Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Whisperer Speaks, Again!

I hope you can join us this Saturday, May 4, for a Dragonfly Whisperer presentation at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.  The talk starts at 10 a.m., and will include a number of interesting dragonfly anecdotes, some basic dragonfly biology, an introduction to the Happy-face Dragonfly, and slow-motion videos showing dragonflies bathing and spin-drying (at 1,000 rpm!) on the wing.

Here's an ad from the Boyce Thompson Arboretum newsletter.  The homepage for the arboretum can be found at the following link: http://arboretum.ag.arizona.edu.

I know I usually "whisper," but I'll limber up my vocal chords for the talk.  I'll also give tips on how you too can do some dragonfly whispering!  We look forward to seeing you there.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Unexpected Pleasures Of Dragonflying

About a week ago Betsy and I did some dragonflying in our local area here in Arizona.  At one point we ran across a Great Blue Heron rookery with 20 or more young birds in nests at the top of a tree.  Adults were making regular trips to feed their nestlings.  Here are a couple pictures of one such feeding trip:

An adult Great Blue Heron has just returned to the nest.  One of its young is visible below its neck.

It's interesting to see the adult raise its crest as it interacts with its young – the crest isn't normally so prominent.

Next, the young bird tries to induce the adult to regurgitate food.

A young heron (left) trying to induce an adult to regurgitate a meal.

Finally, the adult feeds the young bird.  It sure looks like a rough way to get a meal.

Ramming food down the throat is the heron way of feeding its young.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Happy-face Gets A Mug Shot

No, not that kind of mug shot.  The Happy-face Darner can now be found on a coffee mug, as shown below:

The Happy-face coffee mug.

I'm using the mug now on my desk as a pencil holder.  It's fun to see the happy face looking up at me all day!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

You Can Be A Dragonfly Whisperer Too!

Yes, the dragonfly whisperer will be speaking again in the near future.  This is your opportunity to hear about some of the fascinating experiences the dragonfly whisperer has had with dragonflies, and to learn how to do some dragonfly whispering on your own.

The upcoming talk will be at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum on the morning of May 4 (probably at 10 am in the Smith Building, but specific time and place still to be set).  A brief description from last year's talk is given below:

Here's a link to the arboretum website, where you can get the latest details on the time and location of the Dragonfly Whisperer talk, and also find out about the many great events offered by the arboretum:


I hope to see you there!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Things Are Hopping Now!

Well, the dragonfly season is starting to get in full swing now.  Until just a few days ago we've seen mostly older Variegated Meadowhawks that probably overwintered here, or possibly farther south.  We've seen them laying eggs at the ponds at Gilbert Water Ranch.  A few other species were seen now and then, like the Common Green Darner, Filigree Skimmer, Blue-eyed Darner, and Red Saddlebags.  Things are changing now.

A few days ago we went to the Gilbert Water Ranch, and saw almost constant activity.  Only a couple Variegated Meadowhawks were seen, and they were dark and worn in appearance.  The majority of individuals we saw were of other species, and they appeared to be newly emerged – in fact, many were brilliantly colored.  Here's the species list we compiled during about an hour at the water ranch:

Familiar Bluet
Rambur's Forktail
Blue-ringed Dancer

Common Green Darner
Flame Skimmer
Roseate Skimmer
Mexican Amberwing
Variegated Meadowhawk
Blue Dasher
Red Saddlebags
Spot-winged Glider

We got a couple shots of some of the flashier individuals.  Here's a sampling:

Common Green Darners were fairly common.  The male below appeared to be quite fresh, and spent a lot of time interacting with other males in the area.  No females were observed.

A male Common Green Darner.  Notice the contrasting green thorax and blue abdomen.

We also saw Mexican Amberwings for the first time this year.  The male below was dazzling in the bright sun.

A male Mexican Amberwing patrolling his territory.

We also had a few good looks at a Blue Dasher, only the second we've seen this year.

A male Blue Dasher was very active.

In a small stream at the water ranch a Blue-ringed Dancer perched on a rock in the middle of the stream.  This is a typical perching location for these damselflies.

A male Blue-ringed Dancer perched in a rock in a flowing stream.

As we observed the Blue-ringed Dancer, a couple male Flame Skimmers rushed by in a wild flash of intense red color.  It was an impressive sight in the sparkling sunlight along the stream.  One of them perched and gave me some nice looks and a couple photos.

A male Flame Skimmer on the lookout for its rival, who came along shortly after this picture was taken.

Notice that the front two legs of the skimmer are tucked neatly behind its head.  It flies this way too, giving it a more aerodynamic shape.  The legs are used to process prey.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Whisperer Spoke!

Many thanks to the Maricopa Audubon Society for sponsoring my talk on dragonflies last night.  I had a great time, and met a lot of wonderful people.  I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about these fascinating creatures.

I mentioned during the talk that I would put some technical information on my blog, including the field guides, the camera equipment I use, and websites.  I'll start with the field guides.

A good beginners field guide to southwest dragonflies and damselflies is the following book by Kathy Biggs:

A more advanced, and comprehensive guide to dragonflies and damselflies of western North America is this field guide by Dennis Paulson:

As for cameras, I use a point-and-shoot for general pictures, occasional macro shots, and dragonflies that are at a distance.  My camera is a Canon Powershot SX30:

There are many fine digital cameras on the market today, and they are all very good.  Canon is now making the SX50 and I'll probably get it soon.

For micro-type shots, I use a Nikon D300 with a 105mm micro lens.  It's a nice lens, and I'm very happy with the results it gives.

Finally, the slow-motion videos are taken with a point-and-shoot camera called the Casio EX-FH25, shown below.  I shoot my videos at 240 frames per second, which gives good time resolution for observing dragonfly behavior.

As far as websites go, the one for Arizona dragonflies is at the following link.  It's a great resource, with many pictures of each species, a comparison of similar species, and a list of good dragonfly locations in the state.


Happy Dragonflying!