Sunday, July 27, 2008

Widow Skimmer and Friends

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

I was working at the shop yesterday, and during a brief lull I went out to shoot some pictures of some classes that were going on. Every year we say we need more pictures of adult classes — in October. So little old proactive me went out to remedy the problem. I got some decent shots of people learning stuff (rescues and towing), but it was a target-rich environment for an odonatelover like me.

The problem was most of these odonates were very, very skittish. The concentration of them was such that they were extremely territorial, as they are all in the throes of looking for mates and laying down some serious eggs for the next generation. They fought and dived and swooped amongst themselves like a bunch of adolescent boys at a middle-school dance, staking out territory that they really didn't own per se.

Anyway, they didn't sit still very long and I still haven't figured out this bloody camera so I missed a fair number of shots, but I managed to get a few representative samples. The most prominent guest was a Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) which are fairly common but on the larger side for a Libellulidae.

Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera)

There were probably a hundred little Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) which are one if the smallest of the Libellulidae with a wingspan of maybe 4-5 centimeters. They're cute but very flighty.

I did manage to get a quick shot of one in flight but it was zooming away from me as I took it so it's a little out of focus. They are pretty back lit and Amberwing seems to be a perfect moniker.

There was also a pair of Common Blue Darners (A. junius) who had found true love or lust or whatever dragonflies feel and were busy gettin' it on dragonfly style, laying eggs on every conceivable surface. They'll hatch little nymphs this summer, and they'll fall to the bottom of the pond and start eating like a teenager before a track meet. After the last episode with a CGD, it was nice to see some of them thriving rather than a solitary male limping off to lick his wounds.

When dragonflies mate the male grasps the female behind her head with a pair of claspers, and the female swings her abdomen around under the male and grabs a little sperm packet called a spermatophore, which males store in a set of secondary genitalia on the underside of their abdomen. The couple might stay conjoined for a few seconds or for a few minutes or more depending on the species, but quite a few of them behave like the CGD and oviposit (lay eggs) at the same time, the dragonfly equivalent of painting the nursery.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis simplicicollis)

Last but not least was a very skittish male Eastern Pondhawk, sunning itself on a piece of cinder block. Compared to the Pondhawk the rest of these guys would be considered gregarious, so I had a tough time getting close enough to get a good overhead shot. Pondhawks often eat Amberwings. Maybe he was just waiting to pounce.

Respectfully submitted (to a kind and patient reader who indulges my pathology),


1 comment:

Silbs said...

Wonderful! And...educational. That's what happens when a biologist who writes well and takes great images.