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article imagePhoto Essay: Little creatures in the Savannah Botanical Gardens Special

By Kay Mathews     Aug 6, 2013 in Environment
Savannah - The fauna at the Savannah Botanical Gardens is as interesting, and beautiful in its own way, as the flora. Creatures small and great live in the gardens, including colorful dragonflies.
There are innumerable fun and interesting things to see and do in Savannah, Georgia, and people living in the "Hostess City of the South" have made it one of the friendliest cities in the United States. There are times, however, when I want to be alone and commune with nature. It is at those times when I make my way to Savannah's natural oasis known as the Savannah Botanical Gardens.
Not long ago, I visited the Savannah Botanical Gardens and photographed some of the beautiful flora for a photo essay. At that time, I spent most of my time in the perennial, rose, summer, and fragrant rose gardens and did not venture beyond a bridge that would put me on the trails near the pond.
Tamora Rose and bud at Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Savannah  Georgia
Tamora Rose and bud at Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
On this visit, however, I walked to the pond. After sitting quietly for some time on a bench by the pond, I decided it was time to get my camera out and take photographs of the lovely setting on a very sunny day.
A bench by the side of  and reflecting in  the pond at Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Savannah  Georgi...
A bench by the side of, and reflecting in, the pond at Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
I decided it was time to head back to my car and, on my way around the pond, a dragonfly flew passed me and then rested on a small tree branch. As I walked closer to it, it remained on the branch and was seemingly appraising me as much as I was it.
Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) dragonfly  male.  Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Savannah  Geor...
Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) dragonfly, male. Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
It was then that my interest in dragonflies was piqued and I began looking for more to photograph. Now that I was paying attention to the little creatures flying around me, I focused more on the fauna (animals) than the flora (plants) in the gardens. It did not take long for me to see more dragonflies and other flying insects like robber flies, honey bees, bumble bees, and butterflies.
Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans)  female.  Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Savannah  Georgia
Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), female. Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
Without a micro-lens, I used a zoom lens to take the close-up photographs you see here. And, never having really paid close attention to dragonflies before, this novice found herself being frustrated when trying to identify what she had photographed. I searched an online identification site for casual observers, and learned that "One of the most recognizable orders of insect is the Odonata which encompasses both Dragonflies and Damselflies. There are some 5,500 identified North American species in the order and over 450 of these are found throughout the United States and Canada alone."
Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) dragonfly.  Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Savannah  Georg...
Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) dragonfly. Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
I quickly realized that I would need the assistance of a professional in order to accurately identify the dragonflies I photographed. And, fortunately, as my search continued, I came across the website of the International Odonata Research Institute. The contact name given was that of Bill Mauffray, and an email address was provided. I e-mailed my photographs to Mr. Mauffray and requested that he identify the insects therein. Due to his graciousness and expertise, the insects in the photographs are accurately identified. Moreover, he corrected the information given in the link cited above, saying that there are “between 5500-6000 species worldwide, [with] many new ones being named and described each year.”
Common Whitetail Skimmer (Plathemis lydia) dragonfly  young male.  Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Sava...
Common Whitetail Skimmer (Plathemis lydia) dragonfly, young male. Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
Common Whitetail Skimmer (Plathemis lydia) dragonfly  young male.  Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Sava...
Common Whitetail Skimmer (Plathemis lydia) dragonfly, young male. Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
As I was about to exit the Savannah Botanical Gardens, a peculiar-looking flying creature landed nearby. According to Mr. Mauffray, it is a Robber Fly of the Order Diptera. The species was unknown to him, he said, because it is not his area of expertise. As I soon learned, "There are over 7,000 species of robber flies world wide; nearly 1,000 in North America. All robber flies have stout, spiny legs, a dense moustache of bristles on the face (mystax), and 3 simple eyes (ocelli) in a characteristic depression between their two large compound eyes."
Robber Fly  Order Diptera.  Savannah Botanical Gardens.  Savannah  Georgia
Robber Fly, Order Diptera. Savannah Botanical Gardens. Savannah, Georgia
Looking through the photographs I took caused me to recall a book I read when I was a child - James Herriot's All Creatures Great and Small (1972). Looking at the faces of the dragonflies, the moustache of the robber fly, and all of the wonderful colors on these little creatures, I couldn't help but think how small, and yet so great, they are.
More about Dragonfly, savannah botanical gardens, Robber Fly, Insects, dragonflies
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