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Field and Swamp: Animals and Their Habitats

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Dragonflies (suborder Anisoptera, order Odonata, infraclass Palaeoptera, subclass Pterygota, class Insecta, subphylum Hexapoda, phylum Arthropoda)

Dragonflies are predators that chew their food, have four wings that cannot be folded and undergo incomplete metamorphosis.  They have a distinct young adult stage ("teneral"), looking like females for some time after last molt and completion of wing development, after which the males make a gradual transition to their distinctive colors.  They are rapid and agile fliers that can control their forewings and hind wings independently; they can mate in flight.  Nymphs are aquatic and adults terrestrial, although they rarely stray far from water.  Sometimes they land in the water by mistake, perhaps when they are old or sick, and cannot escape.  Methods of capturing prey vary: Blue Dashers, at one extreme, maintain a perch and wait for prey to come by; Wandering Gliders, on the other hand, are almost constantly flying at high speeds. 

Dragonflies evolve bigger bodies when exposed to heat http://sify.com/news/dragonflies-grow-bigger-with-more-oxygen-study-news-international-kk5nOieajhb.html#ss-20101010192708

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Dragonfly Exuviae

These used to be exoskeletons of dragonfly nymphs, which exited through dorsal slits in the thorax.  We usually don't get to see them in action because they emerge at night.

Dragonfly nymph exuvia, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 6/6/11 Dragonfly exuviae, White Pines Nature Preserve, Chatham County, NC, 4/16/06 Two views of a dragonfly exuviae shed at Milltail Road, Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge, Dare County, NC, 5/7/06.

Petaltails (Family Petaluridae)

 
Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi), Haw River State Park, Guilford & Rockingham Counties, NC, 5/31/08  

Darners (Family Aeshnidae)

Darners are large dragonflies, up to five inches long.  They are not especially common, but are very conspicuous when flying. 

Swamp Darners (Epiaeschna heros)

Swamp Darner (Epiaeschna heros), Durham, NC, 6/10/05.   Found far from swamp. Another view of the same Swamp Darner Swamp Darner, Durham, NC, 6/29/05.  This took place on the ground, a long distance away from the camera.

Common Green Darners (Anax junius)

Perhaps young adult Common Green Darner (Anax junius), Ocracoke Island, 5/17/05 Post-mating Common Green Darner pair, with male in front; he did this to keep her from mating with other males.  Duke Gardens, 8/26/07 Same Common Green Darner couple. Male Common Green Darner, Durham, 7/27/06.  This darner was constantly in flight at the edge of a swamp, but hovered long enough for me to take this photo.

Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata)

Male Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata), Duke Forest (Gate 12), Orange County, NC, 4/7/06

Fawn Darner (Boyeria vinosa)

Fawn Darner (Boyeria vinosa), Penny's Bend Natural Area, Durham County, NC, 9/20/05 Same Fawn Darner.

Clubtails (Family Gomphidae)

Like the Darners, Clubtails are large and conspicuous.  Their distinctive eyes are widely separated.  When at rest, they tilt their abdomens upward slightly.  The "club" on their tails is not as striking as one would expect from their group name.

Eastern Least Clubtail (Stylogomphus albistylus)

         
Eastern Least Clubtail (Stylogomphus albistylus), a recent metamorph.  ID thanks to Don Holt of Johnson City, TN and to Giff Beaton, who replied independently.          

Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistyla)

Female Dragonhunter (Hagenius brevistyla), Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/11/05.  Thanks to Josh Rose for ID.  Josh says the male has a skinnier abdomen.

Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus)

Common Sanddragon(Progomphus obscurus), Duke Gardens, 7/24/05.  Jeff Pippen, leading a butterfly walk, identified this one at the time. This Common Sanddragon was twisting its head around to take a good look at me, apparently: it took off soon afterwards.  Durham, 6/18/05.  Josh Rose provided this ID. Male Common Sanddragon, Durham, 5/29/05.  Male Common Sanddragon, Durham, 7/15/05.  As is the case with the other Common Sanddragons in this row, this one appeared far from any aquatic environment.

