Saturday, September 6, 2014

Untrained flying dragons migrating

More and more color is starting to show in local trees. One of the aspen (poplar) clones is turning yellow. Some oak leaves are browning. This maple up north took a jump start. Soon the pumpkins will be ripe and, even sooner, the honey crisps will be in. And, I think some of our dragonflies are starting to migrate.

really early color
Photo by J. Harrington

The more I learn about Minnesota's natural history, the more I discover just how little I do know. I don't recall ever coming across the idea that dragonflies migrate before I worked on identifying the juvenile common green darner 9pictured below) that was on the outside of our screened porch yesterday. (Dragonflies of the North Woods is the guide in my library.) Based on the number of mosquitoes and flies we have (no hard frosts yet), I wish there were more of these predators out patrolling.

Common Green Darner
Photo by J. Harrington

I had higher hopes for the quality of this and similar photos. I can't quite sort out how much of the problem is attributable to equipment and how much to my skills as a photographer, or lack thereof. My grandfather used to say "it's a poor workman blames his tools." I'll try harder and longer before I decide that the lenses I have are holding me back. The guidance, that I ignored, to use a tripod for macrophotography probably warrants a revisit also. There's nothing wrong with Nancy Willard's poetic skills, as you can see.

The Vanity of the Dragonfly

By Nancy Willard 

The dragonfly at rest on the doorbell—
too weak to ring and glad of it,
but well mannered and cautious,
thinking it best to observe us quietly
before flying in, and who knows if he will find
the way out? Cautious of traps, this one.
A winged cross, plain, the body straight
as a thermometer, the old glass kind
that could kill us with mercury if our teeth
did not respect its brittle body. Slim as an eel
but a solitary glider, a pilot without bombs
or weapons, and wings clear and small as a wish
to see over our heads, to see the whole picture.
And when our gaze grazes over it and moves on,
the dragonfly changes its clothes,
sheds its old skin, shriveled like laundry,
and steps forth, polished black, with two
circles buttoned like epaulettes taking the last space
at the edge of its eyes.


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