Shootin’ Dragons

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Filed under Outdoor Notes

June 22, 2013

There is a small pond nearby that hosts great numbers of dragonflies. It is large enough to pull in the bigger dragonflies, but it is small enough that I can track a dragon all the way across the pond and back by eye.

This is where I practice “wing-shooting” dragonflies.

My favorites are the big darners (Anax), of which there are two:

Green Darner (Anax junius)

Green Darner (Anax junius)

Green Darner (Anax junius)— by far the more common, the powerful Green is a magnificent flying jewel of a creature;

Comet Darner (Anax longipes)—an uncommon species in the State, Comet Darners are absolutely unmistakable.[1]

Comet Darner (Anax longipes) in flight.

Comet Darner (Anax longipes).

I also like to try for the Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)—so far without much success. They almost never stop.  I almost got a pair in wheel–so close.

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), mating pair in flight.

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), mating pair.

The next shot was actually taken on a very windy day on a ridge top during migration. Lucky shot, but what a magnificent bug.

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) in flight.

Black Saddlebags.

A few tips on getting flight shots:

  1. Turn off the flash, shoot in broad daylight—the wings are supposed to be a blur.
  2. Try to go early or late in the daily flight period; the dragonflies are noticeably slower when it is cooler, and they tend to hover more.
  3. Set yourself perpendicular to the direction of the wind. Your best bet for getting a flight shot is catching one at a hover—they don’t hover often, but when they do, they tend to hover into the wind.[2]

Sometimes I just catch a break. Last year, I thought I saw something that looked like a red colored Black Saddlebags—which pretty much describes a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)—but I only got a fleeting look at it. This year, one flew in, hovered around for about twenty seconds, and then departed to I know not where, but not before I grabbed one lucky shot.

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) in flight.

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina).

It just sorta happened; I wish I were that good!

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  1. I have never been able to prove that Comet Darners successfully reproduce here—however, they have been flying over that pond every summer for the last five years, and I have watched a female lay eggs in a nearby pool, so I think they probably are. []
  2. That said, the Comet Darner above was actually hovering downwind—as a former helicopter pilot, I was appalled. []

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One Response

  1. Dennis Murphy said:

    Amazing pics. Hope you’re having success selling them, although I know it’s the journey not the destination. I actually read footnotes, but may be one of your few followers who understands your “hovering downwind” comment. Great stuff.

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