Data mining for Autumn Meadowhawk

This is a follow-on to my last blog post, Are adult Autumn Meadowhawks arboreal?

Data mining can be used to recognize patterns in official records of field observations by many amateur and professional odonate hunters, confirmed by experienced vetters.

Let’s begin by looking at the adult flight period for Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), the target species for a proposed field study during 2020 at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science.

Adult Flight Period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for Autumn Meadowhawk (S. vicinum) is from May 28 to January 03. The species is classified as “common.” Its habitat is “ponds.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for S. vicinum seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Autumn Meadowhawk is June 13 to December 10 (seen most September to October).

DSA Odonata Central Records

What is shown by a deep-dive into the Dragonfly Society of the Americas Odonata Central records database for Autumn Meadowhawk in the Commonwealth of Virginia?

There are currently 38 confirmed records for S. vicinum in Virginia, as shown by the following distribution map.

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2019. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: October 27, 2019).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Analysis

There are 14 records for teneral/immature adult Autumn Meadowhawk, ranging from 30 May to 19 August: May (1); June (5); July (5); August (3). Notice that the greatest cluster of records for teneral/immature adults occurs in June and July. There are a few records for mature adults toward the end of this time period and no records for mating pairs.

There are 24 records for mature adult Autumn Meadowhawk, ranging from 07 August to 03 January: August (2); September (5); October (13); November (1); December (2); January (1). Only a few records for teneral/immature adults occur at the beginning of this time period. The greatest cluster of records for mature adults occurs in October. Seven (7) of the records throughout the time period are for mating pairs, beginning in September; the greatest cluster of records for mating pairs also occurs in October.

What are the take-aways?

38 records is an admittedly small sample size. In the opinion of the author, patterns in the data are muddied by analyzing data for the entire state rather than a single location. There is almost certainly a south-to-north pattern in dates of emergence, mating, and disappearance for any given species, as well as atypical patterns resulting from micro-climates that exist throughout the state.

All of that being said, the data in the DSA Odonata Central records database for Virginia is consistent with my first-hand observations in Northern Virginia showing that Autumn Meadowhawk emerges in mid- to late-June, disappears for two- to three months, and returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate during fall.

One big question remains to be answered: Where do adult Autumn Meadowhawks go when they disappear soon after emergence — do they live in the forest canopy? One thing we know is certain: There are few if any official records for mature adult Autumn Meadowhawk on the ground during mid- to late-summer. Food for thought.

Related Resource: Are adult Autumn Meadowhawks arboreal?

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Data mining for Autumn Meadowhawk”

  1. Michael Boatwright Says:

    Nice work!

    • waltersanford Says:

      Thanks, Mike! I wish the data set were bigger. C’mon odonate hunters — please remember to add records for your field observations, including the common species of dragonflies and damselflies.

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