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Posts Tagged ‘Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly’

Most people are familiar with the words, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Perhaps they have heard them read in a church, where they would be identified as coming from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. For folks of my generation, it is ever more likely that they would be associated with the words of a song by Pete Seeger made popular by the Byrds in the 1960’s.

Recently I have been really conscious of the changing seasons, of the never ending cycle of life and death. I have seen this phenomenon in nature and I have been very sensitive to it in other parts of my life.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not made a blog posting in several days, after more than a year of posting every day. I have spent the last few days in Massachusetts with my family celebrating the life and mourning the death of one of my younger brothers who died a week ago of lung cancer.

So often we think of growing older with grace and beauty, like the female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) pictured below, thinking that we can somehow live forever. In fact, our days are numbered—life is so precious and yet so fragile. Celebrate life and love freely.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

 

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Normally I do not like to have manmade objects in my wildlife photos, but in this image of a dragonfly perching on a twisted wire, I really like the juxtaposition of the natural and manmade elements.

The dragonfly is a very mature female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans)—the bodies of females of this dragonfly species get darker as they age and this one seems to have an almost bronze-like patina. Although there was plenty of vegetation around, she repeated perched on this wire that was blocking one of the trails on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The diverse linear elements really draw my eyes to this image—the soft green lines of the vegetation in the background; the crisp angular lines of the leading edges of the wings; the slightly raised line formed by the dragonfly’s body; and the twisting lines of the wire.

 

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I focused on this male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans), he wearily looked up at me. His wings were tattered and his body was scratched—it had already been a long summer for him.

I was fascinated by the shape and texture of the branch on which he was perched and positioned myself to capture those details. I made sure that the nearest eye was in focus, but did not worry that most of the body was blurry and that the angle made the wings almost disappear.

The resulting photo reminded my of the diagrams in my childhood geometry textbook depicting various angles—a cute dragonfly in an acute angle.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into summer, the days of the dragonflies are gradually coming to an end. Their biological clocks are ticking as they feel compelled to make efforts to ensure the perpetuation of their species.

On Thursday I made a trip to Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland park, and spotted this pair of mating Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans). I could not help but notice that the wings of the dragonflies were looking tattered, especially those of the female, the dragonfly that is light brown in color. I can also see scratches along the the body of the male.

I also noticed that the female appears to be holding onto some kind of insect in her front legs. Was she planning for a snack during mating? Is the insect the dragonfly equivalent of a post-coital cigarette? I know a lot about dragonflies, but some things are meant perhaps to always remain a mystery.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The dragonfly was high in the tree and almost completely silhouetted when I spotted it on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Conditions did not seem optimal for capturing an image, but as I looked through the viewfinder of my camera, my eyes were attracted to the curlicue shape of the branch on which the dragonfly was perched. The branch, I realized, was actually the main subject of the image that I wanted to create.

I was far enough away that I could move about freely without fear of spooking the dragonfly, so I tried a number of different angles of view and shooting positions. As I later looked through the images on my computer, the placement of the sky and the clouds in the frame made me decide to feature this particular shot.

As for the dragonfly, I believe that it is a female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans). Despite the shadowy silhouette created by shooting into the sun, there are just enough details for me for me to identify the dragonfly with a reasonable degree of certainty, though, as I noted earlier, my primary goal was to draw the viewer’s attention to the spiral shape of the curlicue branch.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We are definitely in the summer doldrums, with day after day of oppressive heat and humidity. This week has been a bit different only because we have had some violent thunder storms. In terms of dragonflies, the common skimmer species are flying about in great numbers. In my area, that means that on a trip Tuesday to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I saw lots of Common Whitetails, Eastern Pondhawks, Needham’s Skimmers, Blue Dashers, and Great Blue Skimmers.

Although I have photographed these species many times, I still chase after them, trying to capture new behavior or interesting portraits, perches, or backgrounds. That is why I was able to capture this image of this smiling female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) as she perched on some stalks of Eastern Gammagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). I do not know vegetation very well, but I remember my friend Walter Sanford identifying this type of grass to me a few years ago and somehow the name has stuck with me.

