Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘dragonfly’ 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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

I celebrated May Day yesterday by searching for dragonflies at Huntley Meadows Park and was rewarded by spotting my first Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) of the season. This bright green female pondhawk was almost hidden in the fresh vegetation, but she really showed her colors when she perched on the brittle fallen leaves on the forest floor. The muted tones of gray and brown created a wonderful (albeit cluttered) backdrop that really let her beautiful colors and patterns stand out.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

The weather yesterday was hot and sunny—perfect for dragonflies, although a little uncomfortable for me. I decided to search in the vicinity of a vernal pool, one of my favorite spots for dragonflies at Huntley Meadows Park. As I was walking along a small water-filled ditch, a large dragonfly flew up from the water and perched in a tree just a short distance away. I suspected it might be a Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros) and it turns out that I was right.

About this time each year, a number of female Swamp Darners descend on this small ditch to lay their eggs. Unlike many other dragonflies, which lay their eggs in the water, Swamp Darners lay their eggs in moist, often rotten logs. Essentially they tunnel into the wood before they lay the eggs.

I spotted the most likely target log and sat on the bank of the ditch to see if the dragonflies would come. It didn’t take long for them to arrive. Sometimes it was just one dragonfly, while at other times there were two or even three of them laying eggs in the same log. I was shooting with a 180mm macro lens, so I could not zoom out to include all of them (and I did not want to move for fear of scaring them away). In one of the photos, you can see two of the Swamp Darners in action and part of the abdomen of a third one in the upper left corner.

I don’t know if it is some biological imperative for species preservation that compels them to deposit these eggs, but the females were putting them everywhere. I was a little shocked when one of them landed on my mud-covered shoes and began to deposit eggs there.

The dragonflies were so focused on depositing their eggs that I was able to lean forward and get a close-up view of the face of one of them. I love dragonfly faces and especially their amazing giant eyes.

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

During the summer it seems like dragonflies are everywhere, perching prominently in plain sight, but this early in the season there are a whole lot fewer of them and the ones that are around are hard to find. Fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford recently did a posting about some Ashy Clubtail dragonflies (Phanogomphus lividus) that he had spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

I had never seen this species before, so I set off this past Friday to see if I could find one of my own. Walter had alerted me to look for the Ashy Clubtails perched in the grass and in the low vegetation that surrounds the small pond at the wildlife refuge. I circled the pond several times in vain before I suddenly caught sight of some dragonfly wings shining in the sunlight. I was able to track the dragonfly during its short flight and saw where it landed in the grass.

Almost certain that I had found an Ashy, I approached the dragonfly slowly and cautiously, fearful of scaring it away before I could get a shot. I was face-to-face with dragonfly, which is not the greatest position for capturing its details, and was able to confirm that it was an Ashy Clubtail. Its pale coloration and very clear wings indicate that it is newly emerged, what is often called a “teneral,” and it looks to be a female. Having gotten a few shots, I tried to get a better angle and spooked the dragonfly.

Ashy Clubtail

Buoyed by my success, I was motivated to search even harder and eventually spotted two more teneral female Ashy Clubtails. One was in some chest-high thorny bushes and I had to push up against them to get as parallel as possible with its body for a detailed shot. I was able to photograph the third Ashy from almost directly overhead and the final photo gives you the best overall view of this beautiful dragonfly.

These Ashy Clubtails ares not as brightly colored as some of the dragonflies that will appear later in the summer, but they were definitely a welcome sight for me.

Ashy Clubtail

Ashy Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Now that the dragonfly season has started in my area, I am devoting more and more of my available photography time to searching for these beautiful little creatures. Some dragonflies can be found almost anywhere, but many of them require a very specific kind of habitat and may be present for only limited periods of time.

Yesterday afternoon I visited Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, which features a small pond surrounded by a pathway. Last year I found several different dragonfly species there, so I knew that I might have a chance of seeing some dragonflies. I looked in the brush and in the vegetation and came up empty-handed until I looked at the water and spotted several dragonflies flying low above the water.

