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Associated observations

Photos / Sounds


Blue-faced Ringtail Erpetogomphus eutainia




July 30, 2003 09:48 AM CDT


Blue-faced Ringtail
Erpetogomphus eutainia
Guadalupe River, Independence Park near U.S. 183 bridge over the river.
Gonzales, Gonzales Co., Texas
30 July 2003

A couple of folks have asked me personally and on iNat:
about Blue-faced Ringtail (Erpetogomphus eutainia) and the history of the population in Gonzales. I had never posted the initial record but will do so here and just give the history for those curious about it.

In June, 2003, Dr. John Abbott and I spent some time looking for dragonflies at Palmetto State Park in Gonzales Co., and he mentioned a small clubtail called Erpetogomphus eutainia (John did not speak common names in those days :-) which had last been seen in the 70s as far as he knew. He told me there were some records by Paulson, Dunkle, and others at Palmetto S.P. John had never seen the species and he hoped to find it sometime. I was fairly new into odonates at that time, and being retired from my law enforcement profession, I had the time to start really looking for this rare critter and I made it a mission to find it. I spent some time in the collection at U.T. looking at all the known Texas specimens of Erpetogomphus eutainia and made a list of all the locations where the specimens had been found. Essentially, all the Texas and U.S. records of the species at that time were from the San Marcos River in the general vicinity of Luling, Texas. During July, 2003, I went out to look for for this bug more than a dozen times. Finding places to access the San Marcos River was the most challenging issue, as most of you know that so much of Texas land is private. I scoured Palmetto S.P., boat launches and canoe launch areas between San Marcos and Luling, etc., and had no luck. I visited all the public parks in San Marcos which allowed access to the river as well as any bridge crossings, etc. The San Marcos River joins the Guadalupe River near Gonzales, so I started checking areas on the Guadalupe where I could get to or near the water. On July 30, 2003, I found a female clubtail on the south side of the Guadalupe River near the U.S. 183 bridge on the south side of Gonzales, and got a few photos of it. I was not certain this was the Erpetogomphus eutainia, but I thought it probably was. I was very eager to get home and look at my shots on a larger monitor. At home, after studying my shots, I felt fairly confident I had found a female Erpetogomphus eutainia.

Long story short, I sent John an email with images that I had taken in Gonzales. I called him on the phone and asked if he was at his computer and he said he was. I told him to check his email. He knew I had been looking for this species and asked me if I had found it. I said “you tell me”. He then saw my shots and said “You found it!” Two days later, on 2 August 2003, I took John back to the spot where we found several males and females and we both got images of a male eating a Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta):
From that time up until 2010 or so, the species was regularly found at many areas of Independence Park as can be seen on the iNat maps. On some visits I found 10-20 individuals on a single visit. In 2011 and 2012 the species became harder to find, but there were a handful of records during both of those years. It has been mostly absent since 2012 (one sight record with no photos in 2014) which I mentioned in the record I posted yesterday:

So, that is the history of the bug at Gonzlaes as I know it. There have been a few records by some students of John’s another 20 or so miles down the Guadalupe River near Cuero in DeWitt Co., but I have never found them there. Ed Lam has photographed the species at Medina River Park south of San Antonio, but on two visits in proper season, I’ve not found it there either. There are a few other records along the Rio Grande in south Texas. This is a late season species with 95% of the records being between 1 July and 15 October. Why the species was relatively easily found 2003-2012, then mostly vanished for 4 years...I don't have a clue. Habitat seems pretty much the same as far as I can determine. But such population fluctuations certainly occur. As an example, in 2007 Carmine Skimmer (Orthemis discolor) was common to abundant in the Austin area and a dozen or more could be found in several areas in a short time. Since 2007 the species has been very rare in Austin and I can count the records on one hand that have occurred since 2007. No idea why.