Digiscoping Up Close and Personal

Lately, we’ve been digiscoping insects as part of the field-testing of the Swarovski ATX/STX modular spotting scopes in preparation for publishing a review. One of the stand-out features of these scopes is their superb digiscoping capabilities. The 65-mm objective module of the scope has about a 6-foot minimum close focus, which means that it can be used to get shots of really close things, at least in scope terms! We were playing with the scope to see how it would perform taking pictures of dragon- and damselflies. All these Odes were found at a quiet little stream less than a mile from our store!

Digiscoping a Blue Dasher Dragonfly

Digiscoping a Blue Dasher Dragonfly

This is a male Blue Dasher, Pachydiplax longipennis, a common dragonfly of southern California. Note the blue abdomen, sea-green eyes and white facial plate, as well as a subtle amber patch at the base of the hindwings. Females are browner on the thorax and abdomen, with cream markings for accent, but they still have the green eyes and white facial plate. Males are territorial, and can often be seen chasing each other around. Blue Dashers are members of the skimmer family, commonly found over rivers, ponds and streams. They tend to hunt from perches, which means they’re often stationary, making them much easier to photograph!

California Spreadwing damselfly

California Spreadwing damselfly

This blue-eyed beauty is a male California Spreadwing damselfly, Archilestes californica. Spreadwings are unusual among damselflies in that they often perch with the wings wide open. The California Spreadwing is distinguished from the Great Spreadwing by the white markings on the thorax flanks, and the two-toned spot of color on the outer portion of the wings, called a pterostigma. Like the Blue Dasher, this spreadwing is a sally hunter, meaning it hawks prey from a perch to which it often returns, a useful trait when photographing them. This picture was taken by focusing on the perch and waiting for the hunter to return.

Vivid Dancer damselfly

Male Vivid Dancer damselfly

Last, here’s a brilliant purplish-blue male Vivid Dancer damselfly, Argia vivida. These gorgeous little damsels are distinguished from other similar species by the carrot-shaped black marks at the front of the abdominal segments. This species may be the most common damsel in California, having been found in every single county. When Vivid Dancers emerge from their nymph forms, they are covered with a pale gray coating of pruinescence that wears off with time to reveal the brilliant color. Vivid Dancers often perch away from water, on rocks, logs and shrubs, as these were doing when we found them.

All these pictures were taken with the Swarovski ATX-65 spotting scope, equipped with the TLS-APO digiscoping adaptor, using a Canon 40D camera.

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