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Posts Tagged ‘Calopteryx maculata’

Sometimes the shadows are at least as interesting as the subject in my wildlife photos, as was the case with this Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) that I spotted last week while exploring a stream in Fairfax County. Initially the dragonfly was perched on the rock with its wings closed and I merely observed it. As soon as it flared its wings, though, I knew I had to take a shot and am pretty happy at the way that it turned out.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last week I spotted a female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) as she was depositing eggs in vegetation at the edge of a small stream in Prince William County, Virginia. Some dragonflies lay their eggs directly in the water by tapping, but damselflies (and some dragonflies) use their ovipositors, the tubular, sharply-pointed appendages at the tips of their abdomens, to make slits and insert eggs into the tissues of the plants.

If you look really closely at the second photo, you can actually see the damselfly’s tiny ovipositor that is shaped a bit like a thorn. The damselfly appeared to arch her entire abdomen, insert the ovipositor into the vegetation, and then forcefully push down on her abdomen to insert the eggs more deeply, as you can see in the first photo. Sometimes she would flap her wings a few times, either for stability, I assume, or possibly for additional leverage.

I noticed that vegetation in which the damselfly is depositing her eggs has an unusual pattern, a broken line that looks like a seam made by a sewing machine. I wonder if that line is the result of the damselfly’s meticulous efforts to deposit her eggs.

 

Ebony Jewelwing

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to damselflies, I love the sidewards heart that their bodies create when they are in this mating position. I have been told that the process is somewhat brutal, but I like to think of it as romantic, two hearts joined as one.

I spotted these Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) last Sunday in Fairfax County. At this time of the year Ebony Jewelwings are quite common, especially in the shaded forest streams that I like to explore.

In addition to the sidewards heart, I really like the interplay of the light and the shadows in the background that adds a lot of visual interest without detracting from the primary subjects. You can get a really feel for the dappled sunlight that kept the scene from being in complete shade.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some say that the secret to capturing an effective image is to eliminate all of the non-essential elements. This image is about as minimalistic as I can get. The raindrops on the vegetation provide a sense of what has been and the shadows a hint that the sun was shining again when I spotted this stunning female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) at Occoquan Regional Park on Friday.

The image itself is simple, but I am amazed at the details that I was able to capture of this tiny creature and encourage you to click on the image. If you do, you may be as shocked as I was, for example, at the length of the “hairs” on the damselfly’s legs—clearly leg shaving is not practiced among the ladies of this species.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Even though I have learned to identify many dragonflies pretty well, I often feel clueless when it comes to damselflies. The differences between damselfly species are often subtle and difficult to see. I often get lost in trying to look at the relative size of eye spots or the length of various markings.

Fortunately for my self-esteem, there are some damselflies that I can confidently identify, like this female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) that I spotted on Tuesday at Occoquan Regional Park. Ebony Jewelwings are the only damselfly species in our area with distinctively dark wings. It is even easy to distinguish the genders too, because only the females have white stigmas on each of their wings.

I was a little surprised this morning to learn that the male Ebony Jewelwings also have stigmas on their wings, but the stigma are black and do not show up very well on their black wings. According to a posting on the Nature Watch blog, “All damselflies (and dragonflies) have stigmas on their wings. A stigma (pterostigma) is a large, thick cell on the leading edge of the wing near the tip which helps stabilize the wing while the dragonfly or damselfly is in flight. It holds down vibration allowing increased speed during gliding flight. In many species the stigma is pigmented, in others, it is clear. Each wing has a stigma.”

I previously knew about stigmas, of course, but somehow thought of them as primarily decorative rather than functional elements. It is really cool to learn more about the physics of how that my magical little friends are able to fly. What really blows my mind, though, is thinking about how the world looks to them when viewed through their large, multi-faceted compound eyes. Wow!

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ebony Jewelwings (Calopteryx maculata) are everywhere in some of the forest streams I like to explore at this time of the year. Still, I love when I can get a good angle on these beautiful damselflies when they are in wheel position and forming a sidewards heart, as was the case with this pair that I spotted last Thursday in Fairfax County.

