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Posts Tagged ‘Twelve-spotted Skimmer’

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When out hiking last weekend, I collected photos of three dragonflies that we saw along the way, all close to water. All three are members of the Skimmer family, a colourful and diverse group of dragonflies comprising about 100 species. One of the very easiest to identify is the Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella). This male’s distinctive wing pattern makes the source of its name obvious. Each of the four wings have three dark patches at the base, midpoint and tip, with white patches in between. Females are similar but lack the white patches. These large dragonflies may be seen along shorelines, perched on vegetation or patrolling their territory over the water. You may also come upon Twelve-spotted dragonflies in upland fields and clearings.

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The dragonfly above is a Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina). Its brown and orange wings give this medium-sized odonate a butterfly-like appearance. Like other skimmers, it is a percher. That is, it tends to spend a lot of time perched, making brief flights before landing again, an attribute appreciated by photographers! Dragonflies in some other families, such as darners, are fliers, and spend most of their time on the wing.

The pretty dragonfly below is a Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis). Blue Dashers may be found in a wide range of habitat, but are partial to well-vegetated ponds. What stunning eyes! Like the other two skimmers featured here, this small to medium-sized dragonfly is a summer flier.

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I haven’t walked down to the pond in a while, partly because it has been so hot that I couldn’t find the energy, and partly because the bugs have been so fierce this year, I was afraid I might be carried off by a giant mosquito. As it turned out, when I did take a stroll down there the other day, the mosquitos weren’t bad at all.

Perhaps the tree swallows can take credit for the bug control service. I was surprised to find that there were still nestlings in the boxes. Tree swallows usually just raise one brood a year. It’s possible that a first nest failed, or that the abundance of insects this year has resulted in the swallows raising a second brood. Either way, the parents were still busy collecting insects on the wing over the pond.

As I’ve got to know dragonflies better, one of the things I’ve found interesting is the way the dominant dragonfly species changes over the course of the summer. There are always dragonflies about, but not the same species. Right now, there are a lot of twelve-spotted skimmers (Libellula pulchella) patrolling the pond.

I like these dragonflies because they are large and conspicuous, and easy to identify, with their three black patches on their wings. They have chalky-white abdomens and yellowish side stripes on their thorax. Females are similar, but lack the white patches between the dark patches on their wings, and have a brown abdomen.

Another positive attribute is a penchant for perching, making them highly cooperative photography subjects. The twelve-spotted dragonflies weren’t the only skimmers to be found along the pond. The grasses at the margin of the water were host to many yellow-legged meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum).

They are somewhat smaller than their twelve-spotted cousins. The males are orange-red, but I saw mostly females, which sport a yellow abdomen and clear wings.

There was lots of other life. As I approached the pond, several turtles slipped into the water and disappeared. Certainly, I was not only the watcher but also the watched.

These ants were busy working industriously on a dogwood branch. I assume they were after aphids or some such, but couldn’t actually see what was attracting them.

Several White Admiral butterflies (Limenitis arthemis) were flitting about.

It was hot in the sun, and I didn’t visit for long. I retreated to the shade of the house and left everyone to get on with their busy lives.

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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)

EasternKingbird

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.

pondhoveringkingbird

kingbirdhovering

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.

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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.

eveningpond

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