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Posts Tagged ‘damselflies’

Some folks are a bit shocked when I post photos of mating insects, so here is a more discreet look at a damselfly couple in tandem that I encountered last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Somehow I can’t help but think of the old doo wop song “Silhouettes,” which recounts the story of a man who sees two silhouettes on a shade. He thinks his girlfriend is kissing another guy, only to find out that he is at the wrong house.

I may have heard the original version by The Rays that came out in 1957, but suspect I actually recall the cover version done by Herman’s Hermits that came out in 1965. In case you have never heard the song or are simply feeling nostalgic, here is a link to YouTube for the original version and a link to the cover by Herman’s Hermits.

damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Damsels in Vienna? Here are a few shots of some beautiful little damselflies that I encountered this past weekend during a visit to the Donau-Auen National Park in Vienna, Austria.

While traveling for work I normally leave at home my Canon DSLR and big lenses and use instead a Canon SX50 point-and-shoot camera with a super zoom lens. There are some compromises and limitations with this type of camera, but I am quite pleased with the results I can achieve using it, including these almost-macro images.

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Over the last few years it has become traditional for me to be in Brussels over Labor Day weekend in early September for meetings. After I arrived today, I had some free time and captured these images of damselflies in the Botanical Gardens. Some of them are quite similar to those that I see at home, while others appear to be a bit different. As is often the case when I am traveling for work, I left my big camera at home and took these shots with my Canon SX50 HS superzoom camera.

damselfly in Brussels

damselfly in Brussels

mating damselflies in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Nature photographers are a peculiar breed of people. How else could I explain why I headed off to the Donau-Auen National Park within hours of my arrival in Vienna, Austria. I am staying in the center of the city, virtually surrounded by historic buildings and monuments, yet I feel more drawn to explore nature than history.

Saturday was a warm, sunny day and I was hoping to encounter dragonflies as I explored some of the areas of the park that I have visited before. It may be a little early in the season or that I was simply not lucky, but in any case I did not encounter a single dragonfly. I was, however, quite fortunate and saw quite a few damselflies. These beautiful little creatures are tiny and elusive and like to hide perch on vegetation, so it is often challenging to get clear shots of them.

I was shooting with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot, which helped me sometimes to get shots without scaring off the damselflies. In some cases, though, it was really tough to get the camera’s focus to lock onto the target.

The shapes and colors of the damselflies are somewhat familiar and may be related to the species that I see at home, but I am not even going to try to identify them. I hope that you can enjoy the delicate beauty of these damselflies that I encountered during my most recent adventures in the national park here in Vienna.

damselfly in Vienna

 

damselfly in Vienna

 

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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These Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) were engaging in a little May Day mayhem this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. If I have this figured out right, the female, the one on the right in this image, is depositing her eggs in the vegetation after successfully mating with the male, who is still holding on to her.

Southern Spreadwing

 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s still a bit early for dragonflies in Northern Virginia, but when temperatures soared to almost 80 degrees (27 degrees C) yesterday in Columbus, Georgia, I decided to see if I could find some here. I had a wonderful time exploring some of the area of the Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center that is not far from Fort Benning, where I was staying.

I came up empty-handed for dragonflies, but did spot some beautiful little damselflies. Later in the spring, these will be fairly common, but after a long period with no odonates, they seem rare and exotic.

The first one looks like a Fragile Forktail damselfly (Ischnura posita), but I am not sure about the others. Several of them flew so weakly that I wondered if they had only recently emerged.

Fragile Forktail

damselfly

damselfly

damselfly

damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the mating is done, damselflies have to decide where to deposit the eggs. Who decides? In many damselfly species, the male remains attached to the female as she deposits the eggs in vegetation or in the water, so I would assume that it is a joint decision of sorts.

When I observed this pair of dragonflies flying around together this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge, I decided to try to track them and see where they chose to land. Would they choose a solitary spot where they could be alone or would they choose to join their friends in a post-mating frenzy at a popular hangout? They chose the former, perhaps because the hangout had reached its maximum capacity.

These may be Slender Bluet damselflies (Enallagma traviatum), although I must confess that I don’t have great confidence in my identification of bluets, which all look pretty much the same to my untrained eye.

damselflies

damselflies

damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the damselfly species that I pursue are present in such limited numbers and in so well-defined areas that it is sometimes possible after time to recognize individual damselflies by their distinctive physical characteristics.

Earlier this month I was really excited when I spotted some Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) after a tip from fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I visited the location where he had seen them a few times and was able to get some good photos, which I included in several blog postings.

My efforts, though, pale in comparison with Walter’s—he virtually staked out that location and came to know some of  the damselflies there so well that he gave them nicknames. In messages to me, Walter noted he had named two of his favorites “Mr. Magoo” and “Bendy Straw.”  Check out Walter’s blog posting today for some wonderful images of these two damselfly celebrities.

As I reviewed my images of Great Spreadwings, I noticed that one of them had a peculiar bend near the end of his abdomen. Could this possibly be “Bendy Straw?” Walter and I were never at that location at the same time, so it seemed unlikely that I had seen one of “his” damselflies. After I sent him a copy of the image, he confirmed that I had in fact photographed “Bendy Straw.”

Great Spreadwing damselfly

As I continued examining my images, another damselfly stood out, because he had only five legs. It looked like one of his back legs had been completely severed, leaving a small stump. How could something like this have happened? I am used to seeing dragonflies with tattered wings, but an injury like this seems to be of a completely different nature.

Great Spreadwing damselfly

I usually try to identify the species of my subjects, but both of these damselflies help to remind me that I am not photographing species—I am photographing individuals. Each of those individuals has distinctive characteristics and has its own life story.

Somehow that seems to be a useful reminder and gives me a sense of perspective about what I am doing as a nature photographer.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Watching insects is sometimes like watching a Cirque du Soleil production, very colorful and incredibly acrobatic, like these mating damselflies that I photographed recently at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, VA.

damsel1_mating_blog damsel2_mating_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Damselflies have such narrow bodies that it’s often hard for me to get my camera to focus on them, but I love to chase after them, hoping to capture some of their beautiful colors. I was happy that I managed to get this shot of mating damselflies with enough detail to see some of the differences in coloration between the male and the female. I don’t dare try to explain the physiology of the mating process—I don’t really understand it and will leave that to the experts.

mating_blog

Click on the photo to see a higher resolution view of it.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Damseflies are really small and if they were not brightly colored, they would be difficult to see. However, when there are two of them flying together (really together), they are slightly easier to detect. Anatomically speaking, I am having a little trouble figuring how the mating takes place with the damselflies as pictured below, but suffice it to say that damselflies are more flexible and acrobatic than I had previously thought.

I took these shots this afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA.  Getting a decent image was a bit of a challenge because I was shooting from a raised boardwalk almost two feet above the water level and the damselflies keep landing on vegetation that was just in the shadows underneath the boardwalk. As a result, my position sometimes resembled that of the lighter-colored damselfly.

Close-up of mating damselflies

Mating damselflies

Acrobatic mating damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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