widow skimmer

A female Widow Skimmer dragonfly at Prettyboy Reservoir, Baltimore County, Maryland, USA. © 2017 S. D. Stewart

Note: While I initially thought this was a female, widow skimmers are sexually dimorphic, meaning that even though the mature males and females look different, the immature males look similar to the females (this is also not uncommon in birds). A good way to separate the sexes is by their terminal appendages, as nicely illustrated in this post by Walter Sanford. The female has two, while the male has three. In order to determine this, one needs a clear close-up view. Unfortunately the resolution of my images is not quite high enough to determine the sex for certain. When I have the image magnified, it looks to me like there is possibly an epiproct present, but because of the angle of the shot I can’t be sure.

UPDATE: Walter Sanford stopped by and identified it as a female (see comments). Thanks, Walter!

pine barrens

Yesterday I rode my bike to Lake Roland, a favorite Friday activity for several years. As always, I entered through the pine barrens section of the park. This unique area speaks to me; the sweet pine fragrance in the air and the low volume of human traffic combine to make an ideal haven for this solace-seeking pilgrim.

Here is the beginning of the trail leading into the pine barrens:

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Pine barrens at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

I have been paying more attention to the abundant insect life while out in the woods. I don’t know if the Odonata species (dragonflies and damselflies) this year are more prolific but they’re catching my eye more than usual. I tried to capture a few shots before my camera’s battery died. The photos are unfortunately not so clear because I digi-binned them (i.e. used my point-and-shoot through binoculars). It’s incredibly difficult to keep my camera hand steady while shooting through binoculars. I would love to get a nicer camera, but that’s going to have to wait. There are 177 confirmed Odonata species in Maryland, and I can now identify two of them. I have a long way to go, but plenty of time.

Note: there are a few basic differences between dragonflies and damselflies. In general, damselfly bodies are narrower, while dragonfly bodies are thicker. Most damselflies also fold their wings over their bodies when perched while dragonflies keep them spread out. Damselflies also have eyes that are clearly separated, while dragonflies have eyes that are close together, and typically meet in the middle. Of the two species below (the first two photos are male and female of the same species), can you tell whether they are damsels or dragons? No cheating with Google, either…

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia), Male, at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia), Male, Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia) at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

Common Whitetail (Libellula lydia), Female, at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

© 2012 S. D. Stewart, Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata), Male, at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata), Male, at Lake Roland, Baltimore County, MD

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