Onychothemis testacea Laidlaw, 1902

Family: Libellulidae
Scientific Name: Onychothemis testacea
Common Name: Riverhawk

It was a normal sunny Thursday morning on 29th December 2011, as usual, I was shooting dragonflies at one of my favourite hunting ground – chestnut forests. That morning was exceptionally good in insect activities as the ground was literally bustling with these foraging insects. There were common blue skimmers, slender blue skimmers, spine-tufted skimmers, scarlet skimmers and many small skipper butterflies flying around. I thought since all these are commoners, it will be another uneventful day.

While I was shooting the common dragonflies, I turned around and suddenly saw a strange and fierce looking dragonfly perched on a small twig, about 3 metres away from me. It was a robust, black looking insect, with yellow stripes on it’s thorax, yellow bands on it’s abdomen, very long hind legs and a pair of piercing dark green eyes. I slowing moved forward and from a distance, about 2 metres away, with my 100mm macro lens, I quickly snapped a few shots, knowing that this was something which I have never seen before.

While I moved in closer and tried to compose another shot, the dragonfly suddenly flew off and gone. Just as it suddenly disappeared, from nowhere, it re-appeared again, this time round with a small brown skipper butterfly under it’s claws. It was eating that butterfly alive. I was stunned! I quickly moved a few steps forward and took another few more shots.

When I tried to move in even closer, and focused on the eyes of that dragonfly, it saw me. Yes, it literally tilted it’s head up and look into my lens. Now, I was eye-to-eye in direct contact with this insect. Sensing my threat, it flew off again, still with it’s food in it’s mouth and disappeared to nowhere.

For the next 5 minutes or so, I tried to search for it everywhere, and eventually yes, I did found it, this time, it perched on a tree branch, about 2.5 to 3 metres away from the ground. From this angle, I could only manage some long distance shots.

I sent the photos to Mr. Tang and he told me that this was a very rare dragonfly, a female Onychothemis testacea. I was told that I was the first and only person in Singapore who have seen and shot this female dragonfly. (A male of this species was shot along a nature trail in MacRitchie Reservoir in January 2008.)

After that fateful day, I have never seen this dragonfly again.


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