Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Loads of Odes

It was a very cool and wet spring and early summer in the northeast, apparently ideal conditions for producing loads of odes – dragonflies and damselflies. My wife Julie and I noticed many more odes than usual while hiking in the Maine mountains in August.

This September we enjoyed an above average flight of American Kestrels at Wachusett Mountain for the past decade, one of the leading hawk watch sites in Massachusetts. Not only were the numbers up, but we noticed that many of the kestrels were “insecting” out in front of the mountain, often kiting and hovering in pursuit of insect prey. We frequently saw the kestrels continue overhead with dragonflies visible in their talons, dissecting their ode prey in flight. Also had one adult Merlin come in right on the summit and dive down after an insect, to the point that we first thought it was a nighthawk until we got a full look at it! (At the same time, we saw far fewer Monarch butterflies and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds migrating past Wachusett than usual.)

Doing Lighthouse Point in New Haven, Connecticut, last week, we had some great kestrel days (over 200), and saw many with dragonflies in their talons. I don’t know my odes, but one female had a gigantic dragonfly in her talons and was carrying it like the jumbo Air Force jet carrying the Space Shuttle beneath it. Also saw several Merlins going after insects high overhead. I was surprised, however, to see a Sharp-shinned Hawk with a dragonfly hanging from her landing gear, munching in flight. I’ve seen kestrels, Merlins and Peregrines, not to mention Short-eared Owls, eating in flight, but I’ve never seen an accipiter doing so.

I know that kestrels migrating over Hawk Ridge in Duluth do so at the same time as odes migrating around the western point of Lake Superior, feeding on their fellow travelers as they fly? Has anyone else seen a notable increase in odes at their hawk watches this year?


  1. Here in Midcoast Maine,summer,if we want to call it that,was wet,and cold...
    Kestrels in the nest box had young,but abandoned the box in late June.The young didn't make it.
    Dragonflys,as well as many other insects were no existant until very late August.Then huge major hatches .So many dragonflys over the hay fields it looked like fog.Never seen anything like it before. Thom

  2. Thom, I don't know how the kestrel breeding was did down here in PA, but it was cool and wet most of the summer, and dragonflies were in short supply. No late hatch that I saw--at least none that seemed large compared to what would have been in a normal year.

    Carolyn H.