Frosted Whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida)

On Saturday, Don, Sabrina and I took a slow hike around Mill Pond Conservation Area. I’ve mentioned Mill Pond on my blog before. We occasionally hike there through all four seasons, and also paddle around the lake a couple of times each year. From spring through autumn, it’s a great place to go to see dragonflies as there are areas of forest, meadow, lake, and beaver ponds, all of which provide habitat to a range of species. Last June, I posted photos of Chalk-fronted Corporal dragonflies emerging from the water. We were probably a bit late for them this year, but did see several adults flying. However, we saw several other different species flying on Saturday. I’ve posted a few, but there were quite a few others. Above is a Frosted Whiteface (Leucorrhinia frigida). It’s a common species in the northeast, and usually found along the edges of wetlands. Click on all images for a larger view.

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) – male

Just above and below are photos of males and female Blue Dashers. These are also very common within a large range of North America. They like to perch and hunt from the tip of a leafless branch or some other prominant place. When perched, they hold their wings a little downwards — looking a bit droopy. The females have a yellow abdomen, while the males have a bluish abdomen — some being more pruinose than others (the males of a number of dragonfly species develop a pale, bluish, waxy or powdery-looking coating over the abdomen). I find Blue Dashers to be very approachable and without much fear of humans. In our region, they’re often the dragonflies that will be found perched on the branch tips of trees along the edge of trailhead parking lots.

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) – female

Below is an Eastern Pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis — also a very common species with a large range. Almost every one of these that I’ve photographed has been perched on a Milkweed leaf. Females and immature males are green, while the mature males are mostly blue (here is a photo of a mature male of this species taken at another location a few years ago). This species has occasionally snapped deer flies off of me when I’ve been standing around shooting photos. Basically, I’d describe them as quite opportunistic.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Below is a photo of a species of Clubtail dragonfly. At this time, I don’t actually know which species, but I’m guessing that it’s an Arigomphus of some kind. Clubtail species can be a bit difficult to distinguish, and I’m afraid that Odonates are not my forte, so I’ve emailed someone in my area who is likely to be able to ID this (I’ll update the ID later).
UPDATE: Doug from Gossamer Tapestry ID’d this dragonfly as a Lilypad Clubtail (Arigomphus furcifer). I also heard from the odonate person in my area and she came up with the same ID. I checked recent records for my area and it’s an uncommon species around here, so that’s kind of neat.
I saw and photographed several of these dragonflies on Saturday. They are quite large and extremely aggressive. They were hunting through the foliage along the trail, weaving in and out between the saplings and tall plants. They seemed to be very successful at capturing prey ranging from small bees up to other dragonflies. Here’s another image of one of these munching on what appears to be a smaller dragonfly.

Okay, enough dragonflies for now. I still haven’t posted the spiders that I’d promised, but will try to get around to that in the next couple of days. I continue to take huge numbers of photos most days and am very far behind in sorting, editing and posting photos to my pbase galleries. At this time of the year, I don’t worry too much about that, but concentrate mainly on shooting images and making sure that my storage drives are kept backed up all the time. In 2003, I lost about a month’s worth of insect photos when one of my storage drives fried. We had had visitors around that time and I’d been putting off backing up my drive until I had more time. I try not to make those kinds of mistakes anymore! (-:

Lilypad Clubtail Arigomphus furcifer

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14 Responses to “dragonflies”

  1. Stephan Says:

    Great site – visit often. Amazing pictures!!

  2. DougT Says:

    Hi Bev,

    It looks to me like a lilypad clubtail Arigomphus furcifer(less likely if yoyu are not in the southeast part of Minnesota). The blue eyes and widest sement S8 are my main clues here. The legs and thoracic bars don’t show up really well from this angle. But it’s a beautiful photo.

    We have been having a great spring for dragonflies so far. Our whiteface is the dot-tailed whiteface, and we have lots of common whitetails. Plus we’re seeing most of the species that you mentioned.

  3. Ruth Says:

    Your pictures are superb! I think I will check out the milkweed in the field tonight.

  4. Cathy Says:

    What great pictures! I’ve spent too many years ignoring dragonflies. Time to start paying attention. Now. These are predators with mouth parts. Do they bite people? Bawwwwck, bawwwck, bawwwwck (That’s me revealing my interior ‘chicken’:0)

    Oh, yes – a new word: ‘pruinose.’ I love these new words. I googled it for pronunciation. Interesting sites appeared – the first one a mycological association. Cool.

  5. John Says:

    Bev, dragonflies are among my favorite creatures…I really love to see them in my yard and have tried, in vain, to get photos of them. Your photos are spectacular! One of my wife’s favorite sets of ear rings (and my all-time favorite) are two delicately sculpted silver dragonflies, one dangling from each of her ears.

  6. bev Says:

    Stephan – Thanks!

    Doug – Thanks for the ID! I also got the same reply from the ode person in my area. I’d considered A. furcifer, but was sort of dubious about it as, after consulting the 2004 Ontario Odonata records (the most recent copy I have), I found there were just a few records for the species, and none in that particular county, although one record for another county not too far away. I found quite a number of these on Saturday, so I was thinking, “Heck, these *must* be something more common!!” Just goes to show that you can’t always use logic when IDing insects. (-:
    I saw a few Dot-tailed Whiteface as well. Also Chalk-fronted Corporals (usually the most common ode around here), both American and Racquet-tailed Emeralds, and a male Common Green Darner. If the weather is good this coming weekend, I may try to get out to photograph odes again. I used to go out photographing them a lot, but haven’t been bothering for a couple of summers as it takes time to get good shots and I hate to keep Don and Sabrina waiting around for me while I putz around looking for dragons. However, it’s always fun to get some interesting shots.

