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Posts Tagged ‘Anax junius’

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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