Archive for October, 2013

The natives are friendly

October 31, 2013

Most dragonflies are skittish. Some dragonflies are “friendly,” such as Blue Corporal dragonflies (Ladona deplanata). Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are friendly; sometimes very friendly!

Mike Powell and I visited Huntley Meadows Park recently. We stopped to “charm” dragonflies a couple of times during our photowalk. The following gallery shows two different male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies perching on Mike: Photos 1-2 show Mike coaxing a dragonfly onto his finger; Photos 3-4 show another dragonfly perching on Mike’s arm.

Tech Tip: Either mouse-over or tap photos to see captions.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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I feel so violated!

October 29, 2013

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are friendly. Maybe a little too friendly. Yep, that’s a mating pair (in wheel) perching on my calf in the following photo. Apparently Autumn Meadowhawks think it’s OK to fornicate anywhere!

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

The mating pair of dragonflies landed on me as I was standing on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park with Mike Powell, fellow wildlife photographer. Mike had a better viewpoint than me for capturing the fleeting moment. Mike’s excellent close-up photo is featured in his photoblog post, “Dragonflies mating on a calf.”

Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 in a three-part series of photoblog posts related to reproduction of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs, in tandem)

October 27, 2013

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) oviposit in tandem after copulation. The following mating pair, spotted on 15 October 2013, is shown resting in tandem on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem)

Three more mating pairs were spotted on 18- and 22 October 2013. Notice the egg cluster that is visible under the tip of the female’s abdomen in the photo taken on 10/18, shown below.

Tech Tip: Either mouse-over or tap photos to see captions.

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a three-part series of photoblog posts related to reproduction of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

October 25, 2013

The following photos show a mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

The pair is shown “in wheel.”

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.

All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen: 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.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in a three-part series of photoblog posts related to reproduction of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (females)

October 23, 2013

The following photo shows an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 15 October 2013. This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Notice the dark-colored insect extending from the dragonfly’s mouth, near the bottom of its face.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

I spotted another female, shown below, at the same location a day later. Some dragonflies are creatures of habit that return to the same spot day after day; these two dragonflies may be the same individual!

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

October 21, 2013

The following gallery features an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

The dragonfly is shown perching on Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) hips.

The rose hip, or rose haw, is the fruit of the rose plant, that typically is red-to-orange, but ranges from dark purple to black in some species. Rose hips begin to form in spring, and ripen in late summer through autumn. … Rose hips are particularly high in vitamin C content, one of the richest plant sources available. Source Credit: Wikipedia.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Excrete

October 19, 2013

I spotted the following Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, specifically a heteromorph, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”). Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Notice anything unusual about the following photo, taken a few seconds after the other photo? The female dragonfly appears to have a third “appendage” between its cerci. Turns out she’s excreting. Hey, don’t be embarrassed — every living thing does it!

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a two-part series of photoblog posts related to observations of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) eating and excreting, two essential life functions. Last post: “Eat.”

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eat

October 17, 2013

Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) are perchers.

Among the perchers, salliers watch for flying prey from a perch and fly up to capture it, whereas gleaners alternate perching with slow searching flights through vegetation, where they dart toward stationary prey and pick it from the substrate. Gleaners may also flush an insect and chase it through the air. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 293-295). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Blue-faced Meadowhawks are salliers.

I would call it a sallier, definitely, with the caveat that many odonates that capture flying insects (both hawkers and salliers) may occasionally take them from the substrate (and gleaners may pursue insects they flush and catch them in the air). Source Credit: Personal communication from Dennis Paulson.

I observed the following male perching on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

A short time later the dragonfly flew upward suddenly and landed on a nearby perch. The following photo shows the dragonfly eating an unknown insect. Notice the cream-colored insect leg extending from the dragonfly’s mouth, near the bottom of its face. Good catch, buddy!

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in a two-part series of photoblog posts related to observations of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) eating and excreting, two essential life functions. Next post: “Excrete.”

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eye injury

October 15, 2013

The following photo shows a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is an andromorph.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

The photo was annotated in order to highlight a gash in the left eye of the female dragonfly (the closer eye, relative to the photo). It’s possible she sustained the eye injury by mating with a male.

Female dragonflies that have mated often have marks on their eyes where the male epiproct has scratched or even punctured the eyes. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Location 392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following gallery features more photos of the same specimen, including several pictures in which the eye injury can be seen clearly.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Hooking up with a female

October 13, 2013

Both photos in this post show the same mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at two nearby locations along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair)

The pair is shown “in wheel.” All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen: 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. Notice that the female is a heteromorph. Male dragonflies must prepare for mating, due to the unique position in which these insects copulate.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a two-part series of photoblog posts related to reproduction of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies. Last post: “Male preparing for mating.”

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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