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Posts Tagged ‘Calopteryx maculata’

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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