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Posts Tagged ‘Fort Belvoir VA’

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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I am not sure if Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies (Argia apicalis) are always happy, but the ones that I spotted yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge seemed to be smiling at me.

The beautiful light blue color on their upper bodies and their striking blue eyes make Blue-fronted Dancers relatively easy to spot and to identify.

Blue-fronted Dancer

Blue-fronted Dancer

Blue-fronted Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Throughout the month of May I have struggled to identify the dragonflies and damselflies that I have photographed. So many of the species seem so similar that I have had to defer to experts for help. Over the years I have learned that the best way to get help on a Facebook forum is to misidentify a subject—some experts, who might not respond to a request for help, feel compelled to correct you and demonstrate their superior knowledge.

This past Friday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, it was nice to spot a familiar dragonfly species that was immediately identifiable—there is simply no other dragonfly in our area the looks like an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Even the name is helpful in drawing attention to the key identification feature, the distinctive amber wings.

These dragonflies are among the smallest ones in our area, but they tend to perch on low vegetation overhanging the water (especially males like this one), so they are relatively easy to spot. Although they tend to be a little skittish, if you are patient and persistent you can snag some shots that show the beautiful details of the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled yesterday to see that two of my favorite damselfly species, the Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis) and the Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis) have reappeared at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. It is definitely worth clicking on the images below in order to get a better look at the beautiful baby-blue color of the Blue-fronted Dancer and the spectacular purple of the Variable Dancer.

Blue-fronted Dancer

Variable Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s always wonderful to see large colorful butterflies, like this Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) that I spotted last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I don’t know about you, but I find the spots to be a bit more orange than red and the body looks more grayish-blue than purple. Maybe the people responsible for naming the species say it in a different light. 🙂

Red-spotted Purple

Red-spotted Purple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you remember the first blog post that you ever wrote? In my first blog posting on July 7, 2012, I featured a photo of a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). Every year since then whenever I see my first Blue Dashers of the season, I recall my excitement I experienced in being able to photograph that first dragonfly. I did not realize at that time how “addicted” I would get to photographing these beautiful little creatures.

I spotted this handsome male Blue Dasher this past Tuesday at the edge of a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I spotted this male Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) while exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a relatively small park not far from where I live. The dragonfly was perched on some leafy vegetation overhanging the water and I almost fell into the pond while trying to frame the shot. Fortunately I achieved my desired result by hanging over the edge of the steep bank.

If you look at the end of the “tail,” which technically is called the “abdomen,” you can see the enlarged section that gives rise to the term “clubtail.” Compared to the family of skimmers, which include most of the dragonflies that you probably see, like Blue Dashers and Common Whitetails, clubtails are relatively uncommon and it is always exciting for me to spot one.

I was particularly struck by this dragonfly’s brilliant blue eyes. For some reason I find blue eyes to be especially beautiful, irrespective of the species.

Lancet Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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