Monday, June 18, 2012

Dragonfly: Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi)

May 18th, 2012. I was wandering back to the truck, a little despondent over repeated, but failed, attempts to photograph a Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) butterfly. I wasn’t paying much attention to anything when I became aware of something rather large flying directly towards me. I was aware that it was a dragonfly.

Now a lot of dragonflies along this road fly like small stealth helicopters – hardly noticeable unless you’re looking for them. Others are gregarious and dart around at high speed. But this dragonfly seemed to be traveling in slow motion, lumbering along like a huge cargo plane coming in to land. Time seemed to stand still. And then it landed *on* me. Not on my front, but down on the side of my shorts, towards the back.

I figured I’d get one shot. I switched from the zoom to macro setting. Then I held the camera as close as I dared. I couldn’t get a look at the viewfinder. I just had to aim the lens in the general direction of the dragonfly, hold the focus button long enough for the lens to focus and take the shot.

Not bad! And I was right. This was the only shot I got. When I started to turn slowly, it flew off. At first I thought it was one of the big stream cruisers but when that didn’t pan out, I searched for a name that included ‘gray’ and there it was. A Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi). A once-in-a-lifetime shot – or close to it.

Gray Petaltails are usually hard to spot because they frequently land on tree trunks and blend into the background. In Georgia they occur throughout the state between late March and late July.

Click on an image to view a larger image

Identification resources:
- Dragonflies and Damselflies (Odonata) of Georgia: Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi)

- BugGuide: Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi)
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