Photos from the swarm

I went out to Lakeside Lake with a friend early this morning to take some photos of the dragonfly swarm that’s been forming there.  (See my previous post for more information about the swarm and a video of the behavior.)  The swarm’s been forming every morning this week!  The dragonflies were flying constantly and darting here and there very unpredictably, so it was nearly impossible to get a good shot, but I got a few I thought were worthy of showing here.  My apologies for the general blurriness – these things are FAST!

Pantala hymenaea

Spot wing glider (Pantala hymenaea)

Pantala hymenaea banking

Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea) banking during a turn

Pantala flavescens

Wandering glider (Pantala flavescens)

A few things I noticed about the dragonflies in the photos I took:

1) The forewings of the dragonflies move separately from the hindwings.  I already knew this, but it’s hard to see it when they’re flying around because their wings move so fast.  It’s very obvious in the photos though!

2) When the dragonflies turned sharply in flight, they usually kept their heads parallel to the ground.  Even though their bodies were twisting and turning as they glided about, their heads remained in about the same position the whole time. This resulted in some pretty gnarly looking photos where the dragonflies’ heads looked like they were on upside down!  I unfortunately didn’t not get a clear shot of this to show you…

3) Dragonflies can definitely fly backwards.  Dragonflies are among the most agile of flighted animals and part of what makes them so agile is their ability to fly backwards, a very difficult maneuver.  It was frustrating to get a shot all lined up only to have the dragonfly zoom BACKWARDS out of the photo at the last second!

4) Dragonflies at rest are a LOT easier to photograph than flying ones!  Case in point: the photo I posted last week (see myDragonfly Sighting post) was of a dragonfly sitting on a bush branch.  I took 3 photos of the dragonfly before it took off and I considered all 3 good enough to post.  Today I took 377 photos.  About a third of them didn’t end up having any dragonflies in them at all.  Of the 236 that actually contained dragonflies, the vast majority showed the dragonflies as blurry, indistinct blobs of color.  I only got 13 shots I thought were decent at all, and my best one, the wandering glider above, is still far from perfect.  I like the photo more for the contrasting colors than anything else.

Regardless of the difficulty of the photography, it was still really fun!  If nothing else, it was amusing to TRY to get some good photos of these guys.  (I can’t help it – I’m drawn to the difficult photographic subjects, if only so I can practice and improve my skills.)  Even if we hadn’t gotten any good shots, it still would have been worth the trip to the lake just to see so many dragonflies in one place at one time.  This swarm is pretty darned impressive and watching hundreds of dragonflies lazily flying around a hill in the morning sun is a fabulous way to spend a weekend morning.

Be sure to check out the photo my friend posted from this morning’s shooting.  The photo she posted is better than any of mine, so I hope you’ll take a look!


Have you seen a dragonfly swarm?

I am tracking swarms so I can learn more about this interesting behavior.  If you see one, I’d love to hear from you!  Please visit my Report a Dragonfly Swarm page to fill out the official report form.

    I welcome any information that you’re willing to provide about your swarm!  The more details you’re willing to provide, the more helpful your report will be, but I’ll happily take anything you’re willing to share.  Reports so far have varied from a few words to novellas, and it’s all useful.


    (Added June 30, 2010)


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