Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Red Saddlebags

Last year I mentioned a New York Times article on dragonflies. The piece states that lions, scourge of the African plains, only catch about 25% of their prey. Great White Sharks, terror of the open ocean, see their attacks fail half the time. Dragonflies, on the other hand, may be “the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom”—with success rates of over 95%! Not only that, dragonflies appear to be insatiable. Researchers fed 30 flies to a dragonfly in the lab and “it would have happily kept eating if there had been more food…”  Other scientists discovered that dragonfly brains are wired to focus on a single prey, keeping track of flight speed and distance. Until too late, the prey is clueless to the attack. Dragonflies come from behind and below and are able to hover, dive, fly backward and upside down. They can pivot 260 degrees in three wingbeats, which can stroke independently of each other.
I took these photos of a Red Saddlebags at Circle Lake near Northfield on 7 September. These dragonflies migrate into our area from the south, and may not be present every year. I have blogged about these saddlebags several times, including this year and in 2012. Photographing flying dragonflies takes patience and quick, manual focus. Especially the first photo falls into the Lucky Shot category.

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