Year in review: New finds in 2014 (non-odonates)

November 22, 2014

I’m an equal opportunity photographer. Although I tend to focus on photographing odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) I will photograph anything interesting that catches my eye. This retrospective features non-odonate new finds for 2014.

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum)

21 April 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) warbler

Common Yellowthroat (male)

21 April 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Bee-like Robber Fly (Laphria macquarti)

Robber Fly (Laphria macquarti)

22 July 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Handsome Meadow Katydids, mating pair (Orchelimum pulchellum)

Handsome Meadow Katydids (mating pair)

10 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Clip-wing Grasshoppers, mating pair (Metaleptea brevicornis)

Clip-wing Grasshoppers (mating pair)

19 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)

Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)

19 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New finds in 2014 (odonates)

November 20, 2014

In addition to several “New discoveries in 2014,” I spotted several species of odonates in 2014 that were new finds for my “life list,” as well as a few first-time sightings of either a male or female for familiar species of dragonflies.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus).

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of a male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura). I have seen a few females in the past.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young male)

This is my first spotting of a Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena).

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young adult male)

31 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (male, female)

Although I had seen one Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) in the past, these individuals are among the first ones I photographed.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Male | 06 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

Female | 23 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

I have seen lots of Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) in the past, but it’s challenging to identify their gender on the wing. I photographed one perching male on 04 June 2012. The following individual is one of the first confirmed females that I have spotted.

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

02 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

This is the first confirmed female Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) that I have spotted.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

15 July 2014 | Beacon of Groveton

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

This mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) is one of the first times I was quick enough to photograph a pair “in wheel.” This image is also among the first photographs taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent), and Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 in TTL mode.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

20 August 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

I have seen many female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) in the past, but this is the first male I spotted.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

28 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

Although I have spotted Shadow Darner dragonflies (Aeshna umbrosa) in the past, this is one of the first individuals I photographed.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

24 October 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New discoveries in 2014

November 18, 2014

My interest in odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies, began during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park. Toward the end of Summer 2012 and continuing in 2013, my goal was to explore new venues for hunting odonates. Along the way, I spotted several species of odonates that are either uncommon or unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows, including Blue Corporal dragonfly, Stream Cruiser dragonfly, and Rambur’s Forktail damselfly, to name a few.

During 2014, I have been a man on a mission to explore the relatively unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park in search of habitat-specific odonates unlikely to be found in the central wetland area of the park. In retrospect, 2014 was a good year: four new species of odonates were discovered and added to the list of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park. Realistically it will be challenging to repeat the successes enjoyed this year!

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus)

20 June 2014

Mike Powell and I collaborated to identify a clubtail dragonfly that Mike spotted on 17 June 2014. As it turns out, Mike had discovered a Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus), a new species of dragonfly for Huntley Meadows Park. Mike guided me to the same spot on 20 June, where we photographed several sanddragons (like the male shown above), including two mating pairs!

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

07 July 2014

I feel fortunate to have discovered an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) — many experienced odonate hunters go years without seeing one of these handsome dragonflies!

Great Spreadwing damselfly

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

09 October 2014

Although I may not be the first ode-hunter to spot a Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) at Huntley Meadows Park, I am the first person to notify the park manager of its occurrence.

Southern Spreadwing damselfly/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly

Southern/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (male)

23 May 2014

Time will tell which new species of spreadwing damselfly I discovered at Huntley Meadows Park. Either way, both Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) and Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) were formerly unknown to occur at the park.

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies: Best of 2013 at Huntley Meadows Park

November 16, 2014

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum)
2013 | Huntley Meadows Park

Walter Sanford
Educator | Naturalist | Photographer

 

Adobe Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC 2014 were used to create a companion poster (20″ x 24″) for this blog post; the poster was entered in the 2014 Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Annual Photo Contest. The photo exhibit will be open to the public beginning on 06 December 2014 at the Huntley Meadows Park Visitor Center.

Tech Tips: The companion poster was adapted from Lightroom Tutorial: Creating a Poster from the Audi R8 Shoot, a tutorial video by Scott Kelby.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another new species of spreadwing damselfly …

November 14, 2014

During late-May 2014, Mike Powell and I were photographing female Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) laying eggs (oviposition) in a drainage ditch near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. I noticed a damselfly and thought, “It’s just a damselfly; the Swamp Darner is more interesting.” The damselfly was perching closer to Mike, so I waited to take a few photos after Mike finished “working the shot.”

When I revisited the photos months later, I realized the damselfly was a species I’d never seen before. Turns out it’s another new species of spreadwing damselfly for Huntley Meadows Park!

Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, identified the specimen as either a Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) or Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus). According to Ed, this individual “… is a male. Male Southern and Sweetflag cannot be separated in the field.”

