Enjoy Every Inch of Your Journey

Eastern Forktail Damselfly

At the beginning of every visit to Lake Shabbona I close the car door and begin thinking about the infinite  possibilities to explore in the park.  Exploring can have many variations on miles covered in any given visit. In the span of two hours one can cover six miles or six feet.  No matter the miles or feet covered, the journey and observations are always enjoyable.  During one visit this month I sat down on the pier near the campground boat ramp, just sat. The ebb and flow of lily pads on the water’s surface resonated the sweet sounds of summer.  Boats were out, a mother and son were sitting on the pier fishing together. It was so peaceful that you soon found yourself absorbed in the scenery and sounds around you. It didn’t take long for my attention to hone in on the odonata activity around the wavering lily pads.  Odonata is the title given to what is considered an order of insects that include dragonflies and damselflies. I think one of the most beautiful dragonflies is a small dragonfly called the eastern amberwing.

Eastern Amberwing Dragonfly

Some dragonflies choose a favorite perch to scan the area for it’s next meal. Odonada are carnivores and eat other bugs. Sometimes they eat smaller bugs and occasionally eat some that are bigger than themselves. Those dragonflies who choose a favorite perch often return to it to eat or finish their capture. Both the eastern amberwing pictured above have a choice lily pad location they favored. Notice the dragonfly in the inset photo. It chose a pair of discarded nymph shells as it’s perch. These shells are left behind by newly emerged dragonfly who are ready for flight and  new adventures in this brand new world above the lake.

A pair of common green darners in a mating wheel pause momentarily on this rock near the shore line. Once a male finds a willing female, he grabs her head with his tail and they fly along in this head to tail wheel shaped connection called a mating wheel. When her eggs are fertile and ready they separate. She then deposits the eggs into the lake by flying close to the waters surface dipping her tail repeatedly to deposit eggs all around the area. This repetition and multiple deposits help to guarantee future generations survival.

But where there are deposits there are sure to be withdraws. A female common green darner carefully deposits her eggs in the shallow waters of Lake Shabbona. Nearby a female red-winged blackbird lands on a lily pad and waits. She was using the lily pad in the same way the dragonflies do. It was a great location for her to look for dragonflies and little bugs that congregate in the shallows of Lake Shabbona. Within moments she snapped up what looks like a little aquatic larvae or bug.

Eastern Phoebe

Right next to the pier that is just outside the camp store a bird sits on a log that stretches over lily pads buzzing with damselfly and dragonfly activity.  This bird belongs to the tyrant flycatcher family. It is an eastern phoebe. They love to perch on low branches like this log to gain a favorable perspective while hunting for insects. This phoebe is here for lunch, a little fast food take out from Log Cafe Shabbona. The easiest way to know if you are looking at an eastern phoebe is to look at it’s tail. They have long tails, if the tail is wagging, it is surely an eastern phoebe. Besides this signature tail bobbing behavioral trait, notice it has no eye ring or wing bars. It’s beak is all black and it’s overall color is a dull grayish brown. The head is usually darker than the rest of the body and if you could see the belly it would be mostly white.  When listening for the sound and eastern phoebe makes you will hear it repeating it’s own name “fee bee, fee bee, fee bee”.  Because the eastern phoebe prefers open woodland near water this location near the camp store is a frequent stop. This is a great opportunity to learn about and watch the habits of this interesting flycatcher.

Whether you choose to explore through six miles or six feet of Lake Shabbona’s beauty during your visit, I hope you enjoy every inch of your journey.

For other sightings from hikes this past month visit the links below

Eastern Wood Pewee  enjoying the view
Possible Willow – Traill’s flycatcher (not a positive ID)

Sweet Nectar ( pink Bee Balm & Eastern Swallowtail Butterfly)
Like green cups of cotton candy (pink Bee Balm)
The beauty of a breeze on a hot summer’s day (yellow cone flower and prairie grass)
Bees aren’t they only ones who Buzzzzz around honeysuckle
Queen Anne’s Lace .. an elegant touch of red

Been PONDering ID on this damselfly (unidentified Enallagma species)
A dashing smile ( blue dasher dragonfly)