Archive for November, 2017

Blister beetle

November 30, 2017

During a photowalk along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed a type of beetle I didn’t recognize so I stopped to shoot a few photos. I consulted the expert members of the BugGuide Facebook group for help in identifying the unknown beetle.

Turns out it’s a member of the Family Meloidae (Blister Beetles). Several BugGuide members identified the insect as a species of “oil beetle” from the Genus Meloe. As its common names suggest, if this insect is disturbed then it releases an oil that can cause skin blisters. It’s as if chiggers and ticks weren’t enough of a nuisance — now I need to watch out for blister beetles too!

Editor’s Note: Thanks to BugGuide Facebook group members Dana Perantie, Brett Marshall, Shaun Delph, and Alonso Abugattas for help in identifying the beetle.

Related Resource: Oil Beetles, a blog post by Alonso Abugattas, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Advertisements

Common Buckeye butterflies

November 28, 2017

(Common) Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) are relatively common at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. I notice them when I’m hunting for dragonflies and damselflies. They’re skittish usually, but if they cooperate I always stop for a few shots.

The Common Buckeye color palette is unusual, yet it just works. Who knew brown butterflies could be so beautiful? Definitely one of my favorites.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A week later…

November 26, 2017

On 09 November 2017 I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, looking for late-season odonates before the first hard freeze. Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road.

I revisited the same place one week later. I saw slightly fewer Autumn Meadowhawks than the week before. Although some dragonflies survived the freezing temperatures, their numbers seemed to be diminished according to my non-scientific survey.

Both individuals featured in this photo set are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

I love the palette of fall colors in the first two photos! The two-photo sequence shows how I typically “work a shot.” I start by “getting a shot, any shot” (above) and slowly refine the shot until I am able to get as close as the subject will allow, while looking at the overall composition (below). Remember to check the edges of the photo for leading lines and distracting elements.

The last dragonfly I photographed was perched on the wooden border of a flower bed located near the parking lot.

Related Resources: Five Guys; Thermal energy vampire!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Thermal energy vampire!

November 24, 2017

The following photographs show an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on Walter Sanford (hey, that’s me!) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

All three photos were taken by Lisa Young during a photowalk with me along Easy Road.

Most dragonflies are skittish. Some species of dragonflies are “friendly,” such as Blue Corporal dragonflies (Ladona deplanata) and Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum). It’s probably not a coincidence that both types of dragonflies are early- and late-season species, when the ambient air temperature is cooler.

Some odonate experts speculate dragonflies perch on people in order to absorb thermal energy radiated by the relatively warm human body. Or in this case, a black backpack — a good spot since darker-colored objects absorb and re-radiate thermal energy more quickly than lighter-colored objects.

Related Resource: Five Guys, a blog post by Walter Sanford featuring photos of male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies taken before the meet-up with Liza Young.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2017

On the traditional day when we give thanks for our many blessings, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a frequent and careful observer of the natural beauty of several wildlife parks located in Northern Virginia, and for many good friends with whom I share the experience. Happy Thanksgiving! Now let’s have some turkey…

Signs of Wildlife

Although I have never seen a Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, I know they’re there because of several items that were observed at the refuge recently.

A tail feather from a Wild Turkey was photographed in situ along Easy Road. The feather is approximately eleven inches (11″) long from end-to-end.

A wing feather was photographed in situ along Easy Road, near the preceding tail feather. The feather is approximately ten inches (10″) long from end-to-end.

Thanks to Mike Boatwright for confirming my tentative identification of the tail feather and for identifying the wing feather.

Lots of animal scat, possibly from Wild Turkey, was observed along Easy Road near the Wild Turkey feathers shown above.

Did you notice the brown flies on the animal scat? They may be Scathophaga furcata, a species of dung fly. Thanks to Matt Pelikan from the BugGuide Facebook group and Charles Davis from the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for help in identifying the flies!

Related Resource: The Feather Atlas – Flight Feathers of North American Birds, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bridge across Marumsco Creek

November 20, 2017

I think I must have been an explorer in a past life. When odonate-hunting season ends, I like to explore new places to hunt for dragonflies and damselflies during the next year, such as Marumsco Creek, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

16 NOV 2017 | VMRP | bridge across Marumsco Creek

The preceding photograph shows a small bridge across Marumsco Creek, accessible from Veterans Memorial Regional Park (VMRP). If you were to cross the bridge and continue walking along Highams Court, then you would end up at the intersection with Dawson Beach Road, near Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

A close look at a trail map of Occoquan Bay NWR shows Marumsco Creek forms one of the natural boundaries of the refuge. Marumsco Creek, mostly located in restricted areas of Occoquan Bay NWR, is practically inaccessible from the refuge. Veterans Memorial Regional Park features a wooded trail located alongside Marumsco Creek. Access problem solved!

Directions: Jefferson Davis Highway (U.S. Route 1) to Featherstone Road. Immediately after a railroad crossing, bear left on Featherstone Road. Featherstone Road morphs into Veteran’s Drive at the boundary of Veterans Memorial Regional Park: same road; new name.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Gartersnake

November 18, 2017

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) was spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

After taking a closer shot of the snake’s head (above), I backed away for a wider view that shows the snake is a little more than two (2) feet in length (below).

Eastern Gartersnakes can be differentiated from Common Ribbonsnakes (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) by the presence of “dark vertical lines on the supralabial scales.” This key characteristic is shown clearly in the following photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Five Guys

November 16, 2017

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. All of these individuals are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Did you notice the preceding male appears to be missing his right hind wing? Perhaps I should rename this blog post “4.75 Guys.”

Editor’s Note: The photos in this gallery were taken a day before the first hard freeze in Northern Virginia that occurred overnight on Friday-Saturday, November 10-11. It will be interesting to see how many Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies survived the record-setting low temperatures in the mid- to upper 20s.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Road Taken

November 14, 2017

Two ruts converged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth…

With sincere apologies to Robert Frost for slight modification of the title and first stanza of his famous poem The Road Not Taken in order to convey my impressions of Fall 2017 at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Confused by mild fall weather

November 12, 2017

A frog-let/toad-let — my term for small frogs and toads — was spotted during a photowalk along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Turns out it’s a Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), as indicated by the dark “X” on the frog’s dorsal side.

Every spring, the sound of male Spring Peepers calling for mates is deafening. You hear them, but you see them rarely. You don’t expect to see them during the second week in November!

Some amphibians have been confused by the mild weather in Northern Virginia, thinking it’s spring. The first hard freeze this fall occurred overnight on Friday-Saturday, November 10-11, when the record-setting low temperature at Reagan National Airport (DCA) was 26°F. I hope this little one hunkered down like frogs are supposed to when it’s cold.

Related Resource: Spring Peepers, a blog post by Alonso Abugattas, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: