Twelve-spotted Skimmer: A Favorite Dragonfly

If I remember correctly, in the 250 posts in this series I have not once focused on an individual dragonfly species found in Eliza Howell Park. It is time to do so.

Dragonflies are strong flyers and fierce predators — “flying dragons.” The adults eat only live prey and almost always catch it on the wing.

One of the most visible species in the park is the large Twelve-spotted Skimmer.

This is a male on a perch, ready to fly out after an insect. Its name comes from the twelve dark spots on the wings, three on each of four wings.

The female looks a little different. She also has 12 darks spots on the wings, but not the light spots.

Twelve-spotted Skimmers are about 2 inches long and found in southern Canada as well as in every one of the 48 contiguous US states.

They are only found near water, however, because they, like all other dragonflies, spend the larval stage of their lives in water. In Eliza Howell Park, I usually see the adults from June through August.

Dragonflies are characterized by 2 pairs of veined wings, transparent but often with colored markings.

When I see a flying dragonfly, especially a large one, I try to follow its flight to see if it goes to a perch. If it does, I have a chance for a better look, through binoculars if needed. The various pictures used here were taken when the perches were close enough for photos.

Recently I was watching various activities around the enlarged meadow pond. Dragonflies and birds were both hunting the insects the pond attracts.

Dragonflies are, of course, themselves insect prey for the birds that are able to catch them. As I watched, an Eastern Kingbird flew from its perch and snagged a Twelve-spotted Skimmer. The dragonflies are skilled hunters, but they are also hunted.

There are a variety of dragonflies in the park, including at least two other, less common, skimmers: Widow Skimmer…

… and Common Whitetail.

Dragonflies are fascinating and often colorful. They might be compared to birds and butterflies as fauna that are enjoyable to watch and photograph.

I have not yet been part of a “dragonfly watching” group walk at Eliza Howell Park. When that happens, I am sure I will be looking for Twelve-spotted Skimmers. I have no doubt others will be as attracted to them as I am.

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