Posts Tagged ‘old female’

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.

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.

The Bronze Age

September 15, 2014

The following photograph shows a Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 12 September 2014. This individual is an old female, as indicated by its coloration, terminal appendages, 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.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature adult female)

Contrast the coloration of the old female (above) with a young female (below), shown in flight as she is laying eggs (oviposition) in a vernal pool in the forest. The photo was taken on 17 July 2014.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (female, oviposition)

No wonder the first step in “Five steps to the next level of dragonfly spotting” says …

Step 1. Be aware the same species of dragonfly may appear differently depending upon gender, age, and natural variation. Some species display sexual dimorphism; in contrast, both genders look virtually identical for some species. Source Credit: Walter Sanford. Educator, Naturalist, and Photographer.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (old female)

September 30, 2012

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted near the suspension bridge over Accotink Creek, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. This individual is an old female, as indicated by its gray-brown coloration, the flanges beneath its eighth abdominal segment (used to scoop and hold a few drops of water during oviposition), and by the terminal appendages at the end of its abdomen. Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Females become duller and darker with age, eyes may become blue. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 9196-9197). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

1318-cr2-ver2_aperture

Contrast the appearance of this old female Great Blue Skimmer with a young female of the same species: Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (female)

Habitat: Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 1,200 acre preserve located at Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2012 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved. www.wsanford.com


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