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Archive for the ‘dragonfly’ Category

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) spend most of their time flying, so it was a rare treat to spot this beautiful female perching recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In the second image you can see the distinctive blotches on the dragonfly’s wings that make it look like it is wearing saddlebags, but the first image is my overwhelming favorite—the unique pose, the delicate coloration of the eyes, and the “artsy” overall feel of the first shot produce an emotional reaction in me than the more clinical second shot.

Do you prefer one image more than the other?

 

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to spend some time hanging out with this Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). The range of colors on its body is so remarkable that I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I zoomed in on it. An expert in a dragonfly forum on Facebook noted to me that the dragonfly is a teneral one, which means that it has only newly emerged. That would account for its relatively pale, almost pastel coloration and the perfect condition of its wings. If you click on the image, you can see even better some of the remarkable details of this dragonfly, like the colorful pattern on its “nose.”

The beautiful dragonfly was hanging vertically only a few inches above the ground, in a pretty safe location. I kept my distance as I took some photos and departed quietly, conscious of the fact that a dragonfly is fragile and vulnerable at this early stage of development. It remained in place as I slowly slipped away.

Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Different dragonfly species rest in varying positions. Some of them hang vertically, but most of them perch at somewhat of an acute angle. Last week when I spotted this male Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox), I was struck by the degree to which its rigid position reminded me of the diagrams of a right angle in my geometry textbook when I was a schoolboy—the dragonfly and the plant stem seemed to form an almost perfect 90 degree angle. One unusual thing about Swift Setwing dragonfly is the way that it holds its wings forward when perched and not straight out as most dragonflies do. Perhaps it helps to counterbalance the effects of gravity and helps it hold its abdomen so high for so long.

Swift Setwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For quite some time I chased after a male Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) one morning last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but it seemingly had endless energy and would not stop to perch. Unwilling to give up, I decided to try to shoot him in mid-air as he patrolled a section of a trail.

As you might suspect, it is pretty challenging to shoot dragonflies in mid-air. If you have a high-end camera with a really good focusing system and a fast, responsive lens, you might be able to use auto focus, assuming you  are able to track the dragonfly in your camera’s viewfinder. I was using my somewhat older Canon 50D DSLR, a camera that was made starting in 2008, and mya Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens, which is sometimes slow in acquiring focus, so I was focusing manually. In this situation, I was helped a little by the fact that the dragonfly would hover a bit from time to time, although usually he would do so while facing away from me.

Patience and persistence paid off and I was pretty excited when I was able to capture this shot.

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It seems a little late in the season for Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) to be mating, but I nevertheless spotted this couple in action this past Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. In case you are curious, the male is the red one near the top of the image that is clasping the female by its head. I like the way that the soft background and simple composition draw our eyes to the shapes, colors, and patterns of the dragonflies, rendering the subject in a beautifully abstract way.

calico pennant dragonflies

© 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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What is a Fine-lined Emerald? It may sound like some kind of exotic jewel, but it is actually a relatively rare dragonfly that is found in coastal plains areas. I don’t recall having heard of this species until several weeks ago, when fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford alerted me to keep an eye out for them when visiting nearby Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I met Walter this past Sunday at the wildlife refuge and we began out search for the elusive Fine-lined Emerald (Somatochlora filosa). This species tends to hang vertically from bare branches at about eye level, so we walked slowly past the never-ending vegetation, hoping that we would spot one. I honestly was not optimistic that we would be successful and was shocked to almost stumble upon one only about four feet from me. I had two big problems. First of all, I was using my Tamron 150-600mm lens that has a minimum focusing distance of almost 9 feet (2.7 meters), so I had to back up. Secondly, in my excitement, I was unable to clearly explain to Walter exactly where the dragonfly was perched. In the end, the dragonfly flew away before either of us was able to get a shot.

Eventually we were able to track that dragonfly and several other Fine-lined Emeralds and to capture some images of these beautiful creatures. Walter and I agreed that we would both do blog postings with some of our shots today to give readers an idea of how two photographers standing almost side by side can come up with very different photos of the same subject. We have done this type of companion pieces and it had always been interesting to compare results. Some of the differences can be attributed to the very different gear that we are using and some are caused by our different backgrounds and approaches.

Once I publish this posting, I will finally take a look at Walter’s posting and update this posting with a link to it.

UPDATE:  Here is the linkas promised, to Walter’s post, in which he shares some scientific observations and some wonderful photos.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined EmeraldFine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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