In many ways, this photograph is indicative of my favorite approach to wildlife photography. Although I will sometimes look for rare species to photograph, I especially enjoy photographing common species and highlighting their uncommon beauty. Beauty is everywhere.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Can dragonflies smile? It sure looked like this male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was flashing me a toothy grin when I spotted him last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps it was just my imagination, running away with me.

smiling dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) seemed to be grinning at me one morning this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Smiling is contagious, I have found.

I hope that your Sunday brings an equivalent smile to your face.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although the astronomical calendar indicates that it is now autumn, the summer season continues for many dragonflies. Many of them are showing a lot of wear and tear, like this female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) with tattered wings that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

At this time of the year it is not uncommon to see dragonflies and butterflies with damaged wings, but this is one of the most extreme cases that I have ever witnessed. Amazingly, she was still able to fly.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) are really common, but I enjoy photographing them anyways, like this grizzled male that I spotted earlier this week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The curling vines of the plant on which this dragonfly chose to perch add some additional visual interest to these photos.

I must confess that ordinary blue dragonflies have a special place in my heart, because my very first blog posting on July 7, 2012 featured a photo of a Blue Dasher, another common species. My photography skills and my knowledge about dragonflies have increased significantly since that time, though I am still quite proud of that initial photo that started me on this long journey into photography.

 

blue dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This tattered male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) seemed to be auditioning for a role as a replacement for the goose on this sign on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Or perhaps he was merely seeking a place of refuge—all dragonflies are welcome here.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It almost looks like this Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was wearing cool wraparound sunglasses this past weekend when I spotted him chilling out at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. From a distance, it looks like dragonflies have smooth bodies, but when you get a good look up close, you discover that they have tiny hairs covering various parts of their bodies.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Two different colored dragonflies, a Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) and a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), were peacefully sharing a prime perch on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Why is it so hard for us to peacefully coexist with one another?

peaceful co-existence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Dragonflies have amazing compound eyes that wrap around their heads. With up to 30,000 facets (ommatidia, to be technical), dragonflies have incredible vision and can even see colors beyond human visual capabilities, like UV light. For an easy to read discussion about dragonfly eyes, i.e. not overly scientific, check out this posting by “grrl Scientist” that was posted on scienceblogs.com.

I captured this close-up image of a Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At least once a season, I manage to get a shot like this when a cooperative dragonfly lets me get close. I captured the image below with my trusty Tamron 180mm macro lens on my Canon 50D DSLR. This lens, which has a longer focal length than most macro lenses, gives me some stand-off distance so I can get a macro shot like this without actually being on top of the subject. The only downside to the lens is that it has no built-in image stabilization, so I have to pay extra attention to remaining steady when shooting with it—I generally use a monopod to help reduce camera shake and I think it helped for this image.

The image is framed just as I saw it in my viewfinder. Most of the time I end up cropping my images as part of my normal post-processing, but in this case it looked pretty good without any cropping whatsoever.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When they are immature, the males and females of many dragonfly species are very similar in coloration. To make matters worse, immature dragonflies of several different species are also similar in appearance, with only subtle differences to distinguish one species from another, like the color of the upper portions of their legs.

As a result, I am not really sure of my identification of this particular dragonfly. I lean towards it being an immature male Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), but it might instead be a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta). (The adults of these two species, by contrast, are very different in appearance and would never be mistaken for each other.)

Whatever the case, I love the two-toned eyes and overall body position of this beautiful dragonfly. It might be my imagination, but it seemed to me that the dragonfly had tilted its head a bit to check me out.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the days of summer gradually wind down, I can’t help but notice a significant amount of wear and tear on the bodies and especially the wings of some of the dragonflies and butterflies that I see. Clearly it has been a long, tough season for some of them. Despite its tattered wings, this male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) that I spotted on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park seemed to have no trouble flying, though I suspect that his days are numbered.

I hope that all of you have managed to survive this season well and that your “summer wear” refers to your clothes and not to the condition of your body.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most folks can readily identify a Great Blue Heron, but would you recognize a Great Blue Skimmer if you encountered one? This dragonfly’s wing pattern is fairly distinctive, but I usually look for its beautiful blue eyes and bright white face. I spotted these male Great Blue Skimmers (Libellula vibrans) on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Many of the dragonflies that I see this late in the summer have wings that are torn and tattered, yet they seem to still fly perfectly well. The dragonflies clearly are survivors—survivors of encounters with predators and thorny vegetation or even of overly energetic mating sessions.

