Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

As I said, a good year for dragonflies

with 20 comments

Click for greater clarity.

This has been a good year in central Texas for dragonflies, as you heard me say on August 29. If the star of that day’s two posts was green, the hero of today’s is yellow and brown. As far as I can tell, this is Libellula luctuosa, a widowskimmer, with skimmer referring to the way dragonflies skim along just above the surfaces of ponds and creeks. The dark brown wing patches of this species reminded people of mourning attire among humans, hence the widow. And for those who might be interested in such things, I’ll add—thanks to Lewis and Short’s A Latin Dictionary—that the species name luctuosa is a Latin adjective based on the noun luctus, which meant ‘sorrow, mourning, grief, affliction, distress, lamentation, especially over the loss of something dear to one.’ I doubt that this skimmer was grieving, and I was anything but afflicted, because the dragonfly stayed put long enough for me take close pictures of it.

Like the photographs of the eastern pondhawk dragonfly, I took this one on August 1st along the Brushy Creek Regional Trail in Cedar Park.


© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 7, 2012 at 6:10 AM

20 Responses

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  1. Here’s another benefit of macro photography – I’ve never noticed the similarities between a dragonfly’s wings and the structure of leaf veins before. I wonder if the wings help with camouflage. They certainly could be mistaken for leaves – at least if a predator was at a distance or slightly near-sighted.


    September 7, 2012 at 6:22 AM

    • One of the things I’ve enjoyed in nature photography is the way certain patterns appear in beings that are unrelated (that is, unrelated except insofar as all living things are related to some extent). As you pointed out, the wings of a dragonfly have venation reminiscent of that of a leaf. And that’s a plausible conjecture about leaf-like camouflage. I’ve certainly seen other kinds of insects that mimic leaves.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2012 at 6:43 AM

      • Go to Google Earth and look at satellite views of roadway patterns: same thing. Fractals, baby! Fractals! Steve, the eye alone of this dragonfly has pretty much made my morning. Happy sigh. Thanks!


        September 7, 2012 at 8:14 AM

        • I’ve seen the kinds of earth views you’re talking about, Sarah. The ones I remember best are of river drainage systems, but as you pointed out, fractals inform many things.

          If this picture of the dragonfly’s eye has made your morning, hang on for a few hours and I’ll post an even closer view to brighten your afternoon.

          Steve Schwartzman

          September 7, 2012 at 8:51 AM

          • YESSSSS! I completely fell in love with a katydid yesterday afternoon because of its eyeballs. (It’s on my most recent post at musingsfromdave.blogspot.com) Apparently I have a thing for eyes – whether humans or insect!


            September 7, 2012 at 8:55 AM

            • Aye aye, the motion is carried: the eyes have it. And I see what you mean about those bulging katydid eyes.

              Steve Schwartzman

              September 7, 2012 at 9:02 AM

  2. I love the angle you have shown the dragonfly, you can see the latent energy, it does not look so static.


    September 7, 2012 at 8:33 AM

    • With skittish creatures I sometimes have to settle for whatever position I can get, but in this case I was able to get close and aim upward, which partially accounts for the sense of energy you mentioned. Another contribution to that is the way the dragonfly’s body and the dry plant ended up in diagonal orientations. I can’t say I planned things that way, but I took advantage of them.

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2012 at 8:58 AM

  3. […] is the same widowskimmer dragonfly as last time but in a different and even closer […]

  4. This is a wonderful photo, so clear. Dragonflies look like little aliens ready to do battle with the sky.

    Emily Heath

    September 7, 2012 at 3:58 PM

    • Thanks, Emily. I like your description of dragonflies as “little aliens ready to do battle with the sky.”

      Steve Schwartzman

      September 7, 2012 at 4:16 PM

  5. Wow… again! Another superb dragon shot Steve. The detail on the eye is remarkable.

    Finn Holding

    September 9, 2012 at 3:10 AM

  6. This is a perfect dragonfly shot Steve! Like i had mentioned before, we have had a large number of dragonflies and butterflies as well. And now I am getting lots and lots of frogs!

    Michael Glover

    September 10, 2012 at 9:55 PM

  7. Supreme shot!


    September 12, 2012 at 10:06 PM

  8. […] all the attention to dragonflies in this column a few weeks ago, let’s give a day to the slenderer members of the Odonata, the damselflies. […]

  9. […] few months ago in my other blog I showed a picture of a dragonfly whose scientific name is Libellula luctuosa. I explained that the second part of that name is a […]

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