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Posts Tagged ‘Perithemis tenera’

Male dragonflies are often territorial and spend a lot of their time chasing off intruders, like these rival male Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera) that I spotted earlier this month at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Although Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are quite small (one inch (25 mm) or less in length), they tend to hover a bit when they are flying, which makes them a little easier to photograph in flight than most other dragonfly species.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you photograph the same subjects over and over again? I know that I do, hoping that each new opportunity might provide something different—perhaps a new pose, an unusual angle of view, or different lighting conditions.

That is why I was chasing after this male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Usually I find the males of this common species buzzing around at water’s edge or perched on vegetation overhanging or growing out of the water. This individual, however, was flying over a grassy patch adjacent to the pond, periodically pausing to perch only a few inches above the ground.

I took this shot from almost directly above the little dragonfly—Eastern Amberwings are less than an inch (25 mm) in length—and that angle helped me to capture the entire body in relatively sharp focus. Sharpness, though is only one of the factors that I use in evaluating my photos and often it is not the most important one. In this case, I really like the angled pose of the dragonfly and I the dominant colors in the image. I absolutely love the way that the beautiful warm brown colors of the dragonfly contrast with the cool greens in the background.

Sometimes we grow so comfortable with our familiar surroundings that we take them for granted. I strive to look at the world with optimism and fresh eyes each day, confident that I will discover beauty almost anywhere that I find myself.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you do to cope on a hot sunny day? Most of us stay indoors in an air-conditioned space, possibly with a cold beverage. Dragonflies do not have those options, so many of them assume a pose, often known as the obelisk posture, in an attempt to regulate their temperature by reducing exposure to the direct sunlight.

You may seen dragonflies in a handstand-like pose, looking like gymnasts in training—that is the obelisk posture. The dragonfly lifts its abdomen until its tip points to the sun, thereby minimizing the amount of surface area exposed to solar radiation. At noontime, the vertical position of the dragonfly’s body suggest an obelisk, which in my area immediately brings to mind the Washington Monument. According to Wikipedia, scientists have tested this phenomenon in a laboratory by heating Blue Dasher dragonflies with a lamp, which caused them to raise their abdomens and has been shown to be effective in stopping or slowly the rise in their body temperature.

While visiting Green Spring Gardens last week on a hot humid day, I observed obelisking behavior in a male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) and a male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). I have always been intrigued by this pose and would love to try it out to see if it works for thermoregulation in humans too. Alas, I lack both the upper-body strength and the lower body flexibility to make a go of it, so I’ll continue to be merely a spectator of these beautiful little acrobats.

Blue Dasher

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It love it when dragonflies cooperate and choose particularly photogenic perches, as these female Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera) did on Tuesday at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia, not far from where I live. The males of this species, whose wings are a solid amber in color, mostly seemed to be hanging out at a pond at the bottom of a hill, while the females were flitting about among the flowers in the gardens at the top—the gender separation reminded me of the awkwardness of junior high dances when I was growing up.

As many of you may recall, dragonflies and damselflies are part of the Odonata order of flying insects. My friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford has coined the term “odonart” to refer to artsy-style photos that we manage to capture of our favorite aerial acrobats. I think that both of these images qualify to fit into that self-created category, given the beauty of the dragonflies and their particularly photogenic perches.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Every year I enjoy taking photos of dragonflies perching on a piece of rusted rebar that sticks a few inches out of the water of a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I have seen dragonflies of several species use this particular perch, but photographically speaking my favorite is probably a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) like the one in this photo from last Friday—the orange-rust colors of the dragonfly and its perch are complementary and soften what might otherwise be a jarring juxtaposition of the natural and man-made worlds.

