Singing the Blues

Sometimes it seems as if Mother Nature picks one color and runs with it. Recently that color has been blue. It's been everywhere I've looked, particularly here in the yard. Blue bugs, blue birds, blue flowers, blue berries...bright blue, dark blue, light blue...BLUE! In the interest of brevity, though, let's just concern ourselves with some of the bugs and birds.

Let's start with the dragonflies (all those pictured are males, the females show different colors)...

First up, the Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans)
As the name implies, this is a fairly large dragonfly, averaging between 2 and 2.5 inches. They are everywhere right now. They are particularly fond of the front porch for some reason. I like them because they are not camera shy.

Next we have the Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). 
I tend to think of these guys as the cats of the dragonfly world. If you're working on something outside, you are sure to have a visit from one of these. They love to "participate" in whatever activity is going on. Plus, they are not shy about landing on you. I've had them on my head, my arms, my legs, my feet...they just swoop in and make themselves at home. Like I said - cats.

Now for some flash and dazzle, we have the Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea).
Check out the black and white stigma on the wings. This is the only species in the East that sports such bling. It is a very noticeable feature whether the dragonfly is in flight or at rest. It will certainly catch your eye.

For spunk, you can't beat the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)
Males spend a good deal of time patrolling and chasing other males. When they do sit, they cock their wings forward in an attitude of readiness. And I love to see them obelisk on hot, sunny days. Obelisking is a behavior that helps a dragonfly in an open area avoid overheating. One will perch and then raise its abdomen up in the direction of the sun. This helps to reduce the amount of sunlight that hits the critter, keeping it cooler. It's a pretty neat trick.

The darkest blue of the dragonflies in the yard is the Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta).
I often see these skimmers hanging out with the larger Great Blues. They have black eyes and very dark stigma that go quite well with their slate blue coloration.

Some will argue that this last dragonfly is not blue at all. That's understandable considering that it's called a Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia).
If you look closely, you'll see that the color is more a pruinose pale blue than white - at least to my eye. (Pruinescence, or pruinosity, is one of those terms that gets some folks' panties in a bunch when referring to odonates. Here I am referring to the sort of chalky look on the abdomen of this dragonfly.)

Now let's move to the blue birds that are around the yard. We have an abundance! (I was only able to get photos of two of the four species of blue birds that call our yard home. The Blue Grosbeaks and the Blue Jays were most uncooperative when I went out with my camera.)

 Most years we have multiple Eastern Bluebirds nesting on the property. This year only one box has been used, but two broods have been raised. Feisty creatures, bluebirds. I once watched one haul a Carolina Chickadee out of a box and wrestle it to the ground. The chickadee had first dibs on the box but the bluebird had an attitude. Such a bully bird!

But they do have some pretty eggs :)

I dare you to find a bluer blue bird (in the East) than the Indigo Bunting. It's an electric blue when the sun hits it. We have at least four Indigo Bunting pairs raising broods on the property this year. The males sing their little hearts out.

There are other blue things out there but I'm out of time right now. Glad you stopped by!


Pablo said...

I can never get close enuf to most dragonflies to get photos like yours.

Nice post.

Guy said...


I loved the photos. We have Rose Breasted Grosbeaks but I have never seen a Blue they do not occur here. I am building Bluebird boxes for the members of our family, we have Mountain Bluebirds at the farm this year and I am hoping to encourage them. It was interesting to hear about your experience.

All the best

swamp4me said...

Pablo, some dragonflies allow me to get close, but most of the time I have to rely on the zoom feature of my camera. If I would break down and get a tripod, I could get some cleaner shots!

Guy, we see Rose-breasted Grosbeaks only during migration here. I call them the ACC basketball bird because of that squeak they make when they make their call note. The only time I have ever heard their song was this past May when we were in the mountains of NC. I've never been West, so I've never seen a Mountain Bluebird.

Unknown said...
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Anonymous said...

*Mr. Bloggerific Himself peeps around the corner, taking in the landscape, scanning, scanning..*

swamp4me said...

And Mr. Bloggerific Himself is more than welcome in the landscape!!

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Amos Garry said...

Nature is magical. It creates so many blue species. I like the blue dragonfly and the bird and they look wonderful when the sun shines on them.

swamp4me said...

I agree! Nature is indeed magical.

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