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Posts Tagged ‘Calico Pennant’

Almost all of the male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) that I have seen this season have been immature. How can I tell? When male Calico Pennants are young their abdomens are bright yellow, like those of the females. As they mature their abdomens turn a beautiful shade of red, like the male Calico Pennant in the image below that I captured on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

You might think that it would be easy to spot a dragonfly with such gaudy colors, but Calico Pennants are small and elusive. I usually manage to find them in the waist high vegetation in a field at the edge of a small pond at the refuge.

If you would like to compare the coloration of this male Calico Pennant with that of an immature male, check out the my posting from a couple of weeks ago entitled “Immature Calico Pennant dragonfly.”

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some of the dragonfly species that I search for are around for only a few weeks, while other species have a flight season of multiple months. Calico Pennants (Celithemis elisa) are in the latter category. I photographed some Calico Pennants in the middle of June and spotted this colorful immature male this past Tuesday—I am happy to see that they are still around.

Calico Pennants are so small—about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length—that many viewers have probably never seen one. I love their bright colors and multi-colored wing markings. Adult males are red while females and immature males, like this one, are yellow. I can tell that this one is a male because of the distinctive appendages at the tip of the abdomen.

If you want to see photos of a female Calico Pennant and an adult male, be sure to check out the earlier posting entitled “Calico Pennant dragonflies in June.”

 

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) are quite small, about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length, they pack a lot of color into their tiny bodies and wings. Adult females have bright yellow markings, as shown in the first photo, and wonderful designs on their wings that appear to be outlined in gold when the sun hits them from the right angle. Adult males have bright red markings that look almost like little hearts and have similarly detailed patches on their wings, although the pattern and colors are different from those of the females.

What about the dragonfly in the third photo? Its coloration is similar to that of the adult female, but it is in fact a juvenile male that will eventually turn red. How can I tell it is a male? If you look closely at the tips of the abdomen (the “tail”) in all three images, you will note that the terminal appendages are similar in the final two photos and are different from those in the first photo. Normally I will try to rely on those anatomical features when trying to tell the gender of a subject, because in quite a large number of dragonfly species, juvenile males and females have the same coloration.

I spotted all three of these Calico Pennant dragonflies during a visit last Friday to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite places to spend time with my camera. This refuge was one of the few facilities in our area to remain open during the stay-home period and got a bit too crowded for my taste. Now that other parks have reopened, the number of visitors has dropped to much lower levels and I am able to enjoy the solitude of nature once again.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Tuesday I spotted this beautiful female Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I always love to see the wonderfully patterned wings of this dragonfly species and the first shot provides a good view of the wing details, especially if you click on the image to enlarge it.

In the second image, I focused primarily on the dragonfly’s head and body and the wings are mostly out of focus. I love the way that you can see the dragonfly’s tiny feet and the tenuous grasp they have on the fuzzy plant stem from which the dragonfly is hanging.

Calico Pennant

calico pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Friday I spotted this handsome adult male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford.  Earlier this month I did a posting entitled Mosaic Wings that featured a photo of an immature male of this same species that had a bright yellow body. This image gives you an idea of how the body color changes to red as the male Calico Pennant dragonfly matures.

 

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonfly wings are amazing, but most of the time they are so transparent that it is hard to see all of the tiny little “cells” that make up the wings. Last Friday, though, I captured this shot of an immature male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that really highlights the beautiful mosaic-like pattern of its hind wings. Wow!

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Calico Pennants (Celithemis elisa) have really distinctive markings and are among the prettiest dragonflies in our area. I spotted this female Calico Pennant on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is usually the case for pennant dragonflies, she was perched on the very tip of the vegetation. As a slight breeze began to blow, she seemed to be holding on tightly with her tiny feet.

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Tuesday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I spotted this handsome male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa). Unlike some species that perch close to the ground and are hard to see, Calico Pennants perch on the uttermost tips of vegetation. Although they are visible, they are often hard to photograph, because their precarious perches start to sway at the slightest hint of a breeze.

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This time of the year is always exciting for me as my favorite dragonfly species begin to emerge—it is like renewing a relationship with old friends after an extended absence. On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to spot my first Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) dragonflies of the season.

As dragonflies go, Calico Pennants are small, a little over an inch (25 mm) in length and very colorful. In addition to their bright red (male) and yellow (female) bodies, they have beautifully patterned wings. Like other pennant dragonflies, Calico Pennants like to perch at the very tip of flimsy grasses and other vegetation. That makes them fairly easy to spot, but tough to photograph as they flap in the slightest breeze like a pennant.

