Before heading up to Fort McMurray earlier in the spring, I perused through Dennis Paulson's excellent "Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West" field guide to see if there was any potential to encounter odonates I had never seen before. I learned that I could potentially see Plains Forktail (Ischnura damula), Prairie Bluet (Coenagrion angulatum), Boreal Snaketail (Ophiogomphus colubrinus), and maybe Forcipate Emerald (Somatochlora forcipata) or Beaverpond Baskettail (Epitheca canis). The distribution map of Elusive Clubtail (Stylurus notatus), however, was extremely intriguing. A slim band running across southern Manitoba appeared to be furthest west portion of its contiguous range, which runs off the map to the east (I need the eastern counterpart guide to see the full extent of its range). After that, three anomalous records with a great deal of distance between them made up the remainder, with a single record above Alberta in the Northwest Territories being the westernmost. I did a mental connect-the-dots and dared to dream.
I never actually expected to find Elusive Clubtails despite letting my mind run wild with the possibility. The species name alludes to its life history: after larvae in slow-moving rivers climb up onto rocks, the adults emerge from their larval casings (or exuviae), and then fly up into the forest canopy where they spend the majority of their adult life. Consequently, you have to get lucky and find them emerging or breeding.
|This photo illustrates the emergence of an adult from its larval exoskeleton ("exuvia")|
|This is a shot of the first individual encountered, which shows why|
members of the genus Stylurus are called "hanging clubtails"
|This male Elusive Clubtail was the most striking individual I encountered. |
You can see its wings still haven't fully inflated.