For me, the best photographs of dragonflies are the ones that show great detail and a natural setting, a setting giving a feel for their habitat preferences. A meadowhawk on the top of the dead flower; A darner camouflaged on the side of a tree or a spreadwing perched part way up a grass stem are good examples. Such photos can be taken but usually require luck, patience or a cool-box full of cold dragonflies all waiting their turn in the sun (i.e. cheating). I sometimes do get lucky and can have patience at times, but I never cheat or at least haven’t so far!
Recently I decided to try to get a photo of each species I encounter in the hand. It seems to be an obvious extension of catching them to examine their bits, itself an extension of ‘knowing’ the insect in the field. I’ve been catching lots of spreadwings this year and I routinely check the bluets at St-Lazare sand pits although I’ll have to wait another year for Vernal there now. I’ve also been catching meadowhawks and checking their hamules* and that led me to something of a revelation. I had been dismissing some meadowhawks at the pits as ‘just’ Cherry-faced Meadowhawk Sympetrum internum (Sympétrum intime) when in fact they are Saffron-winged Meadowhawk Sympetrum costiferum (Sympétrum rubigineux) without obvious saffron wings. A sharp-left on the learning curve.
*Hamules are found on male meadowhawks and are the bits that attach to the business end of the females they meet, socially so to speak. On the confusion species (virtually anything red with black legs) they are supposed to be different shapes. You can see them with a hand lens and photograph them in the hand.
This checking of hamules malarkey has its downside – what if they don’t look like they do in ‘the book?’ The key species being looked for is Cherry-faced Meadowhawk Sympetrum internum (Sympétrum intime), the (supposedly) default reddish faced meadowhawk of southern Québec. Shooting down this theory is the presence of Ruby Meadowhawk Sympetrum rubicundulum (Sympétrum à dos roux), a species that has been recorded at St-Lazare sand pits and elsewhere in the region and, if the northern advance of southern species continues, will become at least regular in our area in years to come. Add to the mix White-faced Meadowhawk Sympetrum obtrusum (Sympétrum éclaireur) with a bloody nose and the ‘species’ Jane’s Meadowhawk Sympetrum umustbjoking (Sympétrum ah oui!) (it may be a full species or a hybrid of Cherry-faced and Ruby) and you see the problems. There is also the issue of subjectivity when viewing hamules and how cooperative the insect is when being handled and photographed. So, all that being said this post has photos of insects in the hand, the first being Saffron-winged Meadowhawk.
Next is a ? The hamules do not appear to be conclusive as per the illustrations in the ode guides.
Now White-faced Meadowhawk Sympetrum obtrusum (Sympétrum éclaireur).
Now a selection of spreadwings: Lyre-tipped Spreadwing Lestes unguiculatus (Leste Onguiculé) (#4); Sweetflag Spreadwing Lestes forcipatus (Leste à forceps) (#3); Slender Spreadwing Lestes rectangularis (Leste élancé) (#2) and Spotted Spreadwing Lestes congener (Leste tardif), (female) (#1).
Now a miscellany of in-hand shots starting with a female Widow Skimmer Libellula luctuosa (La mélancolique); Halloween Pennant Celithemis emponina (Célithème géante) and Wandering Glider Pantala flavescens (Pantale flavescente).
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