Black, Carolina, and red Saddlebags

Look for Black Saddlebags dragonflies perched in small trees and shrubs around ponds and wetlands. This is a common dragonfly in our area. Black Saddlebags are migratory and could turn up anywhere.  

Black Saddlebags have a long flight period, from late April through October. I photographed the individual at left at Cox Arboretum on October 14, 2017. That was a late sighting but not my latest; I have seen Black Saddlebags as late as October 29th. 

Carolina Saddlebags. This species is fairly common in our area, although not quite as numerous as the Black Saddlebags. I have found Carolina Saddlebags from April through early September. The earliest ones that show up in April are probably migrants

Carolina Saddlebags, with a beautiful blue sky in the background. This species is similar to the Red Saddlebags, but Carolinas are much more common in our area. Carolina Saddlebags have purple faces and smaller clear "windows" in the saddle next to the body. Red Saddlebags have red faces and larger clear windows. Also, Red Saddlebags have black only on the top of Segments 8 & 9. Carolina Saddlebags usually have black on the sides of these segments as well. 

Female Black Saddlebags. The females have yellow spots on their abdomens. This individual was also photographed at Cox Arboretum. 

This teneral Carolina Saddlebags was lurking in the vegetation on the Cox Arboretum prairie. I often see teneral Carolina Saddlebags emerging in August and September, at the same locations where the migratory adults arrived in the spring. 

This photo of a Red Saddlebags is not very good, because it was taken from about 20 feet below the dragonfly. This Red Saddlebags was perched atop a dead tree at Siebenthaler Fen. However, this photo does show one of the important distinguishing features: the large clear window in the saddle. Red Saddlebags are much less common than Carolinas in our area. They tend to show up in late summer and autumn. I have seen several individuals at Cox Arboretum from July through October, but they usually evade my attempts to photograph them. 

A Carolina Saddlebags shows off his dark purple face and his balancing skills, deftly perched on a small stem while his wings flutter in the breeze. 

Carolina Saddlebags used to be uncommon in Ohio at one time. They are one of many southern species that have greatly expanded their presence in the state in recent years.