I really enjoy photographing familiar subjects, but there is still something really special about finding new ones, like this female Eastern Ringtail dragonfly (Erpetogomphus designatus) that I stumbled upon yesterday during a photo excursion with some friends to Adamstown, Maryland.
The goal of our visit was to explore Lilypons Water Gardens, a large facility that specializes in all kinds of aquatic plants and includes a series of interlocking ponds with waterlilies and lotuses. I suspected that there would be lots of dragonflies and I was not disappointed.
While my friends were photographing the flowers, I started walking along the barely trampled paths that had knee-high grass and other vegetation. Most of the dragonflies that I spotted were familiar friends: Widow Skimmers, Eastern Pondhawks, Slaty Skimmers, Common Whitetails, and Blue Dashers, but a couple that I saw immediately struck me as being new and different.
The very colorful and distinctive rings on the abdomen of today’s featured dragonfly, the Eastern Ringtail, really attracted my attention and somehow reminded me of the photos I had seen of a coral snake. Fortunately the dragonfly, unlike the snake, is not poisonous. I chased the dragonfly for quite a while but never managed to get a shot of it with an uncluttered background—it kept perching on vegetation low to the ground.
When I returned home, I didn’t have a clue where to start with identification, because I hadn’t gotten some of the kind of diagnostic shots that I need, as relative neophyte, to identify a dragonfly. So I did what I usually do in cases like this—I contacted Walter Sanford, my local dragonfly expert. He tentatively identified it as a female Eastern Ringtail and another expert in the Northeast Odonata Facebook group agreed with Walter.
I’m pretty happy with my newest dragonfly find, a species I might have trouble finding again. According to the Maryland Biodiversity Project, the Eastern Ringtail is designated S2, which means that it is rare in the state of Maryland.
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved
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