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Posts Tagged ‘Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly’

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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It is often said that springtime is a time for love, but so apparently is autumn, especially if you are a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species appears most often during the latter part of the summer and in early autumn, so springtime is not really an option for them.

I spotted this couple in flagrante delicto during a recent trip to Huntley Meadows Park. It is hard to get a real sense of scale from this photo, so you will have to trust me that these brightly-colored dragonflies are really small, about an inch and a half in length (38 mm).

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the seasons change, some dragonflies begin to disappear, but happily some new ones appear, like this spectacular female Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

One of the really cool things about this species is that there are two different color variants of the females. Most of the females (and young males) are brown in color and are sometimes referred to as heteromorphs, while a smaller number of females, like the one in the photo, have a bright red color matching that of mature males and are sometimes referred to as andromorphs. This is roughly parallel to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, which has two different varieties of female, a yellow morph that matches the males and a black morph.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many dragonflies are very skittish and will fly away as you get close. Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum), however, appear to be unusually inquisitive, like this one that perched on my knee Monday at Huntley Meadows Park as I was trying to photograph another dragonfly.

He seemed to want to check me out at close range and I returned the favor.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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