Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female, predator/prey)

October 21, 2014

The following Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted toward the end of a long photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 17 September 2014. This individual is a female, as indicated by its green coloration and white terminal appendages.

Like many species of dragonflies in the Skimmer family, the Eastern Pondhawk usually perches on four of six legs, with the two front legs curled around its head. I noticed the pondhawk’s front legs moving in front of its face and guessed correctly the dragonfly was eating some type of prey.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female, eating prey)

Voracious predator, especially females, eating odonates of all kinds their own size and smaller, … Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 10223-10224). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Dragonflies use their front legs like a “basket” to catch prey in mid-air. Look closely at the full-size version of the following photo, showing the female eating some type of winged insect cradled in her front legs, possibly a small bumble bee.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female, eating prey)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arboreal dragonflies like timberlands

October 19, 2014

Arboreal dragonflies — dragonflies that live in or among trees — like timberlands. Timberland Boots, that is. Perhaps you’re thinking, “Hey, I see what you did there!” But seriously folks, Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) is a habitat-specific species of odonate that prefers forested locations.

Habitat: Temporary pools with sedges, wetland grasses, and often mosses, including sphagnum. Usually in woods. Source Credit: Blue-faced MeadowhawkDragonflies of Northern Virginia by Kevin Munroe, Manager, Huntley Meadows Park.

The following Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies were spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park on 14 October 2014. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages. The dragonflies are shown perching on my boots.

Left Foot

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Right Foot

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

Editor’s Note: Odonate research is an area where amateurs, like me, can contribute to what is known about dragonflies and damselflies. Although the flight period for some meadowhawk dragonflies, including Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) and Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum), is from June to October-November in Northern Virginia, large numbers of meadowhawks don’t appear until fall in the mid-Atlantic United States. I wonder where meadowhawks are during the summer months. My theory is meadowhawk dragonflies are arboreal. They live in trees for months and burst on the scene at ground/water level when it’s time to mate. I asked Dennis Paulson, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East, for his opinion regarding my theory.

Walter, I don’t know if [meadowhawks] are up in the trees, but for sure they are at some distance from their breeding grounds. In Japan, a very common species of meadowhawk emerges from the rice fields in summer, migrates up into the nearby mountains for up to two months, I think, then returns to the rice fields in autumn, many of them already in tandem. We don’t know if any North American meadowhawk (except Variegated) does anything that extreme, but some people have speculated that at least Autumns spend quite a long time away from the water before returning.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselflies (females, oviposition)

October 17, 2014

The following photo galleries, shown in reverse-chronological order, feature four female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) spotted photowalking at Huntley Meadows Park on two days during September 2014: Gallery 1-2 (26/09/2014); Gallery 3-4 (23/09/2014). All four individuals are shown laying eggs (oviposition).

…females oviposit solo, unusual in spreadwings, and about a foot above water. Eggs commonly laid in cattails, one (1) egg per incision. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 1682-1683). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gallery 1

Gallery 2

Gallery 3

Gallery 4

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

October 15, 2014

The following photos show a Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) spotted on 17 September 2014 alongside the boardwalk in the central wetland area hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park.

This individual is a female as indicated by its terminal appendages and the ovipositor located on the underside of the posterior abdomen.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

Cleared for take-off …

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

October 13, 2014

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

One look at the full-size version of the preceding photo and I’m sure you’ll understand why the Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) is one of my favorite species of dragonfly!

This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. I spotted this handsome devil near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park on 06 October 2014. The dragonfly is perching on a tree limb that looks like a wooden bird nest.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another discovery!

October 11, 2014

On 09 October 2014, I discovered another new species of odonate for Huntley Meadows Park: Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis). The individual shown in the following photo is a male, as indicated by its coloration and and terminal appendages.

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

The Backstory: This damselfly “found me” while I was sitting in a drainage ditch near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park, photographing Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies. I took two shots of the same pose, one of which is shown above, before the damselfly simply vanished. Poof, gone!

I thought it was a Swamp Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes vigilax), one of two spreadwing damselflies on the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Species List for Dragonflies and Damselflies. I have never seen a Swamp Spreadwing, so this sighting would have been an exciting first for me.

When I shared my spotting with the Northeast Odonata Facebook group, Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, kindly corrected my misidentification.

Sorry, Walter, that’s not a Swamp Spreadwing. It’s a male Great Spreadwing (Archilestes grandis). Note the yellow stripe on the side of the thorax where it would be pruinose white on a Swamp. The paraprocts are very short on Great; longer but very thin on Swamp.

I replied to Ed, “In this case I’m happy to be wrong, Ed — Great Spreadwing is a NEW SPECIES of damselfly for HMP! Woo-hoo!!!”

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Swarm!

October 9, 2014

On 06 October 2014, I spotted what I would call a small swarm of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) at a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. There were at least 25-30 individuals, maybe more. They alternated between hawking flying insects, then perching/resting briefly in vegetation near the ground. The activity lasted all day, until dusk. I’m guessing the swarm stopped to refuel at the park while migrating southward.

Common Green Darner dragonfly (male)

The dragonfly shown in the preceding photo is a male, as indicated by its blue abdomen and terminal appendages.

Common Green Darner is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Common Green Darner, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. Very cool!

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Anax | Anax junius | Common Green Darner | male | top view
  • Genus Anax | Anax junius | Common Green Darner | male | side view

Editor’s Note: Small swarms of Common Green Darner dragonflies were reported recently by spotters in other parts of Huntley Meadows Park.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Buckeye butterfly

October 7, 2014

(Common) Buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia)

Common Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) seem to be especially hyperactive. I followed this colorful beauty from place to place and waited a long time before it spread its wings for the preceding photo. Worth the extra effort, wouldn’t you agree?

This individual was spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 02 October 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Familiar Bluet damselflies (males)

October 5, 2014

This post features photos of two damselflies spotted during recent photowalks at Huntley Meadows Park.

Familiar Bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile) is shown in the first photo. This individual is a male, in flight over the central wetland area.

Familiar Bluet damselfly (male, in flight)

15 September 2014

Question is, what type of damselfly is shown in the following photo?

Familiar Bluet damselfly (female)

28 September 2014

Would you believe it’s another Familiar Bluet damselfly? This individual is either an immature- or young male, as indicated by the blue pruinescence that is just beginning to appear on its body. At this stage, male Familiar Bluets look similar to females.

Thanks to the following members of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group for their kind assistance in identifying the species and gender of the damselfly shown in the preceding photo: Steve Price; and Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Reconnecting with a dear friend

October 3, 2014

Hello, friend. It’s good to see you again! Where have you been?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

I spotted my first Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) of Fall 2014 during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 30 September 2014. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

I spent a lot time looking for Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies during Fall 2013. (See “In the beginning…” for details.) Last year I spotted the first Blue-faced Meadowhawk nearly two weeks earlier than this year.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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