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Posts Tagged ‘Anax junius’

When they are mating, many dragonflies adopt a very conspicuous heart-shaped “wheel” position, like this pair of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The process begins when the male, in this case the dragonfly with the blue abdomen, grabs a female by the back of her neck with claspers at the end of his abdomen that fit into species-specific grooves in the female. The two dragonflies are then hooked together, often for extended periods of time.

I couldn’t help but notice the sharp thorns on the branch that these dragonflies had selected for their encounter. Yikes—that is living life on the edge. After I took some photos, feeling a little like a voyeur, I decided to give the couple some privacy. When I circled back a short time time later, the dragonflies were gone, presumably having done their part to perpetuate the species.

common green darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last Friday I photographed my first dragonflies of the spring, a male Common Green Darner (Anax junius) and a female Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus). The Common Green Darner is probably a migratory dragonfly that is just passing through as it heads north—we do have local-born members of this species, but it is too early for them to have emerged.

The Ashy Clubtail, which was actually the first dragonfly that I photographed, almost certainly emerged locally. When a dragonfly emerges, its wings are really shiny and the wings of this Ashy Clubtail were definitely sparkling in the sunlight. According to the local flight calendar, the Ashy Clubtail is one of the earliest dragonflies in our area to emerge, but I have never seen one this early before.

As you can see, I captured the images of both of these dragonflies when they were perched flat on the ground. There were dry leaves all around, which made a stealthy approach almost impossible and focusing on the dragonfly was a bit of a challenge.

Common Green Darner

Ashy Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I spotted this male Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) while exploring with fellow photographer and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford . This beauty was part of a swarm of dragonflies we observed that was probably preparing for migration.

As I processed these images I was struck by the wonderful range of colors on this dragonfly’s body. As its name suggests, a Common Green Darner has lots of green, but this one also has beautiful shades of blue and violet. I have included two images that may look very similar, but in fact were taken with two different cameras from the same spot.

In the first shot, I zoomed in close with my SX50 super zoom camera to try to capture as much detail as I could. I took the second shot with a fixed-focus lens. The heavy vegetation did not permit me to get any closer, so I tried to compose the image to include more of the environment.

Personally I like the second shot a bit more than the first—I prefer the additional “breathing space” around the subject and I think the second shot is a little sharper. Do you prefer one of them over the other?

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I spotted this freshly emerged female Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  It won’t be long before it will be time for her to migrate southward. Yes, some dragonflies actually migrate.

When I first started getting into dragonflies, it never struck me that dragonflies could travel long distances. I figured that they lived and died in a relatively confined geographic area. Although that may be true for some dragonfly species, that is not the case for the Common Green Darner. One of my favorite websites, Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, describes the amazing saga of this species in these words:

“They emerge in the Southeast and fly north, arriving here late March thru May. After their long flight, they mate, lay eggs and die. Their young emerge in July and August. Congregating in large swarms, this 2nd generation begins flying south in September. They lay eggs that fall, after arriving in their southern destinations, and die. When their young hatch in March, they fly back to Northern Virginia and it starts again – a two generation migration.”

Many of us have gotten used to using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to help us navigate or use Google Maps. How do these dragonflies know where to go? How do they find a destination that they have never visited before? It boggles my mind and fills me with awe and wonder when I contemplate questions like these.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During my church retreat in Orkney Springs, Virginia this past weekend, I played hide-and-seek with a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). It repeatedly flew teasingly close to me, trying to entice me to chase it.  I took the bait and pursued the big dragonfly for quite some time as it flew in and out of the reeds.

It tried to hide by hanging from some vegetation by the tips of its tiny toes—the second photo shows my initial view of the hidden dragonfly. By moving to the side and crouching low, I was able to peer through the vegetation and eventually spot the dragonfly. Realizing that it was found, the dragonfly tilted its head toward me and smiled, as you can see in the first image shown below.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Sometimes I can identify a dragonfly by the way that it perches. Some dragonflies like to perch high on the tip of vegetation and some perch low to the ground or even on the ground itself. Some will hang vertically or perch horizontally or at an angle somewhere in between.

