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Posts Tagged ‘Big Bluet damselfly’

Autumn has officially arrived, but I continue to see damselflies at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, albeit in ever-decreasing numbers. The damselfly in the first photo is a female Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) and the one in the second image is a male Big Bluet (Enallagma durum).

I like the way that I was able to capture hints of the changing season in the images, with the reddish autumn tones in the first shot and the gnawed leaf in the second one.

Familiar Bluet

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Life can be a risky proposition when you are relatively low on the food chain, like a damselfly. Some larger insects may hunt you down while you are flying—see my recent post called Predator that shows an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly consuming a damselfly. Other creatures may try to trap you and then immobilize you.

Several times this past week during visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I have encountered Black and Yellow Garden Orbweaver spiders (Argiope aurantia) that had captured a damselfly. I did not see the actual capture, but the spider in the first photo was in the process of wrapping up the damselfly when I spotted.

Spiders can produce variety of types of silk. In cases like this, the silk (known as aciniform silk) comes out in sheets that look like a gauze bandage and the spider spins around the prey as it wraps it up. If you want to get a better look at how the spider emits these sheets of silk, check out a 2014 posting called Wrapping up a meal. If you have every wrapped presents at Christmas time, you know how difficult it is to wrap an irregularly shaped object. The spider has done an amazing job in making a compact package of the long skinny body and wings of the hapless damselfly—I encourage you to click on the image to see the details of the trapped damselfly.

In the case of the second photo, the spider was content to do a looser wrap, which lets us see the damselfly a little better. I think this damselfly and the one in the first photo are Big Bluets (Enallagma durum), though it is difficult to be certain of the identification.

spider

Big Bluet damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonflies are really fierce predators and will eat almost any insect that they can catch. Some dragonfly species will consume mosquitoes or other small insects while in flight, while others will hunt larger larger insect prey and, if successful, will perch at ground-level in order to enjoy a more leisurely meal.

Although they are not all that big in size, Eastern Pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis) are the species that I most often encounter with a large victim, often another dragonfly or a damselfly. I spotted this female Eastern Pondhawk last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as she was feasting on a hapless Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum).

I apologize if the image is too gruesome for some viewers, but I have grown accustomed to the “circle of life” in nature and recognize that all creatures have to eat. As for today’s predator, the Eastern Pondhawk, she could easily become tomorrow’s prey and be captured by a bird or a larger dragonfly.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is hard to get privacy for some summer loving and rivals may try to interfere when you are a damselfly. That appeared to be the case on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge for this couple of Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) that I spotted in flagrante delicto.

Feeling a little bit like a voyeur, I was focusing on the couple when I was unexpectedly photobombed by a second male Big Bluet. As I noted yesterday, it is challenging to capture images of a flying dragonfly and it is even harder to get an in-flight shot of a damselfly. In this case it was a matter of luck and quick reactions, rather than skill, that allowed me to get the photo of the incoming damselfly.

The couple changed their position a bit, but were undeterred by the intruder.  I was happy to capture the sidewards-heart shape that is typical of mating damselflies and even more thrilled with the way that the colorful background turned out in a preview of fall colors.

big bluet

big bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The number of dragonflies of certain species seems to be dropping as we approach autumn, but there seem to be plenty of Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) still around at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Their bright blue coloration and relatively large size—about 1.3 – 1.7 inches (34 to 44 mm) in length—makes the Big Bluets easy to spot in the vegetation along a trail that runs parallel to the waters of the bay.

One of the big challenges when photographing dragonflies and damselflies is getting the entire subject in focus—their bodies are long and narrow and are often pointing in a direction that makes it impossible to get sufficient depth of field. This male Big Bluet cooperated by perching in a way that allowed me to photograph him from the side. The damselfly is nicely in focus, while the leafy background is mostly out of focus and does not distract the viewer’s eyes from the primary subject.

Yes, the dragonflies and damselflies are still hanging on in my area. I think I will continue to see and photograph them for at least another month or two before I gradually begin to shift my focus towards birds, which will again become my main focus during the colder months of the year.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am fond of challenging myself by photographing difficult subjects like tiny spiders and dragonflies in flight. However, I find equal joy in capturing the beauty of more common subjects in simple portraits, like this image of a male Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) that I spotted on a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Beauty is everywhere.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I spotted this Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) couple in flagrante delicto on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although I could not help but notice the sidewards heart that their bodies form when they are mating, it was the other elements of the scene that really caught my eye. The shapes and shadows of the leaf and its gnawed-away holes all add visual interest and make a perfect backdrop for this little vignette of an intimate moment in the lives of these damselflies.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this damselfly on 2 September at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Initially I thought it was a male Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum), based on its size and markings, but the colors seemed wrong—all of male Big Bluets that I had previously seen were blue.

In situations like this when my identification is uncertain, I normally post an image on one of several Facebook forums devoted to dragonflies and damselflies. Several experts on one of those  forums determined that this is in fact a Big Bluet, but it is an immature one—as it matures it will turn blue.

I am always learning new things as I take photos. Sometimes it is about camera settings and techniques, but more often it is about the subjects that I photograph, like this immature Big Bluet damselfly.

 

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I will often shoot the same subjects over and over again. Each photo opportunity offers the possibility of a difference setting, a different pose, and different lighting conditions. I guess that is why I like the excitement and unpredictability of nature photography versus the more controlled environment of studio photography.

Last week I captured this image of a female Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The single leaf on which the damselfly is perched makes for a simple composition that helps the subject to stand out, which is really important when the subject is so small. The sunlight helped to create a cool elongated shadow on the leaf that add additional visual interest to the shot. The minimal color palette works well too, I think.

Sometimes it is nice to have a little extra drama in our lives, even if it is only a dramatic damselfly.

 

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With a name that includes the word “bluet,” you might expect that this female Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) would be blue, but obviously that is not the case here. There is a blue female variant in this species, but this one appears to be the olive variant.  Damselfly identification is difficult under the best of circumstances, because so many of them share the same colors—only the patterns help you distinguish among them. In this case, size helps a bit too, because Big Bluets are in fact larger than many other damselflies.

As I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge a few days, I was fortunate that this damselfly chose to perch at almost eye level on a stalk of Eastern Gamagrass, which let me get a clear shot with the sky in the background.  Most of the time damselflies like this perch lower to the ground in areas with denser vegetation.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Liaison dangereuse? Living life on the edge? That’s how I would characterize these mating Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Neither of them was harmed during their “activity,” though those thorns look really menacing.

It is definitely not what I would call “safe sex.”

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Recently there seems to have been an explosion of Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This damselfly species is a coastal species and usually likes brackish water. Not surprisingly I saw them repeatedly yesterday as I walked along a trail near the water’s edge.

I like the first shot a lot, because of the repeated angled lines that provide a nice contrast with the damselfly. The second image shows a mating Big Bluet couple in a position known as the “wheel” that is viewed by many as a sidewards heart. As is usually the case with insects and with birds, the male Big Bluet is the more brightly-colored than his female counterpart.

 

Big Bluet

Big Bluet

© 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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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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At first I thought it was love, but looking closer I realized that Tina Turner was right—what’s love got to do with it. Both the predator and the prey in what appears to be an act of cannibalism look to be Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum), which I spotted this past Sunday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The pale coloration of the victim suggests to me that it is newly-emerged, a phase referred to as “teneral.” At this stage of development, dragonflies and damselflies are relatively immobile as their bodies and wings are transforming and are particularly vulnerable.

damselfly cannibalism

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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