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Posts Tagged ‘dragonhunter dragonfly’

Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) love to perch and wait for their prey to come by and then use their powerful back legs to snag that prey, which is often another dragonfly. Those legs are so long and ungainly, though, that Dragonhunters’ poses often seem awkward when they are perched—they remind me of teenage males who have undergone a recent growth spurt and haven’t gotten used to their longer limbs.

Last Friday as I was exploring a stream at Prince William Forest Park with fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, he spotted this female Dragonhunter perched at the edge of the water. I was walking toward him when I spotted the Dragonhunter on the rocks that I featured yesterday and was delayed in getting to see this dragonfly. Fortunately, she was relatively tolerant of our presence and remained in place long enough for me to get some shots.

All of the images that I captured show a side view of the Dragonhunter, because she was facing toward the water and I was trying not to get wet. Walter, however, wanted more of a frontal view  and waded into the water to get that shot. Check out today’s posting on his blog and you can compare the results of our different approaches.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonfly on the rocks? It sounds like a summertime beverage, but it accurately describes what I saw last Friday while exploring a stream in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I think it is a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus), but the unusual angle makes it tough to made a definitive determination of the species, because I am not able to see critical portions of the dragonfly’s anatomy.

In the past when I have spotted Dragonhunters, they have been perched on branches overhanging the water and that is where I expect to find them. This encounter is a good reminder for me to stay alert at all times—my subjects may not have read the identification guides about how they are supposed to behave.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week as I was exploring Prince William County, I encountered this large dragonfly  perched in a tree overhanging a fairly large stream. When I captured these images, I was not sure what kind of dragonfly it was. After consultations with some experienced dragonfly experts, I learned that this is a female Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus).

Dragonhunters are among the largest dragonflies in our area. Unlike darners, another group of large dragonflies that fly almost continuously as they seek prey, dragonhunters prefer to perch and wait patiently before they strike. As their name suggests, they specialize in hunting other dragonflies, reportedly including members of their own species.

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Sometimes I feel like I am living in a mythical world, in an endless pursuit of dragons, dragonflies that is. I am hoping to capture them, but my weapon of choice is not a sword, but a camera and I am seeking only to capture their images. “Mike the Dragonhunter”—I like the sound of that nickname.

Actually, there is a dragonfly that is called a Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus). As its name suggests, this monster of the dragonfly world specializes in hunting and consuming other dragonflies. Dragonhunters are huge, about 3.3 inches (84 mm) in length.  The male Dragonhunter’s clubtail is so large than it hangs down when it is perched and its powerful legs are so long that it looks awkward when it is perching.

Previously, I had seen a Dragonhunter only one time and it was from a distance. I had dreamed of encountering one at closer range for years. Imagine my surprise on Friday when one zoomed by and perched right in front of me when I was exploring a small pond. I stood still in absolute amazement and think I even forgot to breath—I was afraid to make any sudden moves for fear of scaring off the Dragonhunter.

I had a 180 mm macro lens attached to my camera and often it does not let me get close enough to a skittish dragonfly to get a shot. In this case, though, it was a perfect choice and I was able to get some detailed shots from where I was standing. In the shots below, there was only a minor cropping of the image. Wow! It’s almost a dream to fill the frame with a dragonfly.

I was totally psyched after this encounter. Little did I realize that I would encounter two more Dragonhunters that same day, but they will be subjects for other blog postings some time soon.

 

dragonhunter

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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For several years I have been on a quest, seeking to find a dragonhunter. No, I have not been playing a medieval role-playing game—I have been searching in vain for one of the monsters of the dragonfly world, the Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistylus)As its name suggests, this fierce predator feeds on other insects, including darner and other clubtail dragonflies, sometimes ambushing them from above, according to Wikipedia.

As I was walking yesterday along one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was certainly not expecting to see a dragonhunter. Most of the time they perch in trees overhanging streams and wait for a prey to fly by. So when I saw a dragonfly perch vertically on the stem of a plant, I assumed that it was a Fine-lined Emerald or possibly a Russet-tipped Clubtail, species that I had previously encountered near this location.

When I zoomed in, I noticed that the coloration was different, but thought perhaps that it was a merely female of one of these two species. When I reviewed a couple of shots on the back of the camera and saw the bright yellow stripes on the thorax, I knew that I had captured images of a different species. I wasn’t sure what it was, but local dragonfly expert and fellow blogger Walter Sanford identified it for me as a male Dragonhunter.

This experience reminded me of one of the lessons that Walter has taught me over the years—it pays to be alert at all times, because dragonflies don’t always follow the “rules” when it comes to habitats and can sometimes be found in locations where you would never expect to find them.

dragonhunter

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There is something both creepy and compelling about the fearsomely-named Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes). I first spotted one last summer and noted in a posting that these insects, sometimes referred to as Bee Panthers, are reported to be capable of taking down a hummingbird.

I caught sight of this specimen earlier this week as I was making my way along a creek in the back area of my local marsh, searching for the equally fierce Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus). The Dragonhunter is a very large dragonfly that, as its name suggests, specializes in hunting other dragonflies (along with bees, wasps, and butterflies).

The Red-footed Cannibalfly is part of a larger group of giant robber flies of the genus Promachus, a name that in Greek means “who leads in battle,” according to Wikipedia. I am fairly confident of my identification, but would welcome any corrections from more experienced insect hunters.

Be sure to look carefully at the claws on the front legs in the image. I am sure that it’s almost impossible to escape when this predator sinks those claws into you and injects you with a toxin that paralyzes you and liquifies your insides.

As one blogger so eloquently put it, “Be thankful these insects aren’t the size of Sandhill Cranes.”

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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