Posts Tagged ‘Common Whitetail’


Dragonfly (Common Whitetail female, Libellula lydia) on Daylily ‘Dragon Dreams’


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Yesterday, we had a lovely rainy day. The rain was much needed. While we have had occassional storms roll through, prescipitation has not been enough to offset the steamy hot days of July and the land is dry. Our little backyard stream, which gushes along like a raging river in spring, has been reduced to a series of puddles joined by a trickle of water. Today dawned bright with a scattering of clouds. After lunch, I took a stroll down to see how the river was doing. It was up significantly from its pre-rain level, though still low.


A big plastic box of newspapers had somehow made its way into the river. Hard to guess how it might have got there, here in the middle of an agricultural area. Everywhere people go, it seems, garbage follows.


I sat and watched the river flowing by. It was very quiet. As I approached, a Great Blue Heron retreated, but otherwise the only creature stirring was a single dragonfly. It obligingly landed near me, a Common Whitetail (Libellula subornata), a member of the skimmer family.


The temperature was quite pleasant, and the deerflies and mosquitoes weren’t pestering, so I carried on down to look at our pond. Along the way I passed a Barn Swallow family. This youngster, perched on the electric fence, is newly fledged. His parents took a dim view of me stopping to photograph their baby and made several close passes to discourage me. These youngsters are late, and I was glad to see them doing well, as the Barn Swallow population is in serious decline.


As I approached the pond, this pair of Painted Turtles, comfortably sunning themselves on a log, looked up suspiciously and soon decided to take their leave, slipping into the water and disappearing.


The low water level in the pond has revealed a number of burrows not usually visable. I’m not sure who lives here. A muskrat, maybe.


The mix of sun and cloud was perfect for creating beautiful reflections in the water.


It was pretty quiet down by the pond, too. Although there were a few dragonflies and frogs and waterstriders about, there was surprisingly little activity. I headed back toward the house, saying hello to Diva and Ivory on the way. They were too busy to visit.


As I walked through the garden, I noticed this garter snake keeping a close eye on me.


I admired today’s blooms as I walked back to the house. Here’s a closing photo from the garden, daylily ‘Asiatic Pheasant’.


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Female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Female Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Hot summer afternoons are the perfect time to dragonfly-watch down by the pond. I spotted dragonflies of 5 different species, including Green Darners (Anax junius), one of the most impressive. Green Darners are large and stocky, with an eye-catching bright green thorax and turquoise-blue abdomen. Strong fliers, several were patrolling the pond but they never settled to have their picture taken! Others were more cooperative, and their photos are featured here. Dragonflies prey upon a variety of insects, usually catching dinner on the wing.

Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)

Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta)

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia)

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)


An Eastern Kingbird (Tyrannus tyrannus) was also catching insects. The kingbird perched on a bare branch with a good view over the pond and made hawking forays out over the water, sometimes hovering in place. Kingbirds can be readily identified by the white band across the bottom of their tail feathers.



While I was watching little fish in the shallow water over a submerged board, a water scorpion (Ranatra fusca) strolled by. They’re impressive insects, several inches long. The long “stinger” at the rear isn’t a stinger at all. It’s actually a pair of breathing tubes used to connect with the water surface. The front legs are modified to catch prey, which are dispatched with a bite.


Water Scorpion (Ranatra fusca)

Northern Pearly-Eye (Enodia anthedon)

Northern Pearly-Eye (Enodia anthedon)

Settled on some flotsam nearby was a Northern Pearly-eye butterfly. They visit mud and sap, but not flowers. Their larval foodplant is grass. A bit farther up the shore was a Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice). These pretty yellow butterflies are common, flitting over meadows and along roadsides. Their larval foodplants include white clover, alfalfa and other legumes.

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice)

The pond is a happenin’ place.


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Across the summer, and from habitat to habitat, the array of dragonflies seen on the wing changes. Pictured above are a pair of Dot-tailed Whiteface dragonflies (Leucorrhinia intacta), a common dragonfly of vegetated ponds, seen in spring and summer. The Whitefaces are members of the Skimmer family. There are 7 species of Whitefaces in North America.

This mating pair demonstrate the “copulation wheel”. In this position, the male transfers a packet of sperm to the female. The process can take from 3 seconds to an hour or more. A male dragonfly can remove sperm deposited by a previous competitor to insure that his own sperm will be the ones fertilizing the female’s eggs. Soon after mating, the female will lay her eggs (oviposit) in flight by tapping the water with the tip of her abdomen.


The Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia) is a stocky skimmer that flies in summer over a wide variety of wetlands. The male, pictured above, shows the chalky white abdomen for which the species is named. The appearance of the female is quite different from the male. Instead of the white of the male, her abdomen is brown, with angled yellowish to white dashes on the sides. The wings are also different. The male’s wings have broad black bands across the middle and thick black bars at the base, while the wings of the female feature black patches at the base, midpoint and tips. A female Common Whitetail is pictured below.


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