12 Spots Check – That Was Easy … Ugh

Since I am a glutton for pain, figured I might as well make it two dragons in a row.  If you recall from the last post (link here), the pain part comes during the identification process.  In truth, they are such fun to photograph that the effort to identify them is a small price to pay.  If you can get them to stand still long enough you can usually pull of pretty impressive shots.

These dragonflies were also taken at the Jubilee State Park pond on one of those days when the birds decided to stay indoors in the cool air conditioning.  Never want to waste a day out in the field so anything with wings will due.  Case in point the two dragons featured here.  This particular shot .. which you will notice produced the two following shots .. came out nice from a texture perspective.  You kind of lose it from the base shot, but when you zoom in a bit it really produces a nice overall effect – not to mention the color palette with the dragon coordinated quite well.

So this is where it became interesting.  The obvious characteristic is the wing spots.  The body is a common brown and the eyes are not as unique as the previous Dragonhunter.  However, the fact that both of these have exactly 12 spots on their transparent wings was enough to go hunting on the web.  That hunt produced results immediately.  Turns out there is a Dragonfly named Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.  Taking you way back, a Widow Skimmer had made its presence known on the blog before (link here).  The first reference link was the Montana Field Guide (link here).  Their reference image was a little troubling in that it had white spots on the wings along with the darker spots.  As you can see, my specimen had nothing of the sort – just black spots.  That just means another validation with or friends over at Wikipedia (link here).  That produced a similar image labeled the male, however, they had another reference shot of the female and NO WHITE SPOTS!

Hit the jump to see some pics of the male .. and just maybe a correction.

That was good news, I had a female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer.  Two searches and the task was over.  What a relief.  All I needed to do now was do a quick search of that specific type of dragonfly to get some interesting facts to point out in the blog.  Just bring up the Google Image page and grab a few links to see what they have to say about them… WAIT A MINUTE.. this image link caught my attention from Wikipedia (link here).  Sure enough the image looks very similar to my specimen, but they labeled it as a Common Whitetail.  Oh great, another one of those creatures that has a bunch of names like the Dragonhunter).  Okay, back to the drawing board with this new name.  Sure enough, Wikipedia had a whole page for that name as well and the female MATCHED!  Some quick reading even revealed that the Twelve-Spotted Skimmer closely resembled the Common Whitetail.  They then gave the distinguishing mark, they have white zigzag abdominal stripes.  A quick reference on the other showed a sold line so this was NOT a female Twelve-Spotted Skimmer but a female Common Whitetail.  Nature likes making me work.

To further validate the ID, the male was also photographed in the same session (although unknown to me at the time).  The mail does sport the white tail but their wing spotting is different.

They really didn’t provide much detail on the Wikipedia site other than the males are very territorial and use their abdomen coloring as a show of threat to drive other males from their 30 meter claim.  As you would guess, they are mosquito and other small insect diners.

Kudos to the FCPS site (link here) for having some very nice reference shots and even comment on the nymph – now those are downright creepy! Probably won’t sleep tonight because of that.. or maybe that will be due to the clown I just saw flashed across my TV.   Hope you enjoyed the shots.  They are pretty common so keep an eye out for them the next time you are near a pond.

2 thoughts on “12 Spots Check – That Was Easy … Ugh”

  1. I followed everything you did with exactly the same results. I was sure you had nailed it with the Twelve-Spotted Skimmer, and I had committed that to memory for some day when I saw one, and then I followed your link to the Wikipedia image and saw the Common Whitetail and didn’t know what to make of it either. Your mention of the zig-zag type of white stripes was key, and the FCPS site is excellent as you said. I would probably not have noticed the Wikipedia photo and would have stopped at the initial identification.

    That male looks dead, or dead tired.



  2. Man, you are working overtime on your comments! We do not take any shortcuts here at LifeIntrigued – our readers are demanding and wouldn’t allow us to live it down if we didn’t try our best when it comes to identification – unlike my early education teachers who owe me big time for all the bad information they pumped into my grey matter (no I will not forget the whole dino bone mixup) – also thought men had one less rib for many many years – LIES!

    Male was still alive – not like someone captured the pretty thing and drove a spike into it in order to hang it in a display case or something – the horror, the horror.


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