As a novice photographer, James Welch enjoys documenting the biodiversity he sees around his home turf. With his camera in hand while walking his dog last week, Welch stumbled upon a rare find in Vermont near the Winooski River, a Midland Clubtail.
“I usually carry my camera around when I’m walking my dog and I think I’ve captured almost everything within a few blocks of where I live,” said Welch. Luckily, he posts many of his photo-observations on iNaturalist Vermont, a project of the Vermont Atlas of Life. “I’m not familiar with dragonflies, so I didn’t know it was rare until Bryan pointed it out,” said Welch.
Mike Blust and Bryan Pfeiffer, coauthors of a recent publication about the odonata fauna of Vermont, are both very active on iNaturalist Vermont helping to identify, when possible, all of the dragonflies and damselflies photo-observations posted there. At the end of each season, VCE uploads all of the verified data to Odonata Central, the repository for dragonfly and damselfly data in North America, and we keep the Vermont Damselfly and Dragonfly Atlas at the Vermont Atlas of Life up to date.
The Midland Clubtail (Gomphus fraternus) was only recently found in Vermont along the mouth of the Poultney River. Mike Blust first found this species on June 4, 2009 when he spotted some adults on a sandy shoreline. He collected a larva in the river nearby and reared it to adulthood. More individuals have been found in nearby fields. But until Welch posted his sighting, no other populations were known in Vermont.
This isn’t the first time this has happened with iNaturalist Vermont and other Vermont Atlas of Life projects. It’s the power crowd-sourcing – all of us working together to learn, discover, and share biodiversity knowledge across Vermont.