Readers’ wildlife photos

October 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Keep those cards and letters coming in folks (just joking—these things don’t exist any more). What I really want is your good wildlife photos, ASAP.

Today’s contribution is from regular Mark Sturtevant, whose speciality is insect photos—in this case, dragonflies. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here is another set of dragonfly pictures taken two summers ago—the first summer of Covid. When I share such pictures in certain photography forums, I like to refer to these posts as “A visit to Dragontowne”. Anyway, let’s drive on in.

First up is one of the baskettail dragonflies, (Epitheca sp.). The particular species cannot be easily ID’d from a picture. Baskettail dragonflies get their name because females will carry a mass of fertilized eggs at the end of the abdomen before depositing them in water.

Dragonflies have enough of a following that there are several websites where one can learn about the locations of different species in your area. A good one for the U.S. is Odonata Central. Here, one can view records for a given species in a state, and see a Google Map of their exact location. On several occasions Odonata Central has provided me with essential information on the locations of the more challenging species of dragonflies. An example is shown next. This is the springtime darner (Basiaeschna janata), which is a small and (to me) secretive dragonfly that flies in woodlands in the spring. The first is a female, and then a male. Once spotted, they proved to be very easy to photograph. 

Then of course there are clubtail dragonflies. I could put in a lot of clubtail pictures here since there are so many species, and as a group they are fairly easy to photograph. But here is what I think is a dusky clubtail (Phanogomphus spicatus), a common clubtail often seen along footpaths.

Next is a new species for me that was once again found with the help of Odonata Central. This is one of the “broad tail” species known as the skillet clubtail (Gomphurus ventricosus).

The same park with skillet clubtails has records of about a dozen species of clubtails (!) The next two pictures show one of the other species. This is a male and then a female rusty snaketail (Ophiogomphus rupinsulensis). It was a huge thrill for me just to see them! Dragonflies often turn their heads to check their surroundings, and here the female was looking up when I snapped the picture. 

Next up are a male and female of another new species from the skimmer family. These are spangled skimmers (Libellula cyanea). The common name refers to their brilliant white pterostigma markings.

And finally, here is a mating pair of green darner dragonflies (Anax junius). This large species migrates into my area very early in the season, and it can be one of the first dragonflies people see. I very much enjoyed attentively following this pair as they went about the important business of securing the next generation, and it gave me a chance to forget about Covid for a time.

And with that, it’s time to depart Dragontowne. But I hope to be back!  

10 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Wonderful photos! Dragonflies are endlessly fascinating to me and I love to photograph them as well. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Beautiful photos Mark! We love dragonflies; and, living on a pond, we get lots of them.

    Some days in summer, the entire sky seems to be filled with a single species. One day, my son and I drove several miles under a continuous ceiling of dragonflies. Fairly dilute; but easy to see, even from a car moving at 60 mph.

    1. Swarms of dragonflies are pretty mesmerizing, since individuals rapidly shift from trolling for insects to clashing with each other. There are certain species that swarm, but what those are will vary from area to area. Mine are green darners and prince baskettails especially.

  3. Great trip to Dragontowne—I love these creatures. I keep telling myself I will learn to ID the ones in the area, but so far I can only distinguish a few of the largest ones.

  4. These are exceptional. Last weekend I watched the newest and first installment of Dune (I liked) and they did a wonderful job creating the “Ornithopters”- flying craft that look and fly like dragonflies…well, sort of.

  5. Greetings Mark,
    How do you determine gender in the Springtime Darner?
    Any recommendation for a West Coast field guide?
    Lovely photos.
    Thanks,
    J

    1. The only comprehensive field guide to all the dragonflies and damselflies of North America is the two volume set by Dennis Paulson. For the west you would want https://press.princeton.edu/books/paperback/9780691122816/dragonflies-and-damselflies-of-the-west.
      There is a companion volume for the east. Both are also available as ebooks, which have the advantage of allowing you to enlarge the photos. These two books have been my main source of information on dragonfly identification. While emphasizing field marks that allow you to identify dragonflies by sight, the books also contain diagrams of finer features that need to be examined in hand under magnification to separate species that are all but identical. There are also many good regional guides that are available and help you narrow down the species in your area.

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