Days with Dragonflies

It’s been incredibly hot in my part of North Carolina this week, and the heat just happens to coincide with the start of my busiest teaching season.  Because I’ve been outside sweltering in the sun and humidity a lot this week, I’ve come across quite a lot of interesting things,but I’m also exhausted.  Today I am keeping Friday 5 simple and just sharing some dragonflies I’ve photographed over the last few days.  Let’s start with a few common dragonflies.

This is, I think, the dragonfly I come across the most:

Blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

Blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis

That’s a blue dasher, a relatively small dragonfly that’s found throughout a good part of North America.  I see them all the time.  They’re at the pond, all over the grasses, sitting in trees, sitting on the ground, almost everywhere!   I took this particular photo yesterday while working with a group of high schoolers with special needs who are part of a science careers program a coworker and I are involved in.  We had just netted this one, photographed it for a citizen science project, and I was about to let it go when I asked if anyone wanted to help release it.  This young woman volunteered, so I put the dragonfly on her sleeve.  It sat there long enough to snap a photo, so I got to document a happy moment for a very promising young woman.  What an awesome group to work with!

Another very common dragonfly in my area is the common whitetail.  It even has “common” in the name!  I found this female sitting on the trail this afternoon:

Common whitetail, Plathemis lydia

Common whitetail, Plathemis lydia

I find dozens of males at the pond each time I visit, but I find most of the females sitting on the trails far from the water.  They seem to like basking in the sun in little patches of dirt, so a walk down nearly any trail will likely yield you a half-dozen or more females.  I love the patterns on their wings!  Gorgeous, even if they are super common.

Another dirt lover:

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern pondhawk, Erythemis simplicicollis

The eastern pondhawks, both the males depicted in the photo and the green females, are often found near the female common whitetails on the trails.  They seem to be particularly abundant recently, though it could be that they’re hot and behaving a bit differently than usual.  This particular male is showing a little bit of green on his throax.  While they appear blue, it’s because they grow a waxy coating as they mature and it’s the wax that gives them the bluish tinge.  Underneath the wax, the males look just like the females.

I was THRILLED to see this dragonfly today:

Halloween pennant, Celithemis eponina

Halloween pennant, Celithemis eponina

My first Halloween pennant of the year!  I never see these at the ponds, but last year I saw lots of them out in the prairie.  Here’s hoping I’ll see many more this year!

And finally, my most exciting dragonfly sighting of the day:

Purple Martin with Dragonfly

Nom nom nom!

I have always wanted to get a photo of a bird with a dragonfly in its beak and today it happened!  That’s a purple martin with… I’m not sure.  I was thinking it was just a blue dasher, but upon closer inspection there’s a distinctly clubbed tail on this dragonfly, which makes it both a) very exciting because we have never gotten a confirmed report of any clubtails at Prairie Ridge and b) annoying because I don’t think it’s possible to ID it from this photo.  Shortly after I snapped this, the bird turned around and took the dragonfly inside the nest.  When she came back out, the dragonfly was gone, so I imagine that it’s now residing in the bellies of 4-5 hungry baby martins.

All in all, a good couple of days dragonfly-wise.  This summer is shaping up to be very interesting, so even though it’s ghastly hot, I’m still thrilled to spend as much time outside as I can.  I don’t want to miss a thing!

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Unless otherwise stated, all text, images, and video are copyright © C. L. Goforth

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8 thoughts on “Days with Dragonflies

  1. Wonderful shots of mostly familiar dragonflies, with the exception of the spectacular Halloween Pennant. It is one of my favorites, but I have not yet seen one this season. It’s interesting that we both posted today shots of a dragonfly in a bird’s mouth. In my case, it was a female Red-winged Blackbird with a female Eastern Pondhawk. The bright green color and black and white stripes made it a bit easier to identify than your captured dragonfly. (You can see the post at https://michaelqpowell.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/demise-of-a-dragonfly/)

  2. I don’t think the dragonfly in the martin’s mouth could be a clubtail because of the coloration in the wing, that little brown area around the nodus. The only ode I can think of with color right there is a Taper-tailed Darner, and the patterning on the abdomen makes that seem possible, but the body shape is just weird and the color on the wing doesn’t seem quite right either.

    • Yeah, I’m not convinced it’s a clubtail either because of the wing pattern and the coloration, but it’s got that expanded abdominal tip that made me think maybe it might be… It could always have been squished in the middle of the abdomen so that the back end swelled, but it doesn’t look like it was. I spent an hour staring at my Paulson last night and didn’t come up with anything that I liked as an ID. I really have no idea! The photo just isn’t sharp enough to make out the details of the dragonfly, so I don’t really expect to ever come up with a positive ID.

    • Martins are great dragonfly hunters! Saw another mama with a dragonfly today.

      Dragonflies eating other insects always make for exciting photographs. I like to be reminded that they’re awesome little predators and not the wimpy, fragile things that so many people seem to think they are. :)

  3. Those were great pictures and great identification. I take all kinds of dragonfly shots in my backyard and at the botanical gardens, but they’re all labeled, “dragonfly”. I think most of them are what I see in your pictures – which is, of course, not too surprising since Richmond’s not that far from you.

    Nancy

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