Archive for August, 2017

Another mature female skimmer

August 30, 2017

As I mentioned in my last two blog posts (see Related Resources, below), most of the Skimmer dragonflies (Family Libellulidae) spotted during a recent photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park looked old and tattered.

24 AUG 2017 | HMP | Blue Dasher (mature female)

This individual is a mature female Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), as indicated by her terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Aging gracefully, revisited

August 28, 2017

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Aging gracefully

August 26, 2017

Seems like yesterday all of the Skimmer dragonflies (Family Libellulidae) were young and vibrant; now most of them look old and tattered.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratches on his abdomen.

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.

Reflections on life

Aging gracefully. Yep, that’s my goal. Sometimes I think I’m down with the plan; sometimes I feel more like this dragonfly looks — old and tattered! Having celebrated another birthday recently, it was impossible for me to avoid looking at this dragonfly as a metaphor for my life. Although it’s undeniably true that I’m closer to the end of the road of life than the beginning, I’m happy to be “still on the right side of the grass,” as one of my British friends said soon after life-saving surgery.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Before and After

August 24, 2017

On Saturday, 25 January 2014, I had the honor of co-presenting a program called “Flying Dragons” with Kevin Munroe, former Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park. Kevin invited me to talk about how to make the transition from a beginner- to intermediate/advanced-intermediate dragonfly hunter. I prepared a photoblog post related to my part of the program, called “Five steps to the next level of dragonfly spotting.” Step 1 is as follows.

Step 1. Be aware the same species of dragonfly may appear differently depending upon gender, age, and natural variation. Some species display sexual dimorphism; in contrast, both genders look virtually identical for some species. Finally, females of some species display polymorphism (also known as polychromatism).

Male Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) look different depending upon age, as shown by the “Before” and “After” photos (below). Further, immature male Needham’s Skimmers look similar to immature/mature females of the same species. Although this might be confusing for a beginner dragonfly hunter, with patience and persistence everything falls into place relatively quickly.

Before

Male Needham’s Skimmers were photographed during photowalks at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA in late-June and again in late-July. Notice the dramatic difference in appearance of the same species of dragonfly.

After

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Exuviart

August 22, 2017

Regular readers of my blog remember when I coined the term “Odonart” and created an “Odonart Portfolio.”

I just coined a new term: “Exuviart.” Exuviart is a concatenation of two words: exuvia; and art. The following photographs are the first additions to the Exuviart wing of my Odonart Portfolio.


Unpublished Photo

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia, from the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), was collected from the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Whenever possible, I like to collect exuviae along with some of the vegetation that was the site for emergence. The vegetation helps to show scale. In this case, the small specimen is approximately 1.4 cm (~0.6″) in length and approximately 0.6 cm (~0.2″) in maximum width. I like the way the desiccated leaf retained its color and gained a velvety texture.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR; Canon EF100mm f/2.8 Macro lens plus Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Canon 580EX II Speedlite; Canon 580EX Speedlite; and a coiled six-foot Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras. The specimen was staged on a piece of white plastic (12″ square, matte finish).


Published Photos

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) exuvia, from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), was collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: 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 Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) exuvia, from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), was collected at Riverbend Park with permission from park staff.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus) plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube and Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; 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.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer (males, female)

August 20, 2017

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. There is a whitish-blue morph female Powdered Dancer, therefore the male’s whitish-blue coloration is insufficient to identify its gender.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Powdered Dancer (male)

A week later, a mating pair of Powdered Dancers was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-left; the female on the lower-right.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancers (mating pair, in tandem)

The male is “contact guarding” the female as the pair flies “in tandem” to egg-laying sites where the female uses her ovipositor to insert eggs into vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

It’s helpful to take photos of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different.

Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic, including a whitish-blue andromorph and a brown heteromorph. The brown morph, shown in this pair, is more common than whitish-blue.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancers (mating pair, in tandem)

Did you notice the male Stream Bluet damselfly (Enallagma exsulans) perching near the Powdered Dancers? Thanks to Karen Kearney and Michael Boatwright, members of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the Stream Bluet.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-fronted Dancer (male, female)

August 18, 2017

Many Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies (Argia apicalis) were spotted along Bull Run, Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Male

The first individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

There is a blue morph female Blue-fronted Dancer, therefore the male’s blue coloration is insufficient to identify its gender.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

Female

Female Blue-fronted Dancers are polymorphic, including a blue andromorph and a brown heteromorph, shown below. Thanks to Ken Larsen, member of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this individual.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-fronted Dancer (heteromorph female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly (female)

August 16, 2017

A Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Look for immature- and female dragonflies in fields near water, sometimes far from water. I found this female perching in a large field several hundred yards from Painted Turtle Pond.

As a wildlife photographer with a focus on insect photography, one of my mantras is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” In other words, don’t miss the opportunity to document a spotting by trying to get a great shot first.

The preceding photo is the record shot. Next, I worked my way around the subject slowly; several shots later I was able to get a good shot of the dorsal side of the dragonfly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail (terminal appendages)

August 14, 2017

Male Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) have a larger, more colorful club than females of the same species, their hind wings are “indented,” and their terminal appendages are shaped differently. Compare and contrast the appearance of males and females by looking at the following annotated images.

Male

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”).

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

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

Notice the epiproct is a wide “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the preceding annotated image.

Female

All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The hind wings of female clubtails are rounded.

21 AUG 2015 | Powhatan County, VA | Russet-tipped Clubtail (female)

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

The female Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly shown in the preceding image was spotted along the James River by my good friend Michael Boatwright, founder of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Sincere thanks to Mike for permission to use his photographs (background and inset).

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | male | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | side view

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennant dragonflies (males)

August 12, 2017

Several Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) were spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of the individuals in this gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Fujifilm X-T1

The first photo was taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens plus a Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. The lens was set for a focal length of 200mm (~350mm, 35mm equivalent).

The camera was set for an aperture of f/11. I forgot to decrease the aperture to f/16 (one of the lessons learned from recent field testing). Although depth of field (DoF) wasn’t an issue for the lateral view of a male Swift Setwing dragonfly featured in my last post, DoF is an issue for this viewpoint of a male Banded Pennant dragonfly. Notice the head and thorax are in focus; the terminal appendages are not.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

The photos in the last set were taken using my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Is that a head-tilt I see below? Did you notice the male Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) in the background?

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Editor’s Notes

What are the take-aways from looking at photo sets of the same subject taken using different camera kits, shown head-to-head?

First, the Fujifilm X-T1 is a good camera that I should use more often. My comfort level with the Fujifilm camera isn’t the same as my trusty Panasonic, but that should develop in time.

Second, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is capable of capturing high-quality photographs, especially when used in combination with a good external flash unit such as the Canon 580EX Speedlite.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: