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Archive for January, 2012

Welcome to Eye on Nature!

Eye on Nature is a blog about the natural world, especially those parts of nature that we can enjoy when we take the time to look at what’s around us.

Take, for example, the green and black fellow peering out at you from the Eye on Nature header photo. That’s a damselfly called an eastern forktail (Ischnura verticalis). It’s one of the most common damselflies in eastern North America and is found in both wetland and upland habitats from May through October. But you could easily overlook this damselfly because it’s only about an inch long and often blends in with its surroundings.

I spotted this eastern forktail on an iris leaf while strolling in my garden in late May 2010. I went to get my camera and tripod and, when I returned to the garden a few minutes later, he was in the same patch of irises. He was remarkably tolerant of my setting up my camera a few inches away from him. This approachability is characteristic of many damselflies. I took the below close-up photo of bluet damselflies in Cape May, New Jersey while they were in their heart-shaped mating wheel.

Bluet damselflies in mating wheel

Bluet damselflies in mating wheel

Damselflies versus Dragonflies

Damselflies are close relatives of dragonflies. Both are members of the insect order Odonata and are informally called “odes”. Damselflies are thin, delicate looking insects that hold their wings above their bodies while at rest. They are weak fliers. Dragonflies generally are larger and stouter and hold their wings out to the sides or somewhat forward while at rest. They are fast and talented fliers.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly with wings held to sides

To learn more about these fascinating insects, I recommend the 2004 book Dragonflies by Cynthia Berger (ISBN 0-8117-2971-0). The book provides a readable overview of the life history and behavior of dragonflies and damselflies. It also has descriptions and illustrations of the most common species in North America. It’s available through Amazon from used book sellers.

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