You can’t see it really well, but there is a spider, probably a long-jawed spider, visible onthe lower portion of the rebar. I don’t know for sure if that spider could capture the dragonfly, but it is a potentially dangerous situation for the dragonfly and in the past I have photographed several dragonflies that had fallen prey to spiders.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last week I spotted my first Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera) of the season at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. These distinctively colored dragonflies are a frequent sight throughout the summer as they buzz about over the waters of ponds. Eastern Amberwings are small, even by dragonfly standards, with a total length of less than an inch (25 mm) and are considered to be a wasp mimic. According to Wikipedia, “The Eastern Amberwing dragonfly is one of the only types of dragonfly that actively mimics a wasp. The yellow and brown stripes on its abdomen encourage predators to stay away. When perched, they will wiggle their abdomen and wings in a wasp-like fashion to deter other animals from eating it.”

My second and third shots are portraits of perched male Eastern Amberwing dragonflies that were carefully composed and sharp, but my favorite image of the day is the dynamic shot of two dragonflies in flight. It may not be obvious what is going on in the photo, so let me explain. After mating, the female in the upper left corner is getting ready to deposit her eggs in the water, while the male in the lower right corner hovers in the air, ready to keep any rivals from interfering with the process.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I guess that the main subject of this image is the tiny male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera), but I must confess that I was equally drawn to the curving shapes of the branches sticking out of the water during my recent trip to Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Normally I try to fill as much of my frame with my primary subject by using a zoom lens or by moving closer, but in this case I actually moved back in order to be able to capture more of the vegetation.

I really like the way that the warm amber color of the aptly named Eastern Amberwing stands out against the muted tones of the rest of the image. The style of this image is different from most of my shots (assuming that I have an identifiable style), but I enjoy mixing it up from time to time by shooting from different angle or distances.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are one of the smallest dragonfly species where I live—less than one inch (25 mm) in length. I often see the amber-colored males buzzing around at the ponds that I visit, but it is rare for me to find a female.

According to the wonderful website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, female Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are often found far from the water in meadows where they share perches with hornet and other wasps. When they are threatened, these dragonflies will rhythmically move their wings up and down while pulsing their abdomens in imitation of a wasp in order. Their goal is to scare off potential predators that believe they are about to be stung.

I spotted this tiny beauty yesterday while I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was, in fact, far from the water when I photographed her.  She posed briefly, it seemed, when I raised my camera and seemed to smile a little.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the weather gets hot, some dragonflies will raise their abdomens (the “tail”) in what is believed to be an attempt at thermoregulation. I can’t say for sure if it works, but the theory is that in this position, sometimes referred to as the “obelisk,” dragonflies are able to stay cooler by reducing the amount of their bodies subject to direct sunlight.

Earlier this week I spotted this male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) in a modest obelisk position at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I characterized the position as “modest,” because sometimes a dragonfly will elevated its abdomen until is almost vertical.Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Throughout the month of May I have struggled to identify the dragonflies and damselflies that I have photographed. So many of the species seem so similar that I have had to defer to experts for help. Over the years I have learned that the best way to get help on a Facebook forum is to misidentify a subject—some experts, who might not respond to a request for help, feel compelled to correct you and demonstrate their superior knowledge.

This past Friday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, it was nice to spot a familiar dragonfly species that was immediately identifiable—there is simply no other dragonfly in our area the looks like an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Even the name is helpful in drawing attention to the key identification feature, the distinctive amber wings.

These dragonflies are among the smallest ones in our area, but they tend to perch on low vegetation overhanging the water (especially males like this one), so they are relatively easy to spot. Although they tend to be a little skittish, if you are patient and persistent you can snag some shots that show the beautiful details of the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As a nature photographer, I am used to living with compromises. Unlike some other kinds of photographers, I don’t have the luxury of waiting for perfect light or photographing only perfect subjects. I can make a few adjustments or move about a bit to improve my composition, but most of the time I deal with imperfections of one sort or another.

Every once and a while, though, I’ll take a photo that doesn’t require any substantial adjustments or even cropping–it looks just like I imagined it would. That was the case with a recent image I captured of a female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I like the way that I captured the subject, I like the curved of the vegetation on which it is perched, and I like the background. It’s a bonus that I didn’t need to crop.

Perfection is elusive in any pursuit—this is about as close as I can come to it in my photography.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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There were only a few water lilies in bloom at the small pond at a local garden that I visited this past weekend. Surprisingly, they were all pink in color and not the white ones that I am more used to seeing—perhaps it is late in the season for the white ones. Not surprisingly, there were quite a few dragonflies buzzing about and I decided that I wanted to get a shot of one of them perched on one of the water lilies.

So I waited and hoped and waited some more. My patience was eventually rewarded when a tiny male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) landed on a partially open water lily bud and perched momentarily.

I really like the image that I managed to capture because of the way it conveys a sense of the mood of the moment, a calm, almost zen-like feeling of tranquility. The colors are subdued and the composition is minimalist—there is a real beauty in simplicity.

Dragonfly and water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you consider yourself to be artistic? All of my life I have been in awe of people who can draw and paint and create art, but have never considered myself to be artistic. Increasingly, though, my photography has opened up a creative side that I am trying to nurture.

As some of you know, I decided that I want to try my hand at watercolor painting and did a posting not long ago on my first efforts at doing a landscape. I don’t usually shoot landscapes with my camera, so I thought that I would try a more familiar subject for my second project—I decided to try to paint a dragonfly. In retrospect, I probably should have chosen an easier subject, but I am so inexperienced in art that I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into.

For inspiration, I used a recent photo that I took of a female Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). I have already included it in a blog posting, but am reprising it as the final photo, so you’ll know what my artistic efforts were supposed to look like.

I tried a couple of different approaches to my subject. First I tried sketching the dragonfly. I didn’t have a pencil handy, so I used a Bic ballpoint pen. My observation skills and sense of proportion are definitely lacking, but it was surprisingly fun to try. Without an eraser to correct my errors, I felt a bit like I was walking on a tightrope without a net.

Then I tried to draw with Crayola crayons? Why? I happened to be at Walmart yesterday and picked up a pack of 24 for only 50 cents at a back-to-school sale. My drawing looks a bit like a cartoon to me.

Finally I was ready to try watercolor. I decided that I would do the painting without bothering to sketch it out. Oops. I was using some inexpensive paper and it started to buckle a bit when I tried to cover the entire area with an overly wet wash of light green. I think I then attempted to put on the next layer before the first one was fully dry. I still feel like a second-grader in my watercolor skills, but it still was enjoyable trying to see what worked and what didn’t.

I did my final attempt in a sketchbook that is not intended for watercolor. I sketched out the dragonfly with a mechanical pencil and then colored the sketch with my watercolor paints. Out of all of my attempts, this is the one that I like the most. I felt a bit more confident in using the paints and in some of my strokes.

So what did I learn? Most significantly I learned that it’s worth taking a risk of feeling embarrassed; that it’s ok to try something new and achieve only a limited amount of success;, and that the amount of enjoyment that I can derive from a creative pursuit is not directly tied to any specific outcome.

dragonfly sketch

dragonfly crayon drawing

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#worldwatercolormonth

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are the smallest dragonflies in our area. You can often find males buzzing around at the water’s edge, but females are harder to spot because they hang out in vegetation away from the water. I was thrilled therefore to see a beautiful female this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in some beautiful morning sunlight.

I decided to give a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly equal billing in this post, because I really like the way that the shadows and the reflections make it look like he has an elongated body and extra sets of wings.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera)  are tiny, less than an inch (20-25mm) in length, but they are distinctive and stunningly beautiful. According to information on the wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, Eastern Amberwings are the smallest dragonflies in our area and the second smallest in the United States—only Elfin Skimmers are smaller.

I spotted this perching male this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in the vegetation surrounding a small pond. I was happy to be close enough that I was able to capture so many of the details of the dragonfly, including its captivating eyes and segmented body.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies seem to love to perch on this piece of rusted rebar that sticks out of the water at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I really like the juxtaposition of the man-made and natural elements in this shot of a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) that I spotted on Monday.

