Archive for December, 2014

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

December 30, 2014

The following Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) was spotted on 17 October 2014 near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, breathing and grooming)

December 28, 2014

The following video features an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted on 15 November 2013 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Dragonflies breathe through small holes in the underside of their thorax and abdomen called “spiracles.” Notice the dragonfly’s thorax and abdomen expanding and contracting as she inhales and exhales.

The female appears to be grooming while perching on the warm surface of the boardwalk, using her front legs to wipe her eyes and face. The author has observed many species of dragonflies engaged in similar behavior.

Tech Tip: The preceding video looks better viewed in full-screen mode.

Related Rescources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Insex | Part 2: Pas de deux

December 26, 2014

What happens after odonates copulateAutumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) engage in a form of guarding behavior known as “contact guarding,” in which the male and female fly “in tandem” to egg-laying sites. Contact guarding is used by some species of odonates to prevent aggressive males from hijacking the female.

The following video shows several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawks spotted on 27 October 2014 at a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. Each pair is in tandem: the male is in front; the female in back. Autumn Meadowhawk is a member of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies: the female dragonfly is laying eggs by the process of oviposition; guided by the male, she skims the water repeatedly, picking up drops of water that are used to flick fertilized eggs toward the shore.

Tech Tip: The preceding video looks better viewed in full-screen mode.

In ballet, a pas de deux (French, literally “step of two”) is a dance duet in which two dancers, typically a male and a female, perform ballet steps together. Source Credit: Pas de deux, Wikipedia.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Insex | Part 1: Seeds

December 24, 2014

Adult dragonflies have one goal: reproduce; repeatedly. It’s a wonderful life.

The following photographs show a mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted on 30 October 2014 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park. 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)

The happy couple is perching on a dried cattail leaf (Typha sp.). Nearby cattail “flowers,” shown in the background, have started dispersing their tiny seeds.

The seeds are minute, 0.2 millimeters (0.0079 in) long, and attached to fine hairs. When ripe, the [flower] heads disintegrate into a cottony fluff from which the seeds disperse by wind. Source Credit: Typha, Wikipedia.

Look closely at the full-size versions of both photos. You can see several cattail plant seeds clinging to the same leaf on which the dragonflies are perching and mating. Spreading seeds — it’s a leitmotif in the symphony of life!

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flashback to fall

December 22, 2014

Here is Mike Powell’s take on a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) we photographed on 17 October 2014. Enjoy!

Mike Powell

This past Saturday, I searched and searched for a straggler dragonfly which might have survived our recent cold spell, but I found none—dragonfly hunting season is officially over for me. That same day, however, fellow photographer and blogger (and local dragonfly expert) Walter Sanford did a blog posting with photos of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that both of us photographed on 17 October and suggested that I also post some shots.

Previously this year, Walter and I did companion postings, in which we each posted photos that showed our different photographic approaches to the same subject, which in that case was a pair of mating dragonflies. (If you are interested, check out Walter’s posting Two sides to every story and my posting My view of the mating dragonflies.)

I am fascinated by the way that two photographers shooting together consciously or unconsciously make a…

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To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (Part 3)

December 22, 2014

This is the third installment in a three-part series featuring some of my favorite photos of female dragonflies spotted while photowalking Huntley Meadows Park during Fall 2014.

The following photos show a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted on 12 October 2014, perching near the base of the berm that was built as part of the wetland restoration project. This individual is a heteromorph female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, heteromorph)

Notice the insect (I presume) perching in front of the dragonfly, as shown in the next two photos. A couple of members of the BugGuide Facebook group think this may be a grasshopper nymph, possibly a species of Short-horned Grasshopper (Family Acrididae).

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, heteromorph)

Why didn’t the dragonfly eat the insect?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (female, heteromorph)

The Backstory: I wandered along the berm looking for dragonflies until I reached the small observation platform located above the new water control structure that is used to manage water levels in the central wetland. I discovered an unknown plant near the edge of the forest, to the left of the platform. What appear to be beautiful crimson red flowers are in fact the seed pods of Virginia marsh St. Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum). The seed pods remind me of tiny rosebuds. But I digress.

