — which has the highest species list in the State — only once for 20 minutes (brief check for Neon Skimmer at Turtle Bay; none found).

I drove at least 11,104 miles within California in 2007 in search of odes; 1845 miles (17%) was in rental cars. I took 4 roundtrip airplane flights (twice to San Diego, once to Ontario, once to Reno) and rented cars at those airports. Most flights were on Express Jet, which offered $139 roundtrip fares from Monterey to Ontario or San Diego in 2007.

(above) unexpected covered bridge
over Honey Run, Butte Co. [Sep 2007]
teneral Northern Spreadwing (below)
2 June 2007 at Monte Bello OSP, SCL

As the year was winding down, it was interesting to compare my experiences with those who had previously done "Big Years" with odes in California: Tim Manolis in 1999 and the duo of David Edwards & John Hall in 2005 [see "ode year history" for more on those two previous years].

Species that both previous California Big Years recorded but that I missed:

  • Belted Whiteface

Species that I recorded but that were missed but previous Big Year efforts:

  • Lyre-tipped Spreadwing (missed by Manolis in 1999)
  • Lavender Dancer (missed in both 1999 & 2005)
  • Olive Clubtail (missed by Manolis in 1999)
  • Russet-tipped Clubtail (missed by Edwards/Hall in '05)
  • Brimstone Clubtail (missed by Manolis in 1999)
  • Spiny Baskettail (Manolis found only exuviae in '99)
  • Ringed Emerald (missed by Manolis in 1999)
  • Striped Saddlebags (missed in both 1999 & 2005)

Finally, a word about photography. Throughout most of 2007, I used a Canon D10 digital camera with an AF 300mm IS lens and (often) a 1.4X extender. I used extension tubes for close-ups of damsels. Late in the year I upgraded to a Canon D20 body.

I wanted to photograph every species during my year, not only for the joy of doing so, but to assure that my i.d. claims could be confirmed. I did not become interested in odonates until July 2006, so I was still pretty much of a beginner. I did no collecting (except for a darner that ran into the windshield) although I did net difficult bluets and dancers to confirm i.d. criteria.

Photographing all species was not easy, and some were only photographed in flight in the wild: Giant Darner, Canada Darner (plus photo'd in-hand), Beaverpond Baskettail, Mountain Emerald, Western River Cruiser, and Pacific Spiketail (but multiple photos of an ovipositing female spiketail). Except for these, I have photos of perched odes, including all other darners, emeralds, gliders, and saddlebags. Two species proved particularly elusive. Although I saw my first Red Rock Skimmer of the year on 28 April, I didn't get a photo until 28 July. For Walker's Darner, I saw my first on 4 August and obtained a bad flight photo on 17 Aug, but it was not until Rita found one perched on 28 Oct that a decent photograph was obtained (above left; Garland Ranch Reg. Park MTY). I think that I do have identifiable photos of all species claimed; in most cases, these have already been reviewed and confirmed by experts.

all photos & text © 2007 Don Roberson