A guide to finding Odes in Philadelphia county by Navin Sasikumar
(Note: This is not an exhaustive list and only includes places I’ve visited and species I’ve seen in the county)
Where to Find Them
John Heinz NWR
This is one of the best places to find dragonflies and damselflies in Philadelphia. A few different habitat types adds to a diversity of species as well. Some rarities like state first Needham’s Skimmer and Four-spotted Pennant have been discovered here.
Once you enter, explore the trail between the meadow and creek edges before the parking lot. Species like Blue-fronted Dancer are common here and you may find some rarer species over the creek like Russet-tipped Clubtails. At the end of that section of the trail, scan the small vernal pool by the outdoor restrooms for forktails including Rambur’s Forktail.
Once you have explored the creek and trail edges, go to the boardwalk via the dike road and scan the large impoundment which has a lot of emergent vegetation with spatterdock and cattails on the shallower ends. Common species like Blue Dasher, Common Green Darners, Eastern Pondhawks, Common Whitetails, Fragile and Eastern Forktails are abundant here. Other expected species include Eastern Amberwings, Halloween Pennants, Orange and Familiar Bluets, Widow Skimmers, Autumn Meadowhawks, Black Saddlebags, etc. The rare Needham’s Skimmer and Four-spotted Pennant have also been found here. Scan overhead for Wandering Gliders.
Cross the boardwalk and head towards the little boardwalk. Some of the same species from before can be found here as well, sometimes affording closer views. Continue past towards Haul Road and finally the Frog Pond. Scan the edges of the woods for species like Blue-faced Meadowhawk.
The Frog Pond is a small pond with lots of emergent vegetation. If some of the vegetation blocking pond views has been cut, you can get good looks at species like Azure Bluets, Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Carolina Saddlebags, Spot-winged Gliders, etc in addition to some already mentioned species above. Bar-winged Skimmer has also been seen here.
Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education (SCEE)
This is another good place to see odonates with the diversity of habitat available. If you start at the center, search the ‘Fire Pond’ right in front of the center for common species like Blue Dashers, Common Whitetail and Eastern Pondhawks. If you start at the Hagy’s Mill Parking lot, take the trail to head towards the Wind Dance pond. Along the trail, search for species like Blue Dashers, Azure and Familiar Bluets and Swamp Darners. Scan the woods edge and along meadows for Slaty and Painted Skimmers.
The Wind Dance pond is usually host for a diverse number of dragonflies. Common species include Blue Dashers, Common Whitetail, Slaty, Twelve-spotted and Great Blue Skimmers, Eastern Pondhawks, Black and Carolina Saddlebags, Common Green Darners. If you scan lower in the vegetation, you’ll see damselflies like Fragile and Eastern Forktails, and Azure and Orange Bluets. Unicorn Clubtails and Comet Darners have also been seen here.
If you started at the Educational Center, you can explore the Ravine Loop first before you check out the Wind Dance Pond. The Ravine Loop has a creek that runs in dense shaded woods. This place is good for species that prefer shaded flowing water like Ebony Jewelwings and Orange Bluets. While I have not seen them myself, Shadow Darners are also known to occur here. Along the check, out out any ponds you come across for other pond species that you might have missed earlier. The trails are also known to have Great Spreadwings in the fall.
Pennypack Creek – Krewstown Road
This is a great spot for species that prefer running water. Park at the Krewstown Parking Lot and head out north on the trails. Scan the trail for Blue-fronted Dancers. Walk down to the first stream access just past the bridge. This is a good spot to get all recorded species of Dancers in Philadelphia. More Blue-fronted Dancers should be around, but mixed in should be Dusky, Variable and Powdered Dancers. You’ll find plenty of Stream Bluets patrolling the edge of the stream as well. Scan over the water and the rapids under the bridge for species like Prince Baskettails.
Next, continue along the trails following the creek. Continue scanning the edges for Stream Bluets and dancers you might have missed. As you get into more shaded territory, look for dragonflies that may be flying around in the shade. You can find Ebony Jewelwings and Fawn Darners here.
Pleasant Hill Park
This is a good spot to see Big Bluets. From the parking lot, head towards the boat ramp and scan the overhanging vegetation for Big Bluets. Continue along the trail beside the river, scanning for Big Bluets and other odes. Eastern Pondhawks and Common Whitetails should be flying around here as well.
Next head over to the Fish Hatchery ponds. There is a lot of low emergent vegetation here. Scan the plants for forktails, both Eastern and Fragile. Bluets like Orange and Slender Bluets can be found here as well, and dragonflies like Blue Dasher, Eastern Amberwing and Eastern Pondhawk should be flying around. Skimming Bluet has also been seen here (not by me).
Trails around a reservoir. Look for species like Azure Bluets, Fragile and Eastern Forktails, Blue Dasher and Eastern Pondhawk. Slender Spreadwing has also been seen here. There is also a record for Calico Pennant (not seen by me) from here.
Nothing out of the ordinary here. Good for common pond species like Blue Dasher, Eastern Amberwing, Slaty Skimmer, Eastern Pondhawk, Common Whitetail, Fragile and Eastern Forktails, Familiar Bluet, etc.
Note: Endangered or threatened species locations may be obscured on iNaturalist maps
Note 2: Species seen by others but not included here: Skimming Bluet, Calico Pennant, Great Spreadwing, Tiger Spiketail, Common Baskettail, Stream Cruiser, Black-shouldered Spinyleg, Dragonhunter, American Rubyspot, Shadow Darner
Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)
Common; open fields, roads, parking lots
Top Spots: Often seen near cars and parking lots| Map of iNaturalist Observations
Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)
Pond Damsels (Coenagrionidae)
Azure Bluet (Enallagma aspersum)
Stream Bluet (Enallagma exsulans)
Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum)
Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita)