Thursday, June 10, 2010

Female Common Whitetail Dragonfly

Imagine my surprise when right after I got to the nature park I came across two big dragonflies! To be exact, they were two female common whitetail dragonflies. How do I know they were female? Well, I turned them over, just like you do with a dog. No, just kidding! It was not an easy process! Let me explain as I tell you the full story.

As you enter the nature trail of this park, one of the first things you see is a small bridge. You have to cross this bridge to get onto the main trail that leads to the rest of the park. As a side note, there are snakes under that bridge. I've had some gruesome pictures of them right here in the past. But today I want to tell you about these dragonflies.

Right before I was about to step onto the bridge two dragonflies landed right in front of me! Since this is the place where I always have my camera ready I was well prepared to get several pictures of these two. I'll tell you, this was a golden opportunity! As you can see, I did indeed get my pictures!

So how do I know anything at all about them, besides them being a couple of dragonflies? This one wasn't easy. I've seen this type of dragonfly before. As a matter of fact, these dragonflies are all over this nature park, so I've seen them plenty of times before. My chosen method of creature identification is the internet. I have a few books, but I like the web a little better. There are more resources there, and it's free!

The first thing I did was a Google search for big brown dragonfly, which these are. They're very big dragonflies, but not the biggest around here. These look to be over two inches long, and the biggest ones dwarf them. They're not exactly cute looking.

Anyway, what I found was twelve spotted skimmer dragonflies. Those looked very similar to these in the pictures, so I was almost prepared to declare that as the proper identity. But something was still bugging me. Bugging, get it! What bothered me was the white spots on their sides. The skimmers had white stripes, not these broken marks that these have. It was wrong!

I finally checked through a few of my online field guides, including a new one I found in my search, and I found out that these were actually female common whitetail dragonflies! The males are those bigger ones that I mentioned. The field guides mentioned that the females are easily mistaken for the skimmers. Do your own search and you'll see.

Here are the two together, just so you know that the two other pictures are actually different dragonflies. You can see one towards the bottom and one right at the top of the bridge. I don't know why they landed there. orwhy they stayed so long. But they both flew away right at the same time as I tried to move between them.

Now you may have noticed that these pictures look a little dark. There was a big cloud over the area right then, but it cleared away soon after. And guess what! The best is yet to come. I came upon a male and a female together later at the very back of the park. Those pictures are very special. Here's a sneak peek to end the story.

But wait, what about the field guides? Where are they? Here comes the trick. I'm not going to tell you right now. There is a series over at Nature Center Magazine that brings you a review and link to a new online field guide in each article of its kind. I'm a major contributor to this series, so they will be there in the weeks to come.

In fact, there is a new online field guide featured today at the magazine. The subject of this one is a field guide for birds of the UK and Europe. It was requested in the comments of the last article, so I went on a search throughout the world to find one that fits the bill. The bugs will be coming soon.

We actually have two articles at Nature Center today. Copas is bringing us another state from his tour of nature throughout the US. More valuable information! The site is growing fast. We are gaining more visitors and contributors every day, and the articles and information also have to grow. I'm excited to have this much nature around me even when I'm at home. See you there!


  1. Dragonflies are one of nature's most treasured treats. Watching them zip about, hover, and them slash through open spaces is an incredible experience. Two pairs of wings? A nice gift from the natural world.

  2. Your dragonflies are beautiful! I saw one like this last year. Nothing for my area yet..too much rain and mosquitoes at the moment!

  3. You dragonflies may have eaten too much. They look very fat. That's why they landed on the bridge.

  4. You are just so witty today. I was all ready to go in search of a dragonfly to turn over to see if it was male or Last summer I found a dragonfly floating in my pool and had to take some pictures of it after I scooped it out. I was fascinated by their wings, they are simply incredible. Your photos are superb.

  5. When Bill called dragonflies "one of nature's most treasured treats," for a moment there I thought maybe he had eaten one! Oh well, I am sure they are fun to watch fly around too... although if one ever flew around me, it would probably be flying for its life as I tried with all my feline cunning to catch it!

  6. Spectacular photos of these dragonflies, Ratty..thanks for the info..I learn all the time reading your blogs!!

  7. Very cool Ratty, I really enjoyed all the info in this post as well. I actually tried capturing one yesterday to no avail, they are way too fast.

  8. OMG, it is huge especially in the first photo. I think I have only seen green ones and not these spotted ones. Their wing looks as long as their body if not longer.

  9. Wow.. big fat dragonflies! Wonder if they prefer junk food like us humans. =D The ones I see here are so slim and figure conscious. lol

    Thanks for the ID tips Ratty. ^__^