Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Female Widow Skimmer dragonfly in the high meadow...

Sunday, Rick and I decided to check out the high meadow at Voice of America (VOA) park. I wanted to see if the Bobolinks were still around (I didn't see any...) and if I could photograph a few dragonflies. We also chose VOA because it's a grass field, and grass offers a lot more cushion and therefore less impact on an ankle than cement paths or uneven terrains. I have a reconstructed ankle from an injury back in 1985, and I've developed arthritis in that foot. Every now and then, I do something stupid (like running through a very large parking lot) and severely inflame it. Yeah! Then I have to be careful for a couple of weeks...so grass it was!

Dragonflies were everywhere in the meadow, especially Widow Skimmers, and I was glad when this female flew into camera range and posed right away, resting on a dead stalk. She stayed around for several minutes, flying away for a second or so and then coming right back. Sometimes when she left she nabbed an insect to eat, but mostly she was simply disturbed by the sound of the shutter clicking...

Female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) Dragonfly

Female and juvenile male Widow Skimmer dragonflies have dark brown patches at the base of their wings close to their bodies. Adult males do too, but they also have powdery white patches on their wings. Unfortunately a male didn't fly into view, so I don't had a photo of one (click here for a photo on "BugGuide").

Someone once told me Widow Skimmers were named after the wide dark brown/black patches on their wings. These patches were the color of mourning clothes and therefore were called "widow patches." Maybe that's true. I did find a similar reference on the "Living with Insects Blog," here, but I also read that "widow" refers to the fact that male Widow Skimmers leave the females after they lay their eggs (leaving them widows), while males of most other dragonfly species stay with the females (source: Loudon Wildlife Conservancy). That makes sense too, until I read in my dragonfly field guide, "Dragonflies and Damselflies of Northeast Ohio," by Rosche, Semroc, and Gilbert (pg 153), that "males perform territorial battles and hover guard their ovipositing mates tenaciously," which is completely the opposite. So I don't know what to think. Maybe the name "widow" is derived from the Latin "luctuosa," which means "sorrowful" (Latin source: Living With Insects Blog). Whichever the case, thinking of the dark brown patches at the base of the wings as "widow patches" always made it easy for me to remember the name of this dragonfly a long time ago...so I'll stick with that!

Female Widow Skimmers have a yellow stripe running dorsally on their thorax. At the abdomen it splits into two stripes that extend the length of the abdomen. Juvenile males have the same marking.


You can tell this Widow Skimmer is a female and not a juvenile male because of her smooth abdomen. A reference on "The Butterfly Digest" blog, here, explains how to tell the difference between a female and a juvenile male Widow Skimmer dragonfly (with links to BugGuide of photos of the hamule).

...glad you dropped by Widow Skimmer. it was fun photographing you!

25 comments:

Modesto Viegas said...

Excellent macro!!!

Roy said...

These are really lovely colourful shots of a great Dragon Kelly.

Montanagirl said...

Wonderful shots, Kelly! So clear and detailed, and your commentary was very interesting.

TexWisGirl said...

absolutely incredible shots. gorgeous.

Lois Evensen said...

Beautiful shots!

KAT said...

sure are a lot of different dragon flies around this summer. I spotted some night hawks circling around my yard/ neighborhood... I think they were eating them is this possible or am I maybe mistaken

Sue said...

You got some very nice shots, Kelly. I don't know how you do it. I've spent so much time trying to capture these guys, but haven't had any luck. I think mine drank too much coffee--they never sit still!

Tammie Lee said...

gorgeous gorgeous captures!

Laure Ferlita said...

Just incredible! You are the pied piper of the insect kingdom too!!

BTW, the word verification was "poppers," which all of these photos definitely are!

freebird said...

Great photos!

Elaine said...

Exquisite images, Kelly! It's nice to see a dragonfly that doesn't live around here.

Elva Paulson said...

Beautiful photos! I think the name come from their markings. I done a lot of dragonfly watching and all dragonflies seem to go their seperate ways either right after copulation or after egg laying (which happens very, very soon thereafter).

Steve Borichevsky said...

I've seen high numbers of Widow Skimmers this year in our corner of the world. I like the shots!

Guy said...

Hi Kelly

I really liked the amount of detail you captured on the dragonfly. I also appreciated the amount of research you did it made for a very informative post.

Regards
Guy

Janice K said...

How fragile they look! Outstanding pictures!

laubaine said...

Elle est très belle :)
superbe ...

Hilda R.B said...

Beautiful photos. Great job!

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Great photos, Kelly... I'm amazed at how pretty those little guys are.. I went through too many years ignoring them!!!!

Thanks for the gorgeous macros.
Hugs,
Betsy

Adrienne in Ohio said...

These are excellent, Kelly!

dAwN said...

Sorry about your ankle..You have to quit running marathons :) Beautiful photos!

Midmarsh John said...

Fabulous macro shot Kelly.

Kelly said...

...thanks, everyone! This little lady was such a wonderful subject. She posed so patiently! :-)

Kat...probably! I've saw Night Hawks circling and chasing after insects at the tennis tournament two weeks ago.

forgetmenot said...

I just took a photograph of a dragonfly--someday, perhaps, my photos will look a little more like yours ( I think that means a new and better camera and years of experience). Your photos are always amazing and it is a pleasure to visit your blog. I love the painted slate tiles too. What a unique and creative way to raise money. Have a wonderful weekend. Mickie :)

Banjo52 said...

What amazing detail. Thanks.

marga said...

amé estas imágenes :)