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Posts Tagged ‘Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly’

It was hard to miss the bright red body and distinctive brown patches on the wings of this Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) on Friday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Unlike many of the dragonflies that I try to photograph in flight, the Carolina Saddlebags did not follow any predictable patrolling pattern. Sometimes it would fly in the air above my head; sometimes it would zoom down and fly low over the water; and sometimes it would fly at about waist level near one of the fishing platforms at the edge of the pond.

Carolina Saddlebags are strong fliers—they are one of the dragonfly species that migrate—and I rarely see one perch, so I had lots of chances to attempt to get shots. Carolina Saddlebags are only about 2 inches (50 mm) in length, which makes it a bit of a challenge to keep one in the viewfinder as I track it through the air.

I was not able to capture any close-up shots of the flying dragonfly, but I am particularly happy with the blurred backgrounds in this images that serve as a nice contrast to the dragonfly. The dragonfly itself is sufficiently in focus that you can see the patches on the wings and other wonderful details, such as the way the dragonfly folds up its legs while flying.

As I have noted before, it is a fun challenge to try to capture images of a dragonfly in flight, a good test of both my skills and my patience.

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I can’t help myself—whenever I see a dragonfly moving through the air, I feel compelled to try to capture an image of the dragonfly in flight. It is an almost impossible challenge and success is often dependent as much on luck as it is on skill. Last Thursday as I was exploring in Prince William County, I was feeling particularly patient and repeatedly spotted dragonflies flying.

Early in the day at a small pond, I spotted a Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) and a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) that were patrolling over the water. In situations like this when the dragonflies are flying at a constant height, it is marginally easier to get shots, because there is one fewer variable than when the dragonfly is moving up and down.The Carolina Saddlebags was flying a little closer to the shore, but I had to contend with all of the vegetation that wanted to grab my camera’s focus, so I focused manually (first photo). The Common Green Darner was flying over the open water that presented a less obstructed background, but it filled such a small part of the frame that again I was forced to focus manually—my camera’s auto-focus had trouble focusing quickly on the moving dragonfly (second photo).

My greatest challenge, however, came later in the day. If I were to assign a degree of difficulty to my photos, the final photo would be near the top of the list. When I moved to a new location and got out of my car, I immediately spotted a group of large dragonflies frenetically flying through the air, feasting on insects as they flew. The dragonflies were moving in unpredictable ways, constantly changing their flight altitude and speed. Unlike some dragonflies that hover a bit when patrolling, these dragonflies were in constant high-speed motion.

I did my best to track the dragonflies visually, but it was tough to even get one in my viewfinder. I was ecstatic when I finally managed to capture a more or less in-focus image of one of the Swamp Darners (Epiaeschna heros) as it zoomed past me relatively low to the ground, as you can see in the final photo.

When it comes to wildlife photography, some shots are easy and straightforward—I see something and take the shot and that is it. At other times, I have to work really hard and take a lot of shots before I can get a potentially good one. Last Thursday definitely fell in the latter category more than in the former one. Was all that effort worth it? I think so, but I must confess that at times I felt like Don Quixote tilting at windmills.

If you want to get a more detailed look at the details of the three flying dragonflies, be sure to click on the images.

 

Carolina Saddlebags

 

Common Green Darner

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is still relatively early in the dragonfly season, but already I am running across dragonflies with tattered wings, like this Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) dragonfly that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Regional Par. Despite the extensive damage to all of its wings, the dragonfly did not appear to have any problems flying. In fact, I tracked it for a lengthy period of time as it patrolled over a small pond, waiting and hoping that it would finally land.

When the dragonfly decided to take a break, it perched on several pieces of vegetation that were covered with old spider webs. The vegetation was about as tall as I am, so I was able to shoot at a slight upwards angle that let me capture the wing patches that reminded someone of “saddlebags” when they were naming the species.

I was shooting almost directly into the sun, which gave a nice effect by illuminating the dragonfly’s wings from behind, but I kept having to adjust my camera to keep the body from appearing as a silhouette. I experimented with a number of different techniques, including using my pop-up flash for the final photo, which gives the image an almost studio-like appearance.

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last week at Occoquan Regional Park, I spotted a pair of Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea carolina) flying in tandem.  I managed to capture this sequence of shots as the male released the female so she could deposit eggs in the water (ovipositing). Once she was done, he grabbed her again and they went on to the next spot.

After mating, male dragonflies and damselflies are concerned about protecting their reproductive efforts, lest a rival intervene and dislodge their sperm. Some males will circle overhead to fight off potential rivals while the female oviposits; some will hang onto her during the entire process; and a few will use the “catch and release” method illustrated in these images.

If you are interested in additional information about dragonflies and mating, I recommend an article on ThoughtCo.com entitled “How Dragonflies Mate–A Rough-and-Tumble Affair.” Some of you may be worried that this is some kind of scientific treatise, but it is not. To allay your fears and entice you to read the article, here is the opening paragraph of the article.

“Dragonfly sex is a rough-and-tumble affair. If you’ve ever seen a pair of mating dragonflies in the act, you know that their sexual coupling requires the flexibility and acrobatic skill of a “Cirque de Soleil” performer. Females get bitten, males get scratched, and sperm winds up everywhere. These strange mating habits have survived millions of years of evolution, so the dragonflies must know what they’re doing, right? Let’s take a closer look at how dragonflies mate.”

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was exploring Mason Neck West Park in nearby Lorton, Virginia last Saturday, fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford pointed to a dragonfly perched at the top of a tree and said it would make a good “artsy” shot. He was right. Although some details are lost in the shadows, the simplified silhouetted view lets you focus on the essence of the dragonfly.

The patches on the inner wings indicate that it is one of the saddlebags dragonflies. I think it might be a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), but there is also a chance that it could be a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea carolina) bounce about as they fly, which makes them look a bit like butterflies as they move through the air. It is easy to spot their bright red bodies and prominent rear wing patches, but it is a challenge to photograph them, because they don’t perch very often.

I was fortunate on Monday to see one land high in a nearby tree and was able to capture this view of the underside of its wings. The vegetation was far enough away that it blurred out nicely, drawing the eye of viewers to this modest portrait of a beautiful little dragonfly.

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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