Readers’ wildlife photos

December 31, 2019 • 8:00 am

We’ll end 2019 with odonate photos from a regular: Mark Sturtevant. His notes are indented:

Here are more pictures for the queue at WEIT. Of course they are insects, since that is “what I do”. Enjoy!

Dragonflies are pretty much my favorite insects for photography, as they are both beautiful and somewhat challenging. Here are a few pictures of dragonflies that were taken a couple of summers ago.

The first two pictures are of male and a female chalk-fronted corporals (Ladona julia). Different species of dragonflies will have strong preferences in how they perch. This species insists on sitting down flat on the ground, or at least very near to it.

The dragonfly shown in the next picture is the common whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Mature males like this one develop a brilliant white wax bloom on the abdomen, and it is tricky to not have that overexposed in a picture.

Green darner dragonflies (Anax junius) are a common but still impressive sight, as these are among our largest dragonflies. The first is of a female, and these are fairly easy to photograph since they land with some frequency.

The second is a male, and these are much more challenging because they spend most of the day patrolling their territories and searching the foliage for females. This is a young male, however, and so he is not ready for extended flights. A mature male will develop a lovely blue color on the abdomen (and will probably be flying). Note the deeply scalloped dark stripe along the abdomen in the male, and how this stripe is fairly straight-edged in the female. This is one way to distinguish a young male from a female. Note too the distinctive ‘eye spot’ pattern on top of the head, which is an important character for identifying this species. All of this leads to a story about the next picture.

One thing that I love about this hobby is that I still regularly see new things even after doing this for many years. So one day I was walking along a trail when I saw several yards ahead that a dragonfly had settled onto a perch.  Big green thorax. Purplish abdomen. So probably a female or a young male green darner, right? So I crept closer and decided what the hell, let’s take some pictures.

Later, when I was going through the day’s captures, I came across these pictures and was stunned to see this was no green darner! It lacks the distinctive ‘eye spot’ on top of the head, and the abdomen was all wrong. What was it? I soon learned this was a new species for me – the comet darner (Anax longipes). And to think I almost decided to just skip it, and even through the camera viewfinder I failed to recognize the novelty. What was that old saying? The eye sees what the mind knows.

This next picture is of another large dragonfly also in the darner family. This striking specimen is a young male spatterdock darner (Rhionaeschna mutata), and it is a common species in my favorite place known as the Magic Field. A more mature one will have big blue eyes and blue markings. I have photographed several of them since this picture was taken, and some will be shown later. For now if readers wish to see what a mature one looks like they can check the picture in the link.

Dragonflies often change their colors as they mature, and that is especially true of males. It may be common to consider the mature colors to be the most appealing, but I rather prefer the still immature look of the last two species. The first is young male eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicolis), and the last picture is a young male blue dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). As they mature, both of these males will expand upon their pale blue color, as can be seen in the linked pictures.

11 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Can you please tell me what this “wax bloom” is, how is it produced, and what’s the purpose? I read the wiki on pruinescence but it doesn’t go into detail re dragonflies.

    Also, I can’t recall if you’ve posted any photos of those very cool black-winged dragonflies.

    1. I think pruinescence is the same thing as a ‘waxy bloom’. One term is just more formal.
      Arthropod cuticle is (of course) rather complicated. It generally includes an outer wax layer, external to the chitinous layers. The wax can break down a bit, and this makes it scatter light so it looks either white or some other light color, depending on thickness and color of the background cuticle. For dragonflies, this seems to be a common indicator of age. I have thought they include waxy bloom markings as a visual communication about their species identity and age.

      I don’t have fully black winged dragonflies, if that is what you are asking about. But there is the lovely ebony jewelwing damselfly, like this:
      These and related species are common near woodland streams.

      1. Thanks very much for the information and explanation.

        It was the ebony jewel-winged damselfly. Very cool to see your insect photos on Flickr.

      2. Thanks for the added science information! I can’t remember seeing white on our dragonflies. Now I’ll look closer. Nice pictures.

  2. This was a terrific set of dragonfly photos. I especially enjoy the photos showing off how cryptic dragonflies can be.

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