Summer is upon us, as I write this on the longest day of the year. This last week has been a good one for insect photography, though I haven’t had a chance to update this blog. So – here are the highlights of the week’s work:
Monday was a cool day, following on the heels of a terrifically rainy week. Temps were only in the mid 60’s or so, with a dazzling clear haze-free sky, more like something you’d see in October than June. I visited the old farmstead off 48th Street in the Allegan forest. The vernal marsh is fuller than I have ever seen it, with open water lapping up towards the trees near the marsh’s edge.
Of course, there were lots of dragonflies…
I started my visit on the northern edge of the field, far from the marsh. Here I ran into several Dot-Tailed Whitefaces and Blue Dashers. I also ran into a large darner with startling blue eyes – which I later learned (thanks to the Flickr dragonfly group) is a Spatterdock Darner. A new and beautiful find.
Later in the same session, I photographed what I believe is a Red Saddlebags Dragonfly. It’s very similar to the Carolina Saddlebags that were in this field last year, but the Red Saddlebag’s range is to the west of Michigan, though it is a know vagrant in this area. (Finally – something I have in common with my subjects!)
The key differentiator between the Red Saddlebag and the Carolina Saddlebag is a little ‘notch’ in the saddlebag pattern at the base of the wings. The profile portrait above does not show the wings, but the photo below does. As you can see in the insert – the ‘notch’ is indeed present in this subject’s rather tattered wings.
Later in the day I wandered down to the Swan Creek Dam, which was raging full with water after the heavy rains. Lots of damselflies – but even more poison ivy. One interesting sighting for the day was a Northern Water Snake. It was hanging onto the bank near the dam’s rushing effluent. For the life of me, it looked like a bent stick, bobbing in the water near shore. A faint flicker of the snake’s tongue caught my eye, and I got down to eye level to snap a few shot before it swam off downstream.
Thursday presented the only other opportunity for shooting during the week. I visited some fields north of the river, near the intersection of 43rd street and 125th Ave. These fields seem to be dominated by one species of dragonfly at any given time – first it was Clubtails and then Twelve Spotted Skimmers. This week it was Blue Dashers – a startling mix of mature, immature, male and female specimens. The fields I was working in were pretty large – the smaller is maybe 50 x 100 yards, the larger is maybe 150 x 75 yards in dimension. A small break of forest, only 30 or 40 feet wide, separates the two fields, with a well-cleared path connecting them.
In both of these fields there were simply thousands of blue dashers. In a single square yard you could easily see 3 to 6 specimens. I also saw several Darners, Clubtails, Spiketails, and Skimmers in the mix. I was happy to get a pretty nice shot of a male Blue Dasher, shown below. IMO, the best dragonfly shot I’ve managed so far this year.
Shortly after arriving, I was treated to a pair of deer, who ambled across the savanna. If the shot looks somewhat familiar, that might be because it was shot in the same spot as this one– taken in 2006. This year the savannah is much greener and the air much less hazy.