California Odes

Ischnura erratica

The nearest location known to me from my Pacific Grove home was Monte Bello Open Space in Santa Clara County. On CalOdes, John Hall & David Edwards had reported it here almost annually the past few springs. I thought I'd give it a try while enroute to nearby Pacifica on 31 March. We arrived at the spot [along the Canyon Trail near gate MB03] rather late (3:30 p.m.) as we had stopped to see a Brown Booby and a Rock Sandpiper in Santa Cruz. Hall & Edwards had actually been here a week earlier and reported fair numbers in the little seep-watered ditch just beyond a little pond [this turns out to be marked by a thin white milepost stating 0.3]. Alas, the only activity here was a single male Pacific Forktail. Rita & I spread out to search around the pond. The pond had some shallow water but was full of dry, dead cattails and looked terrible. Much of it was inaccessible as it was surrounded by brush and poison oak. We just couldn't find anything but one teneral Vivid Dancer. I did note a remaining patch of sunshine out on the far back side of the east end of the pond. To get near there I had to struggle through brush and thorny briars (and acquired a very nasty & aggressive tick in the effort). Finally making it to the muddy edge, the sunlit spot was still farther out so I begin picking my way through the muck, trying to keep the tennis shoes dry. There were still no odes and it looked very bleak.

Then I heard a voice. To be sure, the voice was in my head but it was distinctive. The voice said: "You stupid idiot. You are here. If you want to see us, get your damn feet wet." I did not immediately recognize that the voice was zygopterid. But I did get my feet wet.

The water was only ankle-deep but mucky. I could now see the bright sunlit spot just a few yards away. Remarkably, on reaching the spot, the water turned crystal clear along an outflow channel from the pond, and the clear channel was lined with large lily plants (recalling callow lilies to me). It was like a little magical kingdom of sunshine and bright green lily-castles. Among the lily-castles were several Pacific Forktails and suddenly, perched above a half-moon porthole as if it were the castle guard, was a striking male Swift Forktail (above). I managed only a shot or two when it was swiftly off, but another charged towards me from the right, landing for close inspection (below). But who was inspecting whom?

all photos © 2007 Don Roberson