Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Henry! -- who's the pond visitor?

Henry David Thoreau, author of Walden and Civil Disobedience, was born 200 years ago today in Concord Massachusetts. I'm not yet quite old enough to claim to have known him personally, but as a native New Englander, I am familiar with his writings and his life, as, I would suggest, all patriotic Americans should be. I have few doubts that Mr. Thoreau's time spent at Walden Pond included a thunderstorm or two and a number of observations of dragonflies.

an immature male Elfin Skimmer?
an immature male Elfin Skimmer?
Photo by J. Harrington

I mention that because we "enjoyed" some storms last night that trashed areas just to our immediate south and beyond, but, unlike earlier this week, we didn't suffer a power loss from last night's storms. As I was hanging the bird feeders this morning though, I noticed what appeared to be a storm casualty, a drowned dragonfly. (I may have mentioned previously that I am unduly enamored of those outstanding fliers. I suspect it is related to my affinity for water, wetlands, fish, ducks and the like.) I quickly finished feeder hanging and went to get my camera. It's not every day I see a partially submerged dragonfly floating in our bird bath. As I was fiddling with focus and the shutter release, I noticed a twitch from the "recently deceased." Sliding a finger under the "body" ended with the critter crawling up that self-same finger as if it were no more than a handy branch, which is actually all it was to the dragonfly. It then perched on the extended finger for a short while; finally, it shook its wings and flew away; leaving me with an early morning feeling of having at least started my day with one good deed under my belt.

what other dragonfly is this small?
what other dragonfly is this small?
Photo by J. Harrington

I subsequently spent an unreasonable amount of time searching through Stokes' Beginner's Guide to Dragonflies as well as Dragonflies of the North Woods, by Kurt Mead. Neither had a picture that exactly matched the critter that had been saved. My best guess is that it is an immature male Elfin Skimmer, in the process of turning from black to powder blue. If any of you wish to suggest an alternative identification based on these pictures, I'd love it. Since we all know that a picture's worth a thousand words, please consider this posting a multi-thousand word plea for help in confirming or modifying an identification of the "swimming" dragonfly.

The Dragon-fly


by Tennyson


Today I saw the dragon-fly
Come from the wells where he did lie.
An inner impulse rent the veil
Of his old husk: from head to tail
Came out clear plates of sapphire mail.
He dried his wings: like gauze they grew;
Thro’ crofts and pastures wet with dew
A living flash of light he flew.

Lord Tennyson 1833


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