The Fragile Forktail may be the most distinctive Forktail species (genus Ischnura) in New England, but according to one resource* the most common species is likely the Eastern Forktail (I. verticalis). The orange and black individual above is a young female – older females take on an all blue-gray appearance (see the BugGuide for a fine example). Males are green and black, with two mostly blue segments near the ends of their abdomens. These damselflies measure approximately one inch from end to end.
*A Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Massachusetts by Blair Nikula, Jennifer Loose, and Matthew Burne (2007)
Fragile Forktails (Ischnura posita) are such small damselflies that you may need tune your vision in order to notice them. But, once you have, their diagnostic markings allow for easy identification. Just notice the "exclamation mark" pattern on the thorax (green on males; blue on females), a unique pattern among New England damsels.
Damselflies come in many forms, but, unlike birds, many are difficult, if not impossible, to identify positively with binoculars. They are just too small. Close examination of terminal parts is probably the most reliable identification method for damsels. This typically requires capturing the creature, at least temporarily. Luckily, many species can be identified by macro-features, visible in good photos or viewable with a pair of close-focusing binoculars, without the need for nets.
Today's top photo shows a male Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis), the only violet damselfly in New England. The photo below shows a male (violet, left) and female (brown, right) in tandem. At just over one inch long, these creatures are easy to miss.
Five species of Broad-winged Damselflies (famliy Calopterygidae) are found in Massachusetts, but only the Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) has all-dark wings. Females have bronze bodies and brown wings with conspicuous white spots. Males have metallic blue-green bodies and black wings. I find these beautiful large damsels fluttering along shallow forested streams from late-spring to mid-summer.