Posts Tagged ‘Gomphaeschna furcillata’

Faked out!

May 13, 2019

A Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) was perched on a tree alongside Wildlife Loop trail at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its lighter coloration and terminal appendages.

My good friend Mike Powell and I were searching for Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata). At first glance, we thought we might have found our first Harlequin; after a closer look, we realized we’d been faked out by a Blue Corporal.

Another Blue Corporal dragonfly was perched on the great red spot of the planet Jupiter. Kidding! Seriously, Blue Corporals typically perch on the ground — this dragonfly was perched on a wooden boardwalk near a small pond.

The last two individuals are mature males, as indicated by their darker coloration and terminal appendages.

Predator-prey relationship?

There is some speculation that Blue Corporal dragonflies might prey upon Harlequin Darners, so Mike and I weren’t happy to see lots of mature Blue Corporals in our target search area. For what it’s worth, we hunted intensively for Harlequin Darner for hours and found only one individual; G. furcillata was described as “relatively abundant” two-to-three weeks earlier at the same location, before Blue Corporal began emerging.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Harlequin Darner dragonfly (female)

April 24, 2019

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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