Sunday, September 18, 2016

Friendly Dragonflies

This is the time of year when two of my favorite dragonflies are out in force – the Paddle-tailed Darner (Happy-face Dragonfly), and the Autumn Meadowhawk.  In the following picture I whispered a Happy-face Dragonfly onto my finger, and in the meantime a few Autumn Meadowhawks decided to join me and land on my leg.  Such friendly dragonflies!


It's wonderful to see these dragonflies together in the same picture – especially when the Happy-face Dragonfly likes to prey on the Autumn Meadowhawks.  It's doubtful the darner sees the perched Autumn Meadowhawks as potential prey items, since it likes to hunt flying prey on the wing, but it's interesting to have the lion lay down with the lambs in any case.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Latest Version of the Vitruvian Dragonfly

Here's the latest version of da Vinci's classic illustration:


I just love this dragonfly, the Paddle-tailed Darner, aka the Happy-face Dragonfly.  Such beautiulf colors and patterns.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A New Vitruvian Dragonfly

In the past, I put together a stick figure version of the Vitruvian Man – only in my case it was done as a dragonfly.


It's based on the Happy-face Dragonfly, also known as the Paddle-tailed Darner, and is taken from a photo, ensuring that the proportions are correct.

I recently commissioned a wonderful artist, Sabine Deviche, to do a professional version of the Vitruvian Dragonfly.  Here's the result, which is just beautiful:


I love the details in the wings, and everything else about the drawing as well.  It has a very classic feel to it.

Monday, August 15, 2016

"I Looked For It"

This is a repost from some time ago.  I was reminded of it by seeing Jeremy Brett's version of The Adventure of the Dancing Men on PBS a few days ago.  It's an excellent adventure – other than the fact that his client dies!

One of my favorite literary characters is Sherlock Holmes.  I've often wondered what it would have been like if Holmes had taken up birdwatching instead of beekeeping. A birder with the sharp observing skills of Sherlock Holmes would be something to behold.

Sherlock Holmes in the field.  Looking for birds?  Dragonflies?

I can just imagine an exchange between Holmes and Watson going something like this:

Watson:  Look Holmes, a Hutton's Vireo.
Holmes:  If you look closely, Watson, I think you will find that it is actually a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
Watson:  Why do you say that Holmes?
Holmes:  Elementary my dear Watson.  Notice the yellow feet, the delicate bill, and the light wing bar with a distinct black border, all sure signs of a kinglet.
Watson: By Jove, Holmes, you're right.  I just saw it flash its ruby crown.

The other day I had a chance to repeat a famous line from the Holmes canon in the context of dragonflying.  It was fun.  The line, basically, is "I looked for it," and it occurs in a couple Sherlock Holmes stories.

One example is in Silver Blaze, which is actually more famous for the following exchange:

Gregory (official police detective): "Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
Holmes: "To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time."
Gregory: "The dog did nothing in the night-time."
Holmes: "That was the curious incident."

Later in the story, Holmes lies on the ground and searches through the mud, finally finding a crucial clue – a small match.

Holmes on the prowl for clues.

"I cannot think how I came to overlook it," said the Inspector, with an expression of annoyance.

"It was invisible, buried in the mud. I only saw it because I was looking for it."

Ah, he looked for it.  Exactly.
A similar exchange occurs in The Adventure of the Dancing Men.  A key part of that adventure is a coded message written with dancing men, as follows:


At one point Holmes and a police inspector are investigating the scene of the crime when the following conversation ensues:

“… there are still four cartridges in the revolver," said the inspector. "Two have been fired and two wounds inflicted, so each bullet can be accounted for."


“So it would seem,” said Holmes. “Perhaps you can account also for the bullet which has so obviously struck the edge of the window?”


He had turned suddenly, and his long, thin finger was pointing to a hole which had been drilled right through the lower window-sash, about an inch above the bottom.


“By George!” cried the inspector. “How ever did you see that?”


“I looked for it.”


Indeed.

In my case, I was dragonflying at Cranberry Lake, when I saw a Happy-face Dragonfly in the bushes.  It looked like this:

A male Happy-face Darner smiling up at me.

A man walking by saw me looking intently at the bushes.  He stopped and asked, "What do you have there?"

"A dragonfly," I replied.

"Oh, really? Where is it?"

"Right here," I said, pointing into the bushes.  It took some time to help him find it in the tangle of branches.

When he finally found it he stepped back, looked at me, and said, "How did you ever find it there?"

"I looked for it," I said.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Sun Mountain Lodge

Betsy and I just got back from a few days at Sun Mountain Lodge.  It's one of our favorite places to visit.



The views from the grounds of the lodge are spectacular:





Just down the hill from the lodge is Beaver Pond, a wonderful place to enjoy nature.  Here's what it looks like at the pond:



This is the view from the footbridge at one end of the pond.  The trail that goes around the pond is lined with ponderosa pines.



The odonate activity at the pond was lively, as usual.  Paddle-tailed Darners, the familiar Happy-face Dragonfly, were seen flying back and forth over the pond constantly.  Here's a shot of one in flight:



This shot shows the two, side-by-side, paddle-shaped upper appendages at the tip of the abdomen – which overlap in this view, giving the impression of a single paddle.  The fact that there are two paddles is indicated by the two downward-pointing spines, one on each paddle.  You can also see the blue spots on the last (10th) segment of the abdomen, as well as the prominent eyebrow on the eye.  Notice as well that the front two legs are tucked up behind the eyes, in their usual flight position.

We also saw many damselflies at Beaver Pond, including this lovely Northern Spreadwing:



In addition, we encountered many Boreal Bluets, like this male perched on a leaf:



We had hoped to see some Northern Bluets, which are virtually identical to the Boreal Bluet, but all we looked at carefully turned out to be the Boreal Bluet.  It seems the two species generally don't mix, but tend have their own separate territories.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Lower Crab Creek: Twelve-spotted Skimmer

We had a great time visiting Lower Crab Creek a couple weeks ago.  Here's what it looks like there.



One of the other species we enjoyed at Lower Crab Creek was the Twelve-spotted Skimmer.  Here's an example:



This species looks a lot like the Eight-spotted Skimmer but, as one might imagine, it has four extra dark spots – one at the tip of each of its long thin wings.

This is a young male, and it still shows yellow striping along the edges of the abdomen.  As it matures, the abdomen will become pruinose whitish-blue, and the yellow stripes will be hard, if not impossible, to see.  The yellow stripes remain visible at all ages in females.

Finally, notice that the front two legs are folded up and tucked behind the head.  You can see those legs just behind the eyes – in fact, the small white spots you see there are actually the "knees" of the legs; that is, the folded joints in the middle of the leg.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Butchart Gardens

A couple days ago, Betsy and I visited Butchart Gardens on the way back from our cruise to Alaska.



It's a lovely place, and the weather was perfect.  Flowers everywhere, of course.







Many darners were flying over the open grassy lawns, but no other odonates were seen for a while – until we came to the "Star Fountain," shown above.  There we saw lots of Tule Bluets, including one that liked to perch on the begonias:





Notice the almost equal-width bands of black and blue on the abdomen, with the black bands actually a bit wider than the blue ones.  The Northern and Boreal Bluets differ in having mostly blue on the abdomen, with small black rings separating them.

In addition, we saw a darner fly in and land on one of the "frogs" that shoots out streams of water.  Here it is:



It's clear that this is a female, due to its overall brownish and greenish color, and the expanded tip of the abdomen that holds the ovipositor.  Females are generally a bit more difficult to identify than males, but in this case the identification was easy.  Notice the small "bump" – or tubercle – below segment 1 of the abdomen.  Here's a better view of the bump:



The interesting thing about this bump is that it's a distinctive field mark for the female Blue-eyed Darner.  None of the other mosaic darners in our area have this bump.  It's a good field mark to look for, though it's not always as easily seen as it is in this view.