On the rare occasions in the past when I have seen a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) perch (usually I see them in the air), it has usually been in vegetation relatively low to the ground. I was therefore surprised to see one spreadeagled on the side of a tree on Monday at Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland. Of course, the bright green color and the bull’s-eye pattern on the face made it easy to identify this dragonfly, despite her unconventional perching pattern.

I have learned from experience that the wildlife subjects that I love to photograph often do not look or act the way in the ways described in books. They are may also be found in different habitats or at different times than the range maps indicate. That is what makes this type of photography so challenging and so rewarding and it means I have to be constantly alert and vigilant when out in the field.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally when I see a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) it is patrolling in the air and it is mostly a greenish blur. This past Friday, however, I was fortunate enough to spot one on the ground, nestled low in the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At this closer distance I was able to marvel at all of the wonderful colors of this beautiful dragonfly.

Be sure to click on the images to see the details of this dragonfly at higher resolution.  Did you notice the blue color near the tip of its “nose?”

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Are you patient and persistent? If so, you have the right temperament to try to photograph dragonflies in flight. Every dragonfly season I spent endless hours in mostly fruitless attempts to capture in-flight images of dragonflies. One of my friends on Facebook described this as “a near impossible task” and, of course, she is right.

My first somewhat successful effort this year was a shot of a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) patrolling above one of the paths at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last Friday. As you might suspect, getting the moving dragonfly in focus is one of the biggest challenges, because the subject is too small for the camera’s autofocus to engage. Sometimes I will focus manually as I track the dragonfly and sometimes I will use a zone focusing technique in which I preset the focusing distance and wait (and hope) for the dragonfly to fly into the zone.

A near impossible task? It certainly is, but I enjoy the challenge the way that its pursuit confounds observers—one such observer watched me closely for several minutes on Friday and couldn’t figure out what I was trying to photograph.

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonflies are one of my favorite subjects to photograph and each spring I eagerly await their reappearance. Yesterday I captured my first image of one this season, a beautiful Common Green Darner (Anax junius) that I spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Common Green Darners are a migratory species and the ones that we see in early spring, like the one in the photograph, probably flew here from somewhere further south. Once they arrive, they have a series of tasks to accomplish—they mate, lay eggs, and die. The next generation of Green Darners will emerge in a few months and fly south in the autumn. That generation will die in the south and the following generation will fly north in the spring.

What an amazing life cycle!

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to spend some time hanging out with this Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). The range of colors on its body is so remarkable that I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I zoomed in on it. An expert in a dragonfly forum on Facebook noted to me that the dragonfly is a teneral one, which means that it has only newly emerged. That would account for its relatively pale, almost pastel coloration and the perfect condition of its wings. If you click on the image, you can see even better some of the remarkable details of this dragonfly, like the colorful pattern on its “nose.”

The beautiful dragonfly was hanging vertically only a few inches above the ground, in a pretty safe location. I kept my distance as I took some photos and departed quietly, conscious of the fact that a dragonfly is fragile and vulnerable at this early stage of development. It remained in place as I slowly slipped away.

Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that the weather is warming up, I am searching in earnest for dragonflies, one of my favorite subjects to photograph. I am still having difficulties locating native-born species, but fortunately there are some migratory species in the area. Yesterday I spotted this Common Green Darner (Anax junius) dragonfly couple in tandem, with the male holding on as the female deposited her eggs in the floating vegetation.

In some dragonfly species the male will hover above the female as she oviposits, but in others, like the Common Green Darner, the male remains attached. I suspect that this method is one way of ensuring that the eggs that the male has fertilized are deposited before the female hooks up with another male.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was preparing to leave work yesterday, one of my co-workers reminded me to wear something green today to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Some people go a little crazy on this day, drinking green beer and consuming food that has been dyed to an unnaturally bright shade of green.

