Harlequin Darner dragonfly (female)

On Earth Day 2019 my good friend Mike Powell and I traveled to the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA. Our target species: Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata), one of only two species in Genus Gomphaeschna, the Pygmy Darners.

Working the shot

A Harlequin Darner dragonfly was perched on a tree, approximately head height, near a mid-sized pond. This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. Both cerci are visible clearly in the full-sized version of the following photo.

Harlequin Darner is a new species for my life list of odonates.

First contact

Those who know me well are familiar with one of many “Walterisms”: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” The following photo is the “record shot”; the preceding photo shows one of my attempts to refine the record shot.

The record shot shows a better view of the female’s face than the refined shot, as shown in the following closer crop of the same photo.


Sincere thanks to Richard Orr and Rick Borchelt for detailed guidance regarding two sites where Harlequin Darner is known to occur at Patuxent Research Refuge as well as lots of practical tips for finding G. furcillata in the field.

Richard is a renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and Rick is Director for Communications and Public Affairs, Office of Science at U.S. Department of Energy.

The Backstory

Harlequin Darner and Taper-tailed Darner (Gomphaeschna antilope) are sibling species. Taper-tailed Darner is known to occur at Huntley Meadows Park, based upon confirmed sightings by Geoffrey Cohrs and Karen Sheffield, park staff members, Fred Siskind, park volunteer (photo used with permission), and Daryl & Erin Elliott. Since both Harlequin and Taper-tailed Darner are in the same genus and prefer the same habit, I speculated Harlequin should be found at Huntley Meadows too. Every spring I wandered the wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park in search of both species of the elusive Pygmy Darners. No luck.

After three years of frustration, I decided to expand my search area to include two hotspots in Maryland where there is a better chance of finding Harlequin Darner. I was fortunate to find my first Harlequin at the location closer to my home in Northern Virginia.

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

  • Genus Gomphaeschna | G. furcillata | Harlequin Darner | male | top view
  • Genus Gomphaeschna | G. furcillata | Harlequin Darner | male | side view

See also Harlequin Darner dragonfly for Mike Powell’s take on our trip to Patuxent Research Refuge.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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5 Responses to “Harlequin Darner dragonfly (female)”

  1. Michael Boatwright Says:


  2. Mike Powell Says:

    Great shots, Walter. It was wonderful to help you meet your goal. As you know, I had to wait one more day to actually see one of these beauties myself.

  3. Harlequin Darner dragonfly | Mike Powell Says:

    […] captured some excellent shots which you can see (along with some additional information) on his blog posting from last week. As it turned out, that was the only Harlequin Darner that either of us saw all […]

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