Archive for June, 2018

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (male)

June 30, 2018

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted during a stream-walk along South Fork Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest Park (PWFP), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This is my first-of-year sighting of this species.

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

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Citrine Forktail damselfly (male)

June 28, 2018

A Citrine Forktail damselfly (Ischnura hastata) was spotted during a stream-walk along South Fork Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest Park (PWFP), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

26 JUN 2018 | PWFP | Citrine Forktail (male)

Citrine Forktail is the smallest species of damselfly in North America. Maybe that explains why it took so long to add Citrine to my life list of odonates!

Every reference I have read says Citrine habitat is lentic, that is, it prefers ponds and lakes rather than the lotic habit where I found the individual shown above. I wish I had carried one of my camera kits for macro photography, but I didn’t expect to see Citrine along a mid-size stream.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (mating pair)

June 26, 2018

A mating pair of Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) was spotted near a small forested stream at Occoquan Regional Park. The male is shown on the left; the female on the right.

The damselflies are “in wheel,” in which the male uses “claspers” (terminal appendages) at the end of his abdomen to hold the female by her neck/thorax while they are joined at their abdomens. The wheel position is sometimes referred to as “in heart” when damselflies mate.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Off-season homework pays dividends

June 24, 2018

The ode-hunting off-season is used by the author for experimenting with new photography gear and techniques, studio photography (mostly odonate exuviae), and researching/exploring sites for finding new species of dragonflies and damselflies, especially rare to uncommon species.

During Winter 2017-2018, Google Earth/Maps was used to virtually explore potential sites for Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi). A location where Sable Clubtail had been spotted by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, was rejected as practically inaccessible.

I recalled seeing Sable Clubtail on a species list for one of several sites surveyed regularly by a group of volunteers coordinated by Jim Waggener, in association with the Audubon Society. I contacted Jim and asked for information regarding sightings of S. rogersi by the survey group. Jim sent an e-mail to all members of the group; Bob Blakney kindly responded by sending a photograph and guidance for finding the location where his photo was taken on 08 June 2012.

As it turns out, only one Sable Clubtail was seen by the survey group in 2012 and that was the last sighting of the species for the next six years. I speculate the gap in sightings might be explained by the fact that scheduled dates for site surveys by Jim Waggener’s group didn’t coincide with the limited adult flight period for Sable.

I scouted the site for the first time on 01 December 2017. Fred Siskind kindly provided guidance that helped to focus the search area. I started actively hunting for Sable Clubtails beginning in mid-May 2018. 04 June 2018 was my last fruitless search. The off-season homework paid dividends for the first time on 08 June 2018.

Eureka!

Several Sable Clubtail dragonflies were spotted perched alongside a small forested stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

All of the individuals featured in this post are male, as indicated by their “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Rare to uncommon

Sable Clubtail has a limited range and is classified as a rare to uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Sable Clubtail in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Sable Clubtail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2018. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 11, 2018).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Bender” on grass

June 22, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) is well-known for its tendency to perch on gray and tan colored surfaces, including tree trunks. Less well-known is the fact that Gray Petaltail perches wherever it wants, including tall grasses growing in the forested seeps from which the species emerges.

“Bender,” my nickname for a male Gray Petaltail with a malformed abdomen, is shown perched on grass stems in the following photo set.

No. 1 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

The next photo provides a good view of the gentle curve in Bender’s abdomen, as well as his hamules, visible on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3).

No. 2 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Like many male odonates, Bender probably perched on the grass in order to make himself available for hook-ups with females of the same species.

No. 3 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Bender aggressively defended the prominent perch against other odonates that intruded upon his territory.

No. 4 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

No flash/flash

Compare/contrast Photo No. 3-4. The batteries in my external flash unit were almost drained completely by the time I shot the photos. As a result, the flash worked sometimes and didn’t work other times. I’m fairly certain the flash didn’t fire for the Photo No. 3, and equally certain it fired for Photo No. 4. Some photographers might contend the no-flash photo is “arty”; I contend Photo No. 4 — the fill-flash version — has better color balance, color saturation, and more detail in the shadows.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Bender” on bark

June 20, 2018

I nicknamed this male Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) “Bender” because of his malformed abdomen.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Bender is shown perched on a tree that fell across a forested seep. It’s possible the tree makes the seep seepier, and that’s a good thing for the Gray Petaltail larvae that are well-adapted for this specific type of habitat.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Just look at that face — Bender exudes personality! In the following photo, Bender perched in a spot so that he was looking at me directly. Yep, that’s when we bonded.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Next post: “Bender” on grass. No, wait — that doesn’t sound right!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (male)

June 18, 2018

Look for Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) beginning in late-May/early-June along almost any small- to mid-size forested stream in Northern Virginia (USA).

This individual is a male, as indicated by the all-black coloration of his wings and by his terminal appendages.

Ebony Jewelwing is a member of Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies). American Rubyspot (Hetaerina americana) is the only other species of Broad-winged Damselfly found in Northern Virginia.

Related Resource: The adult flight period for Ebony Jewelwing is from April 27 to October 06, according to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, a zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Tree-hugger

June 16, 2018

The following photo shows a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) that was spotted near a forested seep. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

This guy bounced off my left shoulder before he landed on a nearby tree. Gray Petaltail readily perch on gray and tan colored surfaces, including clothing like the “sand” colored long-sleeve t-shirt and khaki vest I was wearing at the time of my close encounter with one of the Grays.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable strong

June 14, 2018

A few days after my first spotting of Sable Clubtail dragonflies (Stenogomphurus rogersi) at a small forested stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, I was happy to see several Sable during a return trip to the same place.

The following individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The male was perched in a small, sunny clearing alongside the stream during mid-morning. As direct sunlight shifted toward the stream, several males started perching on vegetation overhanging the creek, about a foot-or-two above the water.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Introducing “Bender”

June 12, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted at a forested seep. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

I nicknamed this male “Bender” because of his malformed abdomen. Bender is a scrappy fighter who aggressively defended his territory against other odonate intruders!

More photos of Bender will be published in one or more upcoming blog posts.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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