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Posts Tagged ‘Lancet Clubtail dragonfly’

Eye contact and posture are often key factors when trying to assess the attitude of another person we encounter. Is the same true for dragonflies? I am certainly guilty of anthropomorphism when I attribute human emotions and other traits to my little flying friends, but I often cannot help but do so—it is fun to let my imagination run free.

I grew up watching cowboy movies and one of the traditions of these movies was a showdown, often at high noon, at which two gunfighters face off for a climactic formal duel. I spotted the first male Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus exilis) on Tuesday in the rocks on the banks of a stream in Prince William County. The small dragonfly did not seem to be afraid of me at all and in fact his whole attitude and direct stare seemed almost confrontational, like he was challenging me to a gunfight.

The male Lancet Clubtail in the nearby vegetation, by contrast, seemed shy and demure, glancing at me only out of the corner of his eyes. Perhaps he was hoping that I would simply go away, but he did not want to push the issue and definitely seemed to be avoiding a direct confrontation.

Who knows what goes on in the minds of dragonflies and other wild creatures? Whenever I look at the massive compound eyes of a dragonfly, I am acutely aware that they perceive the world in a way that is radically different from the way that I do. My mind threatens to explode when I try to imagine what it would be like have that kind of sensory input. Sometimes I try to interpret their behavior in human terms, but most often I simply gaze at them with awe and wonder, marveling at their beauty and extraordinary capabilities.

Lancet Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was happy on Tuesday to spot this male Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus exilis) perched in the vegetation overhanging the small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I would like to have gotten a closer shot, but the bank was steep and the water in the pond appears to be deep at that spot. Staying dry, I was content to capture this environmental portrait of the handsome little dragonfly with such striking blue eyes.

lancet clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have always been fascinated by shadows and reflections, which often lend an additional element of interest to a more straightforward shot. When a recently emerged dragonfly, probably a Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus exilis), flew into a nearby tree, I was utterly mesmerized by the shadow that it cast onto the leaves of the tree. The shapes and patterns of the green leaves create an almost abstract backdrop for the scene that really drew me in.

Most of my images are detailed, realistic portraits of my wildlife subjects, but at certain moment I love to attempt to capture more “artsy” images like this one.

Lancet Clubtail

© 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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What’s your strategy for beating the heat? One of the favorite approaches here in the Washington D.C. area is to stay indoors with the air conditioning cranked up. For a wildlife photographer, though, that is not really an option. My subjects manage to survive in the heat of the day and I need to be other there if I want to photograph them.

Birds seem to be most active early in the day and late in the day, when temperatures are usually coolest, but many dragonflies seem to thrive in bright, direct sunlight. How do they do it? How do they regulate their body temperatures?

If you have ever observed dragonflies on a hot summer day, you may have seen some of them perching in a hand-stand like position, like an Olympic gymnast. This is often referred to as the obelisk posture. The abdomen is raised to minimize the surface area exposed to the sun and when the sun is close to directly overhead, the vertical alignment of the dragonfly’s body suggests an obelisk, like the Washington Monument that I see every time that I venture into the city.

Here are a couple of shots of a Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) that I spotted this past Monday at Jackson Miles Wetland Refuge, only a few miles from where I live. Unlike some clubtail dragonflies, like the Dragonhunter that I featured recently, the Lancet Clubtail is pretty small, about 1.7 inches (43 mm) in length. What I find to be particularly stunning about this dragonfly are its deep blue eyes, which seemed to draw me in.

Initially the dragonfly had its abdomen at an angle, but gradually it kept raising it higher until it ended up in an almost perfect obelisk pose. If I were a judge at the Olympics, I would give this dragonfly a perfect score of 10.

Lancet Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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