The Golden Dartlet, or Iscnura aurora, is a small species of damselfly that resides in the general vicinity of small streams and ponds. The above photograph was taken several hundred meters from any sizable body of water – a testament to the creature’s rugged and functional, yet beautiful design.
This was the species that opened my eyes to the phenomenally diverse world of Odonata. During a trek in the Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary, I was walking alongside the lake, noticing the highly variable dragonfly population residing within five meters of the lake’s shore – as I recall, it was something close to ten different species in as many minutes. This got my attention, but it didn’t drop my jaw. Before I got my DSLR, I was shooting optically inferior photographs with a video camera, which for macro photography required manual focus at remarkably short distances. As fate would have it, I was tip-toeing through a soggy field when a discarded porcupine quill caught my eye. Being a fond collector of natural treasures, I bent down to examine the quill’s condition – only to disturb a Golden Dartlet! I was awestruck by it’s size – and vibrance, and the lethargy of its flight. I had been photographing two-to-three inch dragonflies at high velocities all morning, but this was completely different! This insect was so small as to appear to have absolutely no ecological niche to fill – and it seemed incompetent to fill any, other than being beautiful. I took what pictures my equipment allowed me, and later identified the species. On other instances, I have been amazed, even shocked, to witness this little treasure actually swoop down upon even more lethargic prey, consuming it as a matter of survival and cycle.