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Posts Tagged ‘Celithemis elisa’

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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