To celebrate the day, I thought I’d reprise a few photos of some of my favorite green creatures, including the Common Green Darner (Anax junius), the Green Heron (Butorides virescens), a green metallic bee, and little green frogs. If you are viewing the images in the blog itself (and not the Reader), click on any one of the photos to see a larger image in slide-show mode.

For those of you also celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, be safe and have fun.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been seeing Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) hunting high over the fields the last couple of weeks as they prepare for migration, but have not been able to get any shots of them. In theory, they are easier to photograph when they land, but these dragonflies like to hang vertically low to the ground, often in areas with heavy vegetation. I have been repeated frustrated by spotting them only after they have taken to the air as I got close to them.

This past Friday, though, I saw one land nearby when I was already in a field of waist-high vegetation. Judging from the blue abdomen, it’s a male Common Green Darner. I was struck by the relatively dark color of much of the abdomen of this particular individual. When doing a little research at my favorite website for local dragonflies, dragonfliesnva.com, I learned that Common Green Darners deal with the problem of cool weather “by having dark-colored platelets in their blood that rise to the surface when it’s cold, darkening their abdomen color, therefore attracting more sun. On bright, hot days, those dark platelets sink, and the abdomen turns bright bluagain, now reflecting light.”

The dragonfly was surrounded by dried vegetation and there was no way that I could get an uncluttered background for my shots. Fortunately, however, the the colors of the vegetation are so muted that the gorgeous blue and green of the dragonfly really stand out. In the first shot, I zoomed all the way to try to capture the maximum amount of detail, while in the second shot I pulled back a little on the zoom to capture the dragonfly’s entire wingspan.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been seeing dragonflies at my local marshland park for a couple of weeks now and yesterday I finally got my first dragonfly shots of the spring. It’s still a little early for the emergence of the local dragonflies, so I was not at all surprised that the dragonflies that I captured were Common Green Darners (Anax junius), a migratory species.

Green Darners spend most of their time flying, rather than perching, so it is pretty tough to take photos of them. In this case, I captured the pair in tandem, as the female was ovipositing in the vegetation of a shallow vernal pool.

As luck would have it, after a day of walking around with my telephoto zoom lens on my camera, I had switched to a macro lens not long before I encountered these dragonflies. My macro lens is 180mm in focal length, but that really didn’t get me close enough to the dragonflies. I tried unsuccessfully to be stealthy in moving closer, but the Green Darners flew away as I drew nearer.

Common Green DarnerCommon Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s migration time for Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) and last week one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, reported a small swarm of Green Darners at my local marshland park.

I was walking in an entirely different area of the park from Walter and was surprised to see Green Darners, which are easily recognized thanks to their coloration and distinctive bullseye on their heads, flying up from the ground as I approached them. Rather than fly off into the distance, which is most often the case when I happen to disturb a dragonfly, these dragonflies moved only a short distance and came to rest again on the ground.

I don’t yet have the ability to interpret the movements of dragonflies, but it seemed to me that these Green Darners were conserving energy, as though they were resting in the midst of a long journey. I tried to be as quiet and stealthy as I could and moved closer and closer to one Green Darner perched near some green moss that was almost a perfect match for the color of the forward portion of her body. Judging from her overall coloration, I think this is probably a female.

My subject was amazingly cooperative and I was able to get shots of this beautiful dragonfly from a number of different angles. Although I normally try to have backgrounds that are must less cluttered than those in these images, I don’t find them to be too distracting here and they do help to show how well this colorful dragonfly blended in with her environment.

Common Green DarnerCommon Green DarnerCommon Green DarnerCommon Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through a meadow at my local marsh this past Monday, dragonflies would take off from the high grass and low vegetation as I approached. Most of them appeared to be Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia), a species that seems to like to perch on the ground.

