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Variegated Meadowhawk photographed in Briceburg, Ca July 2016 - photo by Matthew Matthiessen

Oakhurst Audubon Program Will Feature Sierra Dragonflies

Contributed by Len McKenzie, YAAS —

The arrival of spring each year heralds a time of rebirth, renewal and the emergence of new life forms. Among the myriad plants and wildlife species that ornament, refresh and animate the spring landscape are the “odes” of the insect world, members of the order Odonata (“toothed ones”), more commonly known people as dragonflies and damselflies.

The Yosemite Area Audubon Society (YAAS) will feature these striking insects at its monthly program in Oakhurst Thursday, May 11, at 7 p.m. at the New Community United Methodist Church on Road 426 in Oakhurst.

Tim Manolis, a noted artist, writer, and field biologist who earned his PhD from the University of Colorado and now lives in Sacramento, will present a slide talk, “Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Central Sierra Nevada.”

Manolis’s presentation will spotlight representative dragonflies and damselflies in a cross-section through the Yosemite region. He will offer a basic introduction to dragonfly biology and distribution, focusing on species from the foothills up into the higher reaches of the Sierra and down the east slope toward Mono Lake. A diversity of interesting species, ranging from desert to boreal forms, occur along this transect of the central state.

Characterized by long, slender abdomens, large eyes and predatory feeding habits, “odes” are among the most ancient insects on Earth. They spend most of their lives – up to several years – in the larval stage submerged in ponds and streams, eventually molting their skins, crawling out of the water and morphing directly into adults. Fast flyers (up to 100 body-lengths per second), adults capture smaller insects on the wing. They live for only a few months — to mate and for the females to deposit their eggs — and are often themselves victims of larger predators.

Tim Manolis is the author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of California, and the illustrator of Field Guide to the Butterflies of the San Francisco Bay and Sacramento Valley Regions and Field Guide to Spiders of California and the Pacific Coast States, all published by the University of California Press.

Like all Yosemite Area Audubon programs, Manolis’s presentation is open and free to the public, although donations to defray program costs and to support the chapter’s local activities are welcome.

Call (209) 742-5579 or visit www.yosemiteaudubon.org for more information about the program as well as other YAAS activities and events, including a field trip to Foresta in Yosemite on Saturday, May 20, led by Yosemite Conservancy resident naturalist Pete Devine.

Trip participants will meet at 7:45 a.m. at the conservancy offices in El Portal to carpool. Bring binoculars, field guides, water, lunch and snacks, and wear layered clothing and comfortable walking shoes. The conservancy will provide park entrance fee waivers.

The mission of the National Audubon Society, the namesake of noted 19th-century nat-uralist and bird painter John James Audubon; its state affiliate, Audubon California; and local chapters such as the Yosemite Area Audubon Society is to conserve and restore natural ecosystems, focusing on birds, other wildlife and their habitats for the benefit of humanity and the earth’s biological diversity.

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