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Posts Tagged ‘Common Green Darner dragonfly’

Normally when I see a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) it is patrolling in the air and it is mostly a greenish blur. This past Friday, however, I was fortunate enough to spot one on the ground, nestled low in the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At this closer distance I was able to marvel at all of the wonderful colors of this beautiful dragonfly.

Be sure to click on the images to see the details of this dragonfly at higher resolution.  Did you notice the blue color near the tip of its “nose?”

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Are you patient and persistent? If so, you have the right temperament to try to photograph dragonflies in flight. Every dragonfly season I spent endless hours in mostly fruitless attempts to capture in-flight images of dragonflies. One of my friends on Facebook described this as “a near impossible task” and, of course, she is right.

My first somewhat successful effort this year was a shot of a Common Green Darner (Anax junius) patrolling above one of the paths at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last Friday. As you might suspect, getting the moving dragonfly in focus is one of the biggest challenges, because the subject is too small for the camera’s autofocus to engage. Sometimes I will focus manually as I track the dragonfly and sometimes I will use a zone focusing technique in which I preset the focusing distance and wait (and hope) for the dragonfly to fly into the zone.

A near impossible task? It certainly is, but I enjoy the challenge the way that its pursuit confounds observers—one such observer watched me closely for several minutes on Friday and couldn’t figure out what I was trying to photograph.

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonflies are one of my favorite subjects to photograph and each spring I eagerly await their reappearance. Yesterday I captured my first image of one this season, a beautiful Common Green Darner (Anax junius) that I spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Common Green Darners are a migratory species and the ones that we see in early spring, like the one in the photograph, probably flew here from somewhere further south. Once they arrive, they have a series of tasks to accomplish—they mate, lay eggs, and die. The next generation of Green Darners will emerge in a few months and fly south in the autumn. That generation will die in the south and the following generation will fly north in the spring.

What an amazing life cycle!

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to spend some time hanging out with this Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). The range of colors on its body is so remarkable that I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I zoomed in on it. An expert in a dragonfly forum on Facebook noted to me that the dragonfly is a teneral one, which means that it has only newly emerged. That would account for its relatively pale, almost pastel coloration and the perfect condition of its wings. If you click on the image, you can see even better some of the remarkable details of this dragonfly, like the colorful pattern on its “nose.”

The beautiful dragonfly was hanging vertically only a few inches above the ground, in a pretty safe location. I kept my distance as I took some photos and departed quietly, conscious of the fact that a dragonfly is fragile and vulnerable at this early stage of development. It remained in place as I slowly slipped away.

Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that the weather is warming up, I am searching in earnest for dragonflies, one of my favorite subjects to photograph. I am still having difficulties locating native-born species, but fortunately there are some migratory species in the area. Yesterday I spotted this Common Green Darner (Anax junius) dragonfly couple in tandem, with the male holding on as the female deposited her eggs in the floating vegetation.

In some dragonfly species the male will hover above the female as she oviposits, but in others, like the Common Green Darner, the male remains attached. I suspect that this method is one way of ensuring that the eggs that the male has fertilized are deposited before the female hooks up with another male.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been seeing Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) hunting high over the fields the last couple of weeks as they prepare for migration, but have not been able to get any shots of them. In theory, they are easier to photograph when they land, but these dragonflies like to hang vertically low to the ground, often in areas with heavy vegetation. I have been repeated frustrated by spotting them only after they have taken to the air as I got close to them.

This past Friday, though, I saw one land nearby when I was already in a field of waist-high vegetation. Judging from the blue abdomen, it’s a male Common Green Darner. I was struck by the relatively dark color of much of the abdomen of this particular individual. When doing a little research at my favorite website for local dragonflies, dragonfliesnva.com, I learned that Common Green Darners deal with the problem of cool weather “by having dark-colored platelets in their blood that rise to the surface when it’s cold, darkening their abdomen color, therefore attracting more sun. On bright, hot days, those dark platelets sink, and the abdomen turns bright bluagain, now reflecting light.”

The dragonfly was surrounded by dried vegetation and there was no way that I could get an uncluttered background for my shots. Fortunately, however, the the colors of the vegetation are so muted that the gorgeous blue and green of the dragonfly really stand out. In the first shot, I zoomed all the way to try to capture the maximum amount of detail, while in the second shot I pulled back a little on the zoom to capture the dragonfly’s entire wingspan.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s migration time for Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) and last week one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, reported a small swarm of Green Darners at my local marshland park.

I was walking in an entirely different area of the park from Walter and was surprised to see Green Darners, which are easily recognized thanks to their coloration and distinctive bullseye on their heads, flying up from the ground as I approached them. Rather than fly off into the distance, which is most often the case when I happen to disturb a dragonfly, these dragonflies moved only a short distance and came to rest again on the ground.

I don’t yet have the ability to interpret the movements of dragonflies, but it seemed to me that these Green Darners were conserving energy, as though they were resting in the midst of a long journey. I tried to be as quiet and stealthy as I could and moved closer and closer to one Green Darner perched near some green moss that was almost a perfect match for the color of the forward portion of her body. Judging from her overall coloration, I think this is probably a female.

My subject was amazingly cooperative and I was able to get shots of this beautiful dragonfly from a number of different angles. Although I normally try to have backgrounds that are must less cluttered than those in these images, I don’t find them to be too distracting here and they do help to show how well this colorful dragonfly blended in with her environment.

Common Green DarnerCommon Green DarnerCommon Green DarnerCommon Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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