Common Green Darner & COMET DARNER

Common Green Darners are large, conspicuous dragonflies in flight, but they are somewhat difficult to find perched. They usually perch in low grassy vegetation, or sometimes on tree branches. One of the best times to look for them is early in the morning, especially on chilly mornings when these dragonflies 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.  

This is a mated pair of Common Green Darners at Oakes Quarry. Common Green Darners are found at shallow ponds and wetlands. They especially prefer fishless ponds when they can find them, but they seem to tolerate the presence of fish better than their cousins, the Comet Darners.  

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 more limited flight period than their cousins. I have found Comet Darners only from mid-May through July. (Common Green Darners can fly from March through November.) 

Common Green Darners have a long flight period. Some are migratory and arrive in early spring; their descendants fly south in the fall. Ohio also has a resident population of Common Green Darners that overwinters and emerges locally. The early spring migrants are usually the first dragonflies I see every year. My personal early and late sightings are March 21st and November 6th. In September, migrating Common Green Darners can form large swarms consisting of hundreds or even thousands of dragonflies. 

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. All of the Comet Darners on this page were photographed at Grant Park.  

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 pair of Common Green Darners, ovipositing. The female (on the right) is laying her eggs on vegetation under the water, while the male is guarding her. Photographed March 28, 2020, at Grant Park in Centerville. These early spring migrants can show up long before any local dragonflies emerge from our winter-chilled ponds.