One of the dragonflies, however, really caught my eye, because it was larger than the rest and was a pastel green in color. At first, I thought it might be a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), one of the few green dragonflies that I have encountered. The green dragonfly flew weakly away and came to rest on some low vegetation a short distance away. As I drew closer, I noted that the dragonfly was hanging from the vegetation and was not perching on it, so I knew it was not an Eastern Pondhawk, which perches horizontally.

When I got a clear look at the dragonfly’s body, I could see that it was shaped like a darner, and I concluded the beautifully-colored dragonfly was probably a young Common Green Darner (Anax junius), judging from its shape and pale coloration. I hadn’t really considered the possibility that this might be a Green Darner, because dragonflies of this species are really strong fliers and I had never seen one behave like this.

I’m going out shooting later today, searching for more beautiful butterflies and dragonflies, enjoying the good news that they are still here with us.

Common Green DarnerCommon Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Spring is here and I am once again chasing dragonflies, on a quest to capture images of these beautiful insects. Common Green Darners (Anax junius) rarely seem to perch, so I was forced to try to photograph them in flight.

This early in the spring, there aren’t yet a lot of dragonflies, so my patience was tested as I waited for one to fly by. I tried a lot of different approaches and the one that worked best on this day was to focus manually, which is a bit of a challenge at 300mm when the subject is moving pretty fast.

I hope I’ll get some better shots later this season—this is my best one so far.

dragonfly_flight_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The weather has gotten warmer, but I was still a bit surprised when I saw my first dragonfly of the year yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marsh. I think that it is a female Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius), one of the species that migrates north after spending the winter in warmer places. This is the only dragonfly that I saw yesterday and I was able to squeeze off a couple of shots before it disappeared. I’m hoping that it won’t be long before I see more dragonflies and butterflies, some of my favorite photographic subjects.

dragonfly_april_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday at my local marsh, I noticed some large dragonflies flying over the cattails and realized that it was migrating season for Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius). I don’t usually think of dragonflies as migratory creatures, but I recall from early spring that Green Darner dragonflies spend their winters in the south and migrate north in the spring (or at least their offspring fly north).

Green Darners are pretty big dragonflies, with bodies up to 3 inches (75mm), so I decided to try to photograph one in mid-flight. Another photographer and I spent almost an hour trying to track and photograph the dragonflies. Unlike other times, when I photographed dragonflies when they were hovering, I was attempting to capture these dragonflies as they were flying at a normal speed, which greatly complicated the task.

I knew that there was no way that I could isolate a flying dragonfly against the green plants of the marsh, so I concentrated on the dragonflies in areas in which I would have the sky as a backdrop. I used my 180mm macro lens and would try to follow a dragonfly in the viewfinder and track it, hoping it would fly close enough for me to attempt a shot. As I was tracking the dragonfly, I would focus manually. Needless to say, my success rate was really low, but I am happy that I managed to get the shot below of what I believe to be a female Green Darner. My fellow photographer, who was using a 70-200 telephoto zoom lens used a different approach and pre-focused on an area and took a shot when a dragonfly entered that capture zone.

It was a beautiful, sunny fall day and I enjoyed this challenge, which gave me a greater appreciation for the aerial skills of dragonflies—they are really tough to track. This practice, though, should help me later in the fall when I start to take more photographs of birds.

flying_dragonfly_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today I saw my first dragonflies of the spring, which I am pretty sure were Common Green Darners (Anax junius). They buzzed by me several times, but never stopped to perch.

I had reconciled myself to the likelihood that I would not get a single shot.  Suddenly a dragonfly that I was chasing stopped and hovered over the water. I have never had any success before in capturing an in-flight image of a dragonfly, but somehow I was able to grab focus and got several pretty good shots. The beautiful, two-toned colors of this dragonfly are amazing.

I look forward to a new season of chasing dragonflies, but suspect that I will have to work hard to top this first dragonfly of the spring.

dragonfly_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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