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Posts Tagged ‘prey’

Sometimes the dragonfly is the predator and sometimes it is the prey—it appears to be primarily a matter of circumstances and timing. This male Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) met his demise this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I am not sure how exactly the spider managed to snag the dragonfly, but I assume the dragonfly flew into the spider’s web, which was high in the air, spanning a gap between some tall trees. Interesting enough, I was only able to see a few strands of the web, so I wonder if this action took place at the extreme edge of the web.

common whitetail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonflies are so beautiful that I sometimes forget that they are also fierce predators. Last weekend at my local marsh, I captured this image of a female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) feeding on another dragonfly, which looks like it might be a female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

The dragonfly is perched on the end of one of the slats of a railing that along the edge of an inclined section of the boardwalk. I cropped the image to focus viewers’ attention on the dragonfly, but I also like the second version of the same photo, which is close to the original view when I took the shot. Somehow those three slats remind me of a row of tombstones, a memorial to the predator’s prey.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking along the boardwalk at my local marshland park, I heard some splashing in the shallow, muddy water and was surprised to see a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon) emerging from the water with a fish in its mouth. I did not see the snake actually catch the fish, but by the time I caught sight of it, the snake already had a firm grip on the head of the fish. I suspect that the snake had moved onto dry land to make certain that the fish had no chance of escaping.

Fascinated and a little horrified, I watched as the snake opened its mouth wider, worked the obviously strong muscles of its throat, and gradually swallowed the small fish. In the series of photos below, you can see how the snake’s head and throat grew larger as more and more of the fish was drawn in.

After the snake finished its meal, it returned to the water and joined two other snakes searching for prey.  At times it looked like they might be working together to push the fish into the shallow water. That may have been my imagination, though, as I noted that the successful snake made no attempt to share his catch with the others.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Dragonflies are super-predators, according to a posting today by one of my favorite bloggers, Sue of Back Yard Biology, thanks to their agile flying ability and incredible eyesight, but predators can also become prey. You should check out that posting for a wonderful explanation of dragonflies’ visual acuity and some beautiful dragonfly images.

The Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) in this photo has captured a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) that appears to be struggling to extricate itself from the grip of the bird. In the second shot, the swallow is offering its prize to its mate, which pokes its head of the nesting box and takes a bite of one of the wings. (If you look carefully at the first shot, you’ll see that it was taken after the second shot and part of one of the dragonfly’s wing seems to have been bitten off.)

Predator or prey? There always seem to be some creature above you on the food chain. It’s no wonder that so many of the birds, animals, and insects are so hyper-vigilant and skittish when we try to take photographs of them—their survival may depend on it.

breakfast1_blogbreakfast2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past weekend I was off in search of spiders again and came across this little spider perched on a leaf, munching on a flying insect.

The lighting was poor, so I used the pop-up flash on my camera to provide a little extra light. Generally I don’t like it if the flash causes a shadow, but in this case it seems to add a somewhat more menacing and sinister look to the spider.

I am still trying to identify the spider and would welcome assistance. The patterns on its body, and especially the front section, are particularly cool and should assist me in finally being able to identify it.

spider_fly_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I came upon this scene this afternoon I couldn’t help but think of some blog posts that I had read recently. Steven Schwartzman had a beautiful artistic image of a damselfly caught in a spider’s web entitled “Three Orbs, Three Colors.”  Daniel Proud had a wonderfully informative Four part series on Harvestmen (Daddy Longlegs) in late July that included colorful images of different harvestmen. Both of those bloggers caused me to be much more attentive today as I took in my surroundings during a nature walk at a local marsh.

I managed to capture an image of the spider moving in on his captured prey, a daddy longlegs, that had become stuck in the spider’s web.  Some may find the photo to be a little disturbing, but to me it is a simple fact of natural life.

Shortly after taking this photo, I moved in a little closer and must have disturbed the web. The spider quickly climbed up the web and took refuge inside the curled-up leaf. I waited for quite some time but the spider did not reappear.

I think the daddylongs was still alive when I left him, but his prospects do not appear to be good.

Caught in the web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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