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Archive for the ‘dragonfly’ Category

Emerging is a dangerous experience for dragonflies and doubly so when they do it in the rain. As the water-dwelling nymph is transformed into a beautiful aerial acrobat, it is very vulnerable to predators and weather. Initially the wings are extremely fragile and it takes some time for them to harden enough to permit flying.

On Monday, it was drizzling when I spotted this female Banded Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis fasciata) at a small pond in Northern Virginia. Its metamorphosis is almost complete and I am optimistic that it managed to weather the storm and survive its transformation. If you double click on the image, you can see it in higher resolution and see some of the wonderful details and patterns of its body and wings, as well as some drops of rain.

In case you are curious about a dragonfly’s magical metamorphosis, I was able to observe entire process two years ago with a Common Sanddragon dragonfly and documented it in a series of 15 photos in a blog posting entitled Metamorphosis of a dragonfly. The images are pretty intense and utterly amazing—I encourage you to check them out.

Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you like to go off in pursuit of rare and exotic species to photograph? Most of the time I am content to travel again and again to familiar places, searching for both old and new species to photograph.

Yet I guess that I have a bit of an adventurous streak too, for my interest sparked when fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford informed me that he had spotted one of the rarest dragonfly species in our area, the Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi). What makes this dragonfly so rare is that it is found only in a very specific type of habitat and it only for a very short period of time each year.

I was still a bit jet-lagged this past Saturday morning, having returned the previous afternoon from my week-long trip to Brussels, but decided to see if I could find this elusive dragonfly. Walter and I had searched for dragonflies in this area before, so I more or less understood where he had seen the Sable Clubtail dragonflies when he described the location to me.

In retrospect, though, I probably should have done a little more homework, because I suddenly realized as I began my search that I didn’t know very well the distinguishing characteristics of a Sable Clubtail. I knew that the tip of its “tail” (actually its abdomen) was somewhat enlarged, because it was part of the “clubtail” family and I remembered from a photo that extreme end of the “tail” was curved. Beyond that, I was somewhat clueless and I was a little disappointed later in the day when I thought that I had not seen a Sable Clubtail dragonfly, but only some Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies.

I am happy to say that I was wrong in my identification of the species that I had photographed—in my ignorance, I had missed some diagnostic clues that should have told me immediately that I was shooting a Sable Clubtail. Of course, if you never have seen a species before, it’s easy to categorize it as something that you have seen.

Here are a few images from my encounter with a Sable Clubtail. The different angles any varying perches help to highlight the beautiful markings of this dragonfly and its very striking eyes.

I am not quite ready to quit my job and travel the world in search for rare dragonflies, but it was exciting to play the role of an adventurer for a day—a tiny bit of Indiana Jones—and gratifying that I was able to find the treasure that I was seeking, the Sable Clubtail dragonfly.

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many dragonflies are colored with muted shades of green and brown and blend in well with their environments. Some, though, are more boldly colored and are hard to miss when they are present.

That is definitely the case for this Scarlet Darter dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea) that I spotted last week at the Rouge-Cloître Park in Brussels, Belgium. I first noticed the bright red color of this dragonfly when it zoomed across my line of sight and I was thrilled later in the day when one accommodated me by landing on the ground not far from where I was standing.

Scarlet Darter

Scarlet Darter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s amazing how many different species of dragonflies I have been able to spot and photograph during my brief stay here in Brussels, Belgium. One new species for me is the Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)—there were quite a few members of this species active at a pond in the Rouge-Cloître park. Unlike some of the species that I have seen here, this species is also found in North America, where it is known as the “Four-spotted Skimmer.”

This species is so popular that,  according to one website, it won a contest in 1995 to become the state insect of the state of Alaska. That may sound a bit strange to some readers, but personally I am happy that it beat out competitors that included the mosquito. (I have heard stories that mosquitoes in Alaska are large and aggressive and possibly are even larger than dragonflies, though that may be a slight exaggeration.)

Four-spotted Chaser

Four-spotted Chaser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At several locations during this visit to Brussels, I have spotted large blue-and-green dragonflies flying patrols back and forth over the water. They reminded me a lot of the Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) that I see fairly often in my home area of Northern Virginia. I suspected correctly that Common Green Darners are a North American species and that the dragonflies that I was observing were European “cousins.”

It was not hard to establish that these are Emperor dragonflies (Anax imperator), a species that is also referred to as “Blue Emperor.” Because of their size and the fact that their territory seemed to be pretty small, it was easy to track the Blue Emperor dragonflies visually when they were flying. I had to wait a long time, however, for them to perch and then move quickly to get a shot when they did so. Their rest breaks frequently lasted only a few seconds and then they would begin to fly again.

I really like the blue and green color combination and the way that these colors coexist in both the bodies and in the eyes of these beautiful dragonflies.

Emperor dragonfly

Emperor dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During this past weekend here in Brussels, I managed to find some really cool dragonflies, like this Green-eyed Hawker (Anaciaeschna isoceles or Aeshna isoceles) that I spotted at a pond in the Rouge-Cloître (Red Cloister) Park. This rather large dragonfly, also known as a Norfolk Hawker, is really striking as it flies, with a combination of colors that I have never seen before on a dragonfly.

With a bit of persistence and a lot of luck, I managed to capture an in-flight shot of a Green-eyed Hawker, but mostly I waited and waited for one to land. It was a little frustrating when one of them would land in a location that was too far away or in a location that did not afford me a clear shot, but eventually I was able to capture some images of a perching Green-eyed Hawker.

I was happy to capture the last photo that shows the yellow triangle on the upper part of the abdomen that is responsible for the “isoceles” portion of the Latin name of the species.

Green-eyed Hawker

Green-eyed Hawker

Green-eyed Hawker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most dragonflies have clear wings and different colors and patterns on their bodies. Some dragonflies, however, have patterns on their wings too that I think really accentuates their beauty and makes them particularly striking.

The first shot below shows a female Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) that I spotted in mid-May at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The second shot shows a male Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) that I spotted in late May at a small pond in Prince William County in Northern Virginia.

Calico Pennant

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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