Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wounded Veteran

This Blue Dasher, with his stunning jade eyes and lightning blue abdomen, was patiently waiting just a few feet from me as I was scoping out some marsh shots this morning. Not two inches long, they are normally outstanding flyers. But, perhaps like a Spitfire returning from the Battle of Britain, its wings were damaged by fierce combat.

For the Blue Dasher, dominance of the marsh skies, and real estate below them, involves dogfighting. No machine guns, missles, or radar. It's pure flying. Males in combat try to fly under the opposing male to "push" them up and out of the way. On some occasions, they actually collide; the "thwipping" of delicate wings crashing into each other can sometimes be heard. After a few duels, the inferior flyer gets the clue and moves on to a new territory that is, perhaps, owned by another dragonfly of even more inferior skill.

As I sat just a few feet from this injured flyer, I noticed that the other dashers were not bothering him. The fierce dogfighting that was unfolding immediately in front of us did not involve him at all. While I would like to think that this grizzled veteran of the marsh war was being left alone because he could "shoot down" the enemy with maneuvers that would make a modern F-18 pilot drool, I don't think that was the case.

His perch, a blossom from a Flowering Rush, was off to the side and seemingly out of the way. His otherwise powerful flight was compromised by the now damaged wings. Lacking the ability to outfly his competitors, he was relegated to an inferior location along the marsh edge. Any thoughts he may have of engaging others for a better location would most likely mean trouble. Others would not bother him because his location was not good enough to attract the babes. So, as long as he stayed out of trouble, and a female with low expectations sauntered by, he might be okay. Challenge the others for better property, and therefore a better chance at the females, and he could end up dead.

Unlike pilots of wars gone by, this wounded veteran won't get a new set of wings. No ground crew is available to patch those holes. No "Rosies" are feverishly making a new craft. Nope. None of this happens in the brief life of a dragonfly. His flight school is all instinct with a flight timeline measured in days or weeks, not years.

I suspect within a week or so, unlike the brave pilots of World War II, this little fellow will be largely forgotten by most. He won't get any flight medals. The best award possible would be the passing of his genes to his offspring. Given his current situation, that is unlikely. There won't be a memorial, parade, or holiday, either. His grave? That will be the marsh itself with the flowers being those that surround it.

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