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Posts Tagged ‘Tramea carolina’

Last week at Occoquan Regional Park, I spotted a pair of Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea carolina) flying in tandem.  I managed to capture this sequence of shots as the male released the female so she could deposit eggs in the water (ovipositing). Once she was done, he grabbed her again and they went on to the next spot.

After mating, male dragonflies and damselflies are concerned about protecting their reproductive efforts, lest a rival intervene and dislodge their sperm. Some males will circle overhead to fight off potential rivals while the female oviposits; some will hang onto her during the entire process; and a few will use the “catch and release” method illustrated in these images.

If you are interested in additional information about dragonflies and mating, I recommend an article on ThoughtCo.com entitled “How Dragonflies Mate–A Rough-and-Tumble Affair.” Some of you may be worried that this is some kind of scientific treatise, but it is not. To allay your fears and entice you to read the article, here is the opening paragraph of the article.

“Dragonfly sex is a rough-and-tumble affair. If you’ve ever seen a pair of mating dragonflies in the act, you know that their sexual coupling requires the flexibility and acrobatic skill of a “Cirque de Soleil” performer. Females get bitten, males get scratched, and sperm winds up everywhere. These strange mating habits have survived millions of years of evolution, so the dragonflies must know what they’re doing, right? Let’s take a closer look at how dragonflies mate.”

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was exploring Mason Neck West Park in nearby Lorton, Virginia last Saturday, fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford pointed to a dragonfly perched at the top of a tree and said it would make a good “artsy” shot. He was right. Although some details are lost in the shadows, the simplified silhouetted view lets you focus on the essence of the dragonfly.

The patches on the inner wings indicate that it is one of the saddlebags dragonflies. I think it might be a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), but there is also a chance that it could be a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea carolina) bounce about as they fly, which makes them look a bit like butterflies as they move through the air. It is easy to spot their bright red bodies and prominent rear wing patches, but it is a challenge to photograph them, because they don’t perch very often.

I was fortunate on Monday to see one land high in a nearby tree and was able to capture this view of the underside of its wings. The vegetation was far enough away that it blurred out nicely, drawing the eye of viewers to this modest portrait of a beautiful little dragonfly.

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What are Carolina Saddlebags? Luggage for horseback or motorcycle riding? No, Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) are a species of bright red dragonflies with reddish-brown blotches of color on their hindwings. Why aren’t they Carolina Blue in color? Obviously the folks who named the dragonfly were not fans of the University of North Carolina (UNC) basketball team. (According to Wikipedia, the use of the light blue color at UNC dates back to 1795.)

I first became aware of the Carolina Saddlebags yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge when a flash of red caught my eye. A dragonfly was patrolling over a section of the water and the adjacent grassy area. I tracked it visually and eventually realized it was a saddlebags dragonfly—those blotches of color stand out even when the dragonflies are flying. Most of the saddlebags dragonflies that we encounter in our area are Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), but I was pretty confident that my eyes were seeing the red of the relatively rarer Carolina Saddlebags. I tried to capture some in-flight shots, including the first one below, but eventually lost sight of the dragonfly.

Carolina Saddlebag dragonflies, according to the information on the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, are powerful fliers and are one of only a few species that routinely migrate hundreds of miles. Additionally, according to that same website, they rarely perch.  As I continued to walk around the small pond of the wildlife refuge, imagine my surprise when I came upon one that was perching.

I didn’t dare approach too closely initially and may well have been holding my breath when I took some preliminary shots. My caution proved to be justified, because the dragonfly flew away when I tried to move forward, even though I was approaching as slowly and as stealthily as I could. Either the dragonfly was skittish or its short rest break was over.

Carolina Saddlebags was not a species that I had seen before at this location and it was not really on my radar. Fortunately I was able to react quickly enough and was lucky enough to get some shots, including the in-flight one as the dragonfly was zooming past me. As I learned in the Boy Scouts, it is always good to be prepared.

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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You know that summer is coming to a close when the dragonflies that were in constant flight earlier in the season seem to be resting more often, like this Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) that one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, pointed out this past weekend at my local marsh. This dragonfly kept flying back and forth between two perches that were tantalizingly just out of the range of the 180mm lens that I had on my camera. I didn’t dare to take the time to change my lens, knowing that the dragonfly would almost certainly fly away at the most inopportune moment, so I ended up cropping a lot, especially in the first image.

The only shots that I could get of Saddlebags dragonflies earlier in the summer were in-flight shots and I have already posted some shots of a Black Saddlebags in the air. I realized, though, that I had not posted an image of its more colorful counterpart, the Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) that I photographed during a visit to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia. I took that shot (the third one below) from a pretty long distance, but was able to achieve focus and capture some of the wonderful details of this beautiful red dragonfly.

Black Saddlebags dragonflyBlack Saddlebags dragonfly

Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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