As I watched my dog splash around in his kiddie pool on June 20 last year, I noticed a dragonfly caught in the sloshing water. At first glance, I assumed the creature was dead. While it floated on the surface, it wasn’t moving its legs or wings. But I scooped it out of the water anyway and laid it on the grass nearby.
Then, to my surprise, it came to life. Clinging to grass blades with spindly legs, the dragonfly appeared to be struggling as it tipped from one side to next, its wings getting caught up in the greenery. Though sopping wet, its body and wings were in good shape. I think it was simply exhausted. So again, I carefully scooped the creature up.
Scanning my front yard, I searched for somewhere warm, flat and dry to place the tired insect. Then I realized that it seemed to be doing fine right in the palm of my hand. So I sat on my front porch, kept my hand as still as possible and watched my new friend.
The experience reminded me of a video posted on Facebook by Tamra Wight, an author, wildlife photographer and middle school teacher from Turner. In the video, which she posted to the Facebook group MAINE Wildlife on June 11, 2020, Wight gives viewers an up close look at a dragonfly she rescued from the water while kayaking. Hopeful that I could catch similar footage, I asked my husband, Derek, for his smartphone.
I was in luck.
Perching on my hand for several minutes, the dragonfly turned its head this way and that. It swept its front legs over its giant eyes, as if grooming itself, then stuffed the tips of its legs in its mouth.
“Dragonflies may groom themselves like fastidious cats … Spurs on the legs work like a comb to remove clingy bits of spiderweb, drops of morning dew, or other foreign matter,” wrote Cynthia Berger in her 2004 book “Wild Guide: Dragonflies.”
While the dragonfly groomed itself, it started to move its four wings up and down, speeding up until they were vibrating. I assumed the insect was using the motion to warm up and dry off at the same time. Berger’s book and several other sources agree with that reasoning.
And then, just like that, it was gone. The dragonfly flew off, perhaps to catch a few of the mosquitoes buzzing around my yard. (One can only hope.) It’s a special wildlife experience I won’t soon forget.
Aislinn Sarnacki can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @1minhikegirl, and Instagram: @actoutdoors. Her guidebooks “Family Friendly Hikes in Maine,” “Maine Hikes Off the Beaten Path” and “Dog-Friendly Hikes in Maine” are available at local bookstores and wherever books are sold.