I recognized the dragonflies as Common Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca cynosura) and knew that I faced a challenge—this species seems to fly continuously and rarely have I seen one perch. I realized that if I wanted to get some shots of the dragonflies I would have to capture the images while they were flying.

I had my Tamron 180mm macro lens on my camera and started to track the flying dragonflies. I have tried a number of focusing techniques in the past and have had the most success when I focus the lens manually (although I hesitate to use the word “success,” given the high rate of failure in getting an in-focus shot). This was my favorite shot of a Common Baskettail flying above the water. There is a bit of motion blur in the wings and I had to crop the image quite a bit, but I managed to keep most of the dragonfly in focus.

Common Baskettail

I walked multiple circuits around the pond, still searching for more dragonflies. I tend to like to keep moving, rather than sticking in one spot. As I reached one end of the pond, I suddenly realized that a dragonfly was hovering in mid-air right in front of me. The dragonfly was moving slowly above a grassy patch adjacent to the pond, but did not seem interested in heading for the water.

I could hardly believe my good fortune and tried to compose myself and focus on the dragonfly. I managed to get some detailed shots that show, for example, how the Common Baskettail folds up its legs when flying. I took the first shot below while on my knees, so that I was almost level with the dragonfly. For the second shot, I was shooting down on the dragonfly and it looks almost like it was taken by a drone, hovering above the hovering dragonfly.

Common Baskettail

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

On the same day that I saw the Common Whitetail dragonfly that I featured yesterday in my blog posting, I was thrilled to have the chance to photograph an uncommon dragonfly, a male Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa). I had never before seen a Stream Cruiser, but local dragonfly expert and fellow photographer Walter Sanford had observed them in the past at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge and offered to guide me.

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say that Stream Cruisers are hard to spot. The are not very big (about 2.2 inches (56-60mm) in length), they are skittish, and they often perch on the stems of low vegetation. During the hours that we searched for them, I observed a couple of probable Stream Cruisers in the air, but lost them in the blur of the vegetation and never saw a single one land. Walter saw the first one of the day, a female, and posted an awesome photograph of the beautiful dragonfly in a blog posting yesterday. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to make it to the dragonfly’s location before she flew away. Walter spotted a few more Stream Cruisers during the day, but each time I couldn’t get there quickly enough to see one.

I was beginning to think that I was going to end up empty-handed for the day when Walter called out that he had spotted a male perched in the underbrush. This Stream Cruiser was cooperative enough to stay perched as I rushed to try to get a shot. I had my Tamron 180mm macro lens on my camera at that moment. The dragonfly and the stem on which it was perched were so small in the viewfinder that my camera’s autofocus would not lock on my subject, so I had to resort to focusing manually. Dragonflies have so many fine details that it is really hard to tell when they are in focus. This image was the best I could get after cropping the initial shot quite a bit.

Stream Cruiser

I decided to push my luck and see if I could get a better shot with my Tamron 150-600mm lens that I use primarily to photograph birds. Amazingly the dragonfly stayed put while I changed lenses. Once again I had to focus manually, which is an even bigger problem with this lens, because the focus ring is located really close to the lens mount. It’s hard to hold the camera steady and focus manually at the same time.

Here’s an image that I shot at 600mm. I managed to get the eye pretty sharp and to capture some of the details of the dragonfly’s incredibly long legs, but the depth of field was so shallow that the abdomen is out of focus. Normally I will try to move around the subject to be as parallel as I can be, but in this case I stayed fixed at one spot and remained as immobile as I could.

Stream Cruiser

It is really nice to start off this dragonfly season with a new species. If you want to learn more about the Stream Cruiser dragonfly, check out this page from the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website (and stay tuned for Walter’s shots of this dragonfly that should appear tomorrow morning in his blog).

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »