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Posts Tagged ‘Brown Spiketail’

I was thrilled last week to stumble upon some Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) while I was exploring a stream in Prince William County. When I spotted them, they were patrolling really low, moving in and out of the stalks of the grass and other plants only inches above the ground. I was able to track several of them and capture multiple shots, including an in-flight shot when one of the Brown Spiketails decided to hover momentarily right in front of me.

According to the wonderful website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, Brown Spiketails are considered “rare” in our area. Their preferred habitat is “clean, small sunlit, forest streams and seepages, ” an almost perfect match for the location where I spotted these dragonflies. The flight season lasts only about six weeks and peaks in mid-May.

Sometimes “my” Brown Spiketails would perch high enough above the ground that I could isolate the dragonfly from the background, as I did in the second image. Most of the time, though, they would perch low on grasses and shrubs, which meant that I too had to get low too to capture images like the third one. The background in that image is somewhat cluttered, but I think that it gives you a good sense of the habitat and the challenge of finding and focusing on such a narrow target.

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

brown spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I try to do a blog posting almost every day, but I spent this weekend unplugged from the internet at a church retreat in the mountains of Virginia, so I missed a couple of days. When I first started blogging, I was a bit compulsive about it and worried that I would lose all of my followers if I did not post every single day. Now I have a more balanced approach and realize that it is not the end of the world if the clock strikes midnight and I have not posted something new.

Today I am featuring some Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) that I spotted last week while exploring Occoquan Regional Park with my fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford. He and I returned to a location where we had spotted this species last year and were delighted to see that members of this species had emerged on schedule. Like many other species that emerge in the early spring, Brown Spiketails have a limited flight period and are found in small numbers at a limited number of locations.

Walter and I discovered that it is helpful to search for these dragonflies together. Often one of us will flush the dragonfly and the other person can observe the direction and the spot to which the dragonfly has relocated. This is really important because, as you can see from the photos, Brown Spiketails perch at an angle or hang vertically from vegetation that is often low to the ground, which makes it difficult to spot them when they are stationary.

Be sure to check out Walter’s posting today of our encounter with the Brown Spiketails. Although he and I were shooting together, we use different camera gear and approaches and our respective images give you different perspective on the same subjects. We also craft our blog postings independently and the style and content of our individual postings tends to reflect our personalities and backgrounds—I have a liberal arts background and Walter has a background in science.

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you ever fully satisfied when you meet a goal? I think that many of us drawn to wildlife photograph are restless in our pursuit of newer and better images. We can celebrate our successes, but we tend to be self-critical. We are convinced that we can always improve our skills and our photos, that we need to keep pushing and pushing in a never ending quest for more interesting subjects or better conditions or sharper images .

In many ways, that was the case for me this past Monday, when fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford and I scoured an area of Occoquan Regional Park for spiketail dragonflies. In a blog posting earlier this week I chronicled our long and ultimately successful search for the elusive Twin-spotted Spiketail. I was feeling a bit tired by the time we saw that dragonfly, but Walter had told me that an additional dragonfly species had been spotted in that same area, the Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata).

So we kept going and went looking again in an area that we had searched earlier in the day. Some say that the definition of insanity is repeating the same actions and expecting different results. If that’s true, I guess that I qualify as being more than a little crazy. It turned out that we were lucky, really lucky and had multiple chances that afternoon to photograph several male Brown Spiketails. Unlike the Twin-spotted Spiketails from earlier in the day that flew away and never returned, the Brown Spiketails would fly only a short distance away when spooked and it was relatively easy to track them visually to their new perches. Eventually we reached a point of satiation where we would not even take a shot of a dragonfly if it was even partially obscured by vegetation or was facing in the wrong direction. We hoped we would see a female of the species, but it turns out that all of the spiketails we saw that day were males.

The Brown Spiketail dragonflies seem to have a lighter-colored bodies than the Twin-spotted Spiketails (brown vs black) and has paler spots, but to my inexperienced eye they otherwise look pretty similar. I was happy to capture some relatively sharp images that you can see in even greater resolution by clicking on them. For even more detailed photos, check out Walter’s excellent images of our adventures in his blog posting today. He has mastered some techniques that allow him to capture an amazing amount of detail in his dragonfly shots.

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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