You can’t see it really well in the first shot, but there is a spider on the rebar in addition to the dragonfly.  I got a better shot of the spider later in the day. I don’t know for sure that it could capture the dragonfly, but it’s a potentially dangerous situation for the dragonfly (and I have photographed several dragonflies that had fallen prey to spiders in the past).

Eastern Amberwing


spider

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As I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge last weekend, I spotted some Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera) flying low above the surface of the pond. One of them, a female, kept returning to a particular spot and would dip down and touch the water to deposit eggs. A male would periodically make an appearance and I couldn’t tell for sure if he was guarding the female or was trying to put the moves on her.

This is my favorite shot of the encounter. The dragonfly on the left is a male Eastern Amberwing and the one coming in from the right is a female. I thought about cropping the image in closer, but decided to keep it like this in order to retain the ripples and the reflection, elements that I really like.

 

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t often see dragonflies in a garden, but spotted this female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) amidst the flowers earlier this week at Green Spring Gardens. There were lots of male Eastern Amberwings buzzing around the small ponds in another location at the gardens in hopeful expectation of finding a mate.

I have the impression that female dragonflies like to hang out in a different area from the males and then make an appearance at a time of their own choosing.

Eastern Amberwing

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Despite their differences in size and appearance, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) and the Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) dragonflies were able to co-exist peacefully and both were able to enjoy the same perch this morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

Why is it so hard for us to do the same?

coexist1_8Jul_blog

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Summer is definitely here. In the Washington D.C. area where I live, summer means endless stretches of hot, humid weather. Even the insects seem to move more slowly, like this Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) that I recently photographed as it languidly buzzed around the vegetation at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally I like to photograph dragonflies in their natural environment, but when an Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) chose to perch on a curved piece of rebar recently, the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made elements seemed to create a sense of harmony rather than one of dissonance.

I took this photo at a small man-made pond at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. Later in the summer I hope to see water lilies and lotus blossoms at the pond, but it is mostly devoid of vegetation right now, which many be why the dragonfly chose this unusual perch.

I have no idea why this piece of reinforcing steel is sticking out of the water, but its reddish-brown color and curved shape made it a good match for this tiny dragonfly.

Eastern Amberwing

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When I first spotted a tiny Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) flying low over the water and flexing yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, I assumed that it was a female depositing eggs into the water. As I continued to watch (and try to get shots) a couple of things became clear—it was a male, not a female, and he was pointing his abdomen up into the air, not down into the water. What was he doing?

Apparently this is courting behavior and he was trying to impress a lady that he had spotted. There is a fascinating description of this process in a blog posting by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Field station that I highly recommend. Here is an extract from that posting.

“A male flies low over the water, patrolling a territory about 20 feet wide of choice egg-laying turf (weedy aquatic sites) and defending it vigorously – darting out at intruders and displaying with those spectacular wings. When a female approaches, he follows and courts her, swaying back and forth, abdomen raised. If she’s agreeable, she follows him home. He hovers over his territory while she evaluates it, and if she likes it, she gets him along with it.”

As the third photo shows, his courting behavior was successful. After they mated, she deposited the eggs into the water and he returned to his perch, ready to chase off rivals and attract more female dragonflies. (In case you are not familiar with this dragonfly species, the Eastern Amberwing is one of the smallest dragonflies in the United States, with a body length of just under one inch (25 mm).

Eastern Amberwing

 

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my favorite summer dragonflies is the tiny Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Its distinctive coloration makes it pretty easy to identify, even from a distance.

Eastern Amberwing

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Photographing any dragonfly in flight is a real challenge, but this past weekend I spent time chasing after some of the smallest ones, the Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera). According to Bugguide, these dragonflies are typically 21-24mm in length, which is less than one inch, with a wingspan of maybe two inches or so.

amb2_fly_blog

There were lots of male Eastern Amberwings buzzing around the edges of a small pond at Green Spring Gardens, one of the local gardens that I like to visit. They were within range of the 180mm macro lens that I was using, but focusing and tracking were my biggest problems. The dragonflies did tend to hover a bit, which helped a little, but it was tough to get them in focus when focusing manually and almost impossible to do so with auto-focus.

