The Blue-eyed Darner (Rhionaeschna multicolor), is a large and rather common dragonfly found throughout California. Blue-eyed Darners are members of the mosaic darner family, which contains at least 10 species of dragonflies of relatively similar size and coloration. The family gets its name from the beautiful pattern of coloration on the abdominal segments, which includes sky blue, copper and black. The Blue-eyed Darner has a large range, stretching from the Dakotas to the Midwest, up into central Canada, south to Texas and Oklahoma, west to the Snake River valley, and south through California all the way down to Panama in Central America. Blue-eyed Darners are distinguished from other mosaic darner species by their completely blue eyes, the absence of a black line horizontally dividing the face, the presence of a small bump beneath the first abdominal segment, and the shape of the abdominal appendages.
As noted, Blue-eyed Darners are fairly large dragonflies, ranging from 2.5 to 3.0 inches in length. They hunt smaller flying insects on the wing, which they catch in the spiky basket formed by their legs. Often, you can find a Blue-eyed Darner patrolling back and forth over a fairly broad area of 25 to 50 yards in length. They are territorial, and will aggressively harass and chase off other dragonflies that encroach on their turf. This behavior makes them easy to find, but difficult to photograph! This particular Blue-eyed Darner was cruising over a flooded drainage ditch on the eastern end of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California. I noticed it hovering repeatedly in one area, and managed to capitalize on that with a Canon EOS Rebel T3 camera and a 100-400 mm IS zoom lens.
If you get lucky, sometimes you can find a Blue-eyed Darner perched. The individual shown here was hanging from a cottonwood tree just west of the Colorado River in southern Imperial County, California, last October. This photograph was digiscoped with a Swarovski ATX-65 spotting scope and a Canon 40D camera, using the Swarovski TLS-APO adaptor.