Last Friday I spotted this Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) as it perched on some bent stalks of grass. He is not a perfect specimen, but I can’t help but be drawn in by his beautiful speckled blue eyes.

Yes, he still deserves to be called “great.”

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Females are a real mystery to me, especially when it comes to dragonflies. At this time of the year I see a lot of different dragonflies and I have featured a number of the colorful males over the past few weeks. They are relatively easy to identify when they are mature—immature males, however, often have the same coloration as females.

The challenge with females, particularly a number of the members of the Skimmer family, is that they all look pretty much the same.  This past Friday I photographed this beautiful female dragonfly and I love the two-toned coloration of her eyes. After consulting with my local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford, I have concluded that she is probably a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), though she doesn’t have a spot of blue on her

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the speckled blue eyes of the male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans), like this spectacular specimen I spotted Monday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How was your summer? Did you take a vacation and relax or at least take some time off from work?

There are no vacations for dragonflies. It looks like this has been a long, hard summer for the male Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) that I spotted earlier this month, judging from the almost shredded condition of his wings. Yet somehow, he is still able to fly and continues to survive

Autumn is almost upon us and the number of dragonflies that I observe is dropping. Before long, only a few hardy species will remain. For now, I take joy in seeing the tattered survivors, whose beauty is undiminished in my eyes.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was suffering in the heat and humidity on Friday, but this dragonfly, which I think is a female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), seemed to enjoy basking in the sunlight and let me get really close for this shot.

dragon_superclose_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Am I the only one who remembers a poster from the 1970’s featuring the slogan “Fly United” and depicting two ducks mating in mid-air?

That’s what immediately came to mind earlier this week when a pair of Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) flew by me at my local marsh. Anyone who has ever watched dragonflies mate knows that it is an acrobatic endeavor, requiring tremendous flexibility by both parties. Imagine trying to fly while still in the “wheel” position. Amazingly all of the wings seemed to able to move freely, though I didn’t notice if they were both using their wings for propulsion.

I was able to snap off these shots as the pair flew toward me over the water of a pond, which reflected wonderfully the blue sky and the clouds up above us.

wheel1_blogwheel2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s tough to photograph a dragonfly in flight, but when it chooses to hover, there is a slightly better chance of getting a shot. That was the case recently when I encountered this female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) that was in the process of depositing her eggs in the water. As her mate circled overhead, the female dragonfly would hover over the water and then periodically dip the tip of her tail in the water before returning to the hovering position. I was able to get several images of the hovering dragonfly, but got only a single image of her depositing the eggs.

flying1_skim_blogflying2_skim_blogflying3_skim_blogflying4_skim_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As summer fades, I have been seeing fewer and fewer dragonflies, so I decided to attempt some in-flight shots and managed to capture these images of a female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans).

Photographing dragonflies in flight is one of my toughest photographic challenges, but I have learned a few tricks about capturing these kinds of shots. One way is to find a favorite perch of a dragonfly and try to photograph the dragonfly arriving and departing from that perch, given that dragonflies often return to the same perches. That was not the approach that I used this time.

The approach I used is to capture the dragonfly while it is hovering and is therefore in the same spot for a few seconds. I  watched as two blue skimmers mated quickly and I knew that I had a target of opportunity, because the female would soon deposit the eggs in the water. She hovered in the air and then dipped her tail end down to the water to deposit some eggs and returned to the hover position and repeated the process. It was during this process that I got these shots.

I am always struck by the beautiful blue eyes of the Great Blue Skimmer, particularly in the female. The male is all blue, so his eyes don’t provide the same visual contrast as the drabber colored body of the female.

The dwindling dragonfly population is yet another sign of the changing of the seasons—it won’t be long before I begin to focus my camera lens more frequently on birds than on insects, but I am not giving up on my insects quite yet.

skimmer_air2_blogskimmer_air_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you ever take shots and find that you like the way that the background turned out even more than the way the subject looked?  That was the case with this image of a male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) that I photographed this past weekend.

The lighting was a bit harsh and the pose is pretty ordinary, but I love the two-tone background, caused in part by the use of my 135-400mm telephoto zoom at its full extension.

blue_skimmer2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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