Back to, um… the same as before

newly-emerged adult dragonfly, possibly blue dasher Pachydiplax longipennis, still on molted exoskeleton
As I said, it’s now time to resume my regular subject matter, but I’m not saying I’m back to normal because I don’t think I ever was. Meanwhile, I have to squeeze in just a couple more photos for this month, because the winter was so slow and because trying to beat this record is going to take some effort.

Anyway, poking around the neighborhood pond by headlamp very early this morning, I spotted a newly-emerged adult dragonfly, still resting on its molted exoskeleton, and decided I needed to do a quick photo session. Upon my return with the camera, I attempted to get into a good shooting position and damn near skidded into the pond itself, since the tree that the dragonfly had chosen was right on a sloping bank all covered (of course) with pine needles. In my contortions to prevent this and get a clear shot, I disturbed the dragonfly (which I suspect is a female blue dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis,) and it dropped its wings from the newly-emerged upright position, like a damselfly, to the flat-and-ready-to-fly position that we expect. It had quite a few more hours before it would be daylight and could fly, but it appeared ready at least.

Only centimeters away on the same tree, another was emerging, and in the time that it took me to get into position and fix the damn balky flash bracket (which has decided that it wants to slip and rotate routinely now,) the latter had changed position. When I first saw it, it had emerged about halfway, then as I was almost in shooting position, it was bent over backwards, dangling (as I’ve seen other arthropods do) from its lower abdomen still anchored within the exoskeleton. Before I could get off a shot, though, it bent forward, seized the forepart of its molted skin, and yanked itself free. Nuts. But I still had some decent shots to pursue.

unidentified newly-emerged adult dragonfly drying out
This is the bit that always fascinates me. We can see what it just emerged from, and there appears no way in hell that it could have fit into that skin. But also notice the shape change that it’s going through, from the aquatic nymph to the flying adult – head shape, body shape and length, and so on; the legs appear to be the only thing unchanged. And we all know the shape and proportions of adult dragonflies, and that abdomen has a ways to go yet. But like it’s slowly inflating, it will fill out that shape in the next hour.

But now, a detail (that you might already have seen) that I didn’t make out until I was looking at the images on my computer.

closeup of unidentified newly-emerged adult dragonfly showing transparent skin and wing muscles
The new exoskeleton is still soft and nearly transparent at this point, which allows us to see the freaking wing muscles within! Is that cool or what?

Meanwhile, it looks like it’s digging into its own empty headcase to find something left behind. A shitload of contact lenses, maybe…

By the way, have I mentioned recently that I love this lens? By that I mean the Mamiya 80mm macro. I’m lucky I’ve never been kicked off a flight with it, because it’s da bomb.

Another one, for comparison:

unidentified newly-emerged adult dragonfly unfolding its wings
It’s been ten minutes since the first frame of it emerging, two pics up, and notice how different the wings look. Someday, I’ll have my shit together and do a complete time-lapse sequence to animate this.

Back home, I chased a couple more subjects, just to make an evening/morning of it.

juvenile Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis on Japanese maple tree
With the ten egg cases spread around the yard, I figured I had to capture the emergence of the Chinese mantises (Tenodera sinensis) this year, but I still didn’t get my timing right – stupid me for holding down a job, I guess. But it means that we have young ones all over the place, so much so that I’m very self-conscious of where I walk, and finding one to shoot doesn’t take any effort at all. Now, having it hold still long enough – that’s a different matter. Yet I still have plenty of behavioral traits to capture, so there’s further subjects to pursue.

Meanwhile, a quick peek at the backyard pond yielded another find.

very small six-spotted fishing spider Dolomedes triton in backyard pond
I have nothing for scale to show how small this is, save for the hint of pine straw peeking in at lower left, but this tiny six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton) has the ability to get a hell of a lot larger. Chances are it won’t, however, because there’s still several resident frogs and they’ll likely make a meal of it as soon as it’s large enough to notice.

not a molting arthropodI saw this dangling from a plant, twisting randomly and spasmodically at times, and thought I was seeing another insect molting, so I endeavored to get a clear photo of it because I couldn’t quite make out what it was. Turns out it’s nothing more than some seed pod, I think, but definitely vegetable, not animated at all. If anyone needs a photo of this… whatever it is… feel free to get in touch, because I was wasting flash batteries getting several frames of it. Snicker all you want, but c’mon, it was about 8mm in length, and the focusing lamp is nowhere near as bright as the flash when it goes off, so identifying it in those conditions, especially with movement that seemed to originate from within and those little fibers trembling like antennae, wasn’t as simple as you want to think.

Okay, fine, be that way. Those dragonfly muscles are still pretty cool, though, so don’t forget about that.