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We are getting into one of my favorite times of year, peak dragonfly season. Dragonflies begin to show up in southern Arizona as early as late February/early March, but they really begin appearing in large numbers about now. Places like Sweetwater Wetlands or the riparian area of Sabino Canyon, or even the riparian habitat at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, are suddenly full of these beautiful insects. It only gets better from here on in, with the peak coming around the middle or latter part of September. I will be featuring more dragonfly photos in the weeks to come.
Yesterday, I was delighted to be able to photograph a male Mexican Amberwing. Mexican Amberwings may be my favorite dragonfly species. They are certainly among the most beautiful.
The males, like this one, are bedecked in hues of gold and orange. Females are somewhat less colorful. Mexican Amberwings are relatively small as dragonflies go. An individual insect is about 1 1/2 inches in length, about half the size of one of the big skimmers. However, they make up in intensity for what they lack in size. In the right setting, one of these insects is visible from 30 or more feet away.
Different species of dragonflies are relatively harder or easier to photograph. Some, like the darners, never stop moving and photographing a perching specimen is nearly impossible. Roseate Skimmers are quite skittish whereas other skimmer species are relatively docile. Blue Dashers are a piece of cake. Mexican Amberwings are sort of medium-difficult. I find them hard to approach, at first. On first encounter a perching Amberwing will generally fly when I am about 15 feet away. But, eventually, these insects become used to my presence and, after a while, I can come closer and closer, until, finally, the insect will allow me to take its picture. It helps that, once an Amberwing finds a perch that it likes, it keeps returning to it again and again.
Here’s an interesting fact about dragonflies that I was unaware of until very recently. Dragonflies cannot walk! They can use their legs to grasp and they are quite effective at clinging to a perch, even when that perch is swaying fairly violently in a breeze. But, they lack the structure and muscles to enable ambulation. A dragonfly moves entirely by flying.
Images made with a Canon 5DS-R, 180 f3.5L Macro Lens assisted by Canon 600EX-RT Speedlite, ISO 125, M setting, f11 @ 1/160.