Posts Tagged ‘Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly’

The old gray mare

September 23, 2020

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an old female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages.

Oh the old gray mare
She ain’t what she used to be

Like a fine wine, she’s aged to perfection!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer (mature male)

August 28, 2020

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his slightly tattered wings, blue coloration, and terminal appendages.

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Great Blue Skimmer (mature male)

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratches on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Tech Tips

The preceding photo is full-frame (4,000 x 3,000 pixels), that is, uncropped.

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is one of two superzoom bridge cameras that I use as my “go to” rigs for photowalking. The minimum focusing distance in AF Macro mode is 1 m (3.3 feet) at maximum telephoto (600 mm, 35mm equivalent). My usual practice is to set the camera lens for maximum telephoto and move as close as possible to the minimum focusing distance, resulting in maximum magnification of the subject. That’s how I shot the photo shown above.

It’s worth noting the minimum focusing distance is 2 m (6.6 feet) at maximum telephoto when the camera IS NOT set for AF Macro mode. If your goal is to get as close as possible to the subject in order to fill the photo frame, then AF Macro mode is the way to go.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer (old female)

October 4, 2019

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an old female, as indicated by her tattered wings, gray coloration, and terminal appendages. The old gray mare, she ain’t what she used to be but she must have been a Betty back in the day — just look at those beautiful blue eyes!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

April 12, 2019

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratches on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer (mature females)

September 27, 2017

Two Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) were photographed during photowalks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Both individuals are mature female, as indicated by their terminal appendages, muted coloration, and tattered wings. They were perching in shady hidey-holes relatively far from water.

Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aging gracefully, revisited

August 28, 2017

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aging gracefully

August 26, 2017

Seems like yesterday all of the Skimmer dragonflies (Family Libellulidae) were young and vibrant; now most of them look old and tattered.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratches on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the midabdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Reflections on life

Aging gracefully. Yep, that’s my goal. Sometimes I think I’m down with the plan; sometimes I feel more like this dragonfly looks — old and tattered! Having celebrated another birthday recently, it was impossible for me to avoid looking at this dragonfly as a metaphor for my life. Although it’s undeniably true that I’m closer to the end of the road of life than the beginning, I’m happy to be “still on the right side of the grass,” as one of my British friends said soon after life-saving surgery.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fatal injuries?

October 2, 2015

After several years of dragonfly hunting, I’ve seen two dragonflies with three wings rather than four: in one case, I can only speculate how the injury occurred; in the other case, I witnessed the injury firsthand.

Can dragonflies survive with three wings? The answer is yes and no: if they can fly, they can survive; if they can’t fly, they can’t survive.

If they can’t fly, they’ll starve because they only eat prey they catch while flying. Source Credit: 14 Fun Facts About Dragonflies, by Sarah Zielinski, Smithsonian.com.

On the same day I discovered a male Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) at Huntley Meadows Park, I heard a loud splash in a pool of water behind me. I turned around quickly and noticed a dragonfly struggling to free itself from the surface of the water. After a few seconds, the dragonfly escaped from the water and flew briefly before landing on the ground near the place where I was standing. I was able to shoot four photos before the dragonlfy flew away.

Turns out that individual was an old, injured female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans). One of her wings was broken near its base; I don’t know how the injury occurred. She was able to fly, but flight was labored at best.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an old, injured female.

23 SEP 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (old female, injured)

Two years earlier, I was photographing dragonflies along the boardwalk in the central wetland area. One male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly in particular caught my attention: he repeatedly engaged one or more Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) in brief aerial dogfights. I vividly remember thinking, “Dude, you must have a death wish — those darners can be vicious predators!” Almost immediately afterward, a darner sheared off one of the male Great Blue Skimmer’s wings just like a buzzsaw and looped around for the kill shot. The skimmer dove for cover in vegetation overhanging the boardwalk (shown below) and his life was spared. I shot one poor-quality photo of the injured male Great Blue Skimmer; he flew away when I tried to move closer.

An injured dragonfly, possibly a male Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual lost a wing during a fight with a male Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

04 SEP 2013 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (male, injured)

Did the female Great Blue Skimmer meet the same fate as the male? Who knows? I know there were lots of Common Green Darners hawking invisible airborne insects over a meadow near the location where I spotted the injured female. And I know Common Green Darners feed voraciously in order to store energy for migration. Perhaps both skimmers were attacked as a potential food source.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Bronze Age, revisited

September 10, 2015

The same species of dragonfly may be different in appearance depending upon gender, age, and natural variation.

For example, the first two dragonflies featured in this post are female Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans), although they look so different from each other that a beginner odonate-hunter could be fooled into thinking they’re two different species! In this case, the difference in appearance of the females is due to age: one is old; the other is young. Contrast the appearance of the two females with the mature male shown in the last photo.

The first individual is an old female, as indicated by its bronze coloration, tattered wings, and terminal appendages.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female.

06 SEP 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (old female)

The next specimen is a young female, as indicated by its “fresher” coloration, pristine wings, and terminal appendages.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

All Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies, including both males and females, show several field marks that can be used to identify the species, including blue eyes, white to mostly-white faces, and mostly tan femora (sing. femur).

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

31 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (mature male)

Related Resource: The Bronze Age.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Odonart©

July 14, 2015

I’m a man of many monikers: sometimes I refer to myself as “Yodonata©” when I’m wearing my teacher hat; other times, I like to think of myself as an “odonartist©,” always on the lookout for somewhat elusive “arty” shots of odonates (dragonflies and damselflies). Today, I’m wearing both my teacher hat and artist hat, although I just can’t see myself wearing a beret!

[Reluctantly donning my beret…] I have photographed many Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) but I like the crisp, clean, and simple look of this image more than shots with a cluttered background. Very “arty.”

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male.

17 JUN 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (mature male)

[Swapping hats…] This individual is a mature male that has mated many times, as indicated by his coloration, terminal appendages, and scratches on the abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the midabdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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