WANDERING GLIDER & SPOT-WINGED GLIDER
Wandering Glider, photographed on the Cox Arboretum prairie. If you see a large yellow dragonfly hovering overhead or gliding through the air, it is probably this species. Wandering Gliders have a worldwide distribution and they wander all over the globe. In our area, they are most common from July through October (although early individuals can also be found in May and June).
Wandering Gliders are one of my favorite dragonflies. They are migratory and can turn up anywhere. (They love shiny cars in parking lots!) If you want to find a perched individual to photograph, your best bet is to check prairies and tall-grass meadows, especially early in the morning or on partly-cloudy days. Wandering Gliders love perching on tall grass stems. I find more Wandering Gliders while I am hunting for butterflies in prairies than while I am looking for dragonflies by the water.
I am really bad at photographing flying dragonflies. That is why almost all of the photos on my website show perched dragonflies. The image at left is one of the very few decent in-flight photos I have ever taken. The only reason it worked out so well was because this Wandering Glider was basically hovering in place!
This is a Spot-winged Glider, photographed at Huffman Prairie. Notice the small dark spots on either side of the abdomen. Spot-winged Gliders are migratory dragonflies, like their cousins the Wandering Gliders. But in our area, Spot-winged Gliders are the less common of the two species.
Being migratory, Spot-winged Gliders can turn up almost anywhere, even far from water. I usually see them from June through August, with occasional stragglers into September. Their flight season skews a little earlier than the flight season for Wandering Gliders (although they overlap). I see more Spot-winged Gliders in early and mid-summer, and more Wandering Gliders after July and into the fall.
Mature male Spot-winged Gliders have bright, cherry-red faces. The red face is really obvious in flight. Spot-winged Gliders are also slightly larger than Wandering Gliders, and brownish rather than yellow. A good place to observe both species is Oakes Quarry in Fairborn. Both Wandering and Spot-winged Gliders love the shallow, fishless pools on the quarry floor.
This is a teneral Spot-winged Glider, photographed at Oakes Quarry. You can just barely see the faint spot at the base of the right hindwing.
This is one of my personal favorite dragonfly photos. I found this teneral Wandering Glider by the Great Miami River in Miamisburg. I had just finished photographing an Eastern Ringtail, when this teneral Wandering Glider fluttered up out of the grass and perched on some flowering Purple Loosestrife right next to me. You can tell this is a teneral (newly-emerged) dragonfly because of the shiny wings.
This Spot-winged Glider was photographed on September 20, 2020, at Cox Arboretum, my personal late date for the species.