Archive for January, 2017

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs)

January 30, 2017

While we’re doing that mating pairs of insects thing, let’s continue the theme with photos of two mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). Both pairs are “in wheel.”

Couple No. 1

The male is on the upper-right; the female on the lower-left. Notice the male dragonfly is using his front legs to groom his eyes and face, while mating. Hey, you want to look good when hooking up!

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

13 NOV 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

The photo is cropped slightly in order to remove a few distracting elements near the edges of the photo. In my opinion, nothing says “Autumn Meadowhawk” quite like a photo showing the dragonflies perching on autumn-colored vegetation.

Couple No. 2

The male is on top; the female on the bottom.

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

13 NOV 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

The preceding photo is full-frame (4,000 x 3,000 pixels), giving the viewer a sense of how close I was to the dragonflies. This image — showing the dragonflies perching on tree bark — complements the coloration of the Autumn Meadowhawks but doesn’t convey the same sense of the season as the first photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pearl Crescent butterflies (mating pair)

January 28, 2017

A mating pair of Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Pearl Crescent (mating pair)

Pearl Crescent is a common species of butterfly that is abundant at many of the wildlife-watching locations I visit. Although I’ve seen many Pearl Crescents, this is the first mating pair I’ve seen/photographed.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Variegated Fritillary butterflies (mating pair)

January 26, 2017

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Variegated Fritillary (mating pair)

Notice the contrast in appearance between the dorsal view (shown above) and the ventral view (shown below).

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Variegated Fritillary (mating pair)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (male)

January 24, 2017

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and hamules.

One and done. That’s the way some wildlife photographers shoot a subject. I like to “work the shot,” that is, shoot the subject from all angles and in different positions.

In this case, the damselfly was perching over deep water. I waded into the water as far as I could go in my knee-high green wellies and made the best of a less than ideal situation.

Since the subject never moved from his perch above the water, I moved so that my viewpoint featured different backgrounds. Also, the damselfly changed position slightly during the shoot. Although all of the photos in this set are similar, each one is different in the way it looks and feels.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Peopoll’s Choice Awards – Top 10 Photos of 2016

January 22, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, the people have spoken. It’s time to announce the winners of the Peopoll’s Choice Awards for my Top 10 Photos of 2016. The Top 10 photos were selected using reader feedback. Sincere thanks for your participation!

Award-winning photos are presented in order of most-to-least votes. I cast the tie-breaking votes for the last four winners (No. 7-10), chosen from five photos that received the same number of your votes. In other words, I selected one of five photos to omit.

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bridges

January 20, 2017

As an avid odonate hunter, I photowalk/streamwalk many scenic locations. I’m fond of bridges, especially railroad bridges.

The first photo shows a view of the underside of the new suspension bridge across Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge (ABWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A scenic view of the underside of the suspension bridge that crosses Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 AUG 2016 | ABWR | new suspension bridge across Accotink Creek

The next photo shows the view looking upstream toward the ruins of a Civil War era railroad bridge that used to cross Pope’s Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Looking upstream toward the ruins of a Civil War era railroad bridge that used to cross Pope's Head Creek, Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

22 AUG2016 | Chapel Road Park | bridge ruins at Pope’s Head Creek

The last photo shows the view looking downstream toward a modern era railroad bridge across Pope’s Head Creek near Chapel Road Park.

Looking downstream toward modern era railroad bridge that crosses Pope's Head Creek, Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | railroad bridge at Pope’s Head Creek

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (female)

January 18, 2017

Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) was spotted during a photowalk along Accotink Creek Trail at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge (ABWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. An old wooden boardwalk is located near the terminus of the trail.

A Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) spotted along Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

07 AUG 2016 | ABWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (female andromorph)

This individual is a female andromorph, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Females have a noticeably thicker abdomen than males.

Female Blue-fronted Dancers are polymorphic: andromorph females are blue like males; heteromorph females are brown. Andromorph females tend to be a lighter shade of blue than males of the same species, and do not feature the same blue coloration as males on abdominal segments eight, nine, and 10 (S8-10).

A Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) spotted along Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

07 AUG 2016 | ABWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (female andromorph)

The taxonomic classification of Blue-fronted Dancer is as follows: Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies); Suborder Zygoptera (Damselflies); Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies); Genus Argia (Dancers); Species apicalis.

Related Resources: Excellent digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland. Click on the button labeled “Download file” in order to view full-size version of the graphics.

Editor’s Note: This is the first female Blue-fronted Dancer that I’ve seen/photographed. Thanks to Michael Moore and Ed Lam, members of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group, for verifying my tentative identification. Dr. Michael Moore is an active contributor to the Dragonfly and Damselfly Field Guide and ID App; Ed Lam is author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Camouflage

January 16, 2017

Some moths are so well camouflaged they’re easy to overlook — a good survival strategy that protects them from predators.

Tulip-tree Beauty moth

A Tulip-tree Beauty moth (Epimecis hortaria) was spotted near Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Bill Yule, a member of the BugGuide Facebook group, for identifying this specimen. Alonso Abugattas — Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia — added the following comment to the thread: “It’s the largest of our local geometrid (inchworm) moths.”

Underwing moth

An unknown species of Underwing moth (Catocala sp.) was spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park.

The forest was so dark where this moth was perching that I had to set my external flash unit for high power in order to expose the subject properly, resulting in the underexposed background.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Teá Kesting-Handly, a member of the BugGuide Facebook group, for identifying this specimen. Ms. Kesting-Handly cautioned that the species is challenging to identify without seeing the hindwings. Quoting a follow-up comment on Facebook, “I looked over my collection of Catocala again, and compared to your photos, and I can say with a high degree of certainty it is Catocala ilia.” Thanks for the extra effort on my behalf, Teá!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Anax junius exuvia

January 14, 2017

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners) was collected on 21 June 2016 at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This specimen is an exuvia from a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree I used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Photo No. 1-4.
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae), as shown in Photo No. 4.
  • Eyes are large relative to the size of the head, as shown in Photo No. 5.

Step 2. Genus and species

As shown in Photo No. 1, lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 1 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

At this point, you know the species could be either anax (Common Green Darner dragonfly) or longipes (Comet Darner dragonfly). The species is determined by the shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3) and the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 2).

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 2 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (lateral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The labium, also known as the mentum, is a two-segment hinged “jaw” that is used to grab food: the prementum is the segment of the labium closer to the mouth; the postmentum is the segment closer to the base of the head.

The specimen is ~4.7 cm (~1.9 in) in length, not counting the bend in the body.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 3 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (labium, ventral)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The rounded shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3, above) plus the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 2) indicate the species is juniusAnax junius is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 4 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (face-head)

Notice the antennae are thin and thread-like, as shown in the preceding photo. If you are an aquatic animal, this is a face you don’t want to see up-close and personally!

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 5 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (head, dorsal)

The eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon. A Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter was used for Photo No. 3-5.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

The first test shot for this exuvia was photographed using my Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube. As you can see in the following photo, the subject barely fit within the frame. Although the composition isn’t ideal, the resulting photo is dramatic nonetheless! The 20mm extension tube wasn’t used for the rest of the photo set.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 6 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (lateral)

The following photograph of the exuvia was taken in-situ along the shoreline of Hidden Pond using a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera and Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

A dragonfly exuvia spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of Family Aeshnidae.

No. 7 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (in-situ)

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In long form, the decision tree is as follows (assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc.):

p. 21, Key to the genera of the Family Aeshnidae
1b – Hind angles of head rounded … . (5)
5a – Lateral spines on abdominal segments 7 to 9 only. (6)
6b – Antenna about half as long as this distance [from the base of the antennae to the rear of head]. (Anax)

p. 22, Key to the species of the genus Anax
1a – Lateral lobes of labium tapering to a hooked point; total length about 40 mm. (junius) [Note: The total length of longipes is about 55 mm.]

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

January 12, 2017

A late-season Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The left hindwing looks like it might be malformed.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: