Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Black Saddlebags dragonfly’

I was shocked and thrilled last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I managed to get some shots of Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) at ground level—Black Saddlebags spend most of their time patrolling overhead and only rarely do I see one perched.

If you follow this blog regularly, you may realize that this is the third posting that I have done on this dragonfly species in a little over two weeks. There has been a progression in my shots as I have been able to get closer and closer to these elusive dragonflies.

My first of this little series was called Flying Overhead and I was excited to get capture some in-flight images of Black Saddlebags—the dragonflies were pretty far away and the shots were not super sharp, but you could clearly see the distinctive dark patches on the hind wings. The second posting was called Perching Black Saddlebags and I was ecstatic when I was able to get some shots of Black Saddlebags perched high on some dead branches with the sky in the background.

As a wildlife photographer, I am often happy with my images, but rarely am I fully satisfied. There is a part of me that whispers in my ear that I can always do better. Giving in to that siren’s song, I will often return to the same locations to shoot the same subjects again and again.

I went out a bit earlier than usual on Friday—the sun had already risen, but there was still dew on some of the vegetation. If you look closely at the third shot (you may need to click on it to see the details), you can see water drops on some of the plants. I was stunned when I saw the Black Saddlebags dragonfly almost dive into the greenery from the air and perch really low. I have seen photos of dragonflies covered in dew and I have always aspired to take such a shot—this is not yet that aspirational shot, but I am getting closer to my goal.

I captured the first two shots a bit later in a totally different part of the refuge. Once again the dragonfly chose a low perch and I was able to position myself to capture quite a bit of detail. I was even able to change my shooting angle without spooking the dragonfly.

I am still on the lookout for a few more autumn species that I have not yet seen, so I will be heading out as often as I can, wide-eyed and hopeful that more cool encounters in nature await me.

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) are definitely migrating through my area. I have seen more than a dozen of them overhead during several visits this week to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is really cool to see them hawking for insects in mixed groups that include Common Green Darners and Wandering Gliders, two other species that also migrate.

These three species spend most of their time in flight—they eat while they are flying—and it is rare for me to see one perched. Still, I track them and chase after them, hoping that these long-distance dragonflies will eventually come down to earth for a rest.

On Thursday, my patience was rewarded and I was able to get some shots of perched Black Saddlebags dragonflies. There were actually two individuals that perched briefly on separate branches of a fallen tree during a short period of time. I am not sure if the two shots below are of the same dragonfly or of different ones, but I really like the poses were wonderful in either case.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) like to fly high overhead, back and forth over trails and fields in pursuit of tiny insects that are often invisible to my eyes. They are pretty easy to identify because of the distinctive large dark patches on their wings that you can pick out even when they are flying. They are a challenge to photograph, though, because they rarely seem to perch.

When I spotted this patrolling Black Saddlebags on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I decided to try to capture some in-flight action shots of the dragonfly. When I am trying to photograph a dragonfly flying over a pond, I can sometimes pre-focus on an area, because the dragonfly stays at the same height above the water and flies in a somewhat predictable pattern. That technique does not work, however, with a dragonfly like the Black Saddlebags that changes altitude and direction quickly and without warning.

The first two photos give you a pretty good look at the wing pattern of the Black Saddlebags. If you look really closely at the first photo, you will note that the dragonfly has tucked in its legs under the thorax (the “chest” area), probably for aerodynamic reasons.

In the final photo, I noted that the dragonfly’s legs were extended. What was going on? As I was processing the shot, I noted some small white spots in front of and just above the dragonfly. At first I thought these might be dust spots on my sensor, but they were in different places on different shots, so I rejected that hypothesis. I think that those white spots, which you can see in the final image if you click on it and look very carefully, are small insects and the dragonfly was extending its legs to snag those insects.

The Black Saddlebags is one of several dragonfly species that migrates in the fall and this one may have been fattening up in preparation for the upcoming journey. Whatever the case, it was a fun challenge to try to photograph this dragonfly flying overhead.

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was fortunate when the Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) that I was tracking finally landed on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to capture this image. Black Saddlebags spend most of their time gliding and circling overhead and it is rare for me to see one perching. This species is one of only a handful of dragonfly species in North America that migrate and this dragonfly may have been merely visiting the refuge on a southward journey.

As I noted in my posting yesterday, I have now switched to my 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens as my walkaround lens and I captured this image with that lens. The lens was fully extended to 600mm for this shot and I was using a monopod for some additional stability. It is a little unusual for me to try to photograph such a small subject with my long lens, but this shot shows that it is possible to get a reasonably sharp image if I pay a lot of attention to my technique.

 

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday I posted a photo of a male Common Whitetail dragonfly that was hovering in the air to fight off rivals and protect the female with which he had mated as she deposited her eggs in the water, a practice know as hover guarding. In some dragonfly species, the male will remain attached to the female throughout the entire process of oviposition, a process known as contact guarding. In other dragonfly species, the female is entirely on her own to deposit the eggs.

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) use a different technique for guarding that I like to call “release and catch.” After mating is completed, the male and female Black Saddlebags fly together over the water in a tandem position, with the male in the front. At certain moments, for reasons that I cannot determine, the male releases the female and she drops down to the water and taps it to release one or more eggs. As she rises up out of the water, the male catches the female and reattaches the tip of his abdomen to the back of her head. They continue to fly in tandem and repeat this cycle multiple times.

