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Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Pondhawk’

We are in a period of transition. All around I see the signs of autumn, but summer has not completely loosed its grasp. Last week I spotted this female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Eastern Pondhawks are among our most common dragonflies—they are still with us, but their numbers are clearly dwindling.

In this image I really like the juxtaposition of the dragonfly’s bright summer coloration with the more muted autumn colors of the fallen leaves, a visual representation of this time of transition.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies are remarkably uncooperative—I can rarely get them to perch in places where the light is good and the background is photogenic.  I love photographing butterflies in patches of colorful flowers, for example, and have often thought that it would be cool to shoot a dragonfly in a similar environment. Alas, dragonflies don’t seem to be attracted by nectar and pollen. I have repeatedly been frustrated by dragonflies that zoom past flowers and refuse to stop.

This past Wednesday, though, an emerald green female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) that I had been chasing surprisingly set herself down in a patch of bright yellow flowers. Moving as stealthily as I could with a racing heart, I managed to get close enough to the dragonfly to capture this image before she flew away.

When I am walking about with my camera, I try to be ready for the unexpected and on this occasion my persistence and quick reaction paid off.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) are voracious predators and I spotted this female pondhawk munching on another insect this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At this time of the year the vegetation has grown high in many of the locations that I visit and I am now seeing more dragonflies perching at eye level or even higher. This heightened perspective allows me to get some cool, uncluttered backgrounds, like the one in this image that reminds me of a watercolor painting.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally a dragonfly’s abdomen is straight. Occasionally, though, I encounter one with an abdomen that has a noticeable curve, like this male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) that I spotted yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. (For those of you not familiar with dragonfly anatomy, the upper portion of the body is the thorax and the lower two-thirds is the abdomen.)

I suspect that the curvature was the result of a problem that occurred when the dragonfly was first emerging. It does not seem to have any effect on his ability to fly or to catch prey, but it might pose a problem when he attempts to mate.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Frequent viewers of this blog have probably noticed that I am doing a little series of postings featuring common dragonflies that at first glance might look similar. Today’s “star” is a mature male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). Like several other dragonflies in recent postings, the Eastern Pondhawk has a primarily blue body, but several characteristics make it possible to distinguish this species from others.

Both the male and female Eastern Pondhawks have green faces and the male has distinctive white terminal appendages, i.e. those little protrusions at the end of the abdomen (the “tail). Dragonfly specialists spend a lot of time focusing on those appendages, because immature males often have the same coloration as females. In this case, an immature male Eastern Pondhawk would be green with black bands on the abdomen. For the sake of comparison, I am including a photo I took on the same day of a female Eastern Pondhawk. If you compare the tips of the “tails” of the male and the female, you should be able to see the anatomical differences between the genders.

Although it doesn’t help in identifying them, I can’t help but note that Eastern Pondhawks are voracious predators. I think that I have captured more photos of Eastern Pondhawks feeding on other insects that of any other species. When I captured this image last week, I had no idea that the dragonfly was devouring a damselfly. If you click on the image to enlarge it and look just to the left of the dragonfly’s head, you will notice a set of small wings. As you look more closely, you can see the damselfly’s body hanging vertically just below the dragonfly’s head. Yikes!

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Ponndhawk

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although we are well into October, some of my beloved dragonflies are still hanging on at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Here are some dragonfly shots from the past 10 days of (1) a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum); (2) a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) with a hoverfly in her mouth; and (3) a female Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

I hadn’t really noticed before I aggregated this shots that all three of the dragonflies were perching on leaves. During the summer months, a significant number of the dragonflies that I photograph are perched higher on stalks of vegetation or on branches. In addition to these smaller dragonflies,

I have also recently spotted Common Green Darners, Wandering Gliders, and Black Saddlebags patrolling over the fields. Unfortunately, none of them paused long enough for me to get shots of them. All three of those species are migratory species and they may have been fueling up for a long journey ahead.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever gotten into a staring contest with a dragonfly? Dragonfly eyes can have an almost hypnotic effect on you when you look directly into them..

I went eye-to-eye with this Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. She was the one to break eye contact first as she cocked her head, smiled at me, and decided the contest was over.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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