Dragonfly Pond Watch Project

What is Dragonfly Pond Watch?

Dragonfly Pond Watch is a volunteer-based program of the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership (MDP) to investigate the annual movements of five major migratory dragonfly species in North America: Common Green Darner (Anax junius), Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea), and Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum). By visiting the same wetland or pond site on a regular basis, participants will be placed to note the arrival of migrant dragonflies moving south in the fall or north in the spring, as well as to record when the first resident adults of these species emerge in the spring. Download a flyer about the Pond Watch Project and other MDP projects here.

Why monitor ponds?

Collecting seasonal information at local ponds will increase our knowledge of the timing and location of dragonfly migration across North America, and expand our understanding of the relationship between migrant and resident populations within the same species.

Who can participate?

Anyone with regular access to a pond or wetland who has an interest in dragonfly ecology and would like to contribute to our growing knowledge about dragonfly migration in North America.

How can I get involved?

Select a local pond or ponds of your choice to make observations for any of the five focal species: Common Green Darner, Black Saddlebags, Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, and Variegated Meadowhawk. Make regular visits to your selected site; the frequency of site visits is your choice, but please try to make observations at least once per month. Record data on your location, dragonfly species presence/absence, and when possible, capture photo vouchers. There is no prescribed survey or monitoring method; simply visit your local pond(s) and make observations of the five target species during the time you have available. For additional information about the project, pond selection, and data collection please see the MDP Monitoring Protocols. A sample data sheet that may be used at the same site on multiple dates can be downloaded here.

No prior experience with dragonflies is needed–recognizing these five species is easy to learn! Check out the MDP Field Guide to Migratory Dragonflies to start learning how to identify these species. Visit the photo gallery at OdonataCentral to see an array of photos of Common Green DarnerBlack SaddlebagsWandering GliderSpot-winged Glider, and Variegated Meadowhawk.

Please follow the instructions below to get started:

1.  Pond Registration:

a)  Log in to the MDP website (http://www.migratorydragonflypartnership.org) to register a pond or ponds of your choice in your region. If you are already a registered user of OdonataCentral (http://www.odonatacentral.org/), the same username and password will also allow you to log in to the MDP site. If you need to create a new account on MDP, just click on the Login link in the right-hand status bar and you will be able to register as a new user.

b)  To add your site to the database, mouseover the Observation tab at the top of the page and click on Enter New PondWatch Observation. On the page that comes up, create your new observation by entering your general observational information.

c)  You will then be asked to create a new locality and enter the following information:  the site name, a short description, jurisdiction (nation, state, and county, all provided on pull-down menus), and location. You can either enter the coordinates of your site manually (latitude & longitude in decimal degrees), or you can use the interactive GoogleEarth map window that pops up to zoom in on and drop a pin at your site. Elevation will be entered automatically from the coordinates. Please ensure that Pond Watch is selected under the Projects field.Your site will be saved and you can enter any associated observations in the future to this site or create additional sites.

2.  Data Collection: Please download the sample data sheet to ensure you are collecting all requested data, including: (1) Observer name, (2) site name (3) GPS coordinates, (4) species observed, (5) behaviors of target species, and (6) start and end times of site observations. This data sheet is also available under the Resources tab on the MDP web site, then select the Dragonfly Pond Watch tab.

3.  Reporting: Once you have registered your site you will be able to record your observations of the five target species by clicking on My Observations at the top of the page. All data entry is automated.

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Finally, in the course of monitoring target species at your wetland, you may become interested in other dragonfly and damselfly species that you see. If you would like to submit any other observations about the odonate community at your site, you can do so at OdonataCentral. People who are already registered users of OC can use their credentials to login to the MDP site, but it is not backwards compatible—in other words, if you are registered on the MDP site your credentials will not work automatically on the OC site. We suggest new users use the same username and password to register for both MDP and OC. Please note that each record submitted to OdonataCentral MUST be accompanied by a photograph to allow species identification to be confirmed. Though not specific to migration, species reports from the same site over time could enable detection of changes in overall odonate biodiversity as well as shifts in distributions or emergence dates, and potential range extensions for different species.

Is there more that I can do at my pond?

Dr. Mike May, an MDP steering committee member and odonate expert at Rutgers University, is conducting a related investigation on the fat content of migrant dragonflies.  You can help with this study if you live in the northeastern U. S. (from New Jersey northwards) or northern Canada and are willing to collect adults of any of the five main migratory species (Common Green Darner , Black SaddlebagsWandering GliderSpot-Winged Glider, or Variegated Meadowhawk). Dr. May is interested in early spring specimens of all 5 species, and in specimens of all except Common Green Darner taken in midsummer and fall.  Specimens should be dried, not processed in acetone, and should have at least one intact forewing and hindwing. Specimens can be sent to Dr. May at Department of Entomology, Blake Hall, 93 Lipman Drive, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ 08901-8524, U.S.A.

MDP may also institute a variety of different studies conducted across a shorter time span than Pond Watch and Migration Monitoring, to address specific research questions as they arise.  For example, we recently completed an analysis of stable hydrogen isotope ratios in Common Green Darner wings, with the help of specimens collected by volunteers. These ratios allow us to determine the distance a dragonfly traveled from the wetland in which it developed, and are giving us a better picture of migration distances and timing. 

Similar projects involve monitoring and collecting exuviae of Common Green Darners by volunteers, to gain a clearer understanding of regional breeding and emergence patterns. Please check back to the MDP web site or sign-up for monthly e-newsletters to receive up-to-date information about these shorter-term projects.

Thank you for contributing your time and effort to increase our understanding of dragonfly migration throughout North America. We will provide regular feedback and reports to participants so you can see how you are making a difference!