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Archive for the ‘Dragonflies’ Category

The time drew near for our departure and I had pretty much given up hope of getting any good shots of dragonflies during a visit with some friends last Saturday to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. There were several streams and ponds and I would occasionally see dragonflies flying around, but the planted areas of the garden prevented me from getting close to the water and the spots where the dragonflies were perching.

As I was crossing a small bridge that connected the boardwalk to the “shore,” a dragonfly suddenly flew up from the level of the water into a tree and perched on some relatively low-hanging leaves, about eight feet (243 cm) from the ground. I was able to track the dragonfly to its location and approached it slowly and cautiously.

The dragonfly was perching vertically and the first thing I noticed was that its wings were bright and shiny, suggesting that it had only recently emerged. My initial thought was that it was a Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes), because of the distinctive curved tip of the abdomen. When I got home, I looked at photos of Unicorn Clubtails and doubts began to creep into my mind about the identity of this dragonfly, because the colors seemed different from the ones depicted, which were more yellow than green. I posted a photo into a Facebook group and some experts confirmed that my initial instincts had been correct.

I took shots from several different angles, wishing that I was about a foot taller so that I would not have been shooting upwards at an angle. It turned out, though, that there was an advantage to shooting upwards, for I was able to get a pretty good view in the final image of the distinctive yellow “horn” between the dragonfly’s eyes that caused it to be named “unicorn.”

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn CLubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In addition to dragonflies, damselflies are now appearing in greater numbers, like this beautiful little Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) that I spotted on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park. Identification is pretty easy, because it is the only dark-winged species in our area. The red eyes suggest that it is newly emerged—the eyes will change to a less demonic color later—and the lack of white markings on the wings indicate it is a male. Click on the image if you want to see some of the details of the damselfly at higher resolution, like the tiny hairs on its legs.

Ebony Jewelwing

© 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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Nature photographers are a peculiar breed of people. How else could I explain why I headed off to the Donau-Auen National Park within hours of my arrival in Vienna, Austria. I am staying in the center of the city, virtually surrounded by historic buildings and monuments, yet I feel more drawn to explore nature than history.

Saturday was a warm, sunny day and I was hoping to encounter dragonflies as I explored some of the areas of the park that I have visited before. It may be a little early in the season or that I was simply not lucky, but in any case I did not encounter a single dragonfly. I was, however, quite fortunate and saw quite a few damselflies. These beautiful little creatures are tiny and elusive and like to hide perch on vegetation, so it is often challenging to get clear shots of them.

I was shooting with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot, which helped me sometimes to get shots without scaring off the damselflies. In some cases, though, it was really tough to get the camera’s focus to lock onto the target.

The shapes and colors of the damselflies are somewhat familiar and may be related to the species that I see at home, but I am not even going to try to identify them. I hope that you can enjoy the delicate beauty of these damselflies that I encountered during my most recent adventures in the national park here in Vienna.

damselfly in Vienna

 

damselfly in Vienna

 

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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You have to be awfully lucky to capture in-flight images of damselflies, but it helps a little when they are in tandem. I spotted these Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) last week at Huntley Meadows Park. The pair in the foreground were still hooked up after mating and appeared to be heading for the branch that you can see in order to lay eggs there.

It’s cool how you can see another damselfly in the background flying in from another direction. I noticed that some single damselflies, probably rival males, seemed to be trying to interfere with the couples when they were involved in ovipositing, which is why the male stays with the female until he is sure the job is done.

Southern Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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These Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) were engaging in a little May Day mayhem this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. If I have this figured out right, the female, the one on the right in this image, is depositing her eggs in the vegetation after successfully mating with the male, who is still holding on to her.

Southern Spreadwing

 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Male Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) start out with the same bright green coloration and bold black and white stripes as the female that I featured in a posting earlier this week. Over time the males turn a fairly nondescript blue and are outshone by their female counterparts.

On Monday, I was fortunate to capture this image of a male Eastern Pondhawk in a transitional  stage, with beautiful two-toned shades of green and blue. I was thrilled when it perched on a green plant, which helps to draw the viewer’s eye to the dragonfly in a background of dried-up fallen leaves.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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