Just Passing Through: Dragonfly Migration 2014

It is in such light as this, late in the afternoon, when they are illuminated by a brilliant beam against the background shadows that they first “appear” as if out of nowhere.

We always have a few marauding dragonflies that claim hunting territory along the creek from which they hatched and the edge of the pasture.

When the light is low and bright, and the days grow noticeably shorter, and I am not thinking it is time for them yet at all, the migrating dragonflies descend from their travels (to where?) and congregate in our little five acre sliver of clearing in the midst of square miles of forest.

Today, I’ll try to identify the species of “devil’s horse” that has dropped in on us and send the report into the Xerces Society for their study of the mysterious migration (twice the distance of the beleaguered Monarchs that remain) of this agile agent of insect control.


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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. My name is Melissa Carney, and last night on the 5th of Sept, a few minutes before dark, we witnessed something we had never seen before here in Broken Arrow Oklahoma. Out in our back yard while sitting on our patio, we suddenly noticed several dragonflies flying south. It wasn’t until the birds came around to try and get a taste of them that we realized, the sky was full of them. Thousands of them were flying over our house, headed south, and these were larger than the ones we normally see. It was amazing, and I wish I could’ve gotten my camera in time, but I think it was too dark anyway.

  2. These look to be Twelve-spotted Skimmers (Libellula pulchella). It’s about 3rd to 5th on the list of dragonflies that move by Rocky Knob in the fall. The two most common are Green Darner and Black Saddlebags.