Long ago, I used to think of crane flies as just very big mosquitos. Big, gangly, clumsy mosquitos. A beast to be swatted, or at least to be shooed outside as quickly as possible.
That was before I looked closely at one.
Up close, they have an understated elegance. Smooth bodies, polished legs, each feature held separate to display its contours and colours; no confusion here. And the wings! The shimmery, translucent, stained-glass, shot-silk wings! Ever-changing mood-ring wings, wings to turn a butterfly green with envy!
This fly was on my door yesterday morning. The transparent wings captured the light from my lamp and transformed it, and themselves, into rich wood tones.
Another crane fly, from last September. Natural light; the spun-sugar wings pick up the green from the distant hedge and trim it with pink highlights.
This one is from June of last year. The light (daylight) is coming from the far side; now all that's visible is the delicate tracery of veins. Two of the panes on either wing are slightly tinted. The resulting dark spots are there on the first two photos, if you look closely enough.
I've been comparing these three flies.
The wings are the same, though they look different. The vein patterns match, in all three. But look at this:
This morning's crane fly. The wings are about as long as the abdomen, which ends in a rounded, up-turned tip, with a padded "shoe" beneath.
Last June's fly: wings about as long as the abdomen, which now ends in a swollen club, with two curved "claws".
And September: the wings are only about 2/3 the length of the abdomen. And it ends in a long, tapered point. (It always reminds me of one of those pen-nibs on an old fountain pen -- remember them?)
I would guess that the long, pointed one is an ovipositor, and therefore its possessor is female. But why the other two don't match, I have no idea. Looks like I've got some more Googling to do.