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Posts Tagged ‘Spangled Skimmer’

As summer progress, the once pristine wings of dragonflies and butterflies become increasingly tattered and torn. When I spotted this handsome Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) last week at Occoquan Regional Park, I couldn’t help but notice that he has varying degrees of damage on the trailing edge of all of his wings. Comparatively speaking, the damage is minor and did not seem to inhibit his activity in any way—I have seen dragonflies with much more severe damage that were still able to fly.

How did his wings get damaged? Predators such as birds or even other dragonflies could inflict damage as could vegetation with sharp branches and thorns. When I looked closely at this dragonfly’s abdomen, I also noticed scratches there, which made me think of another potential source of some of the damage. It is now the prime season for mating and like most male dragonflies, this dragonfly is vigorously trying to do his part to perpetuate the species.

Dragonfly mating can be rough and could be the source of some of the visible damage. The final photo shows a mating pair of Spangled Skimmer dragonflies and, judging from the locations of the damage to its wings, the male in the first photo appears to be one of the participants.

In case you are curious about identifying this dragonfly species, the white “stigmata” on the trailing edge both male and female Spangled Skimmers, i.e. the “spangles” responsible for its common name, make this species an easy one to identify.

Spangled Skimmer

Mating Spangled Skimmers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Tuesday I spotted this handsome male Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) at Occoquan Regional Park. This species is fairly easy to identify because of the “spangles,” the little white patches on the leading edges of the wings, often referred to as stigmata or pterostigmata. Most other species have darker colored stigmata or none at all.

If you use the meteorological calendar, summer started on the first of June. For most of us, though, who use the astronomical calendar, we have a few weeks to wait until the summer begins on the 20th of June. No matter how you calculate summer, I have noticed a lot more of the summer dragonfly species during my most recent outings. If things work out well, June could be a great month for dragonfly hunting, with the possibility of seeing some of the remaining spring species, plus the new summer ones.

spangled skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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When I am capturing wildlife images, I am usually driven by multiple motivations that sometimes come in conflict with each other. On the one hand, I am trying to capture reality, to record the presence of a given subject in a way that makes it recognizable and identifiable. On the other hand, I am trying to create art, by choosing compositional elements and camera settings that make an image that is visually pleasing to me.

At this time of the year, dragonflies become one of my favorite subjects and I eagerly await the emergence of new species as we move deeper into spring and eventually into summer. This past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noted that Spangled Skimmer  dragonflies (Libellula cyanea) are now with us. This species is pretty easy to identify because it is the only local species that has black and white stigmas—stigmas are the narrow rectangular patches of color that can be found on the front edges of the wings.

In the first image, a male Spangled Skimmer was pretty cooperative and let me capture one of my favorite type of dragonfly images—a head-on shot. In this kind of shot, the dragonfly’s body is almost always out of focus, but I am ok with that, because it forces the viewer to focus on the dragonfly’s amazing eyes.

The dragonfly in the second shot, which is an immature male Spangled Skimmer, had flown into a tree after I inadvertently spooked it. I loved the way that it was clinging to a branch. Shooting at an upward angle, I tried to simplify the background to draw attention to the branches as well as to the dragonfly. (As is often the case with dragonflies, immature male Spangled Skimmers initially have the coloration of adult females—eventually the dragonfly in the second photo will look like the one in the first image.)

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am so happy that dragonfly season is finally here. There is just something about the beauty, complexity, and acrobatic skills of these amazing insects that never fails to grab my attention and I can easily spend hours watching and photographing them. I spotted this particular dragonfly, a female Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), last week at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Spangled Skimmer dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As the weather warms up, more and more dragonflies finally are starting to emerge at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. like these Spangled Skimmers (Libellula cyanea) that I spotted yesterday at the park. Spangled Skimmers are pretty easy to identify, because they are the only dragonflies in our area that have the both black and white “stigma” on the front edges of their wings. The adult male is blue, but immature males have the same coloration as the females, so you have to look closely to determine gender.

The first image, for example, shows an immature male, while the second image shows a female. If you examine the extreme tip of the abdomen (what I used to call a “tail”), you can see some differences. You may also note that the terminal appendages match for the first and third images, both of which show males.

