Out & About: Dragonflies when you’re having fun in New London and Grantham

  • The chalk-fronted corporal is a dragonfly species that can be found in the Upper Valley. (Courtesy of Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust)

  • Monarch butterflies can be found in the milkweed at Up on the Hill Conservation Area in Charlestown. (Courtesy of Sullivan County Conservation District)

  • KRT LIFESTYLE STORY SLUGGED: HOME-DRAGONFLIES KRT PHOTOGRAPH BY ADRIN SNIDER/NEWPORT NEWS DAILY PRESS (August 11) A common green darner dragonfly floats past as it circles a pond at Norfolk Botanical Gardens in Norfolk, Va. (jt) 2005

  • A pair of dragonflies dance around a pond at Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, Maine on Monday afternoon, July 15, 2019..

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 7/20/2019 10:05:37 PM

One summer evening, my husband and I were sitting on our deck, swatting at mosquitoes, when out of nowhere we were divebombed by a squadron of hungry dragonflies.

The dragonflies weren’t coming after us. They were scarfing up those annoying mosquitoes. The dragonflies swooped back and forth, barely missing our heads. We could hear their little jaws snapping.

After kindly dispatching the pests, they continued on their way.

Up close, dragonflies might seem a little threatening: Some species are rather large, and their zooming flight patterns can appear aggressive.

But not only do they consume hundreds of mosquitoes, dragonflies are harmless to humans.

“Their mandibles can’t get far enough apart to bite skin,” said Andy Deegan, a land protection specialist and stewardship manager with Ausbon Sargent Land Preservation Trust, based in New London. “They want to avoid you.”

Deegan will lead two upcoming walks, one in New London and one in Grantham, that offer a chance to learn about dragonflies and examine them up close.

The New London walk will take place on Tuesday, July 30, from 2-4 p.m. at the Esther Currier Wildlife Area on Route 11. The Grantham walk will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 6, at the Sawyer Brook Headwaters property on Dunbar Hill Road, also from 2-4 p.m.

Participants will catch the dragonflies in butterfly nets, identify them and release them, an activity that takes a bit of skill, according to Deegan.

“You have to anticipate the pattern they’re flying in,” he said. “They have extremely good eyesight. If you come from the front, they’re going to see you.”

If people aren’t as familiar with dragonflies as, say, with birds, it’s because dragonflies don’t stick around for long. They spend most of their lives underwater in the nymph stage, emerging as adult dragonflies for only a couple of weeks in order to mate. Then they return to the water to lay their eggs, and the cycle begins again.

During the time they’re buzzing about, they’re voracious and deadly hunters, thanks to their nearly 360-degree vision and their ability to fly in any direction, as well as hover.

Varieties of dragonflies commonly seen in the Upper Valley include the chalk-fronted corporal, the twelve-spotted skimmer and the ebony jewelwing, according to Deegan.

“There are more species of dragonflies in New Hampshire than in the state of California,” he said. “About 150 species.”

Dragonflies are reliant on the sun in order to fly, so if it’s cloudy or drizzly, the programs will be rescheduled. Call the Ausbon Sargent office at 603-526-6555 if there are any doubts as to the weather.

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Butterfly blitz

If you’re interested in dragonflies, you might also like the monarch butterfly monitoring program on Tuesday, July 30, from 10 a.m.-noon at Up on the Hill Conservation Area on Richardson Road in Charlestown. The event, which is co-sponsored by the Sullivan County Conservation District and the Upper Valley Land Trust, is part of the greater 2019 International Monarch Monitoring Blitz.

Now in its third year, the annual event aims to get a tally on the number of monarchs in North America. The international blitz starts Saturday and ends Aug. 4.

“We have a wonderful, perfect site for this type of activity,” said John Roe, vice president of stewardship and strategic initiatives for the Upper Valley Land Trust. “It’s both a beautiful place to be with a huge view,” and a field “with incredible amounts of milkweed.”

In addition to the butterflies themselves, counters should be on the lookout for monarch eggs, caterpillars and chrysalises. Those who can’t attend the Charlestown event can participate on their own time. Details can be found at mission-monarch.org/mission-monarch-blitz.

“It’s a citizen science project that is going to happen sort of like bird counts and bio blitzes,” Roe said.

— Liz Sauchelli

Valley News

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