Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Great Spreadwing’

Over the last month I have developed an unhealthy obsession with the Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis)—I think that I have turned into a stalker.

Normally I am a walker, not a stalker. I like to keep in motion, opportunistically scanning for new and different subjects to photograph. Increasingly, however, I have been spending endless hours at the same location, waiting and hoping that I will get yet another glimpse of a Great Spreadwing damselfly.

My friend and fellow fanatic Walter Sanford and I have been closely monitoring this one location, documenting in our photos the continued presence of these beautiful creatures and establishing new records for the latest date that they have been spotted in our area. It’s become harder and harder to find one of them and their population has shrunk to the point that there may be only one damselfly remaining.

That certainly seemed to be the case on 11 November (Veterans Day/Armistice Day), when for the first time this season, Walter and I hunted together for a Great Spreadwing. We have a friendly rivalry and push each other, but on this day it was complete cooperation as we searched for hours, uncertain if there were any survivors. Check out Walter’s blog posting today for an engaging narrative and wonderful photos of our adventures that day, which ultimately turned out to be successful in spotting a Great Spreadwing damselfly.

I too managed to get a few photos, although it was tough to frame a shot, because the  damselfly perched in the almost knee-high vegetation and I couldn’t move much from my crouching position for fear of scaring it away. I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens, so zooming from a greater distance was not an option.

Is this the final fall farewell? Are my days as a stalker coming to an end? When is it time to call it quits on a relationship?

The weather has turned cooler again and conditions continue to grow increasingly inhospitable. These may well be the last shots I get of a Great Spreadwing damselfly this season.

However, I’m heading out to the park in a short while and suspect that I will be drawn back inexorably to the damselfly’s habitat.

It’s so hard to say goodbye.

Great Spreadwing

Great Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Check out today’s posting by my good friend and fellow photographer Walter Sanford for a compelling narrative and wonderful photos of our newest adventures searching for the Great Spreadwing damselfly.

walter sanford's photoblog

It was my honor to spend Veterans Day with my good friend and photowalking buddy Major Michael Powell, U.S. Army, Retired. We were men on a mission: Searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis), in the hope of extending the “official” late-date for this species in Virginia. Mission accomplished, but it wasn’t easy — the operation was unsuccessful until we called in an “air strike!”

Since 06 October 2015, Mike and I have been frequently monitoring the Great Spreadwing damselflies that inhabit a small permanent pond and surrounding fields at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park.

On 11 November, Mike and I spent several hours intensively searching for our quarry; no luck. A little after 1:00 p.m., we were standing near the pond watching a lone Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) aggressively hawking smaller odonates perching around the perimeter of the pond: the darner dipped into…

View original post 199 more words

Read Full Post »

Do you keep returning to the same places over and over again to take photos of the same subjects? For the last month or so, I have been going back repeatedly to a small pool of water in a secluded part of my favorite park, hoping to get another glimpse of a spectacular Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestis grandis).

Their numbers seem to have dwindled and it is possible that there is only a single damselfly of this species remaining. Yesterday, I watched and waited for quite some time before I was finally able to spot a male Great Spreadwing and it took several mini-encounters before I was able to get a decent photograph of the damselfly.

All of the female damselflies of this species seem to have disappeared several weeks ago, so it seems that any hopes he harbors for mating may be in vain. Indeed, the clock is definitely ticking for him—this species has never before been documented in Virginia this late in November.

I am cheering for this survivor and will try to find him again later this weekend. Despite my hopeful attitude, however, I can’t help but remember that yesterday I observed a large Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) patrolling the pool and periodically chasing the damselfly, hoping to turn him into the main course of his lunch.

I’ve included two very different images of yesterday’s damselfly. The first shot is one that I framed very carefully, trying to get as parallel as I could with the damselfly and focusing manually. I like the way that it shows so many of beautiful details of the damselfly’s body. When I took the second shot, I was facing almost directly into the sun and I hurriedly played with camera settings to try to ensure that I did not get a mere silhouette. I really liked the way the sunlight was coming through the outstretched wings and used my camera’s pop-up flash to add a little light to the damselfly’s underside.

Great Spreadwing

Great Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Some of the damselfly species that I pursue are present in such limited numbers and in so well-defined areas that it is sometimes possible after time to recognize individual damselflies by their distinctive physical characteristics.

