May 21, 2013

Little Dragons of the Air

Nights have been cool here, and dragonflies were a little late in appearing, but they are here at last, and in legions.  At some time during the last few days, the dragonflies of the Lanark highlands began to emerge, and the first of the season were out and about during our pottering last weekend.

In darkness, the naiads (nymphs) climbed out of streams and ponds and affixed themselves to nearby saplings and twigs. Clinging to their airy perches, they breathed in and out in the evening air, and their transformation into adults began.  Existing exoskeletons opened under the sustained pressure of  heightened blood pressure and a deep resonant breathing rather like meditating.   Newly fledged dragonflies climbed out of the outgrown skins and up into the night like fragile wraiths.

The emerged adults (or tenerals) clung to chosen twigs as their soft new exoskeletons and legs firmed up and took on characteristic species markings and colors.  Their untried wings were folded meditatively together, becoming glossy and iridescent and strong enough for flying - toward the end of the metamorphosis, the wings opened and moved outward into the classic extended dragonfly posture that distinguishes dragonflies from their exquisite damselfly kin.  As the sun climbed above the horizon, the newborn dragonflies arose in glistening clouds and launched themselves skyward on their maiden flight.

It's an event to be treasured, this hopeful uprising of newborn dragonflies at sunrise - it's a moment of elemental grace in a world that often seems to have lost its way and gone mad in its wanderings.  It's a reminder, and I need such reminders often.

This dear little wonder is (I think) is a male Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura).  There was a brisk wind on the western hill, so the photos are not nearly as clear as I would like them to be, but here is one of the first dragons of the season for all that.

3 comments:

Lilian Nattel said...

Wow. Magnificent shots.

Kiki said...

what a soothing and beautiful description in - as you said - often horrible and difficult time! Thank You - I learned something today (-night - it's nearly midnight here!!!)

Guy said...

Hi Cate

Lovely I have not seen any here yet but I am looking forward to it. Thanks for the photo.

Guy