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Archive for the ‘dragonfly’ Category

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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A breeze was blowing on Saturday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and this male Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) seemed to be struggling to maintain its perch as it was buffeted from side to side.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I watched a dragonfly flying around in the air for quite some time yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was thrilled when it finally perched for a moment on some vegetation low to the ground. Initially I thought that it was a Wandering Glider, a migratory species that I had seen a few times previously at this wildlife refuge.

After I posted an image to a couple of Facebook dragonfly fora, I learned that the dragonfly was in fact not a Wandering Glider, but instead was a close relative, a Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea). I like the way that Kevin Munroe described this species on his website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia—”Along with the Wandering Glider, this is the albatross of the dragonfly world. Both species are highly-evolved for sustained, efficient flight, drifting over summer fields for hours, like sea birds over a green ocean.”

If you look closely at this dragonfly’s hind wings, you will see that they are broader and appear less fragile than those of many other dragonflies. According to Dennis Paulson in his book Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, within the genus Pantala, “The very broad hindwings represent an important adaptation for gliding, as does the ability to deposit fat and then use it for energy during a long flight just as a migratory bird does.”

It boggles my mind to think of these tiny creatures migrating for hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles. Wow!

 

Spot-winged Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What a difference a background makes. Recently I have been seeing a lot of beautiful female Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is often a challenge to try to separate them from the background vegetation so that you can focus in on the dragonfly’s wonderful details, like its gorgeous speckled green eyes.

Here are two images that I was able to capture with uncluttered backdrops, one with sky and one with vegetation. I tend to like the first shot a little bit more because of the beautiful blue sky, though I like the lighting and the wonderful Eastern gamagrass in the second shot.

It is fascinating to see what a different feel the background gives to images of similar subjects. Do you prefer one image over the other?

Needham's Skimmer

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Happy 4th of July! It is Independence Day here in the USA and in honor of this holiday I thought I’d post this shot of a patriotic Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) that was sporting a bit of red, white, and blue on its head this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. (Be sure to click on the image to see a higher resolution version of the dragonfly that shows the tiny hairs on its thorax (the torso) and its legs.)

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Some of my readers know that I especially love dragonflies with patterned wings and one of my favorites is the Halloween Pennnant (Celithemis eponina). Despite its name, it is a summertime dragonfly and I was thrilled to spot a beautiful female Halloween Pennant yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The “Halloween” part of its name comes from the orange-brown color of its wings. The “pennant” comes from this predisposition of members of this genus to perch on the very tip of vegetation, which causes them to wave back in forth in even the slightest breeze.

In the photo below, the Halloween Pennant is perched on a stalk of very distinctive Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). I have frequently seen this kind of grass with red bits hanging from its stalks, but it was only yesterday that I learned what it was called from fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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It is easy to be so dazzled by the beauty and the aerial skills of dragonflies that you forget that they are also fearsome predators. I had a stark reminder of this grim reality on Friday when I encountered a Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) that had captured a Hackberry Emperor butterfly (Asterocampa celtis) at Riverbend Park. The dragonfly was starting to consume the butterfly and in the photo below almost appears to be suspended in mid-air.

In the past I have observed dragonflies with small butterflies, but this was the first time to see one with a larger butterfly. I really like butterflies and so I felt a mixture of horror and fascination when I stumbled upon this scene. Life in the wild can be brutal and today’s predators can become tomorrow’s prey—a fellow photographer posted a photo yesterday of a bird that had captured a dragonfly.

All in all, this moment served as a sober reminder to me of the fragility of life and of beauty. Somehow it brings to mind a country music song that I really like by Tim McGraw, a song that recommends that you live like you were dying. If you have not familiar with the song or simply want to hear it again, check out the official music video here on YouTube.

Cobra Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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