Today’s gray gloom can’t be conquered by normal means.
Blankets and hot chocolate are no match for the wind’s creak and scrape.
Even the cats have given up. They’ve abandoned their interest in my newly reorganized guest room/office and curled up in their favorite beds.
I would join their willful hibernation if I could, but my to-do list is on the verge of collapsing under its own weight and becoming a singularity from which I can never escape.
So, when sleep is not an option, the only remaining cure for a day like today is dragonflies.
Lots and lots of dragonflies.
I feel better already.
A wave of dragonflies arrived this week, washed into the yard by the rising tides of summer’s heat.
Blue Dashers are by far the most numerous, claiming spots near the ground in all of the iris beds.
Great Blue Skimmers seem to prefer the slightly higher perches provided by our trellises.
Higher yet, in the wax myrtle canopy, Halloween Pennants pivot in the wind like miniature weather vanes.
(At first glance, the next dragonfly seemed to be another Halloween Pennant, but the camera’s zoom function revealed inconsistent wing patterns. After consulting a few online resources, I believe this is either a female Common Whitetail or a Twelve-Spotted Skimmer. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identifications!) [Update added June 30: Possibly a Painted Skimmer, see comment from Gillian.]
These new dragonflies join an already-established population of Eastern Pondhawks, which began arriving in late May.
Now, no matter where I look in the yard, I find dragonflies. Summer wouldn’t feel the same without them.
The days are definitely getting shorter, and the yard has changed accordingly. Tired leaves litter the grass. The roses bloom erratically, producing smaller and smaller flowers with less and less scent. Few dragonflies remain, only a handful of Blue Dashers.
Spiderwebs lend the yard an autumn feel, harbingers of Halloween and the brittle months to follow. And there’s a silence, under the muted cricket chorus, that sounds like an echo of winter.
No more robins, no more blue jays, no love-struck doves on the fence. Only an occasional mockingbird, and even they tend to hide from view, flitting through the wax myrtle as if they would rather not be noticed. Or photographed.
So the yard reflects summer’s dwindling hours, despite the lingering heat. And I’m torn between sorrow and anticipation, a permanent state in the last few years. Tomorrow is always exciting, mysterious and unwritten. But today is satisfying, too. As for yesterday? Well, yesterday wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I was kind of sorry to see it go…
Eastern Pondhawks have taken over the yard. Every available perch is occupied, every patch of grass claimed. Active and aggressive, they patrol one area for five or ten minutes, then attempt to move on. It’s hard to say who wins the resulting bouts of mid-air combat, because I have trouble distinguishing individuals. But it seems to me as if territories steadily shift, so that one dragonfly might begin her morning in the southwest corner, move by noon into the northeast corner, then rotate back to her southwest starting position by evening. As she moves, others crowd in behind her, so that the entire yard is continuously occupied.
Fortunately for all the other dragonflies, the Eastern Pondhawks appear to prefer ground-level hunting and rarely move into the trees.
The blue on these mature dragonflies (I believe the top image is a Blue Dasher and the next is a Great Blue Skimmer) is called “pruinescence”. Often described as a powdery accumulation of pigment, the phenomenon of pruinescence is not confined to dragonflies. (I couldn’t find a definitive resource for a link, but this Wikipedia article contains some interesting observations.)
I tend to gravitate toward pruinose dragonflies, when I’m out with my camera. I like how the pale coloration exposes seams and joints, highlighting the intricate anatomy of these amazing insects.
(This male Great Blue Skimmer was a very patient subject. Most of my dragonfly photos are taken using the zoom feature, but he let me experiment with the macro setting, which produced the next image.)
While coloration and wing patterns catch my attention first, wounds hold my attention. This female Great Blue Skimmer has a rather typical set of wing tears, but the wounds on her face are unusual. I wondered if the loss of symmetry made her less attractive, in dragonfly terms.
One final note (completely off-topic): I’m happy to report that the summer’s first cicadas arrived this week.