I was reviewing my recent efforts at photographing my favorite insects, dragonflies, and was growing discouraged. Recently it just seemed I couldn’t catch a break. Maybe my missing “luck” was due to a want of recent experience. Last year wasn’t a particularly good one for dragons though this year looks to be very good. Whatever the reason, I was deleting way more images than what I considered worth keeping. Until I came across this one. It was shot late last month in Lorain County on the edge of a pond abuzz with dragonflies. It all came together: a gorgeous dragon, perched atop arches of green leaves, against a nearly black background. I’m feeling much better now.
Until this morning, I’d never seen a Great Blue Heron basking in the morning sun. This big guy appeared to be hot and panting and, perhaps, it held its wings away from its body to cool a bit. Thing is, the Blue was in a spot of sun; that made for a very nice picture with rim lighting effects but would not have helped it cool off. Warding off swarming mosquitoes, I watched and photographed the bird for a long time. I’m sure the basking heron was watching me but seemed happy to stay on its perch and warm, or cool, or just rest. I continued my hike around Hinckley Lake, spying and imaging the basking bird through trailside understory plants. I spent a long time walking, watching, and sweating (temperature was above 80F), turning around about halfway around the lake. My normal birding spots were empty of large waterfowl which was a bit of a disappointment. As I returned to the area where I’d spent so much time earlier, I slowed my pace and began peering through the brush. Sure enough, the heron was still there! I shot a few more portraits of “Basking Blue” and continued my hike to the trailhead. Though soaked with perspiration, I couldn’t leave for home before looking for my other favorite pond creatures: dragonflies. The most plentiful of the dragonflies this day were Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) and they seemed to be everywhere along the western lake edge. One of the tiny, brilliant dragons posed for me a few times and I was pleased to record not only his image but the stain-like patch of color created by sunlight passing through his wings, falling upon bleached wood.
Trying out some new equipment today, we visited Schoepfle Garden, a Lorain County Metropark. I shot all manner of subjects including a favorite: dragonflies. The most abundant seemed to be the Blue Dashers and they were very active! One little fellow I photographed was resting in a shaded area of water plants with a natural spot of soft light falling over him from the cloudy sky. It wasn’t until I got home and processed the image that I discovered one of the insect’s wings was badly damaged. The resulting image is somehow a bit saddening; the dragon appears to be marooned, so I gave it a sad title. Not to worry, however, as the little guy seemed perfectly capable of excellent flight!
I visited the Alderfer-Oenslager Wildlife Sanctuary of the Medina County Park System this afternoon, seeking the season’s first dragonflies. None were to be seen there. It was, however, a splendid afternoon for a little stroll around the grounds and it’s not like nothing else was worth looking at! The ponds were fairly still and alive with the ripples caused by likely thousands of water-striding insects milling about, doubtless seeking mates. The first lily pads floated, soaking up the day’s sunshine while others could be seen stretching up from beneath the surface. Wriggling amongst the reeds and algae near waters’ edge were hundreds of tadpoles, somehow sensing my presence and quickly hiding. And oh, what’s that, lying in wait for the careless passing fish or tadpole? A medium-sized snapping turtle sat in the mud, barely submerged and barely exposed. The pond may display quiet beauty above, but there’s danger below!
My dragonflies? Oh, they’re likely crawling around underwater in their nymph phase: a terrifying aquatic insect (if you’re a small critter they might find tasty) and will emerge in due course, um, to stalk the skies.
I thought dragonfly season was over. I’ve seen few of the beautiful beasties buzzing about in recent weeks and believed they were gone with the summer. I was wrong. Today we visited the Silver Creek Metro Park, Norton, Ohio, and did a little two-mile photo-walk. Around Piny Lake we spotted tiny dragonflies darting about, several coupled. I got my first images of coupled dragonflies in flight and my first shots of egg-laying activity! The (I believe) Yellow-legged Meadowhawks mate in the same fashion as other dragonflies: the male grasps the female using special pincers at the end of his tail, mating proceeds, and then the couple fly over water and she dips the end of her abdomen into the water repeatedly, depositing her fertilized eggs. It’s an amazing and very quick dance, difficult to follow and more difficult to image in the field; I’m glad for whatever measure of success displayed here!
