Migration Monitoring


Black-Saddlebags-J_abbot-305px Migration Monitoring collects reports from volunteers on the fall and spring movement of dragonflies, with emphasis on the five main migratory species in North America. Participants monitor the timing, duration, and direction of travel of migrating dragonflies, and note any additional behaviors observed in a directed migratory flight such as feeding or mating. When gathered across a wide geographic range and throughout a span of years, these data will provide answers to questions about which species are regular migrants; the frequency and timing of migration in different species; sources, routes, and destinations of migrants; and patterns of reproduction, emergence, and movement among migratory dragonflies along their flight paths.

Please read below to get started on tracking the fall and spring movement of the five focal species and submitting data.

The MDP needs your help to contribute to our growing knowledge of dragonfly migration! Click on a photo below to learn about the five focal dragonfly species and continue reading to see how to participate in MDP’s Migration Monitoring Project.

Focal Species


How to Get Started

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Collect seasonal data
Fall Migration: Collect data on directed movements of large migratory flights.

Spring Migration: Collect data on first sightings of dragonflies in your area.

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Log on
Log into the MDP website or create an account. If you already have an Odonata Central your OC username and password will automatically allow you to log on to the MDP site.
Log on to MDP!
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Submit your observation
From the MDP website navigate to “Observations > Enter New Migratory Observation.” Fill in your collected data and information about your observation.
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Add more observations
Now that you’ve created a locality, you can record additional observations by navigating to “Observations > My Observations” to this same locality or create a new locality.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Migration Monitoring?

Volunteer monitors across Canada, Mexico, and the United States will track the spring and fall movements of the five most common migratory dragonfly species in North America – Common Green Darner (Anax junius), Variegated Meadowhawk (Sympetrum corruptum), Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), Spot-Winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea), and Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).

Why monitor dragonfly migration?

Collecting information about dragonfly movements will increase our knowledge of the timing and location of dragonfly migration across North America. When gathered across a span of years, these data will provide answers to questions about which species are regular migrants; the frequency and timing of migration in different species; the sources, routes and destinations of migrants; and patterns of reproduction, emergence, and movement among migratory dragonflies along their flight paths.

What is the difference between spring and fall observations?

Fall observations: Participants monitor the timing, duration, and direction of travel of migratory dragonflies, identify the species involved as best they can, and note any behaviors observed in a migratory group such as mating, oviposition, or feeding. When gathered across a span of years, these data will provide answers to questions about which species are regular migrants; the frequency and timing of migration in different species; the sources, routes and destinations of migrants; and patterns of reproduction, emergence, and movement among migratory dragonflies along their flight paths.

Spring observations: Participants may incidentally observe spring migrants that are returning to the north from their overwintering grounds. As you go about your day-to-day routines and make an observation during spring (up until the beginning of June) you can record your observations through the spring migration protocol. However, because movements of spring migrants do not occur as large directional flights (as seen during fall migrations) and may be very diffuse and sporadic, data submission for sightings for fall vs. spring migrants is recorded differently on the MDP website. This protocol is suited for individuals who are not able to make frequent and repeated observations at dedicated Pond Watch sites but wish to contribute incidental sightings of migrant species during spring, and for Pond Watch participants who make a “first of the year” sighting away from their Pond Watch locality.

Who can participate?

Anyone who has an interest in dragonfly ecology and would like to contribute to our growing knowledge about dragonfly migration in North America.

How can I get involved?

As you go about your daily routines, you may make incidental observations of any of the five focal species: Common Green Darner, Black Saddlebags, Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, and Variegated Meadowhawk.

Fall migration: These may be large, directed flights of dragonflies. Dragonfly migrations tend to follow topographic features such as coastlines, lake shores, cliffs, and ridges. Collect data on directed movements of large migratory flights. During late July through October, participants should report sightings of massive directional swarms of migrants and try to identify the species involved in the flight. Participants should keep regular watch for migratory species as they go about their daily activities. Collect data on your location, dragonfly species present in the flight, number of individuals or a timed count, direction of flight, weather conditions, and when possible, capture photo vouchers. Submit your observations to the MDP website.

Spring migration: These observations may be first sightings of dragonflies in your area. Participants may incidentally observe spring migrants that are returning to the north from their overwintering grounds. As you go about your day-to-day routines and make an observation during spring (up until the beginning of June) you can record your observations through the spring migration protocol. However, because movements of spring migrants do not occur as large directed flights and may be very diffuse and sporadic, data submission for sightings for fall vs spring migrants is recorded differently on the MDP website. Observe and record the species present, location, and date on the MDP website.

What if I witness a directed fall migratory flight at my local Pond Watch site?

Data collected on a fall migratory flight should be entered as a Migration Monitoring observation; regardless of your location. On the MDP website, you can navigate to “Observations > Enter New Migratory Observation” and then choose your saved locality when asked to “Choose a locality”. Continue to enter requested information.

I just saw thousands of dragonflies flying south, but I can’t be sure of what species they were. Does that mean I shouldn’t record my observation?

Please record any observations of fall migration to the south– it’s critically important that we know where and when migration is taking place, even if you aren’t sure of the species involved! We know it can be hard to identify dragonflies if they’re flying nonstop 30 feet above your head; for that reason, the drop-down box that appears for species when recording a fall flight includes choices as broad as “dragonflies”, “darners”, and “meadowhawks” in addition to the individual species names.

Do I need experience to participate?

No prior experience with dragonflies is needed–recognizing these five species is easy to learn! Check out the MDP field guide and protocols below to start learning how to identify these species and how to collect data. Click on the above photos of the five focal species to learn more about each and visit the photo gallery at OdonataCentral to see an array of photos of Common Green Darner, Black Saddlebags, Wandering Glider, Spot-winged Glider, and Variegated Meadowhawk.


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