I spotted a number of male Calico Pennants during my visit, but only a single female, the one that is mating with a male in the final photo. For those of you with curiosity or prurient interest, the couple are hooked up in what is often referred to as the “wheel position.” Anatomically speaking, it is a bit confusing, but you have to admire the couple’s acrobatic flexibility. The first two photos show perched males, with the initial photo a back-lit image that shows wing details and the second one a more traditional pose that highlights the body coloration.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is great to see that at least a few colorful Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) are still around. I photographed this handsome male last Friday as he perched at water’s edge at the small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Summer is slowly slipping away. Some species of dragonflies are already gone for the year and others will soon follow suit. A few species have yet to appear, so all of the news is not bad. Still, as kids return to school and the daylight hours become noticeably shorter, it’s hard not to have the feeling that the lazy days of summer are coming to a close.

Autumn is my favorite season for a number of different reasons, but I am not quite ready to give up on summer. So I’ll keep sweating and searching, seeking to capture the summer beauty that still surrounds us. Like this dragonfly, I’m still holding on.

calico pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was simultaneously fascinated and horrified yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as I watched this Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) gnaw on the head of a colorful Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) that it had captured. I know that dragonflies eat other insects, but in my mind I tend to think of them consuming mosquitoes and other such smaller insects. Some of them, however, apparently prefer larger prey, including other dragonflies.

Eastern Pondhawk versus Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most dragonflies have clear wings and different colors and patterns on their bodies. Some dragonflies, however, have patterns on their wings too that I think really accentuates their beauty and makes them particularly striking.

The first shot below shows a female Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) that I spotted in mid-May at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The second shot shows a male Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) that I spotted in late May at a small pond in Prince William County in Northern Virginia.

Calico Pennant

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was excited early on Friday morning to see my first Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) of the season while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  These small, brightly-colored dragonflies have become one of my favorites over the past year.

It is pretty early in their season and all of the ones that I spotted appeared to be immature—the patterns on the wings will soon get darker and more pronounced and bodies of the males, which start out yellow like those of the females, will turn red.

I have long wanted to capture shots of a dragonfly covered in morning dew or raindrops and the quest for these images helps motivate me to venture out early in the morning. If you click on the final photo and examine it at higher resolution, you will see tiny drops of water on the vegetation and a drop or two on the dragonfly’s wings. It’s not quite as I have imagined, but it is a good start.

Calico Pennant dragonfly

Calico Pennant dragonfly

Calico Pennant

© 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 seems a little late in the season for Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) to be mating, but I nevertheless spotted this couple in action this past Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. In case you are curious, the male is the red one near the top of the image that is clasping the female by its head. I like the way that the soft background and simple composition draw our eyes to the shapes, colors, and patterns of the dragonflies, rendering the subject in a beautifully abstract way.

calico pennant dragonflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really happy to spot a couple of male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) during a visit today to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. The weather was pretty cool when I set out early this morning, about 56 degrees (13 degrees C), so I was not certain that I would be able to find many dragonflies. Fortunately for me it warmed up a bit and a few dragonflies appeared.

The bright red color of this dragonfly helps a little in finding them, but Calico Pennants are pretty small and it is easy to lose them in the vegetation. I shot the first two shots with my Canon 50D DSLR and Tamron 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens and the third one with my Canon SX50 super zoom camera. The poses are not identical, but I think that you can see how much shallower the depth of field is when using the DSLR than the point-and-and-shoot—I think it is related to the difference in the size of the sensors in the cameras.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia,  I was able to photograph a new dragonfly species for me, the beautiful Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa). Fellow photographer and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford had alerted me to the presence of these dragonflies at this location and had given me a general idea of where I might find them.

When I arrived at the wildlife refuge, which I had never visited before, I was a bit disoriented at first, but eventually found the pond that was my target location. The challenge, though, was to find the diminutive dragonflies. I walked about for quite some time before I finally spotted one perched on the very top of some vegetation in a field adjacent to the pond. Like other pennant dragonflies, Calico Pennants usually hang on to the most fragile, flimsy branches of plants and are often flapping in the breeze like a pennant.

Here are a couple of shots of Calico Pennant dragonflies that I observed. The one with the yellow abdomen is a female and the male has the red abdomen. As is the case with many species, immature males have the same coloration as the females, so it usually pays to look at the terminal appendages to determine the gender.

female Calico Pennant

male Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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