Friday, July 30, 2010

Everglades Airshow

After an exhausting six hour swamp walk in search of Ghost Orchids, my friends and I emerged from the blazing, sweltering sawgrass prairie and arrived back at our vehicles. The desolate dirt road they were parked on paralleled a drainage canal in the Everglades that carried the life blood of the “River of Grass” from points north towards civilization. Water does not flow naturally out here like it once did, at least not on the horizontal plane. Most of the water that nourishes the Everglades comes down vertically as rain. Everything else is consumed by humans.
Entirely wiped out, I unfold a chair, sit and drink the last of what is now sun-heated water from my water bottle.
I don’t stir. I don’t have the energy to. But the air buzzes with activity as I witness my own Everglades air show. Bees, wasps and butterflies zip from flower to flower checking for nectar. Predatory dragonflies navigate the tall grass like lace-winged fighter pilots seeking prey to tear apart and devour.
What is striking to me is the diversity of creatures in the small roadside patch of grass before me. In an area no bigger than a kiddy pool, I count numerous insects flitting about and without leaving my chair I’m able to pan a total of six feet and spot four seemingly distinct species of Dragonflies. Or did I?
Top Left – Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens)
Top Right and Bottom Left – Common Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)

Bottom Right – Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina)

As the male Common Pondhawk matures, green with black stripes gives way to a powdery blue pattern. The dragonfly in the top right is the same as the one in the bottom left.
Your homework is to figure out which dragonfly is in the top left. Note the yellow spots on each wing, the amber pattern on the upper forewing and the distinct black coloration on the tail? All photos were taken in Collier County, Florida. 

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