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© Pieter Van Dokkum
© Pieter Van Dokkum

10 Close-Up Shots of Dragonflies

© Pieter Van Dokkum
© Pieter Van Dokkum

Photographer and astronomer Pieter van Dokkum had been attracted to dragonflies for several years, but it wasn't until he stumbled across a quaint pond in New England, dotted with hundreds of dragonflies, that van Dokkum decided to make a book. The photographer waded in the pond, spent nights waiting for the right shot, and even lost a few shoes. The result is the delightful Dragonflies: Magnificent Creatures of Water, Air, and Land, which showcases and celebrates the insects' inherent beauty.

The book starts with the tiny beginnings of the dragonfly, with the transformation of the nymphs. These flightless newborns go through a transformation (similar to caterpillars) that takes an entire night to complete. Van Dokkum then follows the full life of dragonflies, up until the end of dragonfly season in fall. About a third of the pictures come from that New England pond, while the others come from different parts of America and the Netherlands. 

Van Dokkum compares the dragonflies to fairies, and it’s not hard to see why. The delicate creatures exhibit amazing colors and beauty that almost seems otherworldly. Here are some select images from Dragonflies

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Stained glass wing. The Wings have a complex, rigid surface that is maintained by a network of veins. The subtle colors of this immature Black Meadowhawk are caused by sunlight reflecting off the still not quite transparent wings."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Thermoregulation. Dragonflies regulate their body temperature by angling their bodies to maximize or minimize the area exposed to the sun. When temperatures are high around midday, perching dragonflies such as this Halloween Pennant may point their abdomen straight up, to absorb as little heat as possible ('obelisking')."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Calico Pennant, female."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Hide and Seek. Damselflies are light sleepers—insofar as insects sleep at all. Even when they are cold and covered in dew, they tend to move away from whatever is approaching them and hide behind the plant they are clinging to. A curious eyeball may be the only part of the damselfly that is visible to predators—and cameras!"

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Common Green Darner. This large dragonfly is perhaps the most iconic of American species. They spend a lot of time on the wing, patrolling over ponds and hunting above meadows. Some populations of Common Green Darners are migratory, flying from the southern to the northern United States and Canada in the spring, with their offspring returning south in the autumn."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Flame Skimmer, male"

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Flame Skimmer, male."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Female Seaside Dragonlet. Dragonflies typically require fresh water to reproduce. The Seaside Dragonlet is the only American dragonfly that breeds in salt water. It does not venture far from the coast, and may be found in salt marshes and tidal flats."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Variable Darner, eating a butterfly."

© Pieter Van Dokkum

"Damselfly nursery. Some plants are very popular with egg-laying damselflies."

For more pictures, purchase the book here. 

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Courtesy of The National Aviary
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Animals
Watch This Live Stream to See Two Rare Penguin Chicks Hatch From Their Eggs
Courtesy of The National Aviary
Courtesy of The National Aviary

Bringing an African penguin chick into the world is an involved process, with both penguin parents taking turns incubating the egg. Now, over a month since they were laid, two penguin eggs at the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania are ready to hatch. As Gizmodo reports, the baby birds will make their grand debut live for the world to see on the zoo's website.

The live stream follows couple Sidney and Bette in their nest, waiting for their young to emerge. The first egg was laid November 7 and is expected to hatch between December 14 and 18. The second, laid November 11, should hatch between December 18 and 22.

"We are thrilled to give the public this inside view of the arrival of these rare chicks," National Aviary executive director Cheryl Tracy said in a statement. "This is an important opportunity to raise awareness of a critically endangered species that is in rapid decline in the wild, and to learn about the work that the National Aviary is doing to care for and propagate African penguins."

African penguins are endangered, with less than 25,000 pairs left in the wild today. The National Aviary, the only independent indoor nonprofit aviary in the U.S., works to conserve threatened populations and raise awareness of them with bird breeding programs and educational campaigns.

After Sidney and Bette's new chicks are born, they will care for them in the nest for their first three weeks of life. The two penguins are parenting pros at this point: The monogamous couple has already hatched and raised three sets of chicks together.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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iStock
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holidays
Bleat Along to Classic Holiday Tunes With This Goat Christmas Album
iStock
iStock

Feeling a little Grinchy this month? The Sweden branch of ActionAid, an international charity dedicated to fighting global poverty, wants to goat—errr ... goad—you into the Christmas spirit with their animal-focused holiday album: All I Want for Christmas is a Goat.

Fittingly, it features the shriek-filled vocal stylings of a group of festive farm animals bleating out classics like “Jingle Bells,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.” The recording may sound like a silly novelty release, but there's a serious cause behind it: It’s intended to remind listeners how the animals benefit impoverished communities. Goats can live in arid nations that are too dry for farming, and they provide their owners with milk and wool. In fact, the only thing they can't seem to do is, well, sing. 

You can purchase All I Want for Christmas is a Goat on iTunes and Spotify, or listen to a few songs from its eight-track selection below.

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