Yes, as some of you already know, the damselflies are in the process of mating, with the male on the right and the female on the left.

 

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I posted images of Eastern Amberwings, one of the most easily identified dragonfly species in my area. Today I am going to continue the mini-trend of going easy on my identification skills by presenting our most easily identified damselfly species, the Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata).

I spotted this beautiful female Ebony Jewelwing last week as I was exploring in Occoquan Regional Park. Ebony Jewelwings are found most often along wooded slow-moving streams and frequently perch on low shrubbery in sun-lit openings in the forest canopy, which pretty well describes the circumstances of my encounter with this little beauty.

How do I know that it is an Ebony Jewelwing? There is no other damselfly in our area that has completely dark wings like the Ebony Jewelwing. How can I be sure that it is a female? Females have a conspicuous little white patch on their wings, technically known as a “pseudostigma,” that is pretty obvious in the photo below.

Some recent postings have noted the difficulties in making a correct identification of the dragonflies and damselflies that I photograph. I enjoy a mystery from time to time, but there is something reassuring about spotting a familiar species and being able to identify it immediately.

 

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Saturday I was thrilled to spot this mating pair of Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata). No, I am not a peeping Tom, but I do enjoy being able to see the male and female of a species together, so that I can compare their coloration and markings.

When it comes to damselflies, I just love the sidewards heart that their bodies create when they are in this mating position. I have been told that the process is somewhat brutal, but I like to think of it as romantic, two hearts joined as one.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this week I did a posting that described the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly as “unmistakable.” When it comes to damselflies, that title almost certainly belongs to the very distinctive Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata). There is no other damselfly in our area that has completely dark wings like the Ebony Jewelwing.

I spotted this handsome male Ebony Jewelwing on Monday at Occoquan Regional Park. How do I know it is a male? Well, the female has a conspicuous little white patch on her wings that is technically known as a “pseudostigma,” which this damselfly in lacking. Additionally, the little hoop-like appendage at the end of this damselfly indicates that it is a male.

These little damselflies like to spend a lot of time in the semi-darkness of shaded forest streams, like the location at which I photographed this Ebony Jewelwing.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Damselfly mating is, to say the least, unusual and acrobatic. Yes, I felt a little like a voyeur as I observed this pair of Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

Did you notice the sideways heart that their bodies form during this process? Yeah, I am a bit of a romantic, even when it comes to mating insects in the wild. I would recommend, though, that you not try this position at home, but leave it to the professionally trained damselflies. You might otherwise require an unplanned visit to a chiropractor.

Ebony Jewelwing mating

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In addition to dragonflies, damselflies are now appearing in greater numbers, like this beautiful little Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) that I spotted on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. Identification is pretty easy, because it is the only dark-winged species in our area. The red eyes suggest that it is newly emerged—the eyes will change to a less demonic color later—and the lack of white markings on the wings indicate it is a male. Click on the image if you want to see some of the details of the damselfly at higher resolution, like the tiny hairs on its legs.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) like to hide in the shadows, but they really do sparkle like jewels when the light hits them right.

I spotted the beautiful female damselfly in the first photo this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park—only females have white spots on their wings. I really like the way that the tones of the background complement the colors of the damselfly.

Ebony Jewelwing

I captured this shot of a male Ebony Jewelwing damselfly only a few minutes later. The lighting was brighter and the stance seems almost confrontational, which gives this image a totally different feel from that of the female.

Ebony Jewelwing

I’ll leave it to others to make broader inferences about the mysteries of the fairer gender versus the in-your-face directness of the average male.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many damselfly species look so much alike that they are visually indistinguishable for me. I never have that problem, however, with the Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)—its dark wings and emerald body set it apart from all other damselflies in my area.