Earlier this month I was really excited when I spotted some Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) after a tip from fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I visited the location where he had seen them a few times and was able to get some good photos, which I included in several blog postings.

My efforts, though, pale in comparison with Walter’s—he virtually staked out that location and came to know some of  the damselflies there so well that he gave them nicknames. In messages to me, Walter noted he had named two of his favorites “Mr. Magoo” and “Bendy Straw.”  Check out Walter’s blog posting today for some wonderful images of these two damselfly celebrities.

As I reviewed my images of Great Spreadwings, I noticed that one of them had a peculiar bend near the end of his abdomen. Could this possibly be “Bendy Straw?” Walter and I were never at that location at the same time, so it seemed unlikely that I had seen one of “his” damselflies. After I sent him a copy of the image, he confirmed that I had in fact photographed “Bendy Straw.”

Great Spreadwing damselfly

As I continued examining my images, another damselfly stood out, because he had only five legs. It looked like one of his back legs had been completely severed, leaving a small stump. How could something like this have happened? I am used to seeing dragonflies with tattered wings, but an injury like this seems to be of a completely different nature.

Great Spreadwing damselfly

I usually try to identify the species of my subjects, but both of these damselflies help to remind me that I am not photographing species—I am photographing individuals. Each of those individuals has distinctive characteristics and has its own life story.

Somehow that seems to be a useful reminder and gives me a sense of perspective about what I am doing as a nature photographer.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

How do you feel when confronted with a graphic image of mating damselflies? Are you shocked, offended, fascinated, or intrigued? Is it art or is it pornography?

I couldn’t help but feel a little bit like a voyeur as I crept closer and closer on Monday to the mating Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) with my macro lens. As I prepared the photos for this posting, it seemed like I had extracted a couple of pages from the Damselfly Kama Sutra. What exactly were they doing as they assumed more and more acrobatic positions? It was like watching an R-rated (or maybe X-rated) Cirque du Soleil performance.

Art or pornography? Sometime in the distant past I remember studying a Supreme Court case in which attempts were made to define obscenity. With the help of Wikipedia, I refreshed my memory. It was a 1964 case and Justice Potter Stewart wrote some words that have become a guideline for assessing a given piece of work:

“I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description [“hard-core pornography”], and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it…”

So that’s it, “I know it when I see it.”

I’ll boldly contend that my photos are art. I am glad, however, that I am not a parent who has to respond to a young child’s curious question about what these damselflies are doing. The birds and the bees are simple to explain by comparison. With damselflies, I think the Facebook expression fits—”it’s complicated.”

Great Spreadwing damselflies

Great Spreadwing damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I just love the beautiful blue eyes and distinctive markings of the male Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) and I was thrilled when I spotted one on Saturday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

I wonder if it damages this little guy’s self-esteem to be called a “damsel?” Perhaps he looks with envy at his odonate brethren with the more macho-sounding “dragon” in their names. Do we need a more gender-neutral name for damselflies?

Great Spreadwing damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

What’s the largest damselfly in North American? According to Dennis Paulson, in his wonderful book, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, that title goes to the Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis), which is more than two inches (5 cm) in length, i.e. bigger than many of the dragonflies that I so frequently chase.

My good friend and local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford spotted a male Great Spreadwing this past week and posted a photo of it and yesterday I felt inspired to try to find one myself. He had provided me the general location at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite local place for nature photography, and I patiently searched near the water, in the tall vegetation, and under the trees for almost two hours.

As my patience was starting to wear thin, I finally spotted one. The Great Spreadwing damselflies have a yellow racing stripe on their thorax and are quite distinctive, in addition to their size. I took some initial shots with my big zoom lens and then switched quickly to my 180mm macro lens.

The first Great Spreadwing I spotted was a male, but eventually I spotted a female and a pair of them in the tandem position. I am still going through my shots, but wanted to post a couple initially. I will probably post some more images in another posting or two.

The first shot shows a female Great Spreadwing damselfly—you can tell from her coloration and her terminal appendages. She let me take quite a few photos and returned to nearby vegetation a couple of times when she was spooked. The second image is a close-up that shows her beautiful eyes and her blue upper lips, which I think technically are called labrum.

Perhaps blue lips are the new fashion craze for the autumn. I’ll look around and see if any of the young ladies in the Washington D.C. area are sporting this look.

Great Spreadwing damselfly

spread2_female_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »