Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bug of the week (or Where's Waldo?)

[Click on image(s) to see larger version(s). All photos copyright by Tony Leukering.]

While I really had intended this semi-regular feature to treat only those groups of arthropods that are not very popular with birders and other naturephiles (thus, no butterflies or dragonflies/damselflies), today I took a picture that just screamed to be used on the blog. So, this one time only, here's a dragonfly as the bug of the week.

Harlequin Darner is about the earliest dragonfly species to emerge each spring in southern New Jersey, flying from early April into June, at the latest. In my previous springs here in Cape May, I've spent most of my field time on Cape Island, which has so little native forested habitat left that Harlequin Darner is very rare there. This spring, though, I've been concentrating my field time in the northern half of the county, in an endeavor to learn the early-season dragonflies to be found there and not on the island. I've been amazed at how common Harlequins are there, particularly on the various powerline cuts that I've wandered through.

Today's wanderlust had me heading to the Swainton area, specifically to look for Frosted Elfins, but I think that it was just a wee bit cool for them. Harlequin Darners, however, were quite common. Despite the many that I've seen this spring, I was very surprised when watching one fly around and then land on the bole of a Pitch Pine to note that there were others perched on that same pine! In fact, more than just a few others! Hopefully, you can find the seven individuals in the picture, above.

Darners, as a group, tend to perch hanging from vegetation, though some, like Harlequins, will perch on the trunks of trees; perching on the ground is somewhat rare in the group. So, I also spent some time photographing Harlequins perched on the ground.

One of the nicest aspects of Harlequin Darner for photographers, at least, is their penchant to hover in place for long enough to get a camera focused on them. Thanks to the bright sun, I was able to have both reasonable depth of field and a fast-enough shutter speed to both get the whole bug in focus and to nearly freeze the wings. Thanks, Sun!