Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Dragonfly of 2013

Common Whitetail Dragonfly. Pen and watercolor by Ken Januski.

Well, first identified dragonfly I should say. We saw one very briefly about two weeks ago, but only long enough to see that it was a dragonfly. We couldn't begin to make a guess as to its identification.

This one presented a similar but different problem. We could see it, in fact long enough to look in binoculars and take some photos. It only flew when I moved to try to get a different angle for a photo.

On first glance neither I nor Jerene found it to be familiar. All the spots on the lower side of abdomen made us think it was one we'd never seen before, perhaps a particularly early flyer. But when I got home and looked at the photos I didn't really notice the pattern. Instead I noticed the thick, short abdomen.

I imagine this is similar to books on birding that show birds of a similar color along with birds of similar species taxonomically. Often two birds will have a similar shape and they in fact are similar in terms of species, unlike birds of similar colors which may have little relation to one another.

When I saw the abdomen I thought immediately of one of the few species I'm somewhat familiar with, about 10 species I might add. Common Whitetail. But where was the white tail? Some guides showed that the female or immature whitetail can have markings on the abdomen similar to this and don't in fact have a white tail. However they all showed strong markings on the wings, much like the adult male.

These had no markings. So back to flipping through the guide books, all without success. Finally I read about the species in Dennis Paulson's Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East. There I read that newly emerged dragonflies often lack wing markings! For me that more or less seals it. But there was one more thing. The photos showed a laterally striped head  of ochre and brown. Sure enough that's what the photo in the Paulson book shows.

So I decided it might make a good subject for my last new work before my Stillman and Birn sketchbook demo on Saturday. I've only done one work in the Epsilon sketchbook, which is specially designed for ink work. This is ballpoint pen with watercolor wash on a 7x10 page. As usual the pen worked fine. My excessive washes always buckle the paper a bit. But it will eventually dry flat. As I said I don't normally work in ink and watercolor. But I think the Epsilon sketchbook might work very well for those times when you want a detailed pen drawing with just a hint of color.

For anyone who is interested in seeing the demo this Saturday there is also a discount on both Stillman and Birn sketchbooks and Caran d'Ache Neocolor II watersoluble crayons. See the notice on Stillman and Birn Facebook page.

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