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Posts Tagged ‘Somatochlora linearis’

I am becoming convinced that dragonflies are rulebreakers. Yesterday I noted that dragonflies do not always follow the rules and can sometimes be found in habitats where they are not supposed to be. Apparently they also do not know how to follow a calendar and can sometimes be found earlier or later than the rules and records indicate they will be present.

This past Monday I was back at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, searching again for the rare Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies that I had seen there previously. When I saw a dragonfly with bright green eyes perch in a distant tree, I naturally assumed that it was a Fine-lined Emerald. It is getting to be late in the dragonfly season, so many other species are no longer present. The dragonfly never got any closer, so I had to be content with my long-distance shots.

When I pulled up the images on my computer, something didn’t look quite right. The shape of the body seemed a little different from the Fine-lined Emeralds that I had seen previously and the tips of the abdomen (the “terminal appendages”) also looked different. I consulted with some dragonfly experts and they identified the dragonfly to me as a Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis). I have seen this species before, but in a totally different environment and much earlier in the year, so I had mentally removed it from consideration.

Now I don’t feel too bad about missing the identification, because the two species are part of the same genus Somatochlora, also known as Striped Emeralds. The website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia indicates that the flight records for the Mocha Emerald are from 16 June to 16 September—I guess that window can now be extended a little.

I am including two photos of the Mocha Emerald that may look almost identical, but were shot with two very different cameras. The settings for the cameras were almost the same with an aperture of f/7.1 and a shutter speed of around 1/400 of a second and both were handheld. The first shot was with my Canon 50D DSLR and Tamron 150-600mm lens. Taking into account the crop factor of the camera, the field of view was equivalent to 960mm. The second shot was with my Canon SX50 with a field of view that was equivalent to 1200mm.

The DSLR was a lot heavier and a lot more expensive, but produced a more out-of-focus background. The Canon SX50 was cheaper, lighter, and brought me in closer to the subject. It’s clear to me that equipment did not make a huge difference in this case and that there are advantages and disadvantages to each system. I am increasingly drawn to the idea of carrying both with me for the moment and continuing to experiment with them.

The other big lesson that I continue to learn is to expect the unexpected. As I am discovering, subjects may pop up in places and at times when you least expect them.

Mocha Emerald

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you relax by hanging from a bar in the pull-up position? No, I don’t either, but this Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) chose to do so on Monday when I spotted it at Huntley Meadows Park.

A couple of things really stand out whenever I am lucky enough to spot one of these beautiful dragonflies. Unlike many dragonflies, Mocha Emeralds don’t appear to like direct sunlight—they seem to hang out at small shaded streams, where the shadows and shade make photography difficult. Secondly, they often seem to hang vertically, which emphasizes their extraordinarily long slender bodies. Somehow they remind me of the super skinny young male models that many designers seem to favor, clothing them in garments that those of us with more normal physiques would never ever fit into—unlike those models, we have waists and hips.

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I spotted this male Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) while exploring one of the streams at Huntley Meadows Park and was struck again by the way this species perches vertically, rather than horizontally like so many of the other dragonflies that I see.

The words of the old Supremes song come to mind, “You keep me hangin’ on…” and now that song is stuck in my head. On the off chance that one of my readers has never heard that song (and I can’t believe that is possible), here’s a link to a really old video of the Supremes performing the song.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Unlike Pumpkin Spice, Mocha Emerald is not a fall Starbucks flavor—it is a cool-looking dragonfly species that I was excited to spot yesterday at my favorite marshland park.

Mocha Emerald

Every other time that I have observed a Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis), the dragonfly has been perched in the shadows, so I was surprised yesterday to see one in full daylight. This Mocha Emerald, which looks to be a male seemed to be patrolling a stretch of a small stream. Occasionally it would stop to rest and perch vertically on vegetation sticking out low from the bank of the stream.

Getting a decent shot of the Mocha Emerald was quite a challenge. My camera’s auto focus had trouble fixing focus on the dragonfly’s long thin body so I had to focus manually; there was a breeze that was blowing that caused the dragonfly to swing in and out of my field of view as I looked through the viewfinder; and the background tended to be really cluttered.

The first shot is my favorite, because I was able to isolate the dragonfly by hanging over the stream (and almost falling in), although the other shots show some of the details of its body better.

Maybe there should be a Mocha Emerald latte, perhaps for Saint Patrick’s Day—I would be thrilled if it supplanted the green beer that still makes an appearance at some locations.

Mocha Emerald

Mocha Emerald

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most dragonflies appear to like the sunlight, but this Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) that I encountered yesterday seemed to prefer the heavy shade, which made it a bit of a challenge to photograph.

I was walking along a small stream, moving in an out of patches of sunlight when I first spotted the dragonfly. I had my long telephoto lens on my camera and took some initial shots, which turned out blurry—there didn’t seem to be enough light for my camera’s autofocus to function well. I quickly set up my tripod and tried to focus manually, but that didn’t work out too well either.

Fortunately, the dragonfly seemed oblivious to my actions. I switched to my 180mm macro and moved in closer and finally was able to see well enough to focus. Because of the limited amount of light, I had the ISO cranked up to 1600 and used the pop-up flash.

As I moved about trying to get a better angle, I slid twice down the slippery bank of the stream into the shallow water and somehow managed to lose one of the little rubber feet of my tripod, but managed to get a couple of decent shots of this shadow-dwelling dragonfly.

Mocha Emerald

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When you photograph something really cool, do you return to the same location with the hope of finding your subject again? In late August, I spotted a Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) for the first time and was really excited, but I wanted to get some better shots.

Over the course of this summer, I have learned that some dragonflies are very habitat-specific—you can only find them in places where the water or vegetation have certain characteristics. So I returned on the 5th of September and followed the same shallow stream and was thrilled to find another Mocha Emerald. Initially I caught sight of the dragonfly in flight and wasn’t sure that it was a Mocha Emerald until it landed. Only them could I see the really narrow abdomen and unusual terminal appendage that are characteristic of this species.

Getting a shot was a bit of a technical challenge. The area was heavily shaded, but there was some light coming in from directly behind the dragonfly, creating a silhouette. I cranked up the ISO to 1250 and underexposed a bit and got the second image below after a bit of post processing. I decided to use my pop-up flash to try to balance the light coming from the back and got the first image, my favorite one.

However, I really wanted to get more of the wings into the photo and I started to circle around the perched dragonfly. Unfortunately, one foot slid into the water of the shallow stream and I composed the third shot with one foot in the water and one on the bank, not exactly an optimal shooting position.

When I tried to continue my movement to frame the dragonfly from a different angle, it flew away. I suspect that the Mocha Emeralds are now gone from the season, but I may return one last time to that location to see if there are any stragglers. I might get lucky again.

Mocha Emeraldmocha_2_blogmocha_3._blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What’s a Mocha Emerald? No, it’s not the newest Seattle coffee craze—it’s a dragonfly.

I was thrilled this past Friday to spot a type of dragonfly at Huntley Meadows Park that I had never seen before—a Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis). Fellow photographer and blogger, Walter Sanford, saw some in the park earlier in the summer, but I thought that it was probably too late for me to find one. It’s nice to be surprised.

Initially, I didn’t know what type of dragonfly I had photographed and knew only that its body shape was different from the ones that I had seen previously. Serendipitously, later in the day l ran into the manager of the park, Kevin Munroe, a noted dragonfly expert who runs the website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, and he helped me make a tentative identification.

This one has somewhat tattered wings–it looks like he had a tough summer.

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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