Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Capturing Red Dragons

Yesterday I got out for a bit and wandered around the pond. Lots of cool finds, as always. And, I finally snuck up on a dragonfly and got some decent shots.

Bugs in general have always been a fascination for me. Empty containers-margarine bowls, coffee cans, peanut butter jars, etc..were trasformed into my display cases. I even converted my Mom's laundry pails that she used to soak her silk stockings. She was NOT happy with that choice. I would cart my bug treasures around to the horror of many of the neighbors and share my finds with the neighborhood kids. I had to leave them outside at night and Dad would kindly leave the lids off and let many of them escape. (I didn't catch on to that until I was older. :)

But, dragonflies were a different story. Giant wings buzzing around my grandparents' pond while I was fishing with my Dad. Well, to be honest, HE fished while I caught grasshoppers and katydids for bait. My ADD brain just would not allow me to sit for long. So he would fish, I would sort of fish while he would watch my bobber, and I would look for bait. I would try to sneak up on the dragonflies, but never caught them. So colorful, and big, and fast. Never succeeding made them magical to me...


Nowadays, the problem is capturing them with the camera. The normal scenario unfolds like this. I spot a cool dragon. I quietly try to sneak up on it and right when I get where I want to snap a pic, ZOOM, off it goes. And I am left with a picture of a stick. Frustrating! So yesterday, I moved ever so slowly, barely inching closer and closer, snapping shots as I went.

Patience paid off. Here is a shot from behind. This red and orange looker is a Halloween Pennant, Celithemis eponina . The pattern on its back wings look somewhat like a Jack-o-latern's face. This is a male, the females are similar but paler and a little more orange, than red, in color. It is showing a cool behavior called obelisking. By putting its abdomen high in the air, like an obelisk, it lessens the surface area exposed to the sun, thus keeping it from overheating.

It is now aware of me. Slightly turning so it could keep a watch on me. "I am watching you, so no fast moves, buddy!" This behavior gives them the "pennant" name, like a pennant waving in the wind.


Now it is face on, checking me out to see if I am a risk. You can notice all the veins in the wing. They help strengthen the wing for flight. Finally off it flew, deciding I had ventured too close.


Five minutes later, this huge red dragon flew by, but I could not get a pic of it. It was a gorgeous Red Saddlebags, Tramea onusta. Sigh...I guess I will have to "slay" it another day. (This photo is from BugGuide by Gary Rankin.)


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16 comments:

RuneE said...

Dragonflies are popular today - You should hold a competition! :-)

ArneA said...

Second Dragon and even a Red Dragon. I have one too. The Cymraeg Flag

Squirrel said...

Nice, I love Dragonflies and Damselflies and could totally relate to your experience getting close to that one. Sometimes it seems like they pose for us and then finally say, "OK you've had plenty of time to get a good photo, I'm outta here." You did get good photos. Keep it up.

James said...

Very cool. I like dragon Flies.

ramblingwoods said...

Wonderful information on dragons and I am new to them so it was really good for me. My interest in insects has come with middle age and my interests in birds spread to other critters in the yard. Just now I was out stalking a butterfly to photograph and there was a neat little spider with an egg sack near the deck. Cool stuff...Thanks so much for posting to Nature Notes and I hope to see more.
PS..I got as afar as 'frog lovers don't look' and I didn't look...Michelle

photowannabe said...

Terrific pictures and I love the way you wove the story of capturing dragonflies when you were young.

Sylvia K said...

Yes, there have been lots of beautiful dragonflies today! And your shots are terrific!

Enjoy!
Sylvia

dAwN said...

Wonderful nature notes post! Nice to learn more about you..about your jars and buckets of bugs.
Very cool!
I have tried recently to capture a dragonfly photo..so far no luck..will keep trying!

Tumblewords: said...

Ah, you did a fine job! Great photos...

Roger Owen Green said...

great minds, or something like that with a deluge of dragonflies. but I like it

Janet Creamer said...

Thanks everyone for the comments! I always enjoy reading them. I had such fun sneaking up on the dragonfly.

Joy said...

You did well to photograph these beautiful creatures, they move so fast.

Leslie: said...

Beautiful photos! I love dragonflies and am mesmerized when I see them flitting around here. :D

Randy Emmitt said...

Janet,

Well done on the Halloween Pennant photos! Your red dragon could not have been a Red Saddlebags in Indian or Ohio, they are seen only in the US is southern Fl and TX. More likely you saw Carolina Saddlebags, Tramea carolina

Janet Creamer said...

Hi Randy,

I am glad you enjoyed the pennant photos. I will have to check my Dragonflies of Indiana book when I get home, but I went with this page on BugGuide. Says Tramea onusta is found in Eastern half of the US. Abdomen was very red. It was on the wing, so I could be wrong.

http://bugguide.net/node/view/6415

Steve B said...

Thanks for the data, now I know why they take that posture.