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Posts Tagged ‘Big Bluet’

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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When a Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) traps a prey in its web, it often moves so quickly to wrap it up completely that it is difficult to identify the prey. That was not the case with the damselfly that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it was being encased in a silken shroud.

The damselfly looks to be a bluet damselfly and if pressed, I’d guess that it might be a Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) or possibly a Big Bluet (Enallagma durum). The spider seems to be experiencing the same kind of problem that I encounter when I am trying to wrap an awkwardly-shaped present at Christmas time—it is hard to be neat and tidy, the process uses up lots of wrapping material, and the package always end up irregularly shaped and easy to identify.

spider and damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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We usually think of springtime as the season of love, but apparently autumn is also a good season if you are a damselfly. I don’t know what was so special about this one plant sticking out of the water, but mating damselfly couples seemed to be competing for a spot to land and deposit their eggs on it this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

I’m no expert when it comes to identifying damselflies, in part because so many different species have similar patterns of black and blue, but I think these couples, all in the tandem position, may be Big Bluets (Enallagma durum). I’d welcome any corrections or confirmation of my initial identification.

UPDATE:  My local odonate expert, Walter Sanford, weighed in with a correction to my identification—these damselflies are Familiar Bluets (Enallagma civile), not Great Bluets. When it comes to my initial identification, you might say that I blew it.

For those who might be curious about the technical aspects of the photo, I took this with my Canon 50D at 600mm on my Tamron 150-600mm lens, which is the equivalent of 960mm when you take into account the crop sensor of my camera. I continue to be pleased with the amount of detail that I can capture with the relatively affordable long lens, even when it’s extended to its maximum length. If you click on the image, you can see even more of those wonderful details.

mating damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When photographing a subject, how important are the surroundings to you? Most of you know that I like close-up shots and often I zoom in or crop to the point where you don’t have a good sense of the environment.

This past weekend, I went for a walk along the Potomac River (on the Virginia side) and observed a lot of damselflies. I had my Tamron 150-600mm lens on my camera and soon realized that I had a problem—even at the minimum focusing distance (approximately 9 feet/2.7 meters), there was no way that I could fill the frame with a damselfly.

Still, I was drawn to the beauty of the damselflies, which I believe are Blue-tipped Dancers (Argia tibialis), and I took quite a few shots of them.

As I reviewed the images on my computer, I realized how much I liked the organic feel of the natural surroundings. In the first shot, there are lots of vines on the surface of the rock on which the damselfly is perched that add texture and visual interest. In the second shot, I love the twist in the vine and the single leaf hanging down.

All in all, the surroundings on these two shots were so interesting that I didn’t feel any desire to crop the images more severely, and the environment has become just as much the subject as the damselfly. It’s probably worth remembering this the next time when I am tempted to move in really close to a subject—I should at least attempt to get some environmental shots too.

UPDATE:  It looks like my initial identification was off—there are lots of blue damselflies and this one more probably is a Big Bluet (Enallagma durum). Thanks to my local odonata expert, Walter Sanford, for the assist.

Blue-tipped Dancer

Blue-tipped Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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