Talk about a missed opportunity. Months later it was too late to catch-and-release one or more of these damselflies in order to examine the specimens in-hand, under magnification. At this point, we have to wait until next year to confirm the specific identity of our discovery. It’s going to be another long winter!

Southern/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (male)

23 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Southern/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (male)

23 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

So what’s the take-away from my experience? Don’t be dismissive. Look closely at every subject before you decide it is/isn’t photo-worthy — you never know what you may find!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Vernal pool

November 12, 2014

2014 is the “Year of the Vernal Pool.” Unofficially, that is. 2014 is the year I discovered that many animals — many habitat-specific odonates in particular — prefer vernal pools. In fact, a quick look at my blog posts tagged with the phrase “vernal pool” shows the oldest post is dated April 2014.

What is a vernal pool?

Vernal pools, also known as ephemeral wetlands, prairie potholes, whale wallows, sinks, and kettles are rain-filled depressions that amphibians use for breeding and laying egg masses. These pools can be as small as a puddle. They fill with water in the spring and are usually dried up by June or July. The reason some amphibians use these areas for breeding and laying egg masses is simple — they lack predators (fish) that eat their larvae. Source Credit: Amphibians and Vernal Pools, National Park Service.

Although the preceding quotation is focused on the reason amphibians prefer vernal pools, many odonates prefer fish-less pools for the same reason as amphibians.

What does a vernal pool look like?

Many recent posts in my photoblog feature the phrase, “spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.” The following photos show one of my favorite vernal pools at the park, as it appeared on 04 November 2014. This vernal pool is located in a small meadow in the forest — it isn’t very big and it’s not very deep, but it has proven to be a location favored by many uncommon odonates.

Vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park

Vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park

Vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park

Tech Tips: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot the three preceding photos. The camera was set for manual focus and aperture priority; the lens was focused at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.” Focusing at the hyperfocal distance is a technique used in landscape photography that maximizes depth-of-field. For example, when my camera is set for maximum wide angle at an aperture of f/4, everything is in focus from approximately three feet to infinity — that’s DEEP depth-of-field!

Look closely at the upper part of the full-size version of all three photos. The purple fringing that appears along the edges of some tree limbs is called chromatic aberration; color fringing occurs sometimes in photographs of high contrast subjects such as the dark tree limbs against a bright sky. Adobe Lightroom 5 features several photo editing tools that work well for removing chromatic aberration. If the images featured in this post were fine-art landscape photos, then I would edit the images to remove the chromatic aberration. In this case, the photos are intended to show what a vernal pool looks like, and they are good enough for that purpose, warts and all.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

November 10, 2014

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

The preceding Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) was spotted on 24 October 2014 near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Female Shadow Darner dragonflies are polymorphic: heteromorphs are duller in color than males; andromorphs are male-like in color.

Related Resources: High-resolution digital scans from the Western Odonata Scans in Life collection, Slater Museum of Natural History, University of Puget Sound.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Huntley insects endorse Coleman camp stool

November 8, 2014

In addition to my photography gear, I usually carry a Coleman camp stool when I go photowalking at Huntley Meadows Park. I am the self-described (and self-appointed) “Chair-man of the Boardwalk.”

The small, lightweight folding chair is good for resting while waiting for “the game to come to me.” The camp stool also enables me to get closer to subjects either on- or near the ground. And I think it’s easier to hold my camera rock-steady when I’m sitting on the chair with my elbows resting on my knees.

I like my Coleman camp stool. Several of my favorite insects at the park like to rest on the camp stool too!

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male) | 26 September 2014

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male) | 20 October 2014

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male) | 09 October 2014

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on Coleman camp stool)

Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes) | 02 October 2014

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Green Darner dragonfly (female)

November 6, 2014

Common Green Darner dragonfly (female)

The preceding Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) was spotted on 20 October 2014, perching briefly near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female.

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

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawks like timberlands too!

November 4, 2014

The following Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted near a vernal pool in the forest during several photowalks at Huntley Meadows Park in October 2014.

My speculation is meadowhawk dragonflies — including both Autumn Meadowhawks and Blue-faced Meadowhawks — are arboreal. They live in trees for months and burst on the scene at ground/water level when it’s time to mate. [For details regarding my theory, see the “Editor’s Note” in Arboreal dragonflies like timberlands.]

Is there evidence that supports my theory? Well, the following photos clearly show Autumn Meadowhawks like timberlands. Timberland Boots, that is. Yuk-yuk!

Guys like ‘em …

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Gals like ‘em …

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, perching on my Timberland Boot)

30 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, perching on my Timberland Boot)

20 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

And couples like ‘em too!

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem, perching on my Timberland Boot)

27 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (mating pair, in tandem)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem, perching on my Timberland Boot)

20 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (mating pair, in tandem)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem, perching on my Timberland Boot)

20 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (mating pair, in tandem)

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem, perching on my Timberland Boot)

20 October 2014 | Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (mating pair, in tandem)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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