Black-shouldered Spinylegs (Dromogomphus spinosus)

Female Black-shouldered Spinylegs (Dromogomphus spinosus), Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/11/05.  ID for this and two dragonflies on the right provided by Josh Rose. Male Black-shouldered Spinylegs, Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/23/05 Male Black-shouldered Spinylegs, Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/23/05

Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus)

Ashy Clubtail, Eno River State Park, Orange County, NC, 4/28/06 This Ashy Clubtail, Johnston Mill Nature Preserve, Orange County, NC, 4/10/08.  It which had a deformed hind wing and sometimes closed its wings like a butterfly.  Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus), Penny's Bend, 4/5/06.  Thanks to Randy Emmitt for ID help. Ashy Clubtail, Eno River State Park, Few's Ford access, Cox Mountain, Orange County, NC, 4/12/06

Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus exilis)

Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus exilis), Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area, Orange County, NC, 4/9/06

Mystery Clubtails

Clubtail, White Pines Nature Preserve, Chatham County, NC, 4/16/06.  It's hard to find any photos of eastern clubtails with two yellow spots on the "club." Clubtail, White Pines Nature Preserve, Chatham County, NC, 4/16/06

Emerald (genus Somatochlora, family Corduliidae)

Emeralds are mostly Northern dragonflies, but a few species appear in the South.

Female Selys' Sundragon (Helocordulia selysii), Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 4/4/11 Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis), Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 7/9/06.  ID thanks to Nick Block. Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa), Eno River State Park, Orange County, NC, 4/26/10.  Seen close to Bobbitt's Hole.

Common Baskettails (Epitheca cynosura, family Corduliidae)

These dragonflies are abundant during a brief period in the spring here.

Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 4/10/14 Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), Santee NWR, Orangeburg County, SC, 3/26/06 Common Baskettail, Indian Creek Wildlife Observation Trail, Chatham County, NC, 4/4/06 Common Baskettail, Occoneechee Mountain Natural Area, Orange County, NC, 4/9/06

 

Common Baskettail, Durham, 5/6/06.  Notice that the hind wings are held at right angles from the front wings. Another photo of the same Common Baskettail.  Here the wings are not angled differently.

Skimmers (Family Libellulidae)

Skimmers are the most common family of dragonflies.   Their otherwise round eyes appear to be at least slightly flattened against each other (commonly described as "connected").  Unlike Darners and Clubtails, their abdomens are relatively short relative to the length of their wings.

King Skimmers (Genus Libellula)

Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis)

 
Male Golden-winged Skimmer, Ft. Fisher Aquarium (outdoors), 6/26/08  

Needham's Skimmers (Libellula needhami)

Male Needham's Skimmer  Fort Fisher, 7/16/04.  About five of these red dragonflies showed up together at the beginning of the Basin Trail, but I've never seen any of this species before or since.  Randy Emmitt and Josh Rose provided this ID.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

   
Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella), Durham, 8/21/05.    

Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea)

Male Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), Durham, 6/13/06 Female Spangled Skimmer, Haw River State Park, Guilford & Rockingham Counties, NC, 5/31/08 Male Spangled Skimmer, Haw River State Park, Guilford & Rockingham Counties, NC, 5/31/08

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta)

Slaty Skimmer, in a power line cut near a swamp.  Durham, NC, 7/30/10 Male Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), Durham, 7/28/05. Male Slaty Skimmer, north Durham swamp, 7/16/05.  This is the darkest member of this species I've seen.  Note that there is little coloring difference between the head and the body. Male Slaty Skimmer, Durham, 7/16/05

 

Female Slaty Skimmer, Durham, 7/12/05.  I found this skimmer, probably a female, in a dark nook in woods not too far from a swamp. Female Slaty Skimmer, Durham, 7/31/04

Painted Skimmers (Libellula cyanea)

Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata), Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/11/05. Another Painted Skimmer,  same place and day as the skimmer on the left.

Great Blue Skimmers (Libellula vibrans)

Male Great Blue Skimmer, Durham, NC, 9/21/12 Mating Great Blue Skimmers, Durham, 8/17/05. Male Great Blue Skimmer, over a large water pipe.  Durham, NC, 7/30/10. Male Great Blue Skimmer, Durham, NC, 8/14/08 Very old, worn and faded.

