Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

The following photos show a Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata), spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 29 August 2014. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

It is uncommon to see the broad-winged skimmers from the genus Tramea perching. Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Black Saddlebags are fliers.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

Black Saddlebags is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Black Saddlebags, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

Near the end of the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, part of the forest is “drowned” as a result of the wetland restoration project. Some trees thrive in standing water; others not so much and they are dying slowly, causing their leaves to display the colors of autumn a month-or-so earlier than usual. I was able to compose several shots so the dragonfly was framed against a soft background of fall colors reflected from the surface of the hemi-marsh.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

In the next photo, the male dragonfly appears to be grooming while perching on a twig, using his front legs to wipe its eyes and face.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

Late afternoon sunlight reflected from the dragonfly’s wings caused spectacular highlights in some poses, as shown below.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Cerci very long (more than twice as long as epiproct) and black. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11241-11242). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Both the cerci and epiproct are shown clearly in the following photograph.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | male | top view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | male | side view

See also Dragonfly grooming (2:26), a YouTube video featuring a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis).

Editor’s Note: The preceding photos were taken using my new Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent). I used the Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 in TTL mode with a shutter speed of 1/250s rather than the X-T1’s 180x default sync speed.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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