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Video: Masses of Dragonflies Migrating Along Oregon Coast

Published 08/13/23 at 9:31 p.m.
y Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Video: Masses of Dragonflies Migrating Along Oregon Coast

(Oregon Coast) – Thousands of dragonflies are making their way along the north Oregon coast right now, according to Seaside Aquarium, which just captured some amazing images of the little creatures flitting about en masse. It's a migration that happens apparently yearly, but many years it goes on unnoticed or at least not in great numbers. Other years, like right now, it's quite a sight, sometimes creating large walls of them. (Above: photo Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium)

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The aquarium's Tiffany Boothe documented the current run, which often happens when there's a lot of east winds coming in – as there is now with the sizable heatwave. She even snagged video, which has not been obtained much in years past.

“The dragonfly migration is on! Thousands of dragonflies are currently migrating through the dunes,” she said.

Boothe caught them at Del Rey State Recreation Site just north of Seaside.

The dragonflies being found are the variegated meadowhawk, which tend to engage in their big migrations a little later in the season than this.

The dragonfly migration is on! Thousands of dragonflies are currently migrating through the dunes. This video was taken this afternoon at Del Ray State Park. At the onset of fall cold fronts, the main species involved, the Variegated Meadowhawk, seems to funnel to the coast and head south. But beyond that, little is known about these fall migrants. “This is not only an amazing spectacle to witness but a great mystery even to scientists,” says Cary Kerst, co-author with Steve Gordon, of Dragonflies and Damselflies of OreAuthors Steve Gordon and Cary Kerstgon, the definitive field guide to the subject. “We don’t know where they are coming from or going or what prompts them to start moving.” Here is some interesting information from Oregon State University: Scientists have tried various methods of tracking dragonfly migrations with little success. Now, a partnership has formed to solicit the public’s help to better protect and sustain this phenomenon. The Migratory Dragonfly Partnership offers an opportunity for people to collect and record dragonfly migration observations. Citizen scientists monitor the timing, duration, and direction of travel of migrating dragonflies, and note any additional behaviors observed in migratory flight such as feeding or mating. Learning to identify the main migratory species of dragonflies is an essential first step in migratioDragonflies covern monitoring, and for Oregon there’s no better place to start than the Kerst and Gordon guide. It includes full color photographs of all species found in the state, along with helpful illustrations and charts showing important identification characteristics. The book also features descriptions of the thirty best sites in Oregon to observe these amazing insects, a useful tool for viewing uncommon species in spectacular settings. With sufficient participation in migration monitoring, it’s not hard to imagine a future in which volunteers line Oregon dunes each fall wearing “Dragonfly Watching Spoken Here” t-shirts and introducing curious onlookers to the wonders of dragonfly migration.

Posted by Seaside Aquarium on Sunday, August 13, 2023

During some events, variegated meadowhawk are seen in huge numbers in multiple places, sometimes swirling together in giant formations. Periodically, estimates have them at around 28 to 36 dragonflies a minute. Oregon Coast Beach Connection has covered this in the past, noting they would pop up in Rockaway Beach, Newport and Seal Rock all at once, and even Seaside all at once – then be gone after a day or two.

Photo of the variegated meadowhawk OSU

Several years ago, Steve Gordon and Cary Kerstgon talked to Oregon Coast Beach Connection about a particularly large run then. They wrote the book Dragonflies and Damselflies of Oregon, considered the definitive work on the subject here.

Not much is known about these fall migrants, and the pair of authors said no one knows where they coming from exactly and certainly not where they're going. 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.

Tiffany Boothe / Seaside Aquarium

There was a group called the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership which offered an opportunity for people to collect and record dragonfly migration observations. However, that no longer seems to exist. Citizen scientists monitored the timing, duration, and direction of travel of migrating dragonflies, and noted any additional behaviors observed in migratory flight such as feeding or mating.

So, they remain a colorful mystery on the Washington coast and Oregon coast.

That includes the question: how long will they be around? That no one really knows, either. They sometimes return briefly in yet another wave.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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