Off-season homework pays dividends

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.


Several Sable Clubtail dragonflies were spotted perched alongside a small forest 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 (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.

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5 Responses to “Off-season homework pays dividends”


    Nice report, Walter.

  2. Reed Andariese Says:

    Very nice! And interesting information!

  3. Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA, were lost in the excitement of my rediscovery of Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) later the same day in Fairfax County, […]

  4. Deep dive in the archives | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

    […] photographs in this gallery were lost in the excitement of my rediscovery of Sable Clubtail in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, when I rushed to select and publish a few representative photos from the set taken on 08 June […]

  5. Top 10 Photos of 2018 | walter sanford's photoblog Says:

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

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