Common Green Darner & COMET DARNER
Common Green Darners are large, conspicuous dragonflies in flight, but somewhat difficult to find perched. They usually perch in low grassy vegetation, or sometimes on tree branches. One tip for finding them perched is to look for them early in the morning, especially on chilly mornings when they are still sluggish and haven't started flying yet.
Mature male Common Green Darners usually have blue abdomens. However, the blue can turn purple at cold temperatures. Immature males and females also have reddish-purple abdomens.
Some Common Green Darners are migratory; they arrive in early spring and their descendants fly south again in the fall. In early September, migrating Common Green Darners form large swarms consisting of hundreds or even thousands of dragonflies. Ohio probably also has a resident population of Common Green Darners that overwinter and emerge locally.
The dragonfly at left is a Comet Darner. These dragonflies are slightly larger than Common Green Darners, and they have bright red abdomens. Also, notice the long legs (half-red and half-black). Comet Darners have a much more limited flight period than their cousins. I have found Comet Darners only from mid-May through July. (As noted above, Common Green Darners can fly from March through November.)
The Common Green Darner at left is my earliest sighting for any species of dragonfly. I found him on March 25, 2017, at Oakes Quarry near Fairborn. There are no words to describe how shocked I was to see this beautiful green-and-blue dragonfly swooping towards me on an early spring day. With a little luck, I was able to get a few shots of him perched. These early spring migrants can show up long before any local dragonflies emerge from our winter-chilled ponds.
This is another "purple" individual, photographed at Grant Park in Centerville. Common Green Darners have a long flight period. The early spring migrants are usually the first dragonflies I see every year. Subsequent generations can linger late into fall, weather permitting. My personal late sighting for this species is November 6, 2016.
Comet Darners are less numerous than Common Green Darners, although they might be increasing their presence in Ohio. Comet Darners prefer shallow, fishless ponds. I see them most often at Grant Park in Centerville, Caesar Creek, Oakes Quarry, and Cox Arboretum. Both of the Comet Darners on this page were photographed at Grant Park.
Close-up of a Comet Darner. This species frustrated me for years; I would watch them flying round and round ponds, but I could never find one perched. I will offer the following advice to anyone who is as frustrated by this species as I was. First, unless you are good at in-flight photography, don't bother stalking a Comet Darner that is flying around a pond. Instead, look for an individual patrolling the tree line away from the water. Eventually, it will get tired and decide to perch. Of course, there is always the chance that it will perch high in a tree, out of camera range. But there is at least a decent chance that it will perch low enough for photos.
A mated pair of Common Green Darners at Oakes Quarry.