Mass Flights of Dragonflies Create Awe on Oregon Coast
(Oregon Coast) – All over the Oregon coast last week, there was a mammoth invasion of dragonflies, appearing periodically and then disappearing, but always creating a spectacular display. Reports came from Manzanita, Florence, Lincoln City, Seaside, Cannon Beach and even the Astoria area, causing tourists and locals alike to chatter about it.
Newport resident and naturalist Terry Morse kept track of the reports, taking note of where and when they appeared. One general estimate had them at around 28 to 36 dragonflies a minute.
These mass flights kept him on his toes, as well as numerous other observers around the coast. Morse was conversing with a man in Lincoln City when the fly-bys seem to suddenly stop after about an hour and a half of activity.
An article in a local paper in Cannon Beach noted a flurry of them around September 2. Keith Chandler, manager of Seaside Aquarium, hadn’t seen any himself but said he’d been hearing about it constantly around the north coast. In Manzanita, guests staying at San Dune Inn talked about the creatures with a sense of wonder and awe to owner Brian Hines.
The species in question is the variegated meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum), and they seem to hit the coast every year in August or September, Morse said. The males tend to be bright red, pink and with a golden brown body, while females are grayish and yellow.
The flights occur often more than once per year in those months.
“They aren't usually as massive as the recent event in Seaside,” Morse said. “The only one of that magnitude I can remember in Newport, where everyone noticed it, was in 1995. This year, we had a report of a large flight in the Florence area on August 24 that only lasted about an hour, but none from Newport.”
They tend to show up on days with a strong east wind, Morse said – which happens a lot in late summer and September on the Oregon coast.
“Late in the month, or early in September, we'll get a warm east wind and suddenly there will be many of them in town,” Morse said. “Then, on the next east wind, we'll get a mass flight heading south or southeast - some, presumably blown out over the ocean by the wind, they’ll fly due east, back onto land.”
There are numerous mysteries about this dragonfly and its appearance on the coast. For one thing, no one really knows why they show up here in such great numbers. Scientists aren’t sure if they breed at all out on the beach area, and there aren’t any observers inland to tell them if the dragonflies are doing so in that area either.
“So where do they all suddenly come from? We don't know,” Morse said. “This year, there have been reports of mass flights in the Washington Cascades on August 27, and in the Olympics on September 3.”
Morse hadn’t heard of any reports in Newport even though conditions were prime.
The Meadowhawk can be found year-round in the south and southwest U.S., as well as Mexico. Morse said one theory is that they migrate north in the summer to breed in warm areas away from the beaches. They then fly – or get blown – back south.
“There is one published report of a 1947 flight westward through McMinnville, Oregon, which is roughly 30 miles SW of Portland,” Morse said. “Since no one has managed to follow the flights in a systematic way, this is just speculation. If they became as popular as monarch butterflies, with people watching for them throughout the west, perhaps we would be able to piece together more of the story.”
More About Oregon Coast hotels, lodging.....
LATEST OREGON COAST NEWS STORIES
Back to Oregon Coast