I took a lot of shots and was happy that I managed to get some in decent focus, though I did have to crop the images. As I was preparing this posting, I noticed that I spent some time a year ago attempting to photograph the same dragonfly species. I think the results this year are marginally better, but you can make your own call by clicking on this link to the posting from July 2013.

amb4_fly_blogamb5_fly_blog amb3_fly_blog

amb1_fly_blog

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It may sound like a new summer beverage sensation, but the title is meant to be literal. I encountered this tiny Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) sunning itself on a rock in a small, muddy creek in the back area of my local marshland park.

It was a bit unusual for me to see a dragonfly on a rock (usually they perch on vegetation or on the ground) and I think the texture of the rock adds visual interest to the shot without being distracting the eye. I was pleased to capture so much beautiful detail of this cool little dragonfly and was particularly happy to see how well the amber wings turned out.

drag1_rocks_blog

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Compared to the other dragonflies that I have photographed, the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) is tiny, typically less than an inch in size (25mm), but it has such a distinctive look that it is easy to identify.

I was able to approach this dragonfly from the rear and from above as it was perched on some vegetation overhanging a muddy creek and I don’t think it sensed my presence, even though I was pretty close to it. .

amber1_blog

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Only a tiny, lightweight dragonfly, like this Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), could assume this pose and hold it for an extended period of time. I have watched other dragonflies land near the end of a leaf like this, but gravity forced them to quickly give up their perch.

I was able to take a lot of photos of this dragonfly and this is one of my favorites, because its abdomen is raised, its wings are spread, and its head is cocked a little to the side—a near perfect pose.

amber_grass_blog

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When I first spotted this dragonfly, I thought it was a wasp—it was that small. As I continued to observe it, however, I realized that it was a tiny dragonfly.

Its wings reminded me a little of a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina), one of the most exotic-looking dragonflies that I have ever photographed, but it was far too small. (Check out this previous posting for a look at the Halloween Pennant.)

This dragonfly seemed even smaller than the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera), the smallest dragonfly that I had encountered, and I figured it couldn’t be an Eastern Amberwing, because it did not have amber wings. I was wrong. Once again I had allowed myself to be misled by the name of a species. It turns out that this is almost certainly a female Eastern Amberwing, and females have clear wings with brown spots, not amber wings.

I continue to be amazed at the dragonfly’s diminutive size. According to the Field Station at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, Eastern Amberwings are considered to be wasp mimics, because of their coloring, their rapid, erratic flight, and the way they twitch their wings and abdomens when at rest. The Latin name tenera means “tender” or “delicate,” a description that seems to fit this little dragonfly quite well. If you want to learn more about the Eastern Amberwing, you should check out the Field Station website.

Large or small, at rest or in motion, dragonflies are one of my favorite photographic subjects at this time of the year. Their beautiful colors and incredible agility never cease to amaze me.

tiny1_blog

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Earlier this week I posted some images of the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) in flight, but you can see the details of this tiny dragonfly better in this shot of one perched on a branch. It’s always a treat for me to get shots of these beautiful little dragonflies, because they are so small (less than one inch (25mm) and very active.

amberwing_branch© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s tough enough to try to photograph any dragonfly in flight, but this past weekend I chased after some of the smallest ones, the Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera).

According to Bugguide, these dragonflies are typically 21-24mm in length, which is less than one inch. There were lots of Eastern Amberwings buzzing around the edges of a small pond at one of the local gardens that I like to visit. They were within range of the 100mm macro lens that I was using, but focusing was my big problem. Even though they tended to hover a bit, it was tough to get them in focus when focusing manually and impossible to do so with auto-focus.

The amber wings of this dragonfly are distinctive and I was happy to get some images that showcase the wings. The shots are not quite as sharp as they might have been if I had captured the dragonflies perched, but they seemed to be in constant motion and never posed for me. Focusing manually is still an adventure for me when the subject is moving, but it is a fun challenge.

amber1_blog

amber2_blog

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