Earlier this spring I told someone that now that I’ve sort of got a handle on butterflies, the next thing I’d like to work on learning is dragonflies. The problem is, dragonflies are a lot more challenging. If I see a butterfly I don’t know, my usual approach is to follow it around with my camera until it lands somewhere and holds still long enough for me to snap a photo, which I can then compare to my field guide and various butterfly ID sites online. Dragonflies, on the other hand, almost never let me get close enough to take a usable photo.
There are some exceptions – I found this guy on a cool evening recently, too sluggish to take off when I approached. Of course, it’s one of maybe three species of dragonfly I can already identify on sight, the Twelve-spotted Skimmer, Libellula pulchella.
One of the students I worked with last fall was interested in dragonflies as a hobby, but he collected them (as in, caught them and popped them in the freezer to kill them, then mounted them – he had permits, he was doing this for a nature center). I completely respect collecting, as long as it’s done responsibly, because it contributes a lot to our knowledge of wildlife, but I don’t think I personally could ever purposely kill a dragonfly or anything else.
So, any suggestions for enjoying dragonflies in their natural environment?