I want a dragonfly field guide, though I suspect many of my dragonfly photos would defy identification.
Dragonfly identification seems to depend, in large part, on minutiae. “Major” identifying characteristics include eye configuration and wing vein patterns, details that are hard to spot as a dragonfly zips past. Even when they perch, allowing close inspection of eyes and wings, they seldom give me enough time to catalogue the minor variations of thorax and abdomen that are key in separating related species. In some cases, identification is further complicated by differences between males and females.
The more I learn, the less I know. Now, every time I photograph a dragonfly, I want to say, “Pardon me, but could you turn to your left? Your right? Raise your wings a bit? Yes. Very good… Now, here’s a pen. Please write down your name.”
I don’t know why I haven’t given up. Even my successes feel incomplete. Every identification is tentative. I can never say, with complete confidence, “These are Eastern Amberwing dragonflies.” I’ll always need to add, “Please correct me, if I am wrong.”