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Posts Tagged ‘female Blue-faced Meadowhawk’

Do you have a favorite dragonfly? Almost everyone who reads my blog knows that I love dragonflies. Like parents with children, I am probably supposed to love them all equally, but I actually do have a favorite dragonfly, the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum). On Thursday, I was thrilled to spot my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk  of the season at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge which turned out to be a female.

Why are these my favorites? The males of this species are spectacular, with bright red bodies and stunning turquoise eye and I also find the females to be quite attractive. At a time when the dragonfly season feels like it is starting to wind down, these little dragonflies appear on the scene and keep me company for several more months—that is at least as important to me as their physical appearance.

If you want to know a bit more about why I like dragonflies so much and especially Blue-faced Meadowhawks, check out my posting entitled “My favorite dragonfly?” Almost every year I am flooded with similar feelings when I see my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk and the linked post shows a handsome male that was the first one that I spotted in 2018—it is also an easy way for you to compare today’s female with that male to see some of the differences between the two genders.

Blue-faced Meadowhawks are also special to me for a personal reason—I was awarded second place in a local photo contest several years ago for a macro shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Here is a link to the 2015 posting Second place in a local photo competition that shows that prize-winning entry and tells some of the back story of the image.

I captured the two images below from more or less the same spot—it is interesting to see how much difference a slight change in the angle of view can make. I like the overall pose and the background of the first image, which I believe was shot from a crouched position. The second image, which looks like it was shot from a higher angle, is a little sharper and you can see some of the details much better, like the spines on the legs. Overall, I think I prefer the first one. What do you think?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) come in several different color variations. Some, like the one in the first image below have a reddish colored body, like the male of the species—they are known as andromorphs. Others are brownish in color, like the one in the second image below, and are know as heteromorphs. Irrespective of the body color, though, all of the females have striking blue eyes.

Usually it is harder to spot females than the more brightly colored males, but for some reason, these two females were the only Blue-faced Meadowhawks that I saw as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge one day last week.

Where were all the males? Maybe they were watching a sporting event or were congregating at a local bar (or both).  🙂

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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As the seasons change, some dragonflies begin to disappear, but happily some new ones appear, like this spectacular female Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

One of the really cool things about this species is that there are two different color variants of the females. Most of the females (and young males) are brown in color and are sometimes referred to as heteromorphs, while a smaller number of females, like the one in the photo, have a bright red color matching that of mature males and are sometimes referred to as andromorphs. This is roughly parallel to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, which has two different varieties of female, a yellow morph that matches the males and a black morph.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Saturday, I searched and searched for a straggler dragonfly which might have survived our recent cold spell, but I found none—dragonfly hunting season is officially over for me. That same day, however, fellow photographer and blogger (and local dragonfly expert) Walter Sanford did a blog posting with photos of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that both of us photographed on 17 October and suggested that I also post some shots.

Previously this year, Walter and I did companion postings, in which we each posted photos that showed our different photographic approaches to the same subject, which in that case was a pair of mating dragonflies. (If you are interested, check out Walter’s posting Two sides to every story and my posting My view of the mating dragonflies.)

I am fascinated by the way that two photographers shooting together consciously or unconsciously make a series of creative choices that can result in very different images. Some of the differences, of course, are attributable to the choice of photographic equipment, but many of the differences are caused by the “style” in which the photographer prefers to work.

I took these shots with a 180mm macro lens at fairly close range, which meant that I had to be thinking all of the time about depth of field. The three images I selected show how the amount of the dragonfly’s body in focus changed as I circled around the dragonfly and photographed it in various positions as it flew off and returned to the same general area.

I remember going once to an exhibition showing paintings side by side of a scene that had been rendered by two impressionist artists painting together—I think it was Monet and Renoir—and since that time I have periodically considered the question of whether or not there is an objective reality when it comes to taking (or painting) pictures. What is reality?

Be sure to visit Walter’s blog and his images of this dragonfly in his posting To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (Part 2).

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My concerns about the potential demise of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were greatly exaggerated and I saw a half-dozen or more yesterday on Veterans Day (Armistice Day).

Normally we stop seeing this species of dragonflies by the end of October, but we have not yet gone below freezing and perhaps that explains their unexpected longevity. Yesterday, for example, the temperatures soared to almost 70 degrees F (21 degrees C).  I have to note too that I am searching for them more diligently and in more remote locations of my marshland park, so that may help explain why I am seeing them more frequently.

As is the case with birds, male dragonflies tend to be more brightly colored and visible. Many female dragonflies are brown in colored and harder to spot. I was thus very happy yesterday to be able to get this close-up shot of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk. Her body coloration may be a little bit drab, but those blue eyes are simply stunning.

In case you are curious, these dragonflies are small in size, with a body length of approximately 1.5 inches (38 mm), so I had to move in awfully close to get this shot. Surprisingly (and happily), this female tolerated my close presence for long enough for me to take several shots before she flew off into the distance.

female Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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