Ditmas Park

A Rare Swarm of Dragonflies Visits Prospect Park

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Prospect Park received an unusual mention in this week’s issue of the New Yorker.

In his short essay “Gone South: Flight of the Dragonflies,” Richard Preston recounts witnessing a swarm of dragonflies in the park back in September. This specific breed of dragonfly, the common green darner, is not rare on its own, but its presence here is. Before this most recent occurrence, only two other darner sightings had ever been reported in New York: once, on Long Island, in 1916, and again, much later, over Fire Island in 1992.

Preston, best known for his writings on disease epidemics, describes the experience:

In Prospect Park, thousands of green darners were flashing in the sun everywhere you looked. They were moving through the Long Meadow, a grassy undulant valley that runs through the park in a north-south direction, lined with trees on either side. The dragonflies were using the Long Meadow as a migration corridor. The park was full of people, too– friends lying on blankets, West Indian guys playing cricket. The dragonflies seemed wary of the people, while the people mostly didn’t seem to be aware of the dragonflies. A guy was playing a trumpet under the Meadowpoint Arch, and green darners glittered above his horn. Two little boys ran around and pointed. “I never seen so many dragonflies!” one said.

The green darners slashed and darted through pockets of still air, their wings making soft, crisp noises as they turned for prey. They swung up into the wind and hovered, then would rush forward and nail something that you couldn’t see.

Preston paints the picture vividly, making the whole thing seem so majestic and beautiful that one almost forgets that stumbling into a massive swarm of insects is actually the stuff of nightmares.

Were any of you there to witness it?

Photo: Encyclopaedia Britannica

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