Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Species Spotlight: The Great Blue Skimmer

We've all heard of the Great Blue Heron. Well, there's a "great blue" in the dragonfly world as well—the Great Blue Skimmer.

As it's name suggests, it's a skimmer that is large, and conspicuously blue. We saw one for the first time on our recent trip to the Back Bay Wildlife Refuge near Virginia Beach, VA. Here's a look at it from above:

Notice the large black stigmas that merge into a black fringe at the tip of the wings.

From the front, the brilliant white face of this species is on full display:

All in all, a lovely dragonfly to add to our life list. Too bad we won't be seeing any of them on the west coast.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Flurry of Forktails

Betsy and I went to Cranberry Lake here in Anacortes for our first visit of the 2018 dragonfly season. The activity was intense, with lots of Four-spotted Skimmers zipping around, landing on the path, mating, and laying eggs. Here's an example of a Four-spotted Skimmer:

Notice the four dark spots on the center of the leading edges of the wings—these are the four spots in the name. The dark spots near the tip of the wing are the stigma, which all dragonflies possess, and hence are not distinguishing features. Finally, note the dark wings patches near the base of the hindwings with the white veins, a distinctive feature of this species.

Four-spotted Skimmers are also quite friendly and approachable dragonflies; they can be whispered for a closer look:

We also saw California Darners, American Emeralds and Spiny Baskettails—more about the baskettails in another post to follow.

There were lots of Pacific Forktails out and about today as well. In fact, there was one rock where they liked to congregate—forktail flats. Here's a look at seven of them enjoying the sunny day.

Here's a little closer look:

Notice the mix of males and females in this photo.

All in all, a lovely day at the lake.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Cherry Springs Revisted

Note: Over the years, this post from September 4, 2013 has been one of the most popular on the blog. I thought I would re-post it so more people will have a chance to see what it's all about. I still hope to get to Cherry Springs Nature Area one of these days.

Not long ago, I was contacted by naturalist Sheri Covert at the Cherry Springs nature area near Pocatello, Idaho. She was putting together an interpretive sign to inform visitors about some of the interesting insect life to be found there, and asked if she could use a couple of my dragonfly pictures. I was happy to help with a project like that, and supplied her with pictures of the species she was looking for. Here's a rough draft of the sign, which looks very nice.

Here's an enlargement of the dragonfly section:

I look forward to visiting Cherry Springs one of these days. If any of my intrepid readers gets there first, please take a picture of the sign in place and we'll include it in the blog.

You can learn more about the species featured on the Cherry Springs Interpretive Sign in my new field guide, Common Dragonflies and Damselflies of the Pacific Coast. You can see more about it at the following link to Amazon:

Look for the River Jewelwing on page 132, the Northern/Boreal Bluet on page 150, the Eight-spotted Skimmer on page 88, the Blue Dasher on page 120, and the Blue-eyed Darner on page 56.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018


I recently had a request from a da Vinci/dragonfly enthusiast to use the Vitruvian Dragonfly, shown below, for a tattoo.

Here's the final result, on her forearm just below the elbow so she can see it all the time:

She's very happy with her tattoo, and also glad that her friends immediately saw the connection with Leonardo. I'm sure he would be happy about it too!