Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair)

July 31, 2014

I spotted a mating pair of Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 25 May 2014.

The pair is shown “in wheel.” All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia are located in segments two and three (2 and 3); female genitalia in segment eight (8). Therefore, the male dragonfly is on top; the female is on the bottom.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Green Darner dragonflies (mating pair)

July 29, 2014

The following photos show a mating pair of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) spotted during a photowalk through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park. This pair is in tandem: The male is shown on the right; the female on the left. The female is laying eggs on the surface of underwater plants (epiphytic ovipostion). The Common Green Darner dragonfly is the only North American darner that usually oviposits in tandem.

Common Green Darner dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem)

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!

Common Green Darner dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem)

Migratory Common Green Darner is one of the first species of dragonflies you are likely to see at Huntley Meadows during early spring, usually sometime in mid- to late-March. There is also a local population of Common Green Darners; the offspring of this mating pair will emerge from the hemi-marsh sometime next year.

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

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (males, in flight)

July 27, 2014

The following photographs show two Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) spotted in flight over the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 25 July 2014.

Both individuals are males, as indicated by the hamules that are visible below the second segment of their abdomen. Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Digital Dragonflies features a side view of a male Black Saddlebags in which the hamules are shown clearly.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male, in flight)

Black Saddlebags 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 Black Saddlebags, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. Very cool!

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male, in flight)

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

  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | male | top view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | male | side view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | female | top view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | female | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mochas gracias, amigos!

July 25, 2014

The following photographs show several male Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis) spotted along a small stream that flows through the forest at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park. Mochas were my constant companions as I explored the habitat in search of more uncommon species of dragonflies, such as the Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly I discovered on 07 July 2014.

It’s challenging to photograph perching Mochas Emeralds because they prefer shady spots; it’s more challenging to shoot them in flight. Mocha Emerald dragonflies patrol back-and-forth along the center of a stream, pausing to hover in place at times — be prepared to go for it when they hover nearby. Properly exposed photographs are practically impossible to capture: graininess is inevitable using relatively low ISOs and faster shutter speeds; a flash-equipped camera is essential.

All of the photos were shot using the following camera settings: RAW+JPEG; Auto exposure; Auto ISO, Limit Set (400); Auto white balance; Shutter priority; Flash On, Fired; Spot metering; AF Mode (1-area-focusing). Select EXIF information appears in the caption for each photo.

The first two photos were shot on 17 July 2014.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/5.2; 108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent)

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/5.2; 108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent)

The last two photos were taken on 22 July 2014.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/4.1; 57.2mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent)

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/4.1; 57.2mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent)

I prefer a shutter speed of 1/1,300s for stop-action photography of dragonflies in flight, although that shutter speed is a little too fast for low-light conditions and a little too slow to stop wing motion completely. See Dragonflies in Flight, a slideshow featuring 68 still photographs by Walter Sanford. (Hey, that’s me!)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Splish Splash, I was takin’ a bath

July 23, 2014

The following photos show an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) spotted on 22 July 2014 during a photowalk along a small creek that flows through the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

They are found in most open forested habitats with lots of cover. They seek damp mud or pools when temperatures get too high. Source Credit: Virginia Herpetological Society.

The high temperature was 88°F (31°C), recorded at 3:05 p.m.

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina)

Editor’s Note:Splish Splash” is a song performed by Bobby Darin, recorded and released in 1958.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

July 21, 2014

The following photographs show a Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) perching near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park on 17 July 2014. This individual is a mature male (as indicated by its coloration, terminal appendages, and tattered wings) that has mated many times.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (adult male)

Bar-winged Skimmers are one of many species of dragonflies that perch with their front legs tucked behind their eyes/head.

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (adult male)

The yellows and greens in the blurry background of the following photo are flowering partridge pea plants (Chamaecrista fasciculata), “a species of legume native to most of the eastern United States.”

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (adult male)

Thanks to Matt Ryan, naturalist at Huntley Meadows Park, for identifying the plant in the preceding photo.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More fliers perching

July 19, 2014

Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) are fliers; it is uncommon to see them perching.

I spotted several Swamp Darners perching near two vernal pools at Huntley Meadows Park on 23- and 25 May 2014. All of the individuals are females, resting after egg-laying (oviposition).

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

23 May 2014

The following gallery features another female spotted on the same day.

Finally, a female spotted two days later.

Swamp Darner dragonfly (resting after oviposition)

25 May 2014

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Down at The BoG

July 17, 2014

I live in a “luxury apartment” building called The Beacon of Groveton. Many residents of the building refer to the place as “The BoG.” Turns out the nickname is both an acronym as well as a word that describes the habitat accurately — believe me when I tell you there’s a lot of lipstick on this luxurious pig! (Hey, don’t take my word — go to Yelp and search “Beacon of Groveton” for independent verification.)

By now you may be wondering, “Why don’t you move?” Did I mention The BoG is within walking distance of the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park?

OK, I admit that was a long way to go in order to explain the clever title of this post! I noticed a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) perching on a red brick sidewalk outside The BoG when I returned home from an errand on 15 July 2014. The dragonfly looked dead; it was alive, albeit motionless. The Spot-winged Glider was still on the sidewalk by the time I returned with a camera; I was able to snap a few shots before it flew away. Down, not out!

The dragonfly’s apparent misfortune was my good fortune. It is uncommon to see the broad-winged skimmers from the genus Pantala perching. Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Spot-winged Gliders are fliers.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

Spot-winged Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. One field marker most migratory dragonflies have in common: broad hindwings.

The very broad hindwings represent an important adaptation for gliding, … Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11276-11277). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Spot-winged Glider, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership. Very cool!

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Thanks to Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, for verifying my tentative identification of the dragonfly’s gender.

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

  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | side view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More Painted Skimmer dragonflies (males)

July 15, 2014

Several male Painted Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula semifasciata) were spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 06 June 2014.

Painted Skimmer dragonflies do not display sexual dimorphism, that is, males and females are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages. Also notice the faces of male Painted Skimmers are white and red, like their faces are “sunburned”; female faces are white and tan.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

The “sparkling bokeh” background shown in some of the photos was caused by out-of-focus points of light reflected from the water surface of the vernal pool below the dragonfly.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (immature male)

July 13, 2014

The following photo shows a Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 07 July 2014. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (immature male)

Slaty Skimmer dragonflies display sexual dimorphism, that is, coloration is different for mature males and females. Immature males and immature/adult females are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages. Another useful field marker: females have dark wing tips; males, not so much.

Immature male Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) and immature male Slaty Skimmers are somewhat similar in appearance. In addition to other key field markers such as differences in the coloration of their faces and legs, some odonate experts say you can see a “wolf head” on the side of the thorax of Slaty Skimmers.

The preceding photograph shows the wolf head more clearly than any photo I’ve taken of Slaty Skimmer dragonflies. Look at the full-size version of the photo.

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: “Odonatacoccygia” is defined as seeing shapes in the patterns on odonates, and I should know, since I coined the term!  Do you see the wolf head on the side of the thorax? I do!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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