If you want to learn more about Spangled Skimmers, check out this page from the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website. The website is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in dragonflies, not just for folks who live in our area.

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I love it when there are unique characteristics that help in identifying species. In the case of dragonflies, the Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea) is the only dragonfly in our area that has both black and white stigma on the leading edge of its wings. It was therefore relatively easy to identify this beautiful female dragonfly when I spotted it this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park and she cooperated by perching for a moment so that I could capture this image.

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s dragonfly season and this past Friday fellow dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Walter Sanford guided me to a new spot to search for the elusive beauties. Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge is a nature preserve located on Fort Belvoir, a nearby military base in Fairfax County, Virginia.

We are in a lull period of sorts for dragonflies—some of the early dragonflies are gone and others have not yet appeared. As we were making one final swing through likely locations, having come up almost empty-handed in our search, Walter spotted a dragonfly. The wings were so clear and shiny that it was obviously a teneral dragonfly, one that had only recently emerged.

Identification (and photography) was a bit of a challenge, because the young dragonfly was perched inside of a tangled mass of vegetation, making it almost impossible to get an unobstructed view. Eventually we were able to find a visual tunnel and I was able to get the first shot below. It gives a pretty good view of the dragonfly, which after the fact I could clearly see is a Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), but I really wasn’t satisfied with it.

Eventually I managed to get a second shot. It doesn’t show the dragonfly’s entire body and many element are out of focus, but it has an artistic sense that I find really appealing. I’m not sure if it’s because of the more vibrant colors or the unusual angle—I just know I like that image a whole lot more than the first one.

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Do you find yourself shooting the same subjects over and over? I often take repeated pictures of familiar subjects, knowing that the weather, the lighting conditions, the environment, and the subject’s pose will be different each time.  Although I try to control the exposure, the framing, and the angle of view, I am sometimes pleasantly surprised at the results.

I don’t see Spangled Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula cyanea) very often, so I was happy to spot this beautiful male last week. The markings on the wings are so distinctive that it is pretty easy to identify a member of this species when I do come upon one. (The second shot gives a really good view of those markings.)

I like the way that the background turned out in these shots and I have captured pretty detailed images of a Spangled Skimmer. I am confident, though, that I will be snapping away again if I stumble across another one. Who knows what kind of a photo I might be able to capture the next time?

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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If I had wings as fragile as those of this male Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea), I am not sure that I would choose to perch on a branch with so many thorns. I can personally attest to the fact that those thorns are sharp, very sharp.

Although I see quite a few blue dragonflies, Spangled Skimmers are pretty easy to identify—they are the only local dragonflies with both black and white stigmas on their wings. I love it when the differences among species are that obvious.

On the day I took this shot, the field seemed to be full of Spangled Skimmers and Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies. If I had only seen an American flag, i.e. the Star Spangled Banner, I would have exhausted the short list of items that I associate with the word “spangled.”

Spangled Skimmer

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever found yourself in a thorny predicament? Last weekend, I came upon this female Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) that had literally placed herself in such a situation.

Fortunately, dragonflies are so small, lightweight, and agile that she was able to place herself in between the thorns, out of harm’s way. If you look closely at her wings in the second image, however, you’ll see that they are tattered, suggesting that it’s been a tough season for her, probably as a result of predators, including overly aggressive male dragonflies.

thorny1_blogthorny2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Female dragonflies are often less colorful and visible than their male counterparts, but are equally beautiful.

A week ago, I did a posting featuring the dark blue male Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) and noted that the white stigma (markings) on the wings help in identifying this species. In today’s image, a female Spangled Skimmer appears to be a natural model as she smiles and poses for the camera

spangled_fem_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This dragonfly has such distinctive markings that I should have been able to identify it easily, but I had never seen one like it before, so I didn’t know what it was.

Fortunately, a short time later that day I ran into local dragonfly expert and fellow blogger Walter Sanford, who informed me that it was a Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea). Spangled Skimmers have black and white stigmas on their wings, which makes them unique among dragonflies in my part of Northern Virginia. As you may be able to guess from my images, Spangled Skimmers are among the species of dragonflies that like to perch, which makes it easier to photograph them—if you can find them.

spangled1_blogspangled2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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