Perhaps it's not immedialy apparent, but the dragonfly in this photo is quite tiny—something under an inch in length. Called an Eastern Amberwing, it's the second smallest dragonfly species found in Ohio. But seeing as how the slightly smaller Elfin Skimmer is currently on our state's endangered species list, and known to be present at only three restricted bog or fen areas, it's likely a diminutive Eastern Amberwing will prove the smallest dragonfly most of us will ever encounter afield. Here in Ohio, they're most common in mid-summer, though you can sometimes find one as late as September.
The one in the photo is a male, easily differentiated from the female by the namesake amber-hued wings; wings on females are brown-spotted and clear. Like all dragonflies and damselflies, Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are predators. In this case, they feed by catching and eating only the tiniest of insects such as mosquitoes and midges.
Eastern Amberwings are generally found around ponds and lakes, less often near slow-moving sections of creeks and rivers. They're also considered by many to be perhaps the wariest, most easily spooked of all species, thus making for difficult photo targets. This Eastern Amberwing wasn't following the rulebook. I discovered it hunting just above the tops of the tall grass along the edge of my favorite prairie patch—a hundred yards from the nearest water. And after one or two tries, I quickly managed to get within photo range.
I've been a dragonfly/damselfly fan for years, and the miniature Eastern Amberwings have long been one of my very favorites—especially the charismatic males with their golden-amber, red-spotted wings. Small in size, maybe, but sure big on snazzy good looks.