Painted Skimmer Dragonfly: A Migrant, Irruptant or Local Loiterer in Southern Ontario?

One early June evening, I looked out the window and saw the metallic glitter of dragonfly wings on the butterfly bush. So I picked up my Nikon and crept into the backyard hoping to get an identifying photo of this newcomer. Once I did, I was left with a new question though: was this amber-tinted explorer on migration, irrupting from an abundance of its fellowkind elsewhere, or simply a local who had picked my yard to hang out in for a few hours.

Photo of Painted Skimmer Shimmer on NaturalCrooksDotCom

Painted Skimmer Dragonflies

The most noticeable things about this dragonfly were the four large dark patches on the wings and the overall amber colour.

Flipping through Stokes Beginner’s Guides to Dragonflies, only one image came close. My new backyard dragonfly was a Painted Skimmer.

The range map says these creatures are more common in the US and that they only edge up into south-eastern Canada. They are often in “upland areas” which I understand to me as areas away from water with good visibility although there could be more meant than that.

Photo of Painted Skimmer Side on NaturalCrooksDotCom

     Sorry the photos are fuzzy.

Why Was this Painted Skimmer Here?

Stokes also said that “small migratory movements occur periodically along the Atlantic Coast.” Well, we’re no where near the coast but my dragonfly might still be a migrant. In the fall, I certainly saw “flocks” of Green Darners gathering to head south.

It’s also possible that Painted Skimmer’s are regular residents in my area. Being relatively new to trying to identify individuals I may have just missed them.

Or maybe they are an unusual guest. I needed more information.

The Ont-Odes Email Group Discusses Dragonflies

So I turned to the internet for more insights. Reuven Martin has a link on his website to an email chat group about dragonflies so that’s where I started looking. It’s called Ont-Odes: https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/ont-odes .

I went to the group’s home page then used Ctrl-F with Painted Skimmer in the search field. Immediately I found several interesting posts.

Photo of Painted Skimmer Back on Natural Crooks Dot Com

Painted Skimmer Migrant or Irruptant or Local Loiterer?

First, there were several posts confirming that Painted Skimmers have been seen breeding in the Toronto area over the past few years. So my metallic friend might be a local cruiser.
Other posts, though, suggest there has been a major increase in sightings and numbers in the spring of 2014.

One person in Mississauga had 9 at his yard despite having no great habitat nearby. There were also sightings from Rondeau, Point Pelee, Algonquin Park, Pinery Provincial Park, Priceville, High Park and Kingston. In fact, for June they were one of the most reported dragonflies on the chat group.

It was suggested that they may be coming up from the south looking for new areas to explore due to a successful spring. When birds expand into new areas either searching for food or new breeding territories it is usually called an irruption rather than a migration. So it appears this year we may be having an irruption of Painted Skimmers.

So it seems likely that my Painted Skimmer has arrived from the South with no particular destination in mind. Hopefully it will find a mate and settle in locally. Its amber good looks would be welcome in my yard any day!


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Have you had an unexpected Skimmer visit your yard this spring? Do Painted Skimmers regularly bask on your butterfly bush? Please share your encounters with a comment.

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