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Posts Tagged ‘Sympetrum ambiguum’

As October begins, I renew my search for red dragonflies. Autumn is quite naturally the season when Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear along with their more gaudily-colored brethren, the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum). Both of these species have bright red bodies that should be easy to spot, but they like to perch low to the ground and sometimes even on fallen leaves, so you really have to pay attention.

I was a bit shocked on Monday to see some other small red dragonflies—at least three male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) were active at a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Calico Pennants are generally a summer species and I have featured them a couple of times earlier this year in this blog. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, their peak flight time is June to July and their late date is 23 September (I saw the one below on 2 October).

There are still other active dragonflies, but over time their numbers will continue to drop. Autumn Meadowhawks, though, usually stay with us into December and, if I remember correctly, occasionally even into January. I’ll be continuing my October hunt for red dragonflies into November and beyond.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant on 2 October at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is often said that springtime is a time for love, but so apparently is autumn, especially if you are a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species appears most often during the latter part of the summer and in early autumn, so springtime is not really an option for them.

I spotted this couple in flagrante delicto during a recent trip to Huntley Meadows Park. It is hard to get a real sense of scale from this photo, so you will have to trust me that these brightly-colored dragonflies are really small, about an inch and a half in length (38 mm).

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the seasons change, some dragonflies begin to disappear, but happily some new ones appear, like this spectacular female Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

One of the really cool things about this species is that there are two different color variants of the females. Most of the females (and young males) are brown in color and are sometimes referred to as heteromorphs, while a smaller number of females, like the one in the photo, have a bright red color matching that of mature males and are sometimes referred to as andromorphs. This is roughly parallel to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, which has two different varieties of female, a yellow morph that matches the males and a black morph.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many dragonflies are very skittish and will fly away as you get close. Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum), however, appear to be unusually inquisitive, like this one that perched on my knee Monday at Huntley Meadows Park as I was trying to photograph another dragonfly.

He seemed to want to check me out at close range and I returned the favor.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I had a close encounter with one of my favorite dragonflies, a spectacular Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species is a sign for me each year of the arrival of autumn and I eagerly await its appearance. I find the blue eyes to be mesmerizing and simply love the way that they contrast with the bold red color of its body.

I could go on and on about the beauty of this dragonfly until I too was blue in the face, but I will simply let you enjoy a glimpse of its beauty.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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Most of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park were perched alone in the bright sunlight, but some of them managed to find mates and were “getting busy.” No matter how many times I have seen this behavior, I continue to be amazed by the unusual and acrobatic method that dragonflies use when mating.

I usually start to see the brightly-colored Blue-faced Meadowhawks in early September, at a time when the overall number of dragonflies is declining and they are one of the signs for me of the end of the summer. This species seems to be generally tolerant of my presence, although some individuals are quite skittish, and I have managed to get some close-up shots of them in the past.

Don’t be surprised to see more photos of the Blue-faced Meadowhawks in upcoming weeks—they are one of my favorite species of dragonflies.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As many of you know, I recently entered some photos in a local photo competition and was fortunate to be awarded second place for one of them. I was a little surprised by the one that was selected, because, quite frankly, it was not my favorite one of the group.

The more that I though about it, the more I realized how difficult it must be to be a judge, especially in an area like photography in which there is both a technical and an artistic component.

Why do we like what we like?

I’ve never used a poll in a posting before, but thought that in this case it might be interesting to learn which one of my four entries is your favorite. I am not really asking you to judge which one is “best,” but am looking more for a sense of which one you like most. You can use whatever criteria you like and I would be thrilled if you gave a few words about your choice.

As you can see, I chose a diverse set of subjects to appeal to a variety of tastes. There are two birds—a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis); one insect—a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum); and one mammal—a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes).

If I have set this up correctly, you can click on any image and scroll through each of them in full size. After viewing them all, select your favorite and register your vote. As I mentioned earlier, I’d be really happy if you left a few words about your choice. (I think the poll might let you vote multiple times if you have trouble choosing, but am not 100 percent certain, given that I am not familiar with the polling component.) NOTE: If you open the posting in Reader, you may need to click on the Title to get to the actual posting and to the poll.

Thanks. Merry Christmas in advance for those celebrating Christmas and best wishes as we move toward the start of a new year.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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