We had a wonderful nature photo walk at the Alderfer-Oenslager Wildlife Sanctuary of Medina Park System this afternoon and had the park nearly to ourselves! The sky was cloudy and the air was warm and heavy with humidity — it rained quite a lot last night! Unfortunately we saw no wading birds, in fact no aquatic birds at all! Still, the late-summer flowers and waterlilies made up for much. Oh yes, and then there were dragonflies! Not many, mind you, but just enough to keep this fan happily clicking away as the beautiful few went about their business. Today’s feature was the gorgeous Yellow-legged Meadowhawk. I had the good fortune to come across a dragonfly who seemed to like having his picture taken for not only did he pose prettily on some plant leaves, he hovered in flight! It appears summer is winding down at the pond.
I’m trying out a new theme here at WordPress. I’ve long felt my photos were too small on the page so I’m employing (at this point, anyway) a theme that allows for “flexible” sizing including full-size display of images. Don’t know if I’ll stay with this but, since my blog has evolved into largely a photo-blog, it’s perhaps more appropriate.
We had a late breakfast, did a quick shop at Target, watched a little TV, and tried to figure out what to do. It was a muggy day, dawning overcast with a high chance of rain. We didn’t want to be too exposed to the weather but really didn’t want to spend the day indoors, either. Saving us from a boring, “wasted” day, She Who Must Be Obeyed came up with the brilliant idea — visit the Lorain Metro Parks’ Columbia Reservation. I had been there by myself a couple of times recently but She had not. It was a splendid idea.
We took the same hiking trails I had taken late in June. I could serve as a sort of guide but also see what changes have ensued since my last visit in this, so far drought-plagued summer. Some of the flowering plants have been spent, fulfilling their reproductive mission. The water levels in seasonal wet areas have dropped dramatically, some of them scarily! But some other things showed little change. We both took plenty of photographs this afternoon and, while I shot a variety of subjects, I found myself drawn back to one of my favorites… dragonflies! In one pond I spotted not a dragonfly but a pretty little damselfly posing on a bent stick protruding from the still water. Shooting several frames to try and get focus and lighting right, it wasn’t until I reviewed the images later that I discovered a sunfish lurking beneath the surface. I don’t know if the fish was watching the insect or me; in this little pond, the sunfish follow people as they walk back and forth on a small platform over the water!
In the final portion of our nature walk I was finally able to fulfill my goal of photographing a beautiful dragonfly I’d spotted there back in June. My first time there, I’d spotted the dragon but didn’t have the focal length to capture its image. I returned another time equipped with the right optics but saw none of its kind! Today was perfect: I had the optics, the dragonfly was cooperative, and the lighting and scene were nearly ideal. And my portrait of a male Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) was my pic of the day! Third time’s the charm!
Thinking to avoid the hot sun of midday but wanting to get out, we decided to take a nice, leisurely walk in shady woods somewhere. We paid a visit to the Carlisle Reservation of the Lorain County Metro Parks. The woodland trail turned out to be a good choice for avoiding excessive sun in the 90-degree heat and moderate humidity but woods are very good at blocking breezes; we wound up pretty sweaty by the end of our little hike. Of course I carried a camera –in this case my trusty old Canon Digital Rebel XT– always on the lookout for picture possibilities. I checked each of the several ponds we encountered for the usual subjects: birds, snakes, frogs, and dragonflies: No (wading) birds at all! No snakes seen. Lots of quick little frogs. And a nice selection of dragonflies! I’d decided to carry a “walking-around” zoom lens with modest telephoto abilities and it was both fun and frustrating to use that lens’s limits and capabilities to best effect. My favorite results are shown here. We left Carlisle ready for cool beverages but happy for the quiet walk.
Birds gotta eat, I know. Still, it seemed unfair. A female Red-winged Blackbird had captured a meal. I photographed her perched on a swaying tree branch at the Columbia Reservation of Lorain County Metroparks. I could see, clutched in her beak, the shining gossamer wings of a dragonfly. I’m a fan of dragonflies and of Red-winged Blackbirds too, for that matter, so had a little remorse over the fate of the dragon. Birds gotta eat, I know. Preparing this photograph for posting today, however, brought out unexpected details in the picture. The tangle of dragonfly in the bird’s beak contained two dragonfly abdomens and, yes, two heads, and too many wings — the blackbird had captured two dragonflies. How could that happen? I can only think of one way. The insects were mating in flight, as they do, when caught. It seemed somehow unfair that they should die in that last embrace.