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Posts Tagged ‘Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly’

Female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) come in several different color variations. Some, like the one in the first image below have a reddish colored body, like the male of the species—they are known as andromorphs. Others are brownish in color, like the one in the second image below, and are know as heteromorphs. Irrespective of the body color, though, all of the females have striking blue eyes.

Usually it is harder to spot females than the more brightly colored males, but for some reason, these two females were the only Blue-faced Meadowhawks that I saw as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge one day last week.

Where were all the males? Maybe they were watching a sporting event or were congregating at a local bar (or both).  🙂

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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As many of you know, I love to photograph dragonflies and will often try to get close-up shots of them. Initially I captured a head-on shot of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

As I was observing this dragonfly at close range, she began to groom herself. I am not sure if she was cleaning her eyes or merely scratching an itch, but it was a bit eerie when she rotated her head more than 90 degrees to do so, as you can see in the second image. It brought back memories from my youth of Linda Blair’s spinning head in the original version of The Exorcist, though fortunately the dragonfly’s head did not rotate 360 degrees.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My dragonfly season is not over yet! Yesterday, the 1st of October, I managed to get my first good shots of the year of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species emerges a bit earlier in the season, but generally does not make an appearance until September. (Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford posits that they spend that interim time in the tree tops.)

I really love the combination of colors of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk—I find the colors to be striking without being garish. You might think that these colors would make it easy to spot these dragonflies, but they are small in size with a length of 1.4 inches (36 mm) and are found only in very specific habitats.

I have been searching unsuccessfully for these little beauties the last few weeks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my most frequent “habitat,” and ended up returning to Huntley Meadows Park, where I had seen them in the past. Huntley Meadows Park is a wonderful county-run marshland refuge and used to be my favorite location for nature photography. In recent years, though, the park has become a victim of its own success and there are often mobs of photographers on its boardwalk through the wetlands.

Perhaps I am a little selfish, but I do not like to share my wildlife experience with a large group of other people. For me, my treks with my camera are most often a solitary pursuit, a meandering one-on-one experience with nature.

What about you? Do you prefer to experience nature alone or with others?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Although we are well into October, some of my beloved dragonflies are still hanging on at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Here are some dragonfly shots from the past 10 days of (1) a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum); (2) a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) with a hoverfly in her mouth; and (3) a female Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

I hadn’t really noticed before I aggregated this shots that all three of the dragonflies were perching on leaves. During the summer months, a significant number of the dragonflies that I photograph are perched higher on stalks of vegetation or on branches. In addition to these smaller dragonflies,

I have also recently spotted Common Green Darners, Wandering Gliders, and Black Saddlebags patrolling over the fields. Unfortunately, none of them paused long enough for me to get shots of them. All three of those species are migratory species and they may have been fueling up for a long journey ahead.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Each fall I look forward to the reappearance of the Blue-faced Meadhowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). No matter how many times I see them, I never fail to be amazed at the wonderful combination of bright colors on these little beauties.

Quite often Blue-faced Meadowhawks perch in the crowded undergrowth, where the background is cluttered.  I was quite happy recently to capture a few images in which the dragonfly perched a little higher, which allowed me to isolate it from the background and ensure that the viewer’s attention is focused on the primary subject.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is your favorite dragonfly? Most people would have trouble answering a question like that. If they do happen to notice dragonflies, they generally have not looked closely enough at them to identify species—at best they might be able to say something like, “I like the big green ones that I see flying overhead” or “I like the little blue ones that perch on the reeds.”

Most of you know that I somewhat obsessed with dragonflies (and those who know me well might question my use of the qualifier “somewhat” in the first half of the sentence). I love the beauty and aerial agility of these flying insects and I spend endless hours searching for them for months on end.

How do I choose a favorite dragonfly? It’s kind of like asking a parent to choose a favorite child. There are different things that I like about different dragonfly species.

If I were asked the question directly, I would probably say that the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) is my favorite dragonfly. I absolutely love the striking combination of the turquoise blue eyes and the striking red body. Blue-faced Meadowhawks are also special to me for a personal reason—I was awarded second place in a local photo contest several years ago for a macro shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk. (Here is a link to the 2015 posting Second place in a local photo competition that shows that prize-winning entry and tells some of the back story of the image.)

Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I photographed my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk of the season, a handsome male with bright coloration. Even if you are not a big fan of dragonflies, I hope that you can agree this little dragonfly is strikingly beautiful—welcome to my world.

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As October begins, I renew my search for red dragonflies. Autumn is quite naturally the season when Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear along with their more gaudily-colored brethren, the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum). Both of these species have bright red bodies that should be easy to spot, but they like to perch low to the ground and sometimes even on fallen leaves, so you really have to pay attention.

I was a bit shocked on Monday to see some other small red dragonflies—at least three male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) were active at a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Calico Pennants are generally a summer species and I have featured them a couple of times earlier this year in this blog. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, their peak flight time is June to July and their late date is 23 September (I saw the one below on 2 October).

There are still other active dragonflies, but over time their numbers will continue to drop. Autumn Meadowhawks, though, usually stay with us into December and, if I remember correctly, occasionally even into January. I’ll be continuing my October hunt for red dragonflies into November and beyond.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant on 2 October at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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