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Posts Tagged ‘Slender Spreadwing’

On Wednesday I travelled to Huntley Meadows Park with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford in search of some late-season species. A vernal pool in the woods, where we had seen them in the past, unfortunately has largely filled in with dense vegetation over the course of the last few years. The changed habitat appears to have caused out target species to disappear and we left that area empty-handed.

Fortunately, though, there are other areas in the park to explore, including a boardwalk that runs through a wetland areal, and we did manage to get some shots of other subjects. The day was starting to come to a close and we started down a gravel-covered trail heading for the parking lot. As I was scanning the vegetation on the side of the trail I suddenly caught sight of a spreadwing damselfly perching in a patch of greenbrier vines.

I was not sure what species it was, but Walter initially identified it as a female Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis), but a closer examination of the photos of the dragonfly by an even more experienced dragonfly revealed that it is a female Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis). The damselfly was reasonably cooperative and perched in a couple of different places on the vines before it flew away.

Walter and I shoot with very different gear configurations and we often like to do complementary blog postings to show how two photographers shooting the same subject can produce somewhat different results. I was shooting with my Canon 50D and Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens, which has a minimum focusing distance of 8.9 feet (2.7 meters), so I had to be pretty far from the damselfly to get a shot and focused manually. I was also using a monopod for stability. Walter was shooting with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom camera and a full-sized flash and was able to get a bit closer to our subject and composed his shots from different angles.

Be sure to check out Walter’s blog posting today entitled “Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)” to read his narrative and see his excellent photos of this beautiful female Slender Spreadwing damselfly.

 

Southern Spreadwing

Southern Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was excited to spot several female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) during a visit to Huntley Meadows Park this past Thursday. As damselflies go, Slender Spreadwings are quite large, up to 2 inches (51 mm) in length, and are very striking in appearance. Normally spreadwings, as their name indicates, perch with their wings outstretched, though the one in the first photo has its wings mostly closed above its body like a “normal” damselfly—its paler coloration suggests to me that it may have emerged relatively recently.

The middle photo shows well the typical perching style of a spreadwing, with its body held at an angle and several legs grasping a thin stem. The final photo shows a female Slender Spreadwing depositing eggs in the leafy stem of a plant.

I have noted several times my dismay at the winding down of the dragonfly/damselfly season, so it is particularly gratifying for me to spot species like this one that I rarely see.

Slender Spreadwing

Slender Spreadwing

Slender Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Most damselflies fold their wings above their bodies when they are perched. There is, however, a small group of fairly large damselflies, known as spreadwings, that hold their wings partially open when perching.

I do not see spreadwing damselflies very often, so I was excited to spot this one on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I managed to capture shots from a couple of angles before it flew away, but did not get a shot that showed the thorax markings, which can help a lot with identification. I can tell for sure that the damselfly is female, but it is difficult to determine with certainty its species.

I posted the photos in a Facebook dragonfly forum and even the experts were not certain—females tend to lack the distinctive markings of the males and generally are harder to identify. They narrowed it down to a few possibilities and if I had to guess, I’d say this is a female Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis).

Slender Spreadwing

Slender Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although many damselflies are tiny in size and difficult to spot from a distance, spreadwing damselflies are a notable exception. Spreadwing damselflies tend to be quite a bit larger than other damselflies and they rest with their wings partly open in the “spreadwing” posture that gives the family its common name. (Most other damselflies rest with their wings held closed, usually above their abdomen, which makes them harder to see and to photograph.)

When I flushed this damselfly yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I was immediately struck by the length of its body—it seemed to be really long and skinny.  The spreadwing family is not all that big, but I still had trouble identifying the species of the damselfly. As is usually the case in this kind ofsituation, I turned to my local expert, fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford, who identified it as a female Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis).  I sometimes complain about the inappropriateness of the names of species, but in this case “slender spreadwing” is a perfect match for the subject that I observed.

In case you are curious about the photo, I shot it with my Tamron 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens on my Canon 50D DSLR. Over the winter I have become accustomed to using a monopod for stability and for this shot, I lowered the monopod and shot while kneeling. One of the limitations of the lens is that the minimum focusing distance is almost 9 feet (274 cm). At that distance, the camera’s autofocus system had trouble locking on the slender body of the damselfly—it kept focusing on the vegetation—so I resorted to manual focusing.

Most people are more familiar with dragonflies than with damselflies, but I encourage you to slow down and search for beautiful damselflies, the smaller members (in most cases) of the order of Odonata to which dragonflies also belong.

 

Slender Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Two things really struck me when I first encountered this damselfly—its captivating blue eyes and its extraordinarily long abdomen.

Most damselfly fold in their wings when they are at rest, but damselflies of the Lestidae family keep them open and are commonly known as spreadwings. Only two members of this family are on the species list for my marshland park—the Swamp and the Slender Spreadwing—and this looks to me like might be a male Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis).

I would welcome a correction or confirmation of my identification, because I feel almost clueless when it comes to identifying damselflies.

damsel_blue1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Walking through the woods today at my local marshland park, I managed to photograph my first damselfly of the spring, what appears to be some type of spreadwing damselfly, possibly a Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis).

My camera was already on my tripod, with my 135-400mm zoom lens attached, when the damselfly flew by and perched on a thorny vine right in front of me. I decided to try to get a shot and the first thing that I had to do was to back up, because the minimum focusing distance of the lens at full extension is 7.2 feet (2.2 meters). Secondly I had to switch to manual focus—the damselfly is so slender that my camera refused to autofocus on it. Finally, I had to adjust the aperture manually, when I realized that there was a lot of direct light falling on the vine and on the damselfly.

The two shots that I am posting may look like they were taken using flash, with an almost black background, but the damselfly was in a little pocket of light and the rest of the area was pretty heavily shaded.

damselfly_blog

damselfly2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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