Dragonfly Days Take Flight

JCWC’s newest nature program proves a success

Summer brings glittering, buzzing, glorious dragonflies to the banks of Johnson Creek. To celebrate these beautiful insects, Johnson Creek Watershed Council recently launched a new program called Dragonfly Days. This two-part event was the newest of our family-friendly nature education events. We held one Dragonfly Day on a Thursday afternoon in June, followed by a second event on a Saturday in July. Both took place at Tegart Pond, a small but flourishing urban greenspace tucked between a new Gresham suburb and an agricultural field. Both were also a big success!

Dragonflies and damselflies (known together as “odonates”) are an important part of streamside ecosystems. While harmless to humans, they are voracious predators of other insects, including pesky mosquitoes. Like six-legged lions, they’re the apex predator of the invertebrate world. One indicator of healthy wetlands is the diversity of odonates, especially of migratory dragonflies.  We learn about trends in wetland health by tracking this diversity in one location over many years. That’s one of the reasons JCWC organizes community science dragonfly surveys.

A child's paint-stained hands cup carefully around a small, delicate damselfly.
A young dragonfly surveyor studies her captured damselfly during Dragonfly Days.

Dragonfly Days were inspired by public interest in our dragonfly surveys. Volunteer surveyors are often asked by interested passers-by what they’re doing in a wetland with a large net. Together with the City of Gresham, we brainstormed an event that could satisfy people’s curiosity by letting them watch surveyors in action, learn about dragonflies, and even try their hand at catching dragonflies themselves– all in a kid-friendly way.

Close up of a hand holding a red/brown dragonfly by the base of its wings.
A cardinal meadowhawk caught by a community science dragonfly surveyor Litza Lovell.

The results were even more positive than we expected. More than two dozen adults and kids came to the combined events. Some families had so much fun on the first day that they came back for the second one! A huge part of our success was due to Creations for Cures, who joined us at Tegart Pond with art supplies and art kits for kids to take home. Kids (and adults) of all ages made dragonfly arts and crafts and learned all about dragonflies and damselflies. But the star of the show was the dragonflies themselves. Our junior surveyors caught cardinal meadowhawks, pacific forktails, blue-eyed darkners, and many other species of dragonflies and damselflies.

Like Science in the Park, which we featured in a previous blog post, Dragonfly Days is a special kind of nature education. It gives parents and kids the opportunity to experience hands-on learning together in the outdoors. At Johnson Creek Watershed Council, we think this is an important way for people of all ages to learn, and we’re excited to continue offering these kinds of programs. In fact, we hope to offer a second Science in the Park event later this summer, plus more Dragonfly Days next year. Keep your eye on our events calendar for exciting new events!

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