Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Monday Dragons Report Comes on Wednesday This Week

Who knew that the Monday Dragon and Damsel report would come on Wednesday this week? Well, I had some computer issues relative to my photo programs, but hopefully those have been resolved for now.

There is one species of dragonfly that has continued to intrigue me over the summer. That is the Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). The Amberwing is a small dragonfly that prefers still waters and we normally have quite a few around the pond.
The above is a male of the species. The females are similar in size and shape but generally the wings are more transparent and have bands.

What intrigues me is the way some of these Amberwings tend to hang out together. From what I have read it seems that they are territorial, but I continually see 2-3 flying and perching in close proximity to one another. In fact, they are the only dragonflies which I often capture together and when they are active they do not seem to actually interfere with each other.
Solitary Amberwings are generally a little harder to capture up close. They tend to perch on short sticks out over the water. While it is hard to get close to them for good, detailed captures, having them close to the water can provide for interesting photo's if one has the right angle for a good reflection.
One other thing that intrigues me about them is a habit they have of revisiting a particularly small section on the surface of the pond. Normally it will be a small patch of floating vegetation maybe 1-2 inches in diameter Originally I thought it might be related to mating or the depositing of eggs, but the behavior is exhibited by males when no females are around that I can see and it appears they do not normally actually touch the water or vegetation. I presume they are feeding on some extremely small insects living on the vegetation. Here's a short video displaying this behavior.

Please Note: This video includes audio that can be adjusted on the video. It is not excessively loud, but you may want to adjust the initial volume settings depending on your situation.

Dragonfly - Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) from BakerWatson on Vimeo.

They will often return over and over to these small patches and frequently there will be two or maybe even three of them alternating on the same small patch.


  1. I notice that during your study of the dragon/damsel flies you have come much more educated about their habitat and the actual behavior of most of the species.

    As I have been reading your blog I believe to see nature and really learn is to look at the smaller parts,such as you do with the pond.

    To just look at a pond you would never know just how much of nature is right there with you,nice work.

  2. Hello Baker..I have observed that same behavior on the pond. I assumed that two dragonflies were disputing territory. That isn't the case?

    Great video clip....Michelle

  3. I love the reflection photo, real nice.

    Sometimes I think I’m going crazy seeing the dragonflies in the wrong places, such as my work place parking lot, the mall parking lot, the bank parking lot and they’d fly from one car to the next w/o landing, I figured it was too hot. Have you noticed them elsewhere?

  4. Floyd - Thanks so much for the kind words. I find the dragons and damsels particularly interesting because so much of their life revolves around the pond and I can observe them more easily than the fish and turtles in the pond or animals around the pond such as frogs and many of the birds. Doing a bit of research and learning about what I'm seeing adds a lot to the whole experience.

    Michelle - I think in most cases you are right. Many male dragonflies (and damselflies) are evidently highly territorial in the breeding grounds. I understand the male Widow, for instance, maintains a territory of about 250 square yards and that seems about right according to where I see them posted around the pond. With many of the dragons and damsels you will actually see them fly directly at one another and sometimes collide to run a competitor out of their area. Or they will harass another dragon/damsel that is perched in their territory.

    What is interesting to me about these little guys is that their actions often do not appear adversarial. It is like they are hanging out together. They seem to fly around more like a team quite often.

    Perhaps they just have a different approach to the whole territory issue and I just don't recognize it. It may be they keep together waiting for the females and then have their little battles. I'm still researching it trying to figure out what I'm observing, lol.

    And about the video. I have often seen one of those dragonflies dip down on a spot like that while another one or two stay hovering nearby. Then they will swap places with one of the hovering ones repeating the same swooping type actions while the original one hovers nearby.

  5. Ginger

    I like the reflection one. too. I think you can see the dragonfly better in the reflection than directly, particularly the legs.

    You are not going crazy, lol. Dragonflies spend most of their time away from the water breeding grounds, especially the females. If you consider how fast they fly they can easily travel a couple of miles or more within minutes. (Some estimate that many dragonflies may fly as many as 85 miles in total in a day so a 3-4 mile round trip is not all that far for them.)

    And, they head to where the food is. I would guess you see them in parking lots because that is where you happen to be outside when going to work, to the bank, and shopping. It just makes them seem out of place because there is limited water and vegetation nearby. It could be that they are just passing through the area looking for better feeding grounds. Or perhaps some parking lots are good feeding grounds due to specific small insects that congregate there. Just think of the specific species of birds that you often see in many of those locations. They are normally there because there is food available.

    Though I've often seen them in parking lots I've never noticed the 'going from one car to another' behavior. This is purely a guess, but it could be they mistake the shiny cars for water, particularly the tops and hoods or trunks. Once they get close enough they realize their mistake (perhaps due to the heat) and move on.

    I have often noticed them perched on the tip of a car antenna.


  6. It never ceases to amaze me how many dragons and damsels you have....the pond is obviously perfect for the species.....I love the colours and the reflections in the water.....the information you give is wonderful, I learn something else everytime I visit...tku

  7. Very nice shots. I have to say I've never seen 2 dragonfly's together either. I had no idea they were so territorial.

    The reflection shot is amazing :)

  8. cheryl - Some days the pond is unbelievably busy with dragonflies. We don't have as large a variety as some ponds/marshes may have but they are certainly active.

    sandy - Thanks - The territoriality is primarily a breeding grounds behavior I believe. Some males will stake out a territory and wait for the females to arrive. The males don't always stay on the breeding grounds. Most spend a lot of their time away as do the females. But, most of the dragonflies one sees around the water are likely to be males as the females generally come primarily just to breed and lay eggs.

    One great thing about taking photo's around the pond is the opportunity for reflection shots. Those Amberwings make great subjects for the reflection shots as they often perch on short sticks within 1-3 feet of the shore giving a good angle for the reflection.

  9. Great Shots. The two look like they are WWI air raid bombers out for a ride in formation. The video is great!

  10. another great post Baker! The Amberwings are adorable - I am lucky and have tons here as well!
    Quick comment regarding one of the comments above - I read that dragonflies are frequently seen near parking lots because their eyes process the black asphalt as a body of water and I guess they get confused - the car antennae must look like a stick! what do you think?

  11. Thanks, april.

    portals - thanks - Now that you mention it I seem to remember having read that somewhere, too. It makes sense considering that the lot would be not only dark resembling water but also expansive and flat.

    I wonder, though, if they are really that prevalent in parking lots. If they are it probably means there are a lot of them around in general. I would think maybe they just more draw more attention in parking lots because they are easily seen compared to most other insects and they make a deeper impression because they don't seem to belong there.

    I'm not saying that people don't see them often there, just that they seem to register more for being 'out of place.' I see them from time to time in parking lots myself, but then I seem to always be looking for them, lol. For many people parking lots may be one of the places they happen to spend a lot of their outdoor time. If I should go by car to run a few errands and do some shopping that takes a good part of the day it is likely the only places I am outside is in a parking lot.

  12. so true Baker! I see them everywhere but there has to be a good population in the area to draw them to a parking lot. What is so cute to me now is that I get updates from my son, nephews and niece about where they see dragonflies and they have started paying more attention!


Thanks for stopping by to visit our little pond. We would love to see you again real soon.