widow skimmer (female)

i had a yearning for dragonflies this morning. with the weather so sunny and warm, conditions were ideal for spotting some odonatas. i only had one place in mind: the assabet river national wildlife refuge in sudbury, or as i fondly call it, "the dragonfly sanctuary." i went twice last year, the end of june, the middle of july, both times very successful outings.

as far as wildflowers go, there didn't seem to be too much at assabet (i was expecting to see more). not that it matters for dragonfly sightings, since they're eat other insects anyway. with so few flowers though, it meant i wouldn't see a lot of butterflies, even though i still saw a few (including a spicebush swallowtail out by hop brook, unfortunately i wasn't able to get a photo).

the canon telephoto lens is perfectly designed for dragonfly photography. last year, in order for me to get good photos, i had to use my 8x monocular attachment, focusing in semi-manual mode. surprisingly the quality wasn't that bad (this is still my favorite dragonfly photo), but this season, with the new autofocus image-stabilizing telephoto lens, shooting dragonflies have become dramatically easier. i used to think dragonfly photography was one of the hardest things to do, but now it's just as simple as regular photography. the only problem now is remembering to brush the ticks off my pants after i've been walking around the tall grasses.

there wasn't a lot of people at assabet. two hikers who ignored my hello and headed into the woods; two sweaty runners; a car full of people who looked like they were on official conservation business; and a little old lady. i watched her from a distance, slowly making her way down the road with a pair of binoculars in hand. the way she was looking made me think she might not be here for birds. when she got close enough i asked her what she was looking at. "dragonflies," she said. "me too!" i replied. we introduced ourselves, her name was mimi, and like myself, she's an avid dragonflies fan. we chatted about some of the species we saw, and she told me a few other places to look for dragonflies, as well as some organizations to join.

and even though there wasn't an abundance of wildflowers, there was still a lot of variety (three different flavors of clovers! and my favorite, the lupine):

after assabet (i only stayed on the paved patrol road, walked less than half a mile before turning back), i next went to hop brook marsh further south off of dutton road. this was my first visit through a wooded forest that goes around a pond. even though i had bug spray i wanted to avoid putting it on, and by the time i changed my mind, i'd already gotten a few mosquito bites. i didn't have a trail map nor my gps, and eventually lost my bearing. i was hoping to walk a loop but was afraid i'd have to retrace my steps in order to return to where i entered. i came across an abandoned train track that became a bridge which crossed hop brook. crossing the bridge was kind of scary, stepping on wooden planks, with a vertical drop straight down several stories. there were whitetail dragonflies everywhere but i only took a few photos because i didn't want to be distracted. at one point i even dropped my lens cap and quickly stepped on it before it could roll into the water. despite my vertigo, the view was spectacular, and i even spotted a pair of swans and a deer.

further walking along the abandoned train tracks led to a sandy area of the forest and into a large clearing that felt remarkably familiar for some reason. turns out this was the weird beach in the middle of the forest that i "discovered" last year in the sudbury memorial forest; apparently the two conservation lands are connected. there was even a painted turtle, alive but mysteriously displaced from its natural environment (i usually see them in ponds). at that point i started to head back, figuring i had a long trip ahead of me as i tried to retrace my steps. fortunately i ran into a man walking his dog who saved my life and told me to follow the train tracks to the end (not too far away) to exit the forest back onto dutton road.

back at home, after i took a shower, my father came by to help me install the air conditioner. although i didn't think it was that hot, i heard the next few days there might be a mini-heatwave so i figured it'd be best to put in the AC now. afterwards we ordered a buffalo chicken pizza from topspeed. after he left i made some flan.