Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

A bright red dragonfly on a grapevine

with 23 comments

Red Dragonfly on Grapevine 1955

Click for better clarity, especially in the wing venation, and for larger size.

On July 20th, as I was walking through a tributary of Bull Creek, I found this colorful dragonfly on a dry part of a grapevine. At least that’s where I finally caught up with it; it had moved from place to place several times before I was stealthy enough to get within picture range.

The dragonfly looks like it could be a cardinal meadowhawk, Sympetrum illotum, but I don’t know much about these things, so anyone who can confirm or disconfirm is welcome to speak up.

NOTE: The next post will include a closeup of a large spider. I know that some of you aren’t fond—what a euphemistic understatement—of spiders, so if that’s the case you may want to avert your eyes tomorrow. On the other hand, the photograph will be a good one.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 8, 2013 at 6:04 AM

23 Responses

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  1. What a nice specimen it is. I’m not a biologist. But, a quick check of the google shows many similar examples for Sympetrum illotum in their images.

    Sneaking up on the fellow would have been hard. They have such big effective eyes. You were fortunate to get close enough for this good shot.

    Thanks for the warning about the spider picture tomorrow. I am one of those -phobes. I have it under better control than in the past. But, a surprise is never good. I might look with averted vision tomorrow. 🙄

    Jim in IA

    August 8, 2013 at 6:35 AM

    • A nice specimen indeed: if I had to be a dragonfly, that’s the color I’d choose. Sneaking up on dragonflies isn’t always easy, but I’ve noticed that many times one will come back to the perch from which I frightened it away, so staying still and waiting can be a good strategy. That wasn’t the case here, where I ended up following the dragonfly from perch to perch to perch. Thanks for taking the time to find corroborating evidence for its identification.

      What you say about your arachnophobia validates the spider alert.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2013 at 6:53 AM

      • They are such excellent fliers. It would be fun to do that.

        Heading out to play golf with a buddy today. I will watch for some dragonflies. Later…

        Jim in IA

        August 8, 2013 at 6:59 AM

  2. WOW! ! ! !

    Kathy C

    August 8, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    • Now that’s enthusiasm, Kathy. I’m thinking you must see these red dragonflies out at your place from time to time.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2013 at 7:59 AM

  3. So vibrant!! Thanks for sharing!

    Cathy G

    August 8, 2013 at 8:03 AM

    • You’re welcome, Cathy. It’s hard to beat bright red.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2013 at 8:15 AM

      • Absolutely right, Steve! Happens to be one of my favorite colors…maybe that’s why I’m drawn to this…plus I happen to love insects! 🙂

        Cathy G

        August 8, 2013 at 8:32 AM

        • The last time we got a car I wanted red (in spite of what people say about that color being a magnet for speeding tickets), but the dealer was out of red so we ended up with white.

          As for insects, there are a lot more species of them than there are of plants, although insects often aren’t as good as plants when it comes to holding still. Add to that the fact that there’s hardly a plant out there that doesn’t have an insect or spider on it, so I end up with my share of critter pictures, some of which make their way into these pages.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 8, 2013 at 11:59 AM

          • My daughter is not a fan of red but it’s a color I love to wear. Sometimes I compromise but other times she just has to get over it! LOL

            Well, as far as critters, I love the way you capture them. Then again, I really enjoy your site, so I’ll look forward to more! 🙂

            Cathy G

            August 8, 2013 at 12:45 PM

  4. That is one great photo Steve, I admire your persistent patience 🙂
    Jude xx


    August 8, 2013 at 8:13 AM

    • Sometimes that patience pays off, and other times the would-be subject never does become a subject. I put myself out there in nature often enough that even with the inevitable failures there are some successes.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2013 at 11:53 AM

  5. Dragon and damsel flies are proof that magic exists, I think. I’m sure this one led you (intentionally) on a merry chase.

    Mad Queen Linda

    August 8, 2013 at 4:26 PM

    • If you’ll allow for some “practical magic,” I’ll add that I was wearing hip-high rubber boots that morning, so I could walk up and down the creek as the dragonfly changed locations. Those boots also let me get close to the subject of tomorrow’s picture.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 8, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      • That scene of striding about the creek begs to be captured on video by someone. If tomorrow’s picture is the spider, I’ll pass. Even a Mad Queen has her illogical aversions, and spiders are high on that list. So are olives, dense forests, and sushi.

        Mad Queen Linda

        August 8, 2013 at 4:53 PM

        • Maybe some Boswell or Sancho Panza will make a video like that someday.

          Yes, tomorrow is Arachnid Day with a capital A, but you can come back on Saturday for Double Entendre Day and a safely floral subject.

          Steve Schwartzman

          August 8, 2013 at 5:04 PM

  6. […] date was July 20th, the place a tributary of Bull Creek in northwest Austin: within sight of the red dragonfly in yesterday’s post I found a black and yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia. The female, […]

  7. Now that I know there are red dragonflies as well as the lovely rose-colored one I captured, I’ll pay more attention. Of course, in the case of this one, less attention might be needed. That’s one vibrantly-colored insect.

    Just slightly off-topic. I was looking through Enquist and found that, without any doubt, that funny thread-like bloom I wasn’t sure of is witch hazel, not dodder. I saw some dodder yesterday, looked it up in the book and ran across the witch hazel in the process. I was intrigued by the witch hazel’s “exploding” seeds. Collecting them and letting them dry to test the theory sounds like a great project for a kid – of any age!


    August 9, 2013 at 6:59 AM

    • I’ve been seeing red dragonflies around Austin since I don’t remember when, but your first sentence makes me realize that not everyone knows they exist, and now that you mention it, I don’t remember ever seeing one on Long Island while growing up.

      Witch hazel is one of those plants that I’ve seen in Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country but never knowingly in reality. Enquist locates it along the southern edge of the Hill Country, so I expect I’ll never find it in Austin. He also says that in Texas its real home is in the east, which explains why you’ve found it and now have a chance to play with its exploding seeds.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 9, 2013 at 8:01 AM

  8. Amazing, the many different life forms that we have right here in our world…


    August 10, 2013 at 1:47 PM

    • It is indeed. Red dragonflies aren’t uncommon here in central Texas, but they may be in other places. I often see other kinds of insects that I’ve never seen before, such is their variety.

      Steve Schwartzman

      August 10, 2013 at 3:56 PM

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