As well as the pleasure of seeing and photographing the dragonflies and damselflies that I encounter on my sessions, I also enjoy trying to find the exuviae where possible of the species I see and photographing them to show the detail we would otherwise maybe not see. For most people, its the adult dragonfly we all want to see and photograph and i'm no different, but as I have become more interested in this field, I have had just as much pleasure in finding and photographing the nymphs as well as the exuviae. Last week when I visited Whixall Moss in Shropshire to see the nationally rare White faced Darter, not only did I want to see the stunning adults but I also really wanted to find a few exuviae to bring back home to study and photograph. Thankfully, as I searched the vegetation around the boggy pools, I soon got my eye in and was soon picking out quite a few White faced Darter exuviae, most of them, literally just above the water level and a few groups of them together piled on one another. I removed a few for souvenirs to bring back home to photograph. As most readers will be aware, exuviae of all species differ slightly but they can be very tricky at times to tell apart from each other. With a bit of time, patience, a field guide and a good field lens for close up work, the identification features can soon be learnt. A look on the internet revealed very little in the way of White faced Darter exuviae so I set about trying to capture so which hopefully show some of the identification features well. Probably the most reliable and noticeable feature is the 3 stripes on the underside of the abdomen, the middle stripe can often fade on the exuviae as can be seen in the photos. Using manual mode, ISO 400, speed set to 250, f-8 - f11, in camera flash used and a white piece of A4 paper folded in half to act as a background, I set about taking a few shots of a few exuviae to showcase them from different angles and to try to capture some detail on them. Every exuviae no doubt has its own story to tell and it still amazes me every time I see one to think that after years in the water, they have crawled up the reed or stem to emerge. After a few days attached to the stem, the empty exuviae normally blows off in the wind or gets soaked in the rain so as you can see, its quite important to get out there to find them. I think so far these exuviae take pride of place at home but I hope to continue to track them down to observe and photograph. If i'm lucky and spend enough time looking, maybe I will find a Norfolk Hawker exuviae, now that would be a good find!
White faced Darter Exuviae