Readers’ wildlife photos

Please send in your good wildlife photos, as the tank is inexorably emptying. I especially appeal to those who used to send great photos fairly regularly but have gone silent.

Today’s photos are from Mark Sturtevant, who, thank Ceiling Cat, still graces us regularly with photos regularly. Today’s feature is are odonates. Mark’s captions and notes are indented.

Here are more pictures of insects from last summer. In this set I concentrate on Odonates, which include damselflies and dragonflies.

At one of our local parks there is a nice spot by a river which is great for photographing American rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina americana). The pictures shown below are males. I thought the sight of two bros perching together was a bit unusual since males don’t tolerate other males for long as they vie to defend a river-front territory.

Next are close-ups of a male amber-winged spreadwing damselfly (Lestes eurinus). As you can see, damselfly faces can be very goofy looking, and this one was really making me laugh. After a while things got really hilarious when it barfed up a mouthful of chewed mosquitoes, which it proceeded to solemnly chew.

Dragonflies are next. The blue dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) shown below may be our most commonly photographed dragonfly. The first is a female who was in my backyard. She was quite moribund, possibly from a heavy infestation of mites that were along the underside of her abdomen. Next is a young male, and you can see the reason for their common name. As he matures, he will become fairly covered with a blue-white waxy bloom. But I prefer them just like this.

A favorite dragonfly is shown next. This is a racket-tailed emerald (Dorocordulia libera), a small dragonfly that becomes common along certain forest paths for a fairly short period before they are gone. While around, they become a very distracting escort in the woods as they fly ahead of you along the trails, and then plant themselves firmly on a leaf. Upon approach, off they go again to repeat the process. This male shows nicely the main aim at photographing the species. Their thorax is very fuzzy, but if you get the angle just right and use a flash to ‘punch thru’, one can bring up the emerald green colors on the thorax.

Anyone observing dragonflies will soon note that different species behave quite differently. Some fly fairly continually, while others land frequently. When perched, they prefer to sit at a certain height above the ground and this too is different for different species. The lovely calico pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) shown in the next two pictures sit very close to the ground, and so pictures of them tend to be from the ‘top down’. A female is shown in the first picture, followed by a stunning male in full breeding colors. These mature males are more frequently out over the water, so I was pretty happy to see one sticking near the shore, although this is possibly because it was very windy. Photographing it was therefore rather frustrating because there was lots of movement and so none of the pictures were in complete focus. This picture was cobbled together from 3 images in a stacking program, and some cutting and pasting had to be done later b/c dragonfly parts sort of came out in different places.

I have been lately trying to do a lot of short focus stacks of dragonflies. These sometimes work, although not always. Next is a young male twelve-spotted skimmer (Libellula pulchella) which was stacked from 2 images.

The final picture is a new species for me (always very exciting to have that!). This is a female four-spotted skimmerLibellula quadrimaculata, and the picture was stacked from 4 images.

17 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    I’m always stunned by these photos, Mark. It must be extremely hard to get them.

  2. Mark Jones
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Stunning shots Mark; great clarity to these. I particularly like the blue-eyed damselfly. I sympathise re focus stacking; can be very hit and miss out in the wild!

  3. Joe Routon
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    Stunning photos!

  4. Posted October 12, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Wonderful shots. I keep wondering “When is he going to run out of dragonfly species?” but you never do. I am astonished by their diversity in the US. I had no idea.

    • Posted October 12, 2020 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Thank you. What has helped immensely is that there are various web sites where Odonata-philes post data about where and when certain less widespread species may be found in my area. So I can drive to a certain park, during a certain range of weeks, and hope to see a certain species in this particular field, for example.
      Gotta catch ’em all!

    • Posted October 12, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I think Mark must be secretly genetically engineering new species in his backyard pond.

      Brilliant photos.

  5. Debra Coplan
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    Thrilling photos! I just love seeing the details of the wings.
    Thank you !

  6. Posted October 12, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Spectacular!

    (In case anyone doesn’t know, click on the photos to enlarge, and spend ages gawping at the detail on wings, with an expression your face like that damsel fly!)

    • GBJames
      Posted October 12, 2020 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      These creatures are amazing. I have trouble imagining why people want to go find aliens on other planets when we have so many right here!

    • Posted October 12, 2020 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

      Yes, I agree with all you said!

  7. rickflick
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Great photos and documentation. If someone sat down to design little robots that behave like these guys do, they’d have to come up with something almost exactly like what natural selection has done.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful odonates Mark, thanks.

    What stacking program do you use? I’m wondering if there is an add-on to Photoshop (the only imaging software I have). Or maybe yours is a stand-alone program. Either way, it does a good job, and it would speed up some of the manual stacking I do.

    • Posted October 12, 2020 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      I use Zerene Stacker. Photoshop can do the trick too, and there are protocols you can watch on YouTube that show how.

      • Mark R.
        Posted October 12, 2020 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        Great, thanks for the tip Mark. I have an older version of PS, I’ll do some research.

  9. tjeales
    Posted October 12, 2020 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

    Lovely shots as usual and dragon & damsel flies are the best subjects. Good for stacking too since they don’t have waving antenna. I’ll have to check out Zerene because I’m not entirely happy with Photoshop’s performance

  10. Posted October 12, 2020 at 9:36 pm | Permalink

    Your work is splendid, Mark. I’m always in awe of the readers’ contributions. It’s little wonder my mediocre video of that giant Polyphemus moth didn’t pass muster, even though finding it in my garden was the highlight of my summer. Here is a good photo of it from wiki instead:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antheraea_polyphemus

  11. Posted October 13, 2020 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    FANTASTIC.
    In the wildlife section the insects are usually my favorites and the spiders and dragonflies are my very favorites.
    Your photography is top notch.

    People don’t appreciate them enough – it is a scale problem. If they were a few hundred times larger there’d be Insect Jurassic Parks all over the place. And petting zoos!
    Just look at the complexity of a fly’s brain, or the weird genetics of the professors beloved fruit flies.

    thanks for the pictures,

    D.A., NYC


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