Posts Tagged ‘Gomphaeschna furcillata’

Natural camouflage in the coloration of birds and insects enhances their survivability, but it really makes them hard to find and photograph. Last week I made trips on two consecutive days to Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland to search for dragonflies. I have already posted photos of a Common Green Darner and a Swamp Darner that I saw during those trips—both of those dragonflies are large and colorful and relatively easy to spot.

One of the main purposes of the trip, though, was to look for a Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata), a species that is rare in our area and hard to spot in the field. Why? The Harlequin Darner is small for a darner, about 2.2 inches (56 mm) in length, and is in a sub-group know as pygmy darners. Its subdued coloration of gray and brown provide excellent camouflage, particularly because it often perches on tree trunks. The Harlequin Darner requires a specific type of habitat and has a flight season of only a few weeks in early spring.

On my first trip, I traveled with fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford. We searched in vain for several hours, sometimes side-by-side and sometimes separated. As luck would have it, Walter located a Harlequin Darner at a moment when I was pretty far away. Alas, the dragonfly flew away shortly after I arrived at his location. Fortunately, Walter captured some excellent shots which you can see (along with some additional information) on his blog posting from last week. As it turned out, that was the only Harlequin Darner that either of us saw all day.

The following day I decided to return alone, hoping that I too might spot a Harlequin Darner. I saw a good number of dragonflies, including the Common Baskettail that I captured in flight, but as the day progressed, I began to wonder if I would ever find a Harlequin Darner. I kept searching and finally I saw a dragonfly perch vertically on the trunk of a tree. The lighting was harsh and the shadows distorted the proportions of the dragonfly, so I wasn’t sure what kind it was. At this point, though, I was focused on getting a shot and would worry later about identifying the dragonfly. The dragonfly remained in place for about 30 seconds and then flew away.

Well, it turns out this is a female Harlequin Darner. Every time that I see a new species for the first time, I am thrilled to get any kind of recognizable images. In the future I will try to get better shots, but for now I am content that once again my persistence paid off.

It’s great to celebrate small victories.

Harlequin Darner

Harlequin Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: