Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joshua Lincoln sent us some lovely photos of damselflies; his notes are indented:

My friend Wally once said that birds are a gateway drug for dragonflies.  I don’t think that it could be put any better than that.

I will include some Anisopterans (dragonflies; aniso=different ptrery=wing; the front and back wings are different in shape) next time and some Zygopterans (damselfliesl zugos=even ptery=wing; the front and back wings are essentially the same), now. All except the Argia translata are from Vermont (where I live), the A. translata is from Mission, Texas.

Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) female. Possibly the most widely distributed damselfly in North America. The Familiar Bluet flies until later in the season than many other damselflies.

Enallagma civile

Enallagma civile

Lilypad Forktail (Ischnura kellicotti) immature. This isn’t a great photograph, but I like this composition. I couldn’t figure out why the immature Lilypad Forktails look so different from the adults.  After I saw this, I wondered no more.
Ischnura kellicotti

Ischnura kellicotti (immature)

Lilypad Forktail (Ischnura kellicotti) male adult. These guys become pruinose (chalky) as they get more mature. Females are orange and black.
Ischnura kellicotti

Ischnura kellicotti (adult)

Vesper Bluet (Enallagma vesperum) male and female vesper=evening. Another Narrow Winged damselfly. This genus Enallagma (American Bluets) is the largest genus of damselflies in North America.  Typically they are blue, hence the name bluet, however this one is one of the exceptions. These guys are easy to miss as they come out mainly when the sun is going down (hence the name). 
Enallagma vesperum

Enallagma vesperum

American Rubyspot (Hetarina americana) male. One of the broad-winged damselflies, Caloptyrigidae (kalos=beautiful ptery=wing). The wing attachment of this family is broader than the typical narrow or petiole-like wing attachment present in other damselflies.

While not uncommon in dragonflies, the Calopterygidae are the only damselfly family that “obelisk” (when an odonate points their abdomen towards the sun to thermoregulate).  By doing this they minimize the portion of their bodies receiving a direct hit, which keeps them cooler.

Hetaerina americana

Hetaerina americana

Spotted Spreadwing (Lestes congener) female. One of the spreadwing family of damselflies, Lestidae (Leste=plunderer). This family holds their wings open (usually).  However at night, when the weather is bad or when they’re threatened, they close their wings.

Lestes congener

Lestes congener

Dusky Dancer (Argia translata). One of the Narrow Winged or Pond Damsel Family of damselflies, Coenagrionidae. Members of the genus Argia (Dancers) fly in a bouncy jerky movement through the air more than bluets, forktails and other pond damsels.
Arrgia translata

Arrgia translata


  1. Posted January 18, 2017 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Nice photos, some serious effort there to get close!

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Joshua, I for one know how hard it is to get good pictures of the smaller damselflies, at least during the hotter parts of the day. Excellent work here, and I really like the details about their lives.

  3. David Campbell
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Nice work, especially the Rubyspot.
    Your kellicotti appears to be newly emerged, before the exoskeleton has had a time to harden and the colors to develop. It will get a lot darker in a few hours and take on a more orange hue.
    I look forward to the Anisoptera.

  4. Posted January 18, 2017 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Have you seen what David Attenborough got for his 90th birthday?

  5. Kevin
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    What is the benefit of the long body? Less attractive to eat? Or is it for aerodynamic stability and agility?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 18, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      I would go with stability, but I am not sure how to put it in words.

      • Michael Scullin
        Posted January 18, 2017 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

        I suspect it has a lot to do with maneuverability. After all, the design has been around since the Carboniferous – it must work pretty well.

  6. Posted January 18, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Joshua thank you so much for the beautiful pictures. I very much appreciate the translations of the various genus, family, etc. This adds so much to the illustration of the species and makes it so much easier to remember. I did take Latin (eons ago) but no Greek. The etymology is much appreciated!

  7. darrelle
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Great pics Joshua. Dragonflies and damselflies are favorites of mine. As others have said, I also much appreciate the interesting information you provided with the pictures.

    • Posted January 20, 2017 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      Me too. Awesome. Thanks Joshua and Jerry!

  8. Mark R.
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:19 pm | Permalink

    Very impressive. Thanks! Your commentary was much appreciated

  9. Ken Elliott
    Posted January 18, 2017 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Ah! The dragonflies are gorgeous. Thank you Joshua and Jerry for sharing those photos with us.

  10. Diane G.
    Posted January 19, 2017 at 2:27 am | Permalink

    Beautiful pics! And as others have noted, superb commentary as well. I, too, enjoyed the etymological notes, also the details about posture and movement habits. I love the damsel-/dragon-fly meaning of “obelisk!” 🙂

    Surprised to hear there’s a crepuscular species–the Vesper Bluet–as I always think of the members of this order as visual hunters (look at those eyes!) and would have thought they’d have needed a longer daylight foraging period. Very cool to know about this behavior. (Does it perhaps specialize in things like mosquitoes that also tend to come out toward dusk, I wonder?)

    • Josh
      Posted January 19, 2017 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      There is a genus of dragonflies called Neurocordulia or Shadowdragons. They roost during the day and only fly from dusk on into darkness. They are quite difficult to observe.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 20, 2017 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        Very cool! And Shadowdragon may be an even better common term than Dusky Dancer. 🙂 Why can’t all naming orgs be as poetic when selecting common names? (Looking at you, AOU.)

        Now that I think about it, I guess those eyes are good at gathering a lot of light too.

        • Josh
          Posted January 22, 2017 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          And Shadowdragons have even bigger eyes than diurnal dragonflies (as one might expect).

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