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Posts Tagged ‘Black-shouldered Spinyleg’

As I was exploring the edge of the Potomac River yesterday at Riverbend Park, I flushed a fairly large dragonfly. Rather than fly away, it perched in a nearby tree, just above eye level. I suspected that I had interrupted a meal and that it wanted to enjoy its prey in peace.

The dragonfly was in the shade and the light was filtering in from in front of me, so the shadows made it hard to tell exactly what was going on. I fired away anyways, hoping that I would be able to salvage the images afterwards.

It turns out that the dragonfly is a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus). You definitely can see the large spines on the dragonfly’s back legs, which help in capturing and holding prey, and you can sort of see the black shoulders. As I suspected, there was a prey–the dragonfly had captured some kind of damselfly.

I decided to try a couple of different techniques to try to capture a usable image. In the first shot, I used software to adjust the exposure levels and remove some of the shadows, which had the side effect of brightening the entire image and blowing out some of the detail in the background. As a result, the leaves also look a little washed out. In the second shot, I used my camera’s pop-up flash to help eliminate some of the shadows. The resulting image retains a bit more of the full range of tonal values, but may still be a little too dark. Neither image is perfect, but wildlife photography is so often about making compromises.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through a field of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland, I spotted an unusual dragonfly that I couldn’t immediately identify. It turned out to be a Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus)—a cool name for a cool-looking dragonfly.

When I first caught sight of the dragonfly, the dragonfly’s long, skinny abdomen and the enlarged area near the end suggested to me that it was a member of the clubtail family of dragonflies. (You can get a really good sense of the shape of the “clubtail” when you look at the shadows in a couple of the images). The only clubtails that I have seen with any kind of regularity have been Common Sanddragons and Unicorn Clubtails, and this was clearly not one of them. When I am out in the field, I don’t worry too much about identification—I practice what I call the “Law of the West,” i.e. “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Later in the day my shooting partner was able to identify the dragonfly after I pointed her to the website “Dragonflies of Northern Virginia.” This website is my favorite resources for information and photos of dragonflies in my area. I checked my past blog postings because I had a vague recollection that I had seen this species before and found a posting indicating that I saw one almost exactly a year ago on a trip to a different part of Maryland.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last Saturday at Lilypons Water Gardens in Adamstown, Maryland I spotted a large dragonfly that I had never seen before, a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus). That’s definitely a cool (and descriptive) name for a spectacular-looking dragonfly.

The dragonfly remained perched in the vegetation surrounding a small pond long enough for me to get shots from a few different angles and distances with my macro lens. I was particularly struck by the length of the long black legs, which somehow reminded me of those of a spider.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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