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A Season for Darners
Dragonflies were the first insects to truly capture my attention. Superior predators, they have a dominating presence. Strong, fast and agile in flight, they are also beautiful, graceful and, I swear, at times playful. I thought at first I would devote my picture-taking just to the "Odes" (a term used by dragonfly enthusiasts; a poetic-sounding reference to Odonata, the order to which dragon and damselflies belong.) I quickly learned that dragonflies are, to say the least, a challenge to photograph. They are in constant motion and when at rest their bulbous eyes, covered with thousands of tiny lenses, see you coming from any and all directions. However, I also learned that you can't find one insect without finding another. Once you open your eyes to insects, a walk in any field or forest is like walking into a candy store. Soon grasshoppers, wasps, beetles and bees diverted my attention and became favorite subjects.
At the same time, it didn't take long to get an assortment of skimmers and pennants into my dragonfly portfolio. But the largest of all, the darners, members of the Aeshnidae family, eluded me. No matter how patient I was, Aeshna frustrated me in any attempt I made to capture its image. To me, The Darner became the Holy Grail of Odes. In 2012 I managed to get photographs of a swarm of darners flying low over a field in Chocorua, NH. It was a fantastic sight. Dozens and dozens of Aeshna zooming in all directions over the grass, around my legs -- a frenetic energy filling the air.
The darners are blue blurs in this photograph. I count eleven or twelve.
In June of 2013 serendipity happened. I was walking the right path at the right time and spied a dragonfly on the ground in front of me. I thought from the pattern that it was one of the darners, but it looked too small. However, my hunch that it was one of the Aeshnids was confirmed. It was a Harlequin Darner, one of the smallest members of the family:
I failed to photograph another darner in 2013, but this year my patience has been rewarded. I honestly can't believe my good fortune, and it pleases me no end to share it!
On August 14th, while at Great Meadow NWLR in Concord, MA, I photographed this mating pair of Green-striped Darners (above). This was actually my first Aeshnidae photo for 2014.
On August 20th while at Bretzfelder Park in Bethlehem, New Hampshire, I photographed this female Darner (I think Green-striped) ovipositing into vegetation along the bank of the pond.
On August 23rd, as we were setting off on a hike, my husband spotted this darner dragonfly on the ground. We saw that he was moving but couldn't fly. I stopped to take pictures. No longer able to fly, he would certainly die soon. Carefully I picked him up and placed him in the grass beside the path. After the hike, I took him home with me. A few weeks later he was up close and personal fascinating seven curious children eager to learn about insects.
On September 24th, back at Great Meadow NWLR, I had no idea my luck would last so long! Dozens of darners and meadowhawks were on the move. I photographed not one, but two separate individual Lance-Tipped Darners at rest in vegetation right beside me.
Keywords: aeshna, dragonflies, odonata
What beautiful photos, Linda. I'm so glad Anabel reminded us about your wonderful blog.
Deborah A Goss(non-registered)
Linda, these are so wonderful! Brings back my childhood. We always called them darning needles and they were just a beautiful blue blurr flitting about as we played wherever we were playing at the time - usually a lake or pond. Had no idea of the variety!! Thanks for your beautiful work.
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