    Ruth – Thanks! Yes, watch for dragon and damselflies on milkweed leaves. They often use them as perches to rest upon while they eat prey.

    Cathy – Thanks! Yes, time to pay attention to the dragonflies. A lot of birders get into looking for odonates as well as there’s actually a lot in common — males and females tend to be marked differently — each region usually has some species that aren’t found in many other spots — and you’re often in the same habitat where you go birding. I first got hooked after buying a very basic book on them — Stokes Beginner’s Guide to Dragonflies. It’s has good photos of the most common species found in many parts of North America and is small and light, so easy to take along with you in the field. I haven’t seen Dragonflies of the Northwoods yet, but I do have a copy of Damselflies of the Northwoods and it’s quite good. It would probably be fairly good for your region.
    As for being bitten by a dragonfly, I’ve never heard of that happening to anyone! (-:
    I have quite often put my hand out and had dragonflies fly up and land on my fingertips. I even have a photo of a large darner perched on my finger while it eats a smaller meadowhawk dragonfly.

    John – I love dragonflies too. They’re a little tricky to photograph — I’ve found that it requires a special mindset to do it well. You have to be relaxed and sort of in tune with what the dragonflies are doing. I’ve been studying their behaviour for quite a few years now, so can usually guess where they’ll stop for a rest and I wait for them.

  7. Cathy Says:

    Bev! When my husband and I saw that picture of the gorging dragonfly on YOUR FINGERTIP we both exclaimed a fairly sacrilegious expletive. So I’ll just leave you with the milder version: Lordy! What a picture.

  8. robin andrea Says:

    Bev– I seem to be leaving comments at all of my favorite blogs just drooling over the dragonfly photos. I am utterly amazed at the beautiful dragonflies that you see in one day. We just don’t have that kind of diversity in our yard. Truly beautiful creatures. There is something about their wings that just knocks me out.

  9. bev Says:

    Cathy – Ha! Yes, well, it was quite a sight from my vantage point. I raised my hand and it just flew up and landed on me with its prize. I’ve had that kind of thing happen quite a few times when I’m out hiking with friends and they are always so surprised. I never know when it will happen, but it just does from time to time. Pretty amusing.

    robin – You definitely have plenty of dragonflies out in your region — some that I would love to see some day — but you may have to go to certain kinds of habitat to see them. Here at the farm, we just get a few species, but to *really* see the greatest number of species, we go to one one of about 3 or 4 of our favourite conservation areas that have trails passing along beaver ponds, bogs, marshes, or by creeks in forest. Each type of habitat has it’s own assortment of species. Because we do a lot of canoeing, we sort of got into dragonflies because they frequently land on the canoe. Also, we would see them while we were drifting in marshes. They’re yet another of those interesting creatures that make each place more special. Keep looking and I’m sure you’ll find some in unexpected places.

  10. Cathy Says:

    Ooh,ooh,ooh! (to be read as a 2ond grader would sound waving her hand excitedly in class to get teacher’s attention)

    I just want to ‘second’ Robin Andrea’s comment about the wings. They’re not ‘animal’, they’re more ‘mineral’ with a touch of fairy dust and starch for flight. I mean look at the arrangement of those wing panels – and beyond that: I’ve seen them glitter.

  11. bev Says:

    Cathy – Yes, the wings are beautiful. It’s really no wonder that so many artists were drawn to dragonflies and that they appeared in such objects as the Tiffany dragonfly lamps (btw, very interesting note about this lamp down below the photo). The dragonfly wings that you’ve seen that seem to glitter, may well have been teneral. When dragonflies first emerge from their aquatic naiad form, their wings are very glassy-looking. Here’s are a couple of photos of newly emerged dragonflies — an Eastern Pondhawk, and a Chalk-fronted Corporal. The wings of both have the very translucent glittery look of teneral odonates. Also, the bodies are pallid in colour, and eyes have a sort of milky dull look. Anyhow, yes, even the mature dragonflies have wings that glitter in the sunlight. As well, some of the species have very interesting patterning on the wings. They really are beautiful and fun to observe.

  12. Wayne Says:

    Is there anything better than dragonflies? Well of course there is but when dragonflies are around and busy chasing each other and other things, I am fully entertained.

    I’ve seen a lot of whitetailed dragonflies this season, much earlier than I would have thought from last year, but I haven’t seen any whitefaces.

    I didn’t know that pondhawk males were mostly blue – I may have seen a large one yesterday but it did not stay around to be photographed. I did enjoy seeing the presumptive female last year way way into fall, and the huge green form was a welcome sight. This year I saw one quite tiny one in early spring, but yesterday after reading this I happened upon a medium-sized one for the first time and was delighted by the coloration.

    And as we all know robberflies and dragonflies that protect you from deerflies even as you’re standing there have to rank as the best of citizens.

  13. bev Says:

    Wayne – Watching dragonflies is one of my favourite occupations in summer. Watching the males dogfighting over their territories can be pretty exciting. A couple of years ago, I watched three Twelve-spotted Skimmers making sparring while racing in huge oval loops over the shoreline of the Ottawa River for a good quarter of an hour. You really have to wonder how these insects can operate with almost limitless energy.
    Regarding the Eastern Pondhawk – yes, the males are mostly blue, but I seem to see more females and/or teneral males. I think the males are probably so active defending their territories that we don’t see them perched nearly as often.

  14. Mike Mills Says:

    Eastern Pondhawk Erythemis simplicicollis photographed in Thomasburg yesterday 14 June.