 

 
Female or young Great Blue Skimmer, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 6/20/05 Female Great Blue Skimmer, Durham, 5/20/06 Immature Great Blue Skimmer, on the edge of a power line cut  

Blue Corporals (Libellula deplanata)

Adult male Blue Corporal (Libellula deplanata), Durham, NC, 4/14/11 Adult male Blue Corporal  (Libellula deplanata), Occoneechee Mountain, Orange County, NC, on 4/22/05.  IDs for this and the dragonfly next to it  were provided by Tim Allison. Adult male Blue Corporal, Mason Farm Biological Reserve (area north of the creek), 4/28/07

 

Recent metamorph Blue Corporal, Sewee Visitors Center trail, Francis Marion National Forest, Charleston County, SC, 3/29/06 Recent metamorph Blue Corporal, Ebenezer Church - Jordan Lake State Recreation Area, Chatham County, NC, 4/2/11

Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa)

Male Widow Skimmer, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 6/6/11 Male Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa), Penny's Bend Nature Reserve, 9/20/05. Male Widow Skimmer, Penny's Bend, Durham County, NC, 6/4/06.  Somewhat immature, seems to be in transition. Teneral male? Widow Skimmer, Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/23/05.  

 

Widow Skimmer, probably immature female, Raulston Arboretum, Wake County, NC, 9/23/05 Female Widow Skimmer, Sandy Creek Park, Durham, NC, 5/31/11 Mature female Widow Skimmer, Durham, NC, 6/10/10

Other Skimmers

Variegated Meadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum)

   
Mating Variegated Meadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum), Bay St. Louis, Hancock County, MS, 10/15/10    

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum)

         
Male Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum), Durham, NC, 9/16/09.  Seen in my local marsh.          

Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum)

Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 10/5/09 Male Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), Dare County, NC, 10/6/05. Male Autumn Meadowhawk, Mason Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 10/28/06.  This dragonfly was not quite 2 inches long, was one of 2 that I saw.

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)

         
Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), Goose Creek State Park, 9/21/08          

Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina)
         
Female Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), found collapsed on the Third Fork Creek Trail. Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), Ft. Fisher Basin Trail, New Hanover County, NC, 10/15/09 Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), Carolina Beach State Park, NC, 10/13/06          

Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida)

   
Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida), near Carolina Lake, Carolina Beach, NC, 8/29/12 Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida), Ft. Fisher Aquarium (outside), New Hanover County, NC, 6/26/08    

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

Male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplex longipennis), Durham, 6/9/05, in obelisk position.  This skimmer is the most common dragonfly at a swamp in my neighborhood.  See other Blue Dasher photos. Female Blue Dasher, Durham, 8/13/05, also in obelisk position.  Note the varied angles of the wings. Maybe a young male Blue Dasher, eating a fly.  Durham, 6/2/06 Mating Blue Dashers, Durham, 9/1/08

Halloween Pennants (Celithemis eponina)

Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina), Penny's Bend, Durham County, NC, 6/30/06.  Mating Halloween Pennants, Occoneechee Mountain, Orange County, NC, 8/12/06.  Order products with this picture on them at our online store. Male Halloween Pennant, meadow near Occoneechee Mountain, 9/4/04.  Tim Allison provided the species name. Female Halloween Pennant, Durham, 7/13/06. 

Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa)

Calico Pennant, Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham, NC, 5/20/10 Male Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa), Penny's Bend, Durham County, NC, 6/4/06 Male Calico Pennant, Haw River State Park, Guilford & Rockingham Counties, NC, 5/31/08 Female Calico Pennant.  See other dragonflies.

