Blue Dasher dragonfly (teneral female)

August 26, 2014

Blue Dasher dragonfly (teneral female)

I spotted a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 08 August 2014. This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. She was sheltering in leaf litter alongside the raised gravel trail through the “drowned forest,” just beyond the end of the boardwalk.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (teneral female)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Seeing the bigger picture

August 24, 2014

A tried and true recipe for success: combine a colorful subject with a colorful background that complements the subject.

The following photos show two male Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park.

The first individual is shown perching on trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) growing alongside the boardwalk in the hemi-marsh. The photo was taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera (superseded by Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 superzoom camera).

Blue Dasher dragonfly (male)

08 August 2014

The last individual was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest. The photo was taken with my Fujifilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera, Fujifilm 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent), and Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (male)

11 July 2014

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (mating pair)

August 22, 2014

Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

The preceding photograph shows a mating pair of Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) spotted on 15 August 2014 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park. The pair is shown “in wheel”: the male is on top; the female on the bottom.

The following photo shows the female resting after copulation. Look closely at the full-size version of the photo. Females have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (female, resting after copulation)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More X-Files of mating dragonflies

August 20, 2014

On 15 August 2014, I spotted two mating pairs of Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park.

Both pairs are shown “in wheel”: the male is on top; the female on the bottom.

Mating Pair No. 1

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

ISO 200; 200mm (320mm, 35mm equivalent); -1 ev; f/6.4; 1/640s

Mating Pair No. 2

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

ISO 200; 200mm (320mm, 35mm equivalent); -1 ev; f/8; 1/340s

Editor’s Note: This post features more photos from a day of field-testing my new Fujifilm X-T1 mirror-less digital camera and 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent). I refer to photos taken with the X-T1 as “X-Files,” an homage to “The X-Files” TV series (one of my favorite science fiction programs).

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair)

August 18, 2014

Eureka! As a result of either persistence or perseveration, I succeeded in photographing a mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) while field-testing my new Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent) at Huntley Meadows Park on 15 August 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.

The male member of this mating pair is a young male. See “Related Resources,” shown below, for links to a three-part series of photoblog posts illustrating color change in male Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies as they mature.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Photo 1. ISO 200; 200mm (320mm, 35mm equivalent); -1 ev; f/8; 1/350s

Notice the fishing spider in the background of the next photo.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Photo 2. ISO 200; 200mm (320mm, 35mm equivalent); -1 ev; f/8; 1/180s

I have never seen a pair of mating Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies hook-up as long as this couple — the same pair perched at three locations! Perhaps young males are more virile than mature males.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Photo 3. ISO 200; 200mm (320mm, 35mm equivalent); -1 ev; f/8; 1/250s

Related Resources:

Editor’s Notes: The preceding photos were taken using Aperture Priority (f/8). The drive mode was set for continuous shooting (low-speed burst, ~3 fps). A small pop-up flash was connected to the camera and the flash mode was set for forced flash, but flash doesn’t fire in burst mode. The focus mode was set for single autofocus; it would have been better to use continuous autofocus.

If you look closely at the full-size versions of these photos, then you will notice the focus is a little soft. In order to shoot tack-sharp photos using a hand-held camera and 200mm lens (320mm, 35mm equivalent), I would prefer to use a combination of a shutter speed of at least 1/640s with fill flash: this configuration works with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera (superseded by Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ200 superzoom camera); it doesn’t work with my new Fujifilm X-T1. Mirror-less digital cameras still require a shutter in order to properly expose larger image sensors such as the APS-C sensor featured in the X-T1. Using the X-T1, flash will synchronize with the shutter at shutter speeds of 1/180s or slower. Needless to say, I need to learn to adapt/adjust to the wonderful world of flash sync speed. Hey Fuji HQ — if you’re reading this, then your engineers need to start working on an external flash unit that features a hi-speed sync mode like my Canon 580EX II … STAT!

All of that being said, my credo for wildlife photography is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” Although my camera set-up wasn’t ideal, I got the shot when there was an opportunity; regrettably there was no time to refine the shot. Better luck next time, right?

