Vancouver Island Dragonflies, 2012 season – Terry Thormin

It has turned cool here, cooler and cloudier than normal, and it feels like fall. Dragonfly populations are noticeably on the decline and many species have disappeared altogether. So I have decided that it is time to wrap up the season with a blog.

This year was a mixture of good and bad when it comes to dragonflies, and I will give you the good first. I managed to see five new species for the island and I managed to photograph four new species and get a few species in flight that I had struggled with before.

Forty-one species of dragonflies have been recorded for Vancouver Island, and my hope is to eventually see and photograph all of them. The main reason that I did so well this year is that I finally found a bog at higher elevation. The bog is part way up the road to Mt. Washington at an elevation of 2620 feet, and is aptly named 9 km Bog. Here, with the help of two good friends who are as crazy as I am about dragonflies, we managed to find Hudsonian Whiteface, Crimson-ringed Whiteface, Sedge Darner and Ringed Emerald and all four were new for us on the island. It was easy for us to photograph the Whitefaces as they regularly perched on the vegetation, but the darner was more of a challenge as we had to get it in flight, but all three of us succeeded. The emerald was the tough one as it rarely hovered for more than a couple of seconds and was very hard to find perched. This one I did not get although I have a perched shot from Alberta.

On one of my trips to Bowser Bog, a bog at low elevations that has recorded 26 species of dragonflies, I finally managed to get photographs of a perched Saffron-winged Meadowhawk. Of course, a few days later I photographed one in flight at Little River Pond. This was the first record for that species at Little River Pond, putting the total for the pond up to 21 species.

My final good dragonfly was a Black Saddlebags at Rascals Pond in Parksville. Black Saddlebags is a dragonfly that is recorded only sporadically for Vancouver Island. I do not have all the records, but I know that it has been a few years since one has been seen on the island. This is a known migrant, and it is probable that our records are all of migrants from the south. Considering how few active dragonfly watchers there are here, this species could be much more common than the records indicate. There were at least three individuals at Rascals Pond, two males and a female that I observed ovipositing. As well there was at least one other individual at another pond in Parksville. I went to Rascals Ponds three times and saw the Black Saddlebags on all three occasions, but because they were always in flight I was unsuccessful in getting any photographs.

As for those in-flight shots, I mentioned two of them, the Blue Dasher and the Four-spotted Skimmer, in an earlier blog, “Photographing Dragonflies In Flight”, but at that time I had not succeeded in getting a good in-flight shot of a Common Green Darner. Well I finally did and, as is so often the case, I have since then managed to get a few more good shots. So here is one of them.

And to top it off, I also managed to get my first in-flight shot of a Striped Meadowhawk, another species I had tried for without success on previous occasions.

I have managed to see 26 species of dragonflies so far this year, and succeeded in getting lots of photographs, so what is the downside? The answer can be summed up in one word, numbers. The darners in general seem to be down in numbers somewhat, although not dramatically. The skimmers and meadowhawks though seem to be drastically down, at least in locations that I am familiar with. Meadowhawks that we were seeing in large numbers at Bowser Bog last year we were only getting ones and twos of this year. The numbers of Common Whitetails, Four-spotted Skimmers and Eight-spotted Skimmers at Little River Pond seemed to be down this year and I saw very few Dot-tailed Whitefaces and not a single Western Pondhawk. The meadowhawks in general were well down in numbers. In fact, the Autumn Meadowhawk, which is our last dragonfly to appear, generally emerging in numbers in mid August, has not put in an appearance this year at all so far. I spent two hours at Little River Pond today where it is usually common by now, and although I did see five other species of dragonflies, there was not a single Autumn Meadowhawk to be seen.Just so you know what this dragonfly looks like, here is a photo of an Autumn Meadowhawk taken last year.

The only dragonfly that I can say has been truly here in good numbers is the Common Green Darner. In fact I don’t recall them being this numerous at Little River Pond before. The interesting thing though is that, like the Black Saddlebags, this is a migratory dragonfly. It would be hard, maybe impossible, to determine what percentage of our population is made up of migratory individuals, as there is a resident population as well, but it is quite likely that the large numbers of this species this year are accounted for mostly by migrants.

I have been concerned about insect populations on the island ever since I moved here three years ago, and other people who have lived here much longer than I have expressed the same concern. But dragonfly populations seemed to be the exception, that is, until this year. Because dragonfly larvae can live for several years before emerging as adults, this might just be the reason why they were not showing a population decline until now. It is interesting that the meadowhawks are showing the biggest decline in numbers, and these are the smaller dragonflies and the ones that generally spend the least amount of time in the larval stage. This decline in dragonfly numbers is very worrisome, and it will be interesting to see if it continues next year. I believe that this island needs a wakeup call, but I am not sure what it will take to do it. Unfortunately most people pay so little attention to insects that they will never notice declines in populations, and if they do I am not sure they will recognize the significance.

When I wrote an earlier blog “A Passion For Dragonflies” I included a poem. When I wrote that poem, in a frenzy of creativity I wrote another, free verse version of the poem, which I did not include with the blog. Somehow that poem seems appropriate now, so here it is.




It courses over the pond

on wings flashing in the sun.

Colours of red, blue, green and yellow,

colours of the rainbow,

and black and white for contrast.

It hunts for food,

for a mate,

for the next generation.

Always keeping an eye out for danger,

from above and below.

But the real danger it does not see,

the danger from humans.

draining wetlands,

using pesticides,


A danger that kills all,


But its loss is our gain.

Or is it?

For if we lose the dragonflies

do we not lose part of our humanity?

Part of our souls?

Part of the soul of our planet?

Is it not better to protect the dragonflies?

To watch, to really see them?

They can bring joy,



If only we all could become

“Watchers at the pond”.


© Terry Thormin, August 2012.


About annieandterry

This is a blog shared by two friends who have never met in person, Annie Pang and Terry Thormin. We both live on Vancouver Island, Annie in Victoria and Terry in Comox. All communication to date has been either by email or telephone. We are both passionate about nature and conservation and we are both nature photographers. Annie is also a very fine poet and was a concert violinist, while Terry worked as an entomologist for the Royal Alberta Museum until he retired in 2005. We hope you enjoy this joint effort to share our nature musings with anyone who is interested.

Posted on August 29, 2012, in Nature, Photography, Poetry and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 32 Comments.

  1. So Stunning photography ,You did a really great job here thanks for posting 🙂

  2. Great stuff Terry! You know your dragonflies. We do need to conserve nature. Your photography is excellent. I liked your poem too.

  3. Awesome pictures 🙂 and wonderful poem 🙂 I love dragon flies 🙂

  4. Very cool pics! The colors of these dragonflies are spectacular!!

  5. Love the poem and the photos! Dragonflies have always been my favorite! I didn’t realize there were so many kinds.
    Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

  6. Am I the only one who thinks dragonflies are both creepy ANY cool? I think the creepiness factor comes from the “veins” on the wings (ewwwww) — and the cool factor is everything else. 😉

    Beautiful pix!

  7. excellent photography, wonderful detail, and love the poem! I recently have been doing a lot of work to my backyard, hoping to encourage more nature than flies and rats to visit, and I must say that the day I saw a dragonfly perch in my garden I was elated! Dragonflies coming home must mean something good is coming. Congrats on FP as well!

  8. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of a dragonfly in flight. Thank you for my “first” of the day!

  9. Dragonflies are so cool. I love how their heads pivot on their bodies. I just posted a dragonfly photo in my post entitled Natives:

  10. Amazing pics and awesome detailing! I am falling for the dragonflies.Thanks for sharing!

  11. wow! two things firstly…one…i feel real good right now…at having met my own countryman! second…how on earth do you manage to get those super-sharp shots of those dragons? i tried my hand at it both back home in vancouver (burnaby) and also here in the uk…no luck at all…all of them lack focus, due to the transitory few moments that dragon stay still….?!

    • There is only one word that really sums up what it takes to get in-flight shots of dragonflies, and that is patience. Lots and lots of patience. I do look for my spots though, a place where there are lots of dragonflies flying such as the shore of a fairly small pond where they are likely to come close, or perhaps a place where the females are ovipositing, as the males often hover over them. The main thing, other than patience, is that you need to get them while they hover. Another thing I look for is a place with a good clean background, although this does not always work out. Once I find the right spot, if at all possible I will take a camp chair and set it up and wait patiently for the right opportunity. I notice that some species largely ignore my presence, even when I am moving, whereas others will react rather quickly to any major movement. Hope this helps.

  12. These are some incredible photos. I was just noticing an abundance of dragonflies here in southern CA over the past couple of days (that along with the unusually copious – even for summer – amount of ants!). The colors in your pictures are absolutely radiant, thanks for sharing.

  13. wow amazing photos.I saw my first of the season today outside my house – the same as the one third photo down – Im in the UK. They’re remind me of helicopters. I once had one land on my leg while i was sitting down and it was pretty heavy.

  14. Wow great photos,really sharp and well captured. There wings are amazing like stained glass windows. MAGIC!
    cheers Callie

  15. Awesome pictures! Love watching the Dragonflies, but getting a picture in the air seems impossible.

  16. I absolutely love this post. I am obsessed with dragonflies. Great photos!

  17. wonderful shots! you’re right, i’ve also been noticing less and less of dragonflies.. growing up in the province sometimes we catch them and play with them then set them free.. we call the big ones ‘tutubing kalabaw’ and the small thin ones with long tails as ‘tutubing karayom’.. tutubi is tagalog word for dragonfly, kalabaw is carabao, karayom is needle.. thanks for sharing..

  18. To capture on film (well, in pixels) dragonflies in flight, and with such clarity – well done. I’ve only attempted photos of them perched on a branch or blade of grass so far. Perhaps next year!

  19. Fabulous shots. You are persistent. Yes, one does notice the dragonflies in certain areas there. How many species have you photographed in total so far?

  20. Wow. I didn’t realize there were quite so many species right in my backyard! Thanks for the great post, and amazing photos.

  21. Thanks for sharing.

  22. wow what amazing pics! how did you get such close shots?! these are really cool!

  23. amazing captures, loved your selection of subjects, the vibrat colors that mark your pics! beautiful! 🙂

  24. I was wondering if you could identify this dragon fly I took a photo of the other day.


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