||Seven years ago, in August 1999 and long before Rita
and I became interested
in dragonflies, a Pacific Spiketail flew into our car. We were crossing
a ridge in Marin County, on a birding trip and headed towards Bolinas,
when this startling occurrence happened. I stopped the car and took
photo of the Spiketail clinging to the driver's seat. After we gently
it and let it go, we continued to Bolinas. There, our friend and famed
bird artist Keith Hansen identified it as a "Biddy" from our
Indeed, "Biddy" is a colloquial term for spiketails.
|In 2006, I learned from reading archives of CalOdes
that Rob Fowler
had seen a spiketail in Monterey County at Garrapata State Park — he'd
even seen a female ovipositing along the small stream through the
on Soberanes Creek. Rob said it was just as Tim Manolis described in
book (2002: "females seldom visit water except to breed and ovipost.
latter is accomplished alone by hovering vertically over shallow water
and repeatedly plunging the ovipositor into the muddy or sandy
So I took a long lunch hour on 9 August and hiked into the redwoods on
Soberanes Creek. I picked a spot (right) where I could see a stretch of
the creek, and just waited. Manolis (2002) said they were "almost
seen in flight" as the "males patrol long, low routes over
It took 20 minutes of waiting — but a spiketail suddenly and briefly
over these riffles and, just as quickly, was gone. I spent two hours
and got 3 more quick glimpses of more spiketails, but despaired of ever
photographing one. The book said that they only "occasionally hang low
in streamside vegetation."
|I'd been meaning to go back with Rita, so she'd have it
on her county
list, and to try to get flight shots among the shadows. Seemed fairly
for photography but it's a pretty spot. We finally gave it a try at
on 3 September. Garrapata State Park — which is on Highway 1 along the
northern Big Sur coast — can be very popular with hikers, and it was
of people this Sunday. Rita and I meandered through the blooming
along the trail well below the redwoods, enjoying a plethora of Vivid
and scattered gliders and saddlebags, when Rita shouted "there it is!"
Since we were in open chaparral I wasn't sure what "it" was — and then
I saw "it," a big black-and-yellow dragonfly coming right down the
at us. And quicker than you can say "Cardulegaster" it suddenly
stopped and perched low on a buckwheat! [below]
|Oh, the excitement! Oh, the panic! A party of hikers
were right behind
the ode and would surely flush it before I could get a shot! Rita
them to stop a moment — and they did. I crawled forward up the path and
snapped a photo. ]Below]
| . . . . and now I can start breathing again. Ms.
not stay long (the long spiked ovipositor makes this a female) — just a
couple of seconds and she was away again, even before our courteous
could get antsy. Still, one hell of a dragonfly.