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Archive for the ‘damselfly’ Category

This image is a little gruesome, but here is a close-up look at an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) as it consumed a damselfly that it had captured this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Virginia. The second image shows a different Eastern Pondhawk with a different damselfly—the pondhawks seemed to have a particularly voracious appetite that day.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Yesterday as I was exploring Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia, I encountered several damselflies that were new to me. When you spend as much time as I do  searching for insects to photograph, you develop a sense of what is “normal” and I am able to decide almost immediately whether a subject is a familiar one or not. Those of you who know my work are aware that familiarity with a subject is not a criterion for photographing it—I am just as likely to take a shot of a common subject as a rare one.

As I looked though my reference books and material on line, I was able to determine that I had captured images of both the male and the female American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana). One of the experts in a Facebook dragonfly forum pointed out the dragonfly in the first photo below is an immature male, which helps to explain why the red spot for which the species is named is not yet prominent.

I won’t go into the details of damselfly anatomy, but if you compare the dragonflies in the two photos, you can see some of the gender differences that often help in identification. The very tip of the abdomen, the part of the body that many folks refer to as the “tail,” is quite different for the male and the female. There is also some color differentiation. Alas, these are general rules that don’t apply in all cases, so I am often confounded when trying to identify the species of a given subject.

It is really cool that I continue to encounter new species. Part of the reason for that, I suspect, is that I am exploring some new locations. More importantly, though, my observational skills have improved dramatically over time and I am seeing things that I might not have noticed several years ago.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What a difference the background makes when photographing a damselfly. This past Friday I saw lots of damselflies as I was exploring Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia. My eyes were repeatedly drawn to one species that a dark abdomen (the “tail” part) and speckled green eyes and I was able to photograph these damselflies in a number of different settings. I usually have problems in identifying damselflies, so I posted the third image below to a Facebook forum and one of the experts there identified it as an immature male Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta).

Normally I prefer to photograph dragonflies and damselflies in a natural environment, but the first photo is definitely an exception. I love the juxtaposition of the rust and corrosion of the curved man-made metal with the lines and color of the damselfly (and the cool shadow was a real bonus). In the second shot, the damselfly is perched on the ground and the unevenness of the surface makes for an intriguing shadow. The setting in the final shot is the most “natural” and the image gives viewers the best overall view of this damselfly species, but it doesn’t grab me as much as the first image.

Powdered DancerPowdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was exploring the edge of the Potomac River yesterday at Riverbend Park, I flushed a fairly large dragonfly. Rather than fly away, it perched in a nearby tree, just above eye level. I suspected that I had interrupted a meal and that it wanted to enjoy its prey in peace.

The dragonfly was in the shade and the light was filtering in from in front of me, so the shadows made it hard to tell exactly what was going on. I fired away anyways, hoping that I would be able to salvage the images afterwards.

It turns out that the dragonfly is a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus). You definitely can see the large spines on the dragonfly’s back legs, which help in capturing and holding prey, and you can sort of see the black shoulders. As I suspected, there was a prey–the dragonfly had captured some kind of damselfly.

I decided to try a couple of different techniques to try to capture a usable image. In the first shot, I used software to adjust the exposure levels and remove some of the shadows, which had the side effect of brightening the entire image and blowing out some of the detail in the background. As a result, the leaves also look a little washed out. In the second shot, I used my camera’s pop-up flash to help eliminate some of the shadows. The resulting image retains a bit more of the full range of tonal values, but may still be a little too dark. Neither image is perfect, but wildlife photography is so often about making compromises.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although many damselflies are black and blue in coloration, I was particularly struck by the powdery blue coloration on the upper body of this damselfly when I first spotted it, a beautiful shade of blue interrupted only by a very thin line of black. I did some searching about on the internet and have concluded that this is probably a Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis).

I really like the way that the blue colors of this damselfly help it stand out in an otherwise mostly monochromatic image. I also enjoy the fact that this damselfly comes from a family of dancers, a term that seems appropriate for these aerial acrobats.

Dance on, tiny damselflies, dance on through the summer.

 

Blue-fronted Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Monday I was thrilled to get a shot of one of my favorite damselflies at Occoquan Regional Park, the beautifully colored Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea), a subspecies of the Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis). I love the color combination of this tiny beauty, a spectacular shade of violet on its body and the wonderful blue accents. Sharp-eyed viewers may have noted that a photo of this same type of damselfly has been my banner image for quite some time.

Violet Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was working on a post earlier today about an unusually colored damselfly, the Citrine Forktail damselfly, I realized that I had not posted any photos of the beautifully colored ones that I saw during my trip to Brussels earlier this month. They were not yellow in color, but instead were a bright red. The first ones that I saw were a couple in the tandem position that is used for mating and also, for some species, when depositing eggs. A few days later I spotted a singleton damselfly perched on some vegetation.

I don’t think that I have seen any red damselflies in Northern Virginia, so I had to do some research. What I discovered is that these damselflies have the very unexciting name of Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). The name seems to fit, but it strikes me that the scientist must have been tired or was otherwise feeling uncreative when he came named the species. This particular species is mainly a European one with some populations in Northern Africa and Western Asia, according to Wikipedia, so I am not at all likely to spot one on my frequent photowalks here.

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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