Sunday, July 25, 2010

Good Old Summer Dragonflies

Widow Skimmer
It's a typical summer day in the Ohio Valley. One of those 90-90 days, where the temperature and the humidity levels are both at 90. What sounds like the most fun thing you could do on a day like this? Swimming? Sailing at the lake? Sit in the shade with an icy glass of tea? Or, best yet, just stay inside with the air conditioning?
Common Whitetail Female
We chose option E: None of the Above, and went hunting for dragonflies at Blackacre Nature Preserve instead. A biologist from the Kentucky Nature Preserves Commission led about 10 sweating enthusiasts down to the sunny pond to hunt for dragonflies and damselflies. The Nature Preserves Commission works to preserve areas of biodiversity in the state, and Blackacre is one of their partners. The dragonflies love bright sunshine, so let's hurry before it clouds over, he urged.
Green Darter
Although I listened to his discussion, I was so busy trying to photograph these insect raptors, I didn't always catch his identifications. Or, I couldn't see the insect at all in the first place. So if anyone sees any errors here, let me know. This Green Darter is in the "obelisk" position. By raising its tail into a vertical position, it reduces the amount of heat being absorbed from the sunlight. Pretty smart, isn't it?
Slaty Skimmer
Some dragonflies are perch potatoes, while others zoom around so fast I can hardly see them, let alone identify them. These Slaty Skimmers stayed perched on one branch for many minutes. We saw a Wandering Glider, which can sometimes be found hundreds of miles at sea. They migrate north to breed, then the young migrate back south again.
Halloween Pennant
The Halloween Pennant likes to "tee up" on the tips of grasses or cattails. It has really cool little red spots called "stigma" on its wings.
Green Darner Female
As in birds, the female may bear very little resemblance to the male of the species. In fact, the males are so determined to mate with every female they can as often as possible, we learned that the females sometimes have to go hide in the bushes to get away from them. In some species the male can remove the sperm of the previous male to breed with the female, so he has to guard her carefully while she lays her eggs to be assured of fatherhood.
Ebony Neon Damselfly
Damselflies are quite a bit smaller and less active than the dragonflies we saw. The male Ebony Neon is just that - ebony wings and a blue/green iridescent body. The female has white tips on her black wings, and her body isn't as shiny. I knew the damselfly folds its wings when it lands, but I always thought they only had two wings to begin with. Now I know they have four wings of the same size that overlap when folded.
Ebony Neon Damselfly Female
Blue Dasher
The dragonfly scientists only started giving common names recently, but the descriptions are so accurate most of the time. Dashers, Dancers, Skimmers, Gliders, Cruisers, Darners - lots of names with verbs in them. Or else they wanted to compete with Santa's reindeer!
We found one empty shell called an "exuviae" left behind when the larvae emerges as an adult. Unlike butterflies, these dragonflies will molt and shed their exoskeletons 8 to 17 times before reaching adulthood.
At least the dragonflies were large enough to see easily. This little damselfly was only about an inch long, and just about invisible with its wings folded.
We enjoyed the mid-summer flowers as we hiked back to the pond. Queen Anne's Lace attracted this ant too.
And the iron weed is starting to bloom, while the Bob Whites called from the meadow. When we finished with dragonflies, we started to go for them, but when they didn't respond to my whistles, we decided we were too hot and thirsty to hunt for them this afternoon. Maybe another time....

By the way, have any of you bloggers out there started using the new templates, etc offered by Blogger? I looked at some of it and didn't see an option to upload pictures from my hard drive, only from Picasa or a URL. The template designs looked pretty nice though.

1 comment:

Mary Howell Cromer said...

These are all great images of our summer visitors, very nice post!!!