Banded Pennant (Celithemis fasciata)

Banded Pennant (Celithemis fasciata), Indian Creek Trail, a Jordan Lake Game Land, Chatham County, NC, 7/7/06

Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera)

 
Male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera), Raulston Arboretum, Raleigh, Wake County, 8/2/07 Male Eastern Amberwing, Flat River Impoundment, Durham, County, NC, 6/3/11  

 

Female Eastern Amberwing, in a swamp, Durham, NC, 7/30/10 Female Eastern Amberwing, Durham, 6/28/06 Female Eastern Amberwing in obelisk position, alongside the Quarry Trail, Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC, 8/19/06

Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax miniscula)

Adult male Little Blue Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax miniscula), Carolina Beach State Park, New Hanover County, NC, 10/13/06 Immature Little Blue Dragonlet, Harnett County, NC, 8/10/04.  Identified as such by Bob Perkins (during a NABA butterfly count) as well as by Emmitt and Rose. Immature Little Blue Dragonlet, seen at Carolina Beach State Park on 10/19/05.  The park was flooded, apparently by Hurricane Ophelia in September, which may have brought the many dragonflies I saw there. Adult female Little Blue Dragonlet, Airlie Gardens, Wilmington, New Hanover County, NC, 6/22/06.  Sure it's a dragonlet, not so sure it's this species.

Seaside Dragonlets (Erythrodiplax berenice)

The leftmost Seaside Dragonlet was identified by Jeff Pippen in consultation with Giff Beaton and Harry LeGrand.  Jeff expresses some doubts about this ID because of the large club.

Male Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice), Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area, New hanover County, NC, 8/27/12 Anomalous male Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice), Carolina Beach State Park, New Hanover County, NC, 9/16/07 Orange female Seaside Dragonlet Erythrodiplax berenice), Ft. Fisher State Recreation Area, New hanover County, NC, 8/27/12 Post-mating Seaside Dragonlets, Hoop Pole Creek Trail, Atlantic Beach, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08.  The male stands on the female's head for a while afterward so she can't mate with any other males. Male-like female Seaside Dragonlet, Hoop Pole Creek Trail, Atlantic Beach, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08. Adult male Seaside Dragonlet, Hoop Pole Creek Trail, Atlantic Beach, Carteret County, NC, 7/23/08.
 

Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia)

Teneral male Common Whitetail, Durham, NC, 7/18/11 Teneral male Common Whitetail, Flat River Impoundment, Durham County, NC, 7/14/11 Adult female Common Whitetail, Maosn Farm Biological Reserve, Orange County, NC, 5/11/12 Mature female Common Whitetail, Durham, NC, 7/14/11.  These are much more common than the males. Mature male Common Whitetail , Durham, 6/9/05. Nearly mature Male Common Whitetail, Durham, 7/22/05.

Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollus)

Female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simpliciollus), Eno River SP, Old Cole Mill Road access, 6/11/05 Female Eastern Pondhawk, Durham, 8/1/05 Female Eastern Pondhawk with prey, Durham, 8/6/05

 

Well-fed adult male Eastern Pondhawk, Durham, 6/27/05. Not so well-fed adult male Eastern Pondhawk, Durham, 8/6/06.  This dragonfly is in worse shape the one on the left, skinnier and more worn. Young male Eastern Pondhawk, Durham, 7/28/05, in transition from green coloring. Young male Eastern Pondhawk (close-up), Durham, NC, 7/17/08.  See other dragonflies. Young male Eastern Pondhawk with prey, Durham, 6/17/06

Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)

Wandering Glider aka Globetrotter (Pantola flavescens), Durham, 10/1/05. This kind of dragonfly never stops flying, so I had to photograph it in the air. This Wandering Glider was flying all around the Ft. Fisher Basin Trail on 10/18/05, but never landed. Wandering Glider, uncharacteristically perched, Gulf Shores National Seashore, Ocean Springs, Harrison County, MS, 10/4/10

Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea)

         
Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea) in an Old Salem garden, Winston-Salem, Forsyth County, NC, 7/25/14          

Mystery Skimmers

Maybe a setwing (Dythemis genus), Penny's Bend Nature Preserve, Durham County, NC, 8/13/06

 

Skimmer, White Pines Nature Preserve, Chatham County, NC, 4/16/06.  This was a particularly tiny skimmer, about an inch long.

 

Mystery skimmer,  Boone, Watauga County, 8/31/05.  This skimmer was in almost constant motion near a creek, but stopped briefly here.

 

This female skimmer was hovering in the air in Durham, 6/29/05, apparently as part of a mating ritual.  No males were evident.

            

Copyright 2005-2011 Dorothy E. Pugh

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