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Posts Tagged ‘Pantala flavescens’

I was absolutely thrilled last Friday to photograph a Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) while I was wandering the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Wandering Gliders, also know as Globe Skimmers or Globe Wanderers, are considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet, with a good population on every continent except Antarctica, although they are rare in Europe, according to Wikipedia. Wandering Gliders make an annual multigenerational journey of some 11,200 miles (about 18,000 km); to complete the migration, individual Wandering Gliders may fly more than 3,730 miles (6,000 km)—one of the farthest known migrations of all insect species.

As their name suggests, Wandering Gliders are one of those species that like to patrol endlessly in the sky, rarely stopping to perch. When I first spotted this Wandering Glider it was flying back and forth overhead and my neck grew tired as I tried to track it visually in the air. It fooled me a couple of times when it flew low over a patch of vegetation and I thought it might stop for a moment, but it continued to fly. Eventually it landed and perched, hanging at a slight angle from a broken-off branch about a foot (30 cm) off of the ground.

A Wandering Glider is a fairly compact dragonfly at about 1.9 inches (48 mm) in length, but as you can see in the photo, it has long, broad wings. For comparison purposes, Black Saddlebags dragonflies, which I featured last week, are a bit bigger at 2.2 inches (55 m), and Common Green Darners, another migratory dragonfly species, are even larger at up to 3 inches in length (76 mm).

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) are the most widespread dragonfly species in the world and are found on all continents except Antarctica. I was thrilled on Tuesday when one stopped wandering for a moment at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to capture this image. According to Wikipedia, individual Wandering Gliders can fly more than 3730 miles (6000 km)—one of the farthest known migrations of all insect species.

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Autumn is a prime season for migration. It is almost impossible to ignore the sounds of the Canada Geese as they pass overhead and thousands of other birds pass by unheard, heading south to warmer locations.

Some dragonflies migrate too and at this time of the year it is not unusual to see some of them patrolling high in the air. A good number of dragonflies spend a lot of time perching, and they tend to be easiest to photograph. Other dragonflies, like the species that migrate, spend most of their time in flight. Their stamina is amazing and your patience has to be equally amazing if you try to wait for them to land to photograph them. The alternative is to try to photograph them in flight.

Yesterday I spotted a couple of Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) flying patrols over a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Wandering Gliders are the most widespread dragonflies on the planet and have an almost worldwide distribution.

I watched the Wandering Gliders for a while to see if I could figure out the patterns that they were flying. Gradually I realized that they often would pass by a certain part of the shore  and hover a little and that became my target zone. With my Canon SX50 superzoom camera in hand, I visually tracked the dragonflies in the air and attempted to photograph them. Mostly I was unsuccessful, but I did get a few decent shots.

In the first shot below, the sharpest that I was able to manage, the Wandering Glider was flying above eye level, so the beautiful blue sky served as a backdrop. In the second image, the dragonfly was flying below eye level and the ripples in the water create a beautiful pattern in the background. When I consider the two images, I am torn between two competing impulses—technically the first shot is superior, but artistically the second shot appeals to me more. Fortunately, I don’t have to choose one over the other and can post both of them.

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Autumn seems to be the season for migration—it’s hard to miss the flocks of honking geese that fill the skies and mysterious warblers taunt me with their songs from hidden haunts behind the foliage as they rest before continuing their journeys. Did you know that some species of dragonflies are also migratory?

Most of the migratory species unsurprisingly spend a lot of time in the air. They are visible as they pass through our area, but are tough to photograph. This past weekend I manage to get shots of two of the migratory species at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first one is a Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) and the second is a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata). What really stands out to me is the perfect condition of their wings, in contrast to the wings of the remaining resident dragonflies that are often tattered and torn this late in the season.

Wandering Glider

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first saw this dragonfly land yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I had no idea what it was. Zooming in, I was shocked to see that it was a Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens), a migratory species that almost never perches.

The Wandering Glider is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly in the world, found on every continent except Antarctica. According to odonatacentral.com, “It is a strong flier that is regularly encountered by ocean freighters and a well-known migratory species. Because of its ability to drift with the wind, feeding on aerial plankton, until it finally encounters a rain pool in which it breeds, it has been called “…the world’s most evolved dragonfly.” ”

After I got the initial shots of the dragonfly on two different perches, I decided to follow the dragonfly and wait for it to perch again. It wandered about through the air over my head for an extended period of time and never again came down to land. The last photo gives you an idea of my view during that period of waiting—note the long wings that help it to fly such long distances.

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) may look ordinary, but it has extraordinary flying abilities that fully justify its name. It is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet and is found on all continents except for Europe and Antarctica and one was even recorded at over 20 thousand feet (6200 meters) in the Himalayas, according to Wikipedia. It is also the only dragonfly to be found on Easter Island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

These dragonflies are in almost constant motion, so I was thrilled when I stumbled across a male Wandering Glider perched on a plant at my local marshland last weekend. There were a lot of Green Darners buzzing around too and this Wandering Glider may have been part of a migrating group that had stopped for a rest. According to an article at Odonata Central, Wandering Gliders drift with the wind for long distances (even over water) and are often encountered by ocean freighters. They mate in flight and feed on aerial plankton when flying long distances. (I never knew that there was such a thing as ‘aerial plankton.”)

I wondered why there are no Wondering Gliders in Europe and found one answer in Wikipedia. These dragonflies like to fly in moist winds and the extremely dry winds coming off of the Sahara Desert may have a barrier effect.

wandering_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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