Visualizing data temporally: Dragonflies

Regular readers of my blog know I love me some odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies. My interest in odonates was rekindled in 2011, along with my interest in photography. Good resources were harder to find in those days. Within the past few years, several datasets of adult flight periods became available publicly. If you are interested in seeing and photographing a particular species of dragonfly, it helps to know when (and where) to look!

In the run-up to the 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting in Staunton, Virginia, 09-11 June 2017, Dr. Steve Roble’s excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia were posted in the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. (Click on “Files” in the upper-left sidebar.) I used Google Calendar to synthesize “CHECKLIST OF THE DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES OF VIRGINIA, April 2017 update” into two calendars: Dragonflies (VA Flight Dates); and Damselflies (VA Flight Dates). Dragonflies is presented in this post; Damselflies will be presented in my next post.

The Google Calendar default color palettes were used to color-code both calendars: Dragonflies is Graphite; and Damselflies is Birch. Individual events on each calendar are also color-coded by family. Here’s the way Dragonflies looks using the Chrome Web browser on my Apple iMac desktop computer.

And here’s the way the calendar looks using the free Google Calendar app on my Apple iPad mini 2.

Every event features the following information: common name; scientific name; early-date/late-date; abundance; and habitat.

Regrettably, the color-coding is lost when the calendar is exported as an “.ics” file. That’s the bad news. The good news is the calendar can be edited after it is imported into Google Calendar and it’s easy to edit the entries to color-code them any way you like.

The colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV) were used to color-code the seven families of dragonflies; the equivalent colors in the Google Calendar default color palette are shown in brackets.

  • R = Family Aeshnidae (Darners) [Tomato]
  • O = Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) [Tangerine]
  • G = Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) [Basil]
  • Y = Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) [Banana]
  • B = Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) [Peacock]
  • I = Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) [Blueberry]
  • V = Family Petaluridae (Petaltails) [Grape]

The colors for Emeralds and Clubtails were flip-flopped because it just makes sense the Emeralds should be color-coded green!

Lessons Learned

As I worked on the calendar, patterns began to emerge that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, it’s clear that the serious odonate hunter needs to hit the ground running as soon as early March. Remember that Dr. Roble’s dataset is for the entire state. You may not see a given species on its early-date, but it could be seen on that date and certainly can’t be seen if you don’t look!

Tech Tips

Download the “.ics” file from the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Launch Google Calendar on a desktop computer. Create a new calendar by clicking on the “+” symbol to the left of “Add a friend’s calendar.” (Yeah, yeah — I realize that’s counterintuitive!) Give the calendar a name such as “Test Calendar” and click on the “Create Calendar” button. (You can change the name later.) “Test Calendar” should appear in the list of calendars under “My calendars.”

Mouse-over the name “Test Calendar” and click on the vertical column of three dots, labeled “Options for Test Calendar” then select “Settings and sharing.” In the upper-left sidebar, click on “Import and export”; select the “.ics” file to import and select “Test Calendar” from the drop-down menu labeled “Add to calendar.” There are 243 events in the Dragonflies calendar.

If you decide to color-code individual events like I did, click on an event then click on the pencil icon labeled “Edit event.” Select a color and click the “Save” button, then click the radio button for “All events.” Beware: You can right-click on an individual event and change its color but DON’T GO THERE! That results in an event that doesn’t occur annually using the new color you chose.

Related Resource

Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, created an excellent calendar called Dragonflies of Northern Virginia – Flight Periods. This calendar is a valuable resource for hunting dragonflies in Northern Virginia. I think the value of Kevin Munroe’s calendar is enhanced by using it in combination with my visualization of Steve Roble’s dataset.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “Visualizing data temporally: Dragonflies”

  1. Visualizing data temporally: Damselflies | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] Showcasing some of my digital photography and videography. « Visualizing data temporally: Dragonflies […]

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