St Louis County Day One

The contentious issue of copper mining in northern Minnesota focuses, for the most part, around the possible impact this mining might have on the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Poly-Met, located south of the Laurentian Divide near the town of Hoyt Lakes, claims its operations will not have an impact on the protected areas of the BWCA which are located north of the divide. What needs to be addressed, however, is the possible impact on the Upper Saint Louis River Watershed, where Poly-Met is located, which is an important natural area in its own right.

I left Northfield for Hoyt Lakes at 9 AM to take part in some Minnesota Dragonfly Society survey work. Nearly 250 miles due north, the drive took four and a half hours. Ami Thompson, Curt Oien, Mitch Haag and his son Jason, the remainder of the dragonfly survey crew, had arrived before me and were already at work in the Partridge River east of town, searching for dragonfly nymphs. Under the tutelage of Bob DuBois and Ken Tennessen, expert odonatologists from Wisconsin, Mitch and Curt have become the leading experts on dragonfly nymphs in Minnesota. Ami is also well-known in the dragonfly circles for having created and published dragonfly curriculum and for her current Ph.D. thesis research on the Common Green Darner. Jason’s claim to fame is his netting ability, young and athletic his netting is dead-eye. And me? I was along for the ride, mostly, but could lend some general knowledge and help document the days in the field with camera and pen.

This particular Minnesota Dragonfly Society survey centered on the upper Saint Louis River and targeted the Extra-striped Snaketail (Ophiogomphus anomalus), possibly the state’s rarest dragonfly. Its presence in the state is known from a few exuviae found along this stretch of the upper Saint Louis River several decades ago. No adults have ever been photographed or captured in the state. A second dragonfly, almost equally as rare, the Ebony Boghaunter (Williamsonia fletcheri) was being targeted as well. This mysterious dragonfly breeds in bogs and peatlands and flies very early in the year. Known from less than a dozen, widely-scattered observations in Minnesota, it’s thought to be more rarely observed than actually rare.

When I arrived at the Partridge River, I found the others on the north shore of the river, upstream of the highway bridge where I’d parked. They all had waders on and were working in the water. Because of heavy rains the previous week the river was running very high and the nymphing work was confined to the edges. They had swooped up a fair number and diversity of nymphs by the time I had arrived but were having difficulty, because of the high water, reaching the deeper, sandier habitats where the targeted Snaketail might be located. While they continued to search the Partridge River for nymphs using their aquatic nets, I had a look around the river banks and the nearby remnants of a CCC work camp, aerial net in hand, hoping to locate some adult dragonflies. The only dragonfly I encountered was a Common Green Darner. A number of Tricolored Bumble Bees visited currant flowers in the work camp clearing. Near the road, at the forest edge, I happened upon Sessile Bellwort, a wildflower I’d never seen before, as well as Nodding Trillium.

We left the river and drove to Site 15, an open bog. A few miles east, what remained of a small paved road ended abruptly at a railway and what appeared to be a private residence, but was a town named Allen. Crossing the railroad tracks, we turned onto a trail that followed the tracks on their north side. The railroad bed along which we drove and parked was interesting and a little treacherous to walk on due to the covering of spilled taconite pellets. Countless boxcars filled with these iron-ore-rich pellets had left the Mesabi Iron Range for the harbor at Duluth on Lake Superior along these tracks. It was a long hike out to the open water. Nothing about bogs is fast. Early in our trek, we encountered a teneral Delicate Emerald (Somatochlora franklini). Parts of the open bog were sparsely wooded with stunted Black Spruce and Tamarac. Underfoot, Bog Laurel was in bloom. Despite its beautiful vivid pink flowers, this plant is quite poisonous, even honey produced by bees that visit the flowers is poisonous. Here we hoped to find Ebony Boghaunters. Instead, we found an abundance of Hudsonian Whitefaces, another early-emerging, bog-o-phile dragonfly, though much more common. These dragonflies had been out for a while, fully mature with many breeding pairs. There was a chance we had already missed the flight of the Boghaunters. A single Boreal Bluet. Several Henry’s Elfins.

Next we visited the St Louis River south of Aurora. An incredible variety and number of dragonfly nymphs were swooped up—River Cruisers, Dragonhunters, Spring Darners, Fawn Darners, Shadow Darners, Pronghorn Clubtails, Mustached Clubtails. No adult dragonflies seen. Interestingly a lot of Phantom Crane Flies along the river.

After this, we did a little scouting along the river further to the west. At the next bridge to cross the river, we found a Four-spotted Skimmer, Taiga Bluets, and Eastern Forktails. In the river, Ocelated Emerald, Elusive Clubtail, Spring Darner, Pronghorn Clubtail, and Dragonhunter nymphs were found.

The only place serving food this evening in Hoyt Lakes turned out to be the golf course. So we ate there. And started to make plans for the next day.

Publicado por scottking scottking, 01 de junio de 2017

Observaciones

Fotos / Sonidos

Qué

Libélulas Crucero (Familia Macromiidae)

Observ.

scottking

Fecha

Mayo 31, 2017 05:10 PM CDT

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