During this past summer whenever I was outdoors and the birds weren’t showing I took pictures of the dragonflies that I spotted. I’ve managed to identify some of them but I am certainly not an expert. As I’ve mentioned before, they are “a serious identification challenge and figuring them out is an interesting, though frustrating, way to spend that middle part of the day.” Now seems like a good time to share some of what I’ve learned (and some of what I haven’t).

To identify dragonflies I use the only dragonfly-centric field guide I own, Dragonflies Through Binoculars. Usually I just flip through the pictures until I find one that looks like the one in the picture I took and then I look it up on the web if I want more information. This works maybe half the time so at the end of this post will be several pictures of dragonflies that I can’t identify. Please help!

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

The Black Saddlebags, or Tramea lacerata, was a rather easy dragonfly to identify. The black at the base of its hind wings made it a saddlebags (so-called because the markings look like a horse’s saddlebags) and the two white dorsal spots clinched the species identification. The yellow-brown face color makes this particular individual (which only posed so nicely because I came upon it just after sunrise before it had a chance to warm up) a female or a juvenile male.

The next dragonfly didn’t seem to be in my book. So I went web surfing and now I am pretty sure it is either a female Ruby-faced Meadowhawk or a female Cherry Meadowhawk, so I’ll leave it as a Sympetrum species. The picture I am basing this rough identification off of is here.

Sympetrum species

Sympetrum sp.

Unlike the unfortunately not-completely-identified dragonfly above the next pair were easy to identify. They are Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) and they are busy making more of their kind. The day I took the picture I also witnessed several females laying eggs and watched males battle over territories, an activity ably described in Dragonflies Through Binoculars as consisting of a male dragonfly “confronting other males with abdomen raised. During territorial battles, each male tries to get under his opponent and force him up and away from the water.” And you thought the dragonflies were just flying around randomly!

Blue Dasher lovin'

Blue Dashers lovin’

Now, as I promised, here are dragonflies I haven’t figured out yet. I don’t know if I just missed them in the guide or what. If you know what they are please post their identity in the comments.

pretty, but what is it?

This one was in the Adirondacks

another one I couldn't figure out

This should be easy to identify, right?

I don't know this one either...

This one was rather small.

Yeah, this shot probably isn't the best for identification.

I have way too much more to learn.

Advance thanks for any help you can offer!

Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy and Desmond Shearwater. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.