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Archive for the ‘damselfly’ Category

Orange is one of the colors that I tend to associate with autumn. Some leaves are already turning orange and pumpkin decorations and displays have started to appear on my neighbors’ doorsteps.

As I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge yesterday morning, my eyes detected some motion in the nearby grass. I leaned forward and was delighted to see this tiny damselfly decked out in the colors of Halloween—orange and black. I had no idea what species it was, but fortunately I have a really good guide for damselflies and was able to identify it as an immature female Eastern Forktail damselfly (Ischnura verticalis).

Although there are already lots of symbols for autumn, I think this tiny damselfly could be added to the list.

Eastern Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I was delighted to capture this image of one of my favorite damselflies, the beautifully colored Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis), while exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The red and yellow colors of the vegetation are vaguely autumn-like, a reminder that the clock is ticking for the end of the dragonfly/damselfly season this year. If only I could slow down the passage of time.

Variable Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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It was cool and wet on Monday and clouds covered the entire sky, but I felt an irresistible need to return to the wild after a week in the urban confines of Brussels, Belgium. Many of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my recent favorite shooting location, were blocked by standing water and there was not a great abundance of wildlife to be seen.

Most dragonflies prefer warm, sunny weather, so I was not surprised when I did not see many of them. I was happy, though, to see that damselflies were active and I spent quite a bit of time trying to capture images of them. They seemed more skittish than normal and the poor lighting made it tough to keep my shutter speed high enough to keep my images from being blurry.

This is one of my favorite damselfly shots of the day. I was able to isolate the subject, which I believe is a male Big Bluet (Enallagma durum) damselfly, while still including enough of the vegetation to give you a sense of the environment in which I found him.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of these two insects as they perched on the same stalk of vegetation this past weekend at the botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. Their postures suggest to me a heightened sense of alertness and a kind of wariness. The much smaller damselfly at the top seems to be cautiously looking down over its shoulder at the Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta), who appears to be focusing his attention upward. Was it a sign of curiosity or one of hunger? There was never any sign of direct aggression, but I note that the damselfly was the first one to take off and the dragonfly did not pursue it.

For those of you who are not as hooked on dragonflies as I am, this image shows pretty clearly some of the differences in the body shape and eye positions of a damselfly versus a dragonfly. It is important, though, to keep in mind the amazing diversity within the community of dragonflies and damselflies in terms of color, size, and behavior—these are some of the reasons why I am drawn to them as subjects for my photography.

friend or foe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I spotted these two damselflies, which an expert identified as probable Big Bluets (Enallagma durum), I initially thought they were mating. Then I realized that the positions were all wrong and the nibbling on the neck was probably indicative of a literal hunger. Yikes.

As Tina Turner once sang, “What’s love got to do with it?”

damselflies

daamselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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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