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

I heart you!

August 16, 2014

I was looking for mating pairs of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 10 August 2014. Meanwhile my friend Mark Jette spotted a mating pair of damselflies.

The Orange Bluet damselflies (Enallagma signatum) shown in the following photographs are “in wheel,” in which the male uses “claspers” (terminal appendages) at the end of his abdomen to hold the female by her neck/thorax while they are joined at their abdomens. The male, orange and black in color, is on top; the female, green and black in color, is on the bottom.

The copulatory, or wheel, position is unique to the Odonata, as is the distant separation of the male’s genital opening and copulatory organs. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 377-378). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The wheel position is sometimes referred to as “in heart” when damselflies mate.

Orange Bluet damselflies (mating pair, in wheel)

The preceding photograph was edited to highlight the heart shape formed by the mating pair of damselflies.

Orange Bluet damselflies (mating pair, in wheel)

The classic heart shape became deformed as time passed.

Orange Bluet damselflies (mating pair, in wheel)

In case you’re wondering, I spotted four- to five pairs of mating Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies but wasn’t fast enough to shoot a single photograph! Eastern Pondhawks mate quickly, often for just a few seconds and sometimes entirely in mid-air. Usually by the time you spot a mating pair and reach for your camera, the peep show is over: the pair separates when copulation is complete and the female starts laying eggs (oviposition) while the male hover-guards the female from other aggressive males.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Simply Slaty

August 14, 2014

Simpler is better sometimes, such as this photograph of a Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) spotted in the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park on 10 August 2014. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

There’s a reason gray and tan is a popular color combination, especially among interior designers — it just works!

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

August 12, 2014

Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) are common at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual was spotted on 22 July 2014 near a vernal pool in the forest; it is a mature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

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.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

Slaty Skimmer, the common name for Libella incesta, is derived from slate, a relatively common metamorphic rock that is often blue-black in color.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

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

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula incesta | Slaty Skimmer | male | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula incesta | Slaty Skimmer | male | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (females)

August 10, 2014

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) are another species of dragonfly with prominent pseudopupils, as shown by several specimens spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 22 July 2014.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female)

These individuals are females, as indicated by their green coloration and white terminal appendages. See Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies, a photo-illustrated guide to the identification of male- and female terminal appendages.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female)

Look closely at the following photo. Notice the subgenital plate, a black “shark fin” located beneath segment eight of the abdomen.

Underneath Segment 8 there is either an ovipositor or a subgenital plate, depending upon the species [of dragonfly]. Both structures are for laying eggs and extend over Segment 9 and possibly beyond. Source Credit: Dragonflies of the North Woods, by Kurt Mead.

Remember that “Segment 8 and 9″ refers to abdominal segments eight and nine (of 10), numbered from front to back. Digital Dragonflies features a side view of a female Eastern Pondhawk in which the subgenital plate is shown clearly.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female)

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

  • Genus Erythemis |Erythemis simplicicollis | Eastern Pondhawk | female | top view
  • Genus Erythemis |Erythemis simplicicollis | Eastern Pondhawk | female | side view
  • Genus Erythemis |Erythemis simplicicollis | Eastern Pondhawk | male | top view
  • Genus Erythemis |Erythemis simplicicollis | Eastern Pondhawk | male | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“I’m the King of the World!”

August 8, 2014

Well, that’s what I imagine the following Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was thinking as it perched atop a dead tree in a remote part of Huntley Meadows Park on 07 July 2014.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Moving forward on the make-believe bow, he shouted “I’m the King of the World!” For a few moments, he was.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration, terminal appendages, and the hamules that are visible below the second segment of its abdomen. Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies are so common at Huntley Meadows it’s easy to overlook the fact that they are handsome/beautiful insects.

Look closely at the dragonfly’s compound eyes. Notice the darker colored areas called “pseudopupils.” According to Richard Orr, renowned expert on dragonflies and damselflies of the mid-Atlantic region, pseudopupils indicate areas of higher visual acuity.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (male)

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

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | male | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | male | side view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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