Emergence of a Cardinal Meadowhawk dragonfly at Bigsnest Wildlife Pond

This series of photographs show the emergence of a Cardinal Meadowhawk, Sympetrum illotum at our backyard pond in Sebastopol, CA.

I noticed the nymph as it climbed up on the Mare's Tail stem.

This image shows it as it has just split open it's exoskeleton and it's eyes and upper thorax can be seen rising out of it.
Then I picked the stem with the emerging dragonfly on it, and placed it in a cup of water where I could more easily photograph it.

Here the new dragonfly's head, thorax, legs and crumpled wings have emerged from the exoskeleton and, totally vulnerable, it now hangs, helpless, for ~30 mins. while its legs harden up enough to be used.

When its legs finally dry and harden, the dragonfly makes a sudden lurch upward, grabs onto its old exoskeleton and pulls the rest of its abdomen out.

Here the new dragonfly is totally free from its shell (now called an exuvia).

Now it begins to expand its wings, abdomen, and even its eyes!

This is the only time in its life when a dragonfly holds its wings closed, above the abdomen.
Note that the fresh dragonfly is at least twice as long as the exuvia he emerged from.

The new dragonfly climbs upward, spreads its wings for the first time, and then leaves the area to mature.
The new dragonfly at this point is called a "teneral" - think of him as being 'tentative' as opposed to fully ready!