Wings but no Feathers

Wings but no Feathers

As my loyal readers in South Texas know, August is a cruel month. Hot and humid, it is hard to get out of the air conditioning. Day after day of over 100 F days or at least Heat Indexes over 100 F make moving around with cameras and binoculars most difficult. The birds are even hot and bedraggled this time of year.

But, I have to take photos. Now and then the days are overcast and I sought out places where I could park close and not have to hike for a long distance to find some willing subjects. My new locations are

  • Discovery Green - a downtown park with a big pond with close by parking on the weekends.
  • Houston Arboretum - several meadows and ponds around the air conditioned Nature Center.
  • Brazos Bend - along the trail on 40-acre lake to the Observation Tower (which has cold water dispensers most of the time).
  • Arthur Storey Park - on a sekrit road back to the spillway accessible only by 4-wheel drive.

As I said, the birds are quiet this time of the year. Instead, I found a lot of dragonflies and damselflies I want to share with you.  I have done my best to identify these new critters, but I could be mistaken. Let me know if I have misidentified any of these. Remember, I just have a learner permit for Odonates. Oh, and there are some butterflies, as well.

Discovery Green Park, downtown Houston - edited with Topaz Simplify

Discovery Green Park, downtown Houston - edited with Topaz Simplify

I have no idea what those buildings are. Downtown is almost a foreign country to me these days. To get oriented, the George Brown Convention Center is behind me. There were lots of dragonflies in the lilies and vegetation around the edges of the pond. I wore my rubber boots and waded right in.

Dragonfly edited with Topaz Simplify, Fractalius and Oil Paint

Dragonfly edited with Topaz Simplify, Fractalius and Oil Paint

This guy is a male Blue Dasher, or Pachydiplax longipennis. These are members of the Skimmer family and are quite common in this area around ponds, lakes and quiet bodies of water. But, they vary in size a great deal, and the females look different. Key points of identification are the white face, blue or green eyes and those stripes on the pale green thorax. The rest of his body is called the abdomen, and it is pale blue with the black tip.

This identifying part is HARD, ya'll. 

Blink station at the Houston Arboretum

Blink station at the Houston Arboretum

The Houston Arboretum is just inside our Loop 610 and next to Memorial Park. All of Houston is green and lush, but this is a great way to get out and hike around and enjoy the outdoors. That is what I tell myself when I see young couples pushing infants around in those high-dollar strollers.

Oh, and if you buy an electric car, you can charge it up right there at the Nature Center. 

Gulf Fritillary

Gulf Fritillary

This is a very common butterfly that I have a hard time spelling and getting decent photos. Gulf Fritillary. The undersides of their wings are lighter, with white markings. A trick I learned is to stand by some purple flowers when they are in the area to have a decent chance of capturing one. The caterpillars are bright orange; I know I took some photos at Brazos Bend earlier this year. I will make sure it is in the Critter Gallery.

Slaty Skimmer

Slaty Skimmer

This is another Skimmer, the Slaty Skimmer Libellula incesta Hagen. I took this by a pond in the South Meadow at the Houston Arboretum and from what I can research, this is the male. The females are seldom seen around water except to mate, which takes about 30 seconds.

Well. Who knew that?

Fiery Skipper (male)

Fiery Skipper (male)

Isn't that a pretty one? Inside the Houston Arboretum Nature Center, they have specimen boxes of all the butterflies and moths, so I was able to identify this one with some certainty. Fiery Skippers are not but about an inch long. I only saw this one, perched on some lovely dead crap.

Halloween Pennant dragonfly at Brazos Bend

Halloween Pennant dragonfly at Brazos Bend

The Halloween Pennant or Celithemis eponina is really impressive. The wings are large and banded with brown; its face is yellow or olive. I love the red stripe and touch of red on the wing tips. I find this phrase over and over in my Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas, "females lay eggs accompanied by the male". Much research later, I can tell you that means "Females normally lay their eggs in the morning, in open water, whilst their mate is still attached to them by the head".

Nature is so surprising. 

Eastern Pondhawk, female

Eastern Pondhawk, female

Now to this Eastern Pondhawk business. I had seen the green ones, like above, all around Brazos Bend. And someone told me they were Pondhawks. So, I was sure there was at least one dragonfly I could readily identify.

Yes, this is an Eastern Pondhawk or Erythemis simplicicollis. But this is a female or a young male. As the males mature, they start turning blue. The color is called pruinose blue. I looked that up for you so you don't have to click.

Pruinose: (of a surface, such as that of a grape) covered with white powdery granules; frosted in appearance.
Male Eastern Pondhawk, edited with Fractalius and Oil Paint

Male Eastern Pondhawk, edited with Fractalius and Oil Paint

The above dragonfly is the adult male Eastern Pondhawk. I am sure you noticed how very different he is from the Blue Dasher shown earlier. They both have green heads, but this one has no yellow on his thorax or stripes. See, it is easy once you get the hang of it, no?

Four-spotted pennant, Brazos Bend

Four-spotted pennant, Brazos Bend

The one above is a Four-spotted Pennant or Brachymesia gravida. And is probably quite common; I even have several photos. My research says the head is black and white, becoming entirely black in older individuals. I am not sure how long they live or what "older" even means. Some of the dragonflies I have photographed late this summer have such damaged wings, I don't know how they fly.

American Rubyspot, damselfly 

American Rubyspot, damselfly 

Not a dragonfly, but a damselfly. They hold their wings together more in parallel to their bodies when at rest. This American Rubyspot or Hetaerina americana had the most beautiful flashes of dark crimson when it did spread its wings, but I was about to fall in the ditch so I couldn't react fast enough to get a picture of that! And I am pretty sure this was a 4-chigger photo, due to the high weeds.

I posted this on Instagram with a plea for help since I could not internet identify the species. And within a short time, I had an answer. Being connected is sometimes a good thing.

OK. Now I am back from summer vacation and ready to share a lot of new photos and adventures with you.

Dd you miss me? Let me know in the comments below. Sign in with any name you want as a guest or do the Facebook thing. It doesn't matter.

Photos and Photoshop

Photos and Photoshop

Kittehs

Kittehs