I spotted this distinctive little beauty yesterday, the last day of May, at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia alongside one of the creeks in a remote area of the park. As I went through my photos I was drawn to this one, because of the wing positions.

When I showed a similar shot to my local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford, he immediately noticed the curve in the abdomen, something that I hadn’t even seen. I initially dismissed it as some kind of flexing by the damselfly, but when I noted the same curve in all of my images, I realized that it may be a deformity, as Walter initially suggested. Fortunately, the damselfly appeared to be able to fly normally despite the curved abdomen.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As a wildlife photographer, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be a studio photographer. Imagine being able to control the intensity and direction of the light, to choose my own background, to have a responsive subject, and to be able to move around and carefully compose images in my viewfinder. What if there were no wet grass or thorns or mosquitoes or ticks? Perhaps a studio photographer has a sense of control—a wildlife photographer lives in a world of unknowns, never knowing for sure exactly when and how a shooting opportunity will present itself nor how long it will last.

This is the time of the year when I focus my attention and my camera on tiny subjects and dragonflies and damselflies are among my favorites. Some of them are pretty accommodating subjects and will perch and pose, though many are elusive and hard to capture.

I sometimes struggle with the question of how to create cool and dramatic shots of these beautiful little creatures. How do I capture then in action, especially when I am so often using a macro lens and shooting at close range?

I wish I had an answer to these questions, a magical formula that would guarantee great results, but, of course, I don’t. Sometimes, though, things do come together and magic happens. That’s what I felt this past Monday when I was out looking for dragonflies. I was crouched on the wet sand trying to get some shots of a Common Sanddragon dragonfly, when a female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) landed a few feet in front of me and began to oviposit in the vegetation at the edge of a small stream.

I was at a good distance to use the 180mm macro lens that I had on my camera. The lighting and background were beautiful. My subject was isolated, but there was enough of the environment in the foreground to give a sense of the location (and the green of the moss was wonderful).

Is it possible to create a dramatic macro action portrait with a two inch (50 mm) subject? For me, it’s rare that I am able to pull it off, but I’d like to suggest that it does happen and offer this image as evidence.

I go out with my camera with the hope that situations like this will arise in the uncontrolled environment in which I like to operate. I live for those moments.

Ebony Jewelwing

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ebony Jewelwings (Calopteryx maculata) are one of the most distinctive and easily recognizable damselflies because of their dark wings and metallic bluish-green bodies. So why is the female damselfly in the first shot so pale and colorless?

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly

When damselflies (and dragonflies) shed their exoskeletons and move  from being water-dwelling nymphs to acrobatic flyers, they are initially pale in color, a stage known as “teneral.” In a short time, the wings harden and gradually the newly emerged damselflies, like this one, become more colorful and look more like the one in the second image.

Ebony Jewelwing

As I was photographing this damselfly, it took off and I captured a somewhat blurry image of it in the air that I really like—it reminds me of a water color painting.

Ebony Jewelwing

I must be in an “artsy” mood this morning, because one of the other images that I really like of the Ebony Jewelwing is this final one, in which the damselfly was perched at the end of a leaf with wings spread wide, displaying the intricate details of those delicate wings.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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When you first catch sight of the fluttering flight of an Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) from a distance, it’s easy to think that it is a butterfly.

These damselflies are really weak fliers and they flutter slowly from one location to another nearby spot. Although they perch, they tend to do so on low vegetation and they don’t remain in one spot for very long, which makes it a challenge to get a decent photograph of one of them.

Their dark wings make them unusual and distinctive—all of the other damselflies that I have seen had clear wings—and help to set off the beautiful emerald color of their bodies.

According to bugguide.com, the Ebony Jewelwing’s scientific name Calopteryx maculata comes from the Greek “kalos” (beautiful) + “pteron” (wing or feather) and “macula” (a spot), a reference to the white spot near the tip of the female’s wing.

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Ebony Jewelwing damselfly with opened wings

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly with opened wings

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly in a raised position with closed wings

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly in a raised position with closed wings

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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