Archive for February, 2014

American Bullfrog

February 28, 2014

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)

The preceding photographs show an American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) spotted during a photowalk through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 03 October 2013.

Late winter/early spring is the time of year when the amphibians that inhabit my favorite marsh begin to awaken from their slumber. Soon the air will be filled with the songs of singing frogs and toads … won’t be long ’til dragonfly nymphs start emerging from the water!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Now that’s “Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly attractive!”

February 26, 2014

OK, I’m not trying to shame the female Blue Dasher dragonflies featured in my last post, but hey, I have more unpublished photos of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies and this guy is next in the queue. I’m guessing you’re thinking, “Now that’s a really attractive (handsome?) dragonfly!”

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Same pose with a little attitude …

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

The preceding photographs show a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 26 September 2013. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (females)

February 24, 2014

When you’re making a list of the “Top 10 Most Beautiful Dragonflies of the Mid-Atlantic USA,” don’t sleep on the female Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). I think it’s easy to overlook their beauty because they’re a relatively common dragonfly — males seemingly more so than females — but I think females are uncommonly attractive. Not Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) attractive, but very attractive nonetheless. And Blue Dashers seem to have a penchant for perching on picturesque plants, which adds to their appeal. There, how’s that for extreme alliteration?

Anyway, here are a couple of beauties I spotted on 15 August 2013 at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area.

Female 1

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

Regular readers of my photoblog know I love a pose with a good head-tilt!

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

Female 2

Dark and moody but I love the colors in this photo, better appreciated by looking at the full-size version.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another Eastern American Toad

February 22, 2014

The preceding gallery features an Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) spotted on 03 May 2012 during a photowalk with my friend Matt Ryan along one of the “informal trails” at Huntley Meadows Park. This little toad owes its life to Matt — the toad was so well camouflaged I almost stepped on it before Matt shouted, “Watch out!”

Notice how different this individual looks in contrast with the two Eastern American Toads featured in my last post, “A Tale of Two Toads.”

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A Tale of Two Toads

February 20, 2014

Two types of toads, that is. Specifically Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) and Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri). Eastern American- and Fowler’s Toads are similar in appearance and often coexist in the same habitat.

A rule-of-thumb that may be used to differentiate the two species is the number of “warts per dark spot”: Eastern American Toads have only one- or two large warts in each of its largest dorsal dark spots; Fowler’s Toads have three or more warts in each of its large dorsal color spots.

Eastern American Toads

A couple of Eastern American Toads were spotted during photowalks through Huntley Meadows Park the past two years.

Specimen 1 (17 May 2012)

The color is highly variable, from brick-red through browns and olive grays to light gray. Source Credit: eastern American toad (Anaxyrus americanus americanus), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.

Specimen 2 (20 September 2013)

Fowler’s Toad

The following photos show a Fowler’s Toad spotted on 16 August 2013 near the head-end of “Basin Trail” at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Fowler's Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)

Fowler's Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri)

Thanks to Jim Waggener, Bob Studholme, and Kevin Munroe for confirming my tentative field identification of the three toads featured in this post. These gentlemen conduct wildlife surveys of the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex, coordinated by Mr. Waggener.

Related Resources:

  • Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Amphibians species list
  • eastern American toad (Anaxyrus americanus americanus), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
  • Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri), Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

February 18, 2014

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (male)

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P1180070-RW2-Ver3_Aperture-BFX

The preceding photographs show a Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted along “Great Blue Heron Trail” during a photowalk at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. 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 midabdomen 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.

Great Blue Skimmers are one of many types of dragonflies that perch with their front legs tucked behind their eyes/head.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mystery mantis (male)

February 16, 2014

I photographed some type of mantis during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park last fall. It was like a scene from the movie Alien — there was this creepy-looking orange thing twitching back-and-forth at the end of the mantis’ abdomen that seemed to have a mind of its own. OK, I may have used hyperbole to convey what I saw but it freaked me out a little!

Unknown mantis (male)

Over 20 species are native to the United States, including the common Carolina Mantis, with only one native to Canada. Two species (the Chinese Mantis and the European Mantis) were deliberately introduced to serve as pest control for agriculture, and have spread widely in both countries. Source Credit: Mantis (Wikipedia).

Question is, what type of mantis did I see? Experts disagree.

With location, maybe we can safely ID it. It is clearly not the native [Carolina Mantis] Stagmomantis. Could be the European species, but BugGuide has no records of it for Virginia, or any state south of Delaware. So that leaves the Chinese Mantis, Tenodera sinensis. The only hesitation I have is that Delaware is not terribly far from Virginia, and the Euro mantis is widely sold to gardeners and also capable of hitching rides in shipments of plants, hay, or whatever. The Chinese mantis is generally larger than the Euro, but the only really firm, non-relative ID character separating the two (as far as I know) is the black-and-white eyespot between the Euro’s forelimbs. Source Credit: Joshua Stuart Rose, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook.

There are also two more subtle features, involving the relative width of the head versus pronotum, and the spination of the front femora — in both features, your photo more resembles [European Mantis] Mantis religiosa, and it’s a male. Source Credit: Doug Yanega, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook.

As you can see, the identity of the mantis is an unsolved mystery!

The two antenna-like structures visible at the tip of the mantis’ orange-colored abdomen are cerci (terminal appendages), body parts that are well known to dragonfly enthusiasts like me. The cerci are visible in every photo in the following gallery.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

My Funny Valentine

February 14, 2014

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

My funny valentine
Sweet comic valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable
Unphotographable
Yet you’re my favorite work of art

“My Funny Valentine” is a show tune from Babes in Arms, the 1937 musical by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

The preceding photographs show a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 24 September 2013. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male) 1

February 12, 2014

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

The preceding photos show a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 19 September 2013. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Eight individual Blue-faced Meadowhawks were spotted during the walk, including four males and two mating pairs.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

To fly on gossamer wings

February 10, 2014

Spiders sometimes fly. Not under their own power, of course, but by a process known as ballooning. Ballooning spiders hitch a ride on their silk as the breeze carries it. Spider silk floating on wind currents is known as gossamer. … Late fall is … the time when ballooning spiders are most likely to be seen floating on the breeze. Source Credit: “Traveling on Gossamer Without Wings,” by Tom Turpin, Professor of Entomology, Purdue University.

The following time-series of photos shows a Wolf spider (Family Lycosidae) spotted during a photowalk through Huntley Meadows Park on 03 October 2013. This individual is a young spider, also known as a spiderling, trying to “balloon.” It is easier to see the spider silk by looking at the full-size version of each photo.

Unknown spider

Fire one!

Unknown spider

Reload.

Unknown spider

Fire two!

It seemed like spider silk was everywhere at Huntley Meadows Park for a few weeks last fall — it was impossible to avoid walking into long strands of silk blowing in the wind! I was tempted to edit many of the dragonfly photos that I shot during the same time period in order to remove the distracting strands of silk that “clutter” the images; I decided to leave the photos “as is,” purist that I am. Notice the spider silk that appears in all three photos featured in Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male): the photos were taken on 15 October 2013; published on 21 October 2013.

Thanks to Eric Eaton, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook, for confirming my tentative field identification of the spider and for identifying the spiderling’s ballooning behavior.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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