Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "Flame Skimmer Dragonfly"


Last updated 3/4/2022 at 9:32am

It was warm for a winter day in the desert and the shade offered by the wilderness palm oasis was a welcome relief from the desert sun.

I dropped my day pack and settled down next to the small pool of water in the deep shade cast by the cluster of trees at Mountain Palm Springs.

There is something magic about hidden palm groves in the rugged, arid desert, and the special world that is created here, thanks to the availability of water.

I've often said that water is life in the desert, and that's very true at native palm groves.

Without water, there would be no palms that provide habitat and food sources for birds, mammals, rodents, reptiles, and insects.

There was a buzz of insect activity darting about the shallow pools, but the most obvious participants were the large flame skimmer dragonflies feeding on smaller insects.

As their name might suggest, these large dragonflies are dark orange to bright red in color, with wingspans of about four inches and stout bodies nearly as long. Wings are transparent with an intricately laced support structure.

There are over 5,000 different kinds of dragonflies, but this species is common to the Southwest at warm ponds, meandering streams, or hot springs.

The dragonfly is an important player in controlling mosquito populations and the immature flame skimmer feeds primarily on aquatic insects such as mosquito and fly larvae. Adult skimmers prefer moths, flies, ants, or soft-bodied insects.

The size of this dragonfly makes it somewhat conspicuous and as a nature photographer, an attractive target.

For a time, I exerted way too much energy chasing them around trying to get a good photograph until I realized they had a habit of returning to the same spot after dashing out to grab a bite.

I settled back into a comfortable spot next to one of those landing spots and was rewarded with several good images.

A little patience and a visit to a wilderness oasis can offer new insight into our interesting world of wild neighbors.

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