The Nature Writers of Texas

The best nature writing from the newspaper, magazine, blog and book authors of the Lone Star State . . .

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Dragonfly Days are Here Again
by Ro Wauer

Where in Texas is it possible to find 100 kinds of dragonflies? The answer is the Lower Rio Grande Valley, where dragonflies rate their very own festival. Like the many Texas festivals for birds and butterflies, dragonflies will be the subject of “Dragonfly Days,” scheduled May 21 to 24 this year. In fact, the 2009 festival marks the 10th year of this event, sponsored by the Valley Nature Center and Estero Llano Grande State Park in Weslaco. Last year’s two-day festival produced more than two dozen species of dragonflies and damselflies, including most of the expected species such as common green darner, four-spotted and holloween pennants, great pondhawk, thornbush dancer, and roseate skimmer. The festival also produced a few truly unusual or rare species, including the first U.S. records of Mexican scarlet-tail and bow-tailed glider and blue-spotted comet. Participants were more than satisfied with the results.

Dragonfly Days is designed for the novice, those of us first learning how to identify these flying gems, as well as the expert enthusiast. Field trips and illustrated seminars are scheduled to help the beginner learn the differences between dragonflies and damselflies, know the difference between a skimmer and glider, and also to understand how these colorful insects play a vital role in maintaining a healthy environment.

Daily field trips are scheduled to several of the best dragonfly-finding locations in the Valley, including Bentsen-Rio Grande and Estero Llano Grande State Parks, Anzalduas County Park, and Edinburg Wetlands. The Lower Rio Grande Valley is recognized as one of the most biologically diverse regions in the nation. Field trip leaders will include dragonfly experts John Abbot, Bob Behrstock, Greg Lasley, Josh Rose, and Martin Reid. Seminars include “Dragonflies 101” by Behrstock, “Chasing dragonflies in South Africa” by Lasley, “Dragonfly prey: a look at what odonates eat and what eats them” by Martin Reid, “Natural superlatives along the Rio Grande” by Ro Wauer, “An odonates guide to the Lower Rio Grande Valley” by Josh Rose, and “Texas dragonflies, past, present and future” by John Abbot at the Saturday evening banquet.

Pre-registration is required for all seminars, field trips, and the banquet. Pre-registration forms are available on line at info@valleynaturecenter.org, and additional information can also be obtained from the Valley Nature Center (956-969-2475). Packets for pre-registered participants can be picked up at the host hotel: Holiday Inn Express (956-973-2222) in Weslaco. Special accommodation prices for participants are available when using the code: DFD. All seminars will be held at the hotel and field trips will also leave from that location.

Field trip participants will have the special opportunities to enjoy not only dragonflies and damselflies, but whatever other wildlife and plant life encountered. Birds, reptiles, butterflies, and plants can also be identified and discussed along the way. Participants are asked to bring binoculars (close-focusing for butterflies), study shoes, and protection from the sun. Daytime temperatures in May usually range into the low 90s F.

The festival will allow participants to visit a number of the special wetland sites in the Valley, to see a full range of dragonflies and damselflies, and also will help us appreciate the truly unique features of these marvelous creatures.