I decided to do some dragonfly whispering. I went up to one of the Happy-face Darners (Paddle-tailed Darner) in the bushes and lifted him onto my finger. Remember that this was a "free-range dragonfly", completely free to take wing at any time. It had never been caught or manipulated in any way – I simply lifted it up on my finger, which took the place of a branch. Here's what he looked like as he sat happily on my hand.
|A male Happy-face Darner (Paddle-tailed Darner) resting on my hand. Such a charming fellow. (The white spots on the eyes are reflections of the Sun.)|
Here are a couple more photos of him. If you toggle back and forth between the photos you'll get an idea of what it looks like as he cocks his head.
After the darner flew off to go about his busy day, I decided to lift another Happy-face Darner onto one finger, and then while he was going along for the ride, lift a Shadow Darner onto a second finger. This makes for a nice comparison between these two similar species. Again, remember these are "free-range dragonflies".
Here's another view. In this case, notice the top of segment 2 of the abdomen. For orientation, segment 3 is the one that is narrow – almost like a wasp waist. Segment 2 is the large, bulbous segment that is closer to the thorax. On the top of this segment, the dorsal surface, there is a blue stripe in both species. The blue stripe on the Happy-face Darner is thin and uniform in width. In contract, the blue dorsal stripe on the Shadow Darner is broad and nonuniform. It looks a bit like a chess piece, or the profile of a tree.
|Happy-face Darner (left) and Shadow Darner (right). Notice the difference in the blue dorsal stripe on segment 2 of the abdomen. It is thin and uniform in the Happy-face, broad and nonuniform in the Shadow.|
The blue dorsal stripe on segment 2 is a field mark that I haven't seen mentioned in any of the field guides, but I find it quite helpful. I often see a darner in the bushes, and a leaf blocks a view of the tip of the abdomen. No worry – if I can see segment 2 I'm in business.