Sunday, June 26, 2011

Serendipity: River Jewelwings

Douglas County, Oregon: June 20, 2011
We embraced serendipity many years ago. It can be a big mistake to leave the house with a goal in mind, and then zoom right past something way more intriguing. Of course I’m not talking about necessary goals: getting groceries, gas, or going to work. Unfortunately one has to stay on track for those. I’m referring to our time spent in nature.

We left the house unprepared to go much of anywhere. We had a docent meeting to attend at Wildlife Safari where we volunteer. Fortunately much of our volunteering there is taking photos so we had the cameras with us.

When the meeting was over it was too nice a day to go home. We picked up ‘Subways’ (big sandwiches) for lunch and even stopped at the grocery store for crackers, canned beans, sardines and fruit. In this country we never go far off paved roads without emergency supplies. I always have a basket ready at home … but that is where it still sat. By now we had decided to drive out on the Coos Bay Wagon Road where the wildflowers are just bursting with spring energy during this wetter than usual spring.

But first we stopped to eat our Subways along Lookingglass Creek. Dale knew I wanted a quick peek to see if the dragonflies were flying down there. We ate and then I grabbed a camera and went down to the creek bank.

Summer sun; long lush green grasses; ash and big leafed maple trees rustle above me; the creek gurgles where it reaches a shallow rapids -- so summery, a commodity that has been in short supply this cool, wet spring.

Yes, the river jewelwings are flying, along with a few other dragonflies and damselflies. River jewelwings have to be one of the prettiest damselflies. First of all, they are big enough to actually see, and their bodies are rich metallic blues and greens. Male jewelwings have clear wings with dark tips. Females have smoky dark wings with bright white pterostigmas and a burnished gold glow on their metallic green bodies. Simply beautiful.
Two males are playing war games, each battling for territorial rights. Dragonflies fly with zip and zoom, but damselflies are more delicate on the wing. These male jewelwings are striking in the summer sun. Most of the time their wings are splayed out, flashing their dark tips. Jewelwings fly relative slowly, tipping and turning. One male is constantly on the heels of the other. They remind me of two World War II biplanes showing off their flight skills. One has stopped long enough to land on a beautiful yellow iris glowing in the creek bank.

That last sight is too much. I hike back to the car and show Dale my photo taken with a short lens. He takes one look and grabs the big lens and tripod and comes down to join me at creek side. Dale is a patient man. He stands glued to a spot near the iris for nearly two hours. The jewelwings spend nearly all that time chasing each other, but occasionally one pauses for a rest. Even more occasionally one rests on the iris. Dale finally gets his pictures, then starts roaming the creek side.
I'm sitting on a little cut bank and drawing a jewelwing, and then another and another. I listen to the stream gurgling and watch it quietly continue on downriver. A chat scolds for quite while and then a yellow warbler sings. A dark shadow sweeps over me – a low soaring turkey vulture. They have good eating today. A nearby hayfield has just been mowed, yielding a large snake and probably several voles.

Some would say this is the second day of summer, that summer has finally arrived. I’m sweaty, sticky, salty … and savoring every minute spent alongside this creek.

It's nearly 6 PM when we finally pack up and head home. No Coos Bay Wagon Road for us today.
Note: Some dragonfly books don’t even mention that river jewelwings can be blue, just label them as green. The direction of the light seems to affect their iridescence. I’m adding this photo of a blue one.


  1. Your blog is interesting, has left a great impression.
    Best wishes

  2. Great Photos, drawings, and information! I always enjoy your Blog and Flickr posts!

  3. Sounds like an absolutely terrific way to spend the day! There's not much that gets better than a day spent in nature with your BF.

  4. I felt like I was right there with you guys. How nice to have your DH be as interested as you are in nature. Life is right in front of us if we just SEE it. Happy to hear you prepare with food on these jaunts. Hear of so many getting lost without anything around here. Lovely photos and drawings. Cris, Artist in Oregon.

  5. I love 'traveling' with you. All the beautiful and interesting things you share are fantastic.

  6. Dear Elva,
    What a lovely post! Oh, I've loved dragonflies. The 3rd painting is so nice. Elva, why do some dragonflies open wings and stay still and others not like above? Anyway, have a wonderful day!
    Cheers, Sadami

  7. Some pictures!DAle must be very patient and determined, I could never stand waiting for so long. Thank you for this lovely post as usual, Elva. It's like a present.

  8. I'm happy you all enjoyed sharing my summer sun with me.

    Sadami: Dragonflies keep their wings open. Damselflies are closely related to dragonflies but when resting fold their wings over their backs. Most damselflies are smaller than most dragonflies.

  9. Great Elva!
    I see! In Japanese, both have the same word, "tonbo"(=dragonfly). I googled the word, "damselflies" in images, yes, they are the ones I talked of(called, "ito-tonbo"=string-like dragonfly.)
    Thank you so much!!
    Kind regards, Sadami

  10. What fabulous paintings and drawings as well as equally fabulous photos! I love your take on nature.