On Saturday I was fortunate to be able to capture this sequence of shots that documents the entire process. Most of the time these dragonflies chose spots that were too far away for me to photograph them, but in this case they flew a bit closer to the edge of the pond where I was standing. As you probably suspect, I had to crop in a good amount to highlight the action for you, given that I was shooting with my trusty 180mm macro lens, which has a more limited reach than the lens that I use when photographing birds.

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Generally when I spot a Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata), it is flying. The distinctive dark blotches, which some scientist decided look like saddlebags, are visible even when the dragonfly is in the air. Some dragonflies spend most of their time perching, while others spend most of their time flying—the Black Saddlebags is in the latter category. I was therefore quite excited when I saw this one land in the low vegetation last Thursday at Occoquan Regional Park.

When a subject is this close to the ground, the background is almost inevitably going to be cluttered. In an effort to soften the potential distraction, I opened up the aperture to f/6.3 and tried to shoot almost directly down on the subject. I like the resulting image that has most of the dragonfly in sharp focus and most of the background a bit blurry.

 

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I don’t know if this is a local dragonfly or was merely stopping by while migrating south, but I was happy when this Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) stopped circling a field and perched for a moment earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

This species of dragonfly is one of several migratory species and in the early autumn I tend to see more Black Saddlebags dragonflies than at any other time of the year. As you might have guessed, the dark blotches on the wings caused some scientist to imagine that they looked like saddlebags. In some cases, I scratch my head when I learn the name of a species, but in this case the name seems to fit and doesn’t require too big a stretch of the the imagination.

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Many dragonflies like to perch on or near the ground, but some prefer to relax at the top of the trees, like this Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) that I spotted last Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. From this angle you can easily see the dark patches on the rear wings that someone decided looked like “saddlebags.”

Those patches somehow remind me of the famous inkblots of the Rorschach test. I suspect that. if asked, people have widely varying ideas about what they look like, though I know that I personally would not want to have any psychological interpretations attributed to my perceptions or to my imagination.

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Autumn seems to be the season for migration—it’s hard to miss the flocks of honking geese that fill the skies and mysterious warblers taunt me with their songs from hidden haunts behind the foliage as they rest before continuing their journeys. Did you know that some species of dragonflies are also migratory?

Most of the migratory species unsurprisingly spend a lot of time in the air. They are visible as they pass through our area, but are tough to photograph. This past weekend I manage to get shots of two of the migratory species at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first one is a Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) and the second is a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata). What really stands out to me is the perfect condition of their wings, in contrast to the wings of the remaining resident dragonflies that are often tattered and torn this late in the season.

Wandering Glider

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

This Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) chose a beautiful perch and posed briefly for a couple of autumn portraits on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Black Saddlebags usually spend a lot of time soaring high in the air, so it is a special joy for me when one lands and I am able to get some decent shots. I have never before managed to get a good look at their eyes and absolutely love the two-toned color combination.

black saddlebags

black saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) spend most of their time flying, so it was a rare treat to spot this beautiful female perching recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In the second image you can see the distinctive blotches on the dragonfly’s wings that make it look like it is wearing saddlebags, but the first image is my overwhelming favorite—the unique pose, the delicate coloration of the eyes, and the “artsy” overall feel of the first shot produce an emotional reaction in me than the more clinical second shot.

Do you prefer one image more than the other?

 

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Different species of dragonflies fly in different ways. Some soar high in the air and some cruise just above the surface of the water. A dragonfly’s wings allow it to perform all kinds of aerial acrobatics that are entrancing to observe. Given their size and speed, it’s a significant challenge to try to capture them in flight, though frequent readers of this blog know that I will sometimes spend extended periods of time trying to meet that challenge.

During a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed a dragonfly flying above my head. Its flight reminded me of eagles and hawks that I have seen gliding effortlessly on thermal updrafts. I couldn’t make out the flight pattern that it was following, but it repeatedly flew over me. Each time that it returned, I would point my camera almost straight up and eventually I was able to capture this shot of an easy-to-identify Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata)—the pattern of black blotches on the wings are very distinctive.

Black Saddlebags

Later that same day I spotted a dragonfly making repeated patrols above the water. The dragonfly never seemed to rest or to perch, so I tried and tried to capture some shots of it as it zoomed on by me. Most of my shots were out of focus, but I like the one below. The choppy water in the background reminds me of the clouds that I will sometimes see when I look out of the window of an aircraft that has reached its cruising altitude. In my mind’s eye, I can imagine this dragonfly flying high in the sky, peacefully soaring above the clouds and the turbulence below it.

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

Read Full Post »

You know that summer is coming to a close when the dragonflies that were in constant flight earlier in the season seem to be resting more often, like this Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) that one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, pointed out this past weekend at my local marsh. This dragonfly kept flying back and forth between two perches that were tantalizingly just out of the range of the 180mm lens that I had on my camera. I didn’t dare to take the time to change my lens, knowing that the dragonfly would almost certainly fly away at the most inopportune moment, so I ended up cropping a lot, especially in the first image.

The only shots that I could get of Saddlebags dragonflies earlier in the summer were in-flight shots and I have already posted some shots of a Black Saddlebags in the air. I realized, though, that I had not posted an image of its more colorful counterpart, the Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) that I photographed during a visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia. I took that shot (the third one below) from a pretty long distance, but was able to achieve focus and capture some of the wonderful details of this beautiful red dragonfly.

Black Saddlebags dragonflyBlack Saddlebags dragonfly

Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: