2018 – My “Big Year of the Dragonfly” – Part 1

This year my attention was captured and redirected toward the photographic study of dragonflies & damselflies, also known as “Odonates”, or “Odonata”. Moved by the beauty, mystery, and incredible flying prowess of this 300 million-year-old evolutionary success story, I decided to devote this entire season to photographing, observing & documenting the locations of these incredibly beautiful and fascinating creatures.

Having only recently learned in the fall of last year that several species of dragonflies migrate (YES, THEY MIGRATE!), from the western United States into Canada, arriving here before our local larvae emerge, I was intent on finding, observing & recording one. Seeing is believing after all. Between the first of April and May the 5th, I systematically searched the rivers, ponds & lakes along the southern interior highways from Keremeos to the Kettle River Provincial Park Campground near Rock Creek. Having found no dragonflies, when by this date they are usually flying, I decided to try the other big avian migratory pathway into the southern part of the province. On May 6th I drove down to the Kootenay river wetlands & found my first dragonfly of the year, the four-spotted skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata), & placed the record with OdonataCentral.org. It is the first record of a dragonfly, thus far, in British Columbia for 2018.

My first dragonfly of the year, the migratory four spotted skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata), at the Kooteney river wetlands, B.C.

This tree swallow chased after the dragonfly – but the dragonfly escaped!


Four spotted skimmer taking rest on a bulrush just before the onset of a sudden thunderstorm.

Five weeks is a very long time to search for a single creature, but the exhilaration I experienced upon finding it was extremely gratifying. The birders movie favourite called “The Big Year” had several intriguing characters competing across the Americas with Brad Harris (Jack Black), being graced with the financial assistance of philanthropist  Stu Preisslerto (Steve Martin ), helping him complete his journey for the highest numbers of species on his birding list. I was not quite as fortunate, camping out of a small van living off of the classic camping favourite “baked beans & oatmeal” in order to facilitate my journey. By necessity I had to limit my journey to only a portion of  the province. I did not cross off every one of the 89 species listed in British Columbia that I sought this year, but I did have many firsts on my Odonate species list & experience some world class British Colombian wild life and geography.  I am still submitting my records and have yet to have a complete tally. It was a grand beginning to what was to be my personal “Big Year of the Dragonfly”.

Part 2: In Search of the Famous Jewelwing