Exploring the Southern Piedmont in Amherst County

The other day me and a friend explored Beck Creek in Amherst County in search of Odes (short for Odonata, the dragonfly and damselfly order) and anything else we could find.  We had high expectations for the springtime dragonflies, with almost every interesting early April flying Ode, including Eastern Red Damsels and Southern Pygmy Club-tails, supposedly abundant and easy to see here.  We drove down the dusty gravel road looking for a spring off to one side in the forest.  When we found the small trickle of crystal clear water and got out of the car, a giant logging truck came roaring by, spraying us with dry, sticky dust. We escaped into the lush green vegetation surrounding the seep and started to gently knock the many sedges for red damsels.  The diversity of the native wildflowers around us was immediately apparent, and they soon made up for the near total lack of Odes. Royal Fern, Sensitive Fern, Field Horsetail, Tall Scouring Rush, Trout lily, White Turtle Head, Cut-leafed Coneflower, Cardinal Flower, Golden Ragwort, Bulbous Bittercress, Appalachian Foam Flower, Dwarf Ginseng, Robin’s Plantain, Wild-blue Phlox, Eastern Solomon’s Plume, and Solomon’s Seal were some of the herbaceous plants that grew in and around the spring.

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Bulbous Bittercress

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Dwarf Ginseng

We walked down the road in search of other Odes like Uhler’s Sundragon and Brown Spike-tail, but sadly the only dragonfly we saw was a single Springtime Darner.  My friend found a large colony of Yellowroot and Leatherwood growing next to the creek.  These were life plants for both of us.

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Yellow root

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Leatherwood

I spotted an Elfin butterfly of some type flying next to the road.  We rushed to get pictures, but another huge truck came through, plastering us with more dust, and scaring it away. Eventually we refound it, and were able to determine that it was a Brown Elfin.  Fire Pink and Green-and-gold grew profusely on the rock outcrops above the road. I had never seen Green-and-gold before, despite it apparently being rather common, so it was nice to finally see some.

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Fire Pink

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Green-and-gold

When we got back to the car, we decided to have one more go at the odes in the seep around the spring before we had to leave.  It was a good thing we did! We very quickly found a teneral Southern Pygmy Club-tail resting on a clump of sedge as its wings dried out.  This was our most wanted dragonfly for the trip so it was a good thing we eventually found one, not that it would have mattered much with all those great plants!  We photographed it until we had to go.

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Southern Pygmy Club-tail

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