Virginia marsh St. Johnswort (Triadenum virginicum)

When I returned to berm, fellow odonate enthusiast Lova Brown Freeman pointed out the female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly shown in the preceding photos. At first, the dragonfly was perching on jute used to protect post-construction ground cover plantings. The coloration of the dragonfly and jute were an almost perfect match, making the dragonfly difficult to see through the viewfinder of my camera. Fortunately for me, the dragonfly moved to a piece of bark, making it easier to find and photograph. Good find, and thanks for sharing, Lova!

Lova is a talented craftsperson who specializes in crocheting. Many of Lova’s craft items are nature-themed. Visit Lova’s Crafty Caboodle for more information.

Editor’s Note: Credit Dr. Edward Eder and Mr. Alonso Abugattas for independently identifying the unknown plant, shown above.

On re-examining the photo I noticed that the “flowers” were not flowers at all but rather seed pods. Saint Johnswort has red seed pods that look a lot like this picture. Source Credit: Personal communication, Dr. Edward Eder.

Cool, is that Marsh St. Johnswort, Triadenum virginicum (sometimes called Hypericum virginicum)? What a great find! I don’t think that’s supposed to be found around here, not in Fairfax or Arlington anyway. That might be a new county record if the park decides to get a voucher and report it to the state. Source Credit: Alonso Abugattas Jr., Capital Naturalist Facebook group.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (Part 2)

December 20, 2014

This is the second installment in a three-part series featuring some of my favorite photos of female dragonflies spotted while photowalking Huntley Meadows Park during Fall 2014.

The following photos show a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted on 17 October 2014 near a vernal pool in a relatively remote location in the forest. This individual is a heteromorph female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (heteromorph female)

Female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies are polymorphic: heteromorphs are duller in color than males; andromorphs are male-like in color.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (heteromorph female)

Both female morphs feature the same distinctive blue eye coloration as males.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (heteromorph female)

Mike Powell, fellow wildlife photographer and blogger, spotted this dragonfly while I was shooting photos of a male Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) perching on thigh-high grasses a few yards away. I joined Mike after my subject flew away.

I don’t recall seeing Mike’s photos of this dragonfly. Perhaps it’s time for another installment of “Two sides to every story.” The ball is in your court, Mike.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before (Part 1)

December 18, 2014

To all the girls I’ve loved before
Who traveled in and out my door
I’m glad they came along
I dedicate this song
To all the girls I’ve loved before

This is the first installment in a three-part series featuring some of my favorite photos of female dragonflies spotted while photowalking Huntley Meadows Park during Fall 2014.

The following photo shows an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted on 24 October 2014 near a vernal pool in a relatively remote location in the forest. This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (female)

“Oh, it’s just an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly. Very common,” you may be thinking. Well, this may be the best photo of a single Autumn Meadowhawk I’ve ever taken, he said, not too modestly! I like the clarity and color palette. The seed pod on which the dragonfly is perching reminds me of a cornucopia or “horn of plenty” — a perfect prop for autumn!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Post update: Malformed odonates

December 16, 2014

I discovered another malformed odonate during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 20 October 2014. This individual is a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) with a slight bend in its abdomen between S5 and S6. Remember that “S5 and S6″ refers to abdominal Segments 5 and 6 (of 10), numbered from front to back.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male, malformed abdomen)

A lot can go wrong when a dragonfly metamorphoses from a larva to an adult. I’m surprised more odonates aren’t malformed, although the ones with fatal flaws probably tend to be uncommon sightings.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Translucency

December 14, 2014

This is the sixth installment in a series of themed posts featuring photos of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted while photowalking Huntley Meadows Park during Fall 2014. All individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

All of the photos were shot in strong backlight from the Sun that makes the dragonflies look translucent, especially noticeable near the face and base of their abdomen. An external flash unit was used to add “fill” light on the camera side of the subject. As always, please view the full-size version of each photo in order to maximize your enjoyment of one of my favorite odonates.

The first two photos were taken near a vernal pool in a relatively remote location in the forest.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

20 October 2014

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

20 October 2014

The last photo was taken near a vernal pool located close to the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail. I dubbed it the “Accidental Vernal Pool” or “AVP.” The vernal pool was created by accident during the wetland restoration project. The AVP provides another good habitat for amphibians and odonates.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

27 October 2014

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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