Archive for March, 2019

Odonate calendars: VA Flight Dates

March 31, 2019

Google Calendar was used to synthesize “CHECKLIST OF THE DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES OF VIRGINIA, April 2017 update” — Dr. Steve Roble’s excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia — into two calendars: Dragonflies (VA Flight Dates); and Damselflies (VA Flight Dates).

The Google Calendar default color palettes were used to color-code both calendars: Dragonflies is Graphite; and Damselflies is Birch. Individual events on each calendar are also color-coded by family.

Dragonflies

Here’s the way the dragonflies calendar looks using the Chrome Web browser on my Apple iMac desktop computer. Notice the Graphite colored vertical bar to the left of each event that indicates it belongs to the dragonflies calendar.

And here’s the way the dragonflies calendar looks using the free Google Calendar app on my Apple iPad mini 2.

Every event features the following information: common name; scientific name; early-date/late-date; abundance; and habitat.

New for 2019

An interactive version of both calendars is available online. The dragonflies calendar is shown below.

Regrettably, the color-coding is lost in the online, interactive version of both calendars. That is, unless you print the calendar.

Color-coding is also lost when the calendar is exported as an “.ics” file. That’s the bad news. The good news is the calendar can be edited after it is imported into Google Calendar and it’s easy to edit the entries to color-code them any way you like.

The colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV) were used to color-code the seven families of dragonflies; the equivalent colors in the Google Calendar default color palette are shown in brackets.

  • R = Family Aeshnidae (Darners) [Tomato]
  • O = Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) [Tangerine]
  • G = Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) [Basil]
  • Y = Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) [Banana]
  • B = Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) [Peacock]
  • I = Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) [Blueberry]
  • V = Family Petaluridae (Petaltails) [Grape]

The colors for Emeralds and Clubtails were flip-flopped because it just makes sense the Emeralds should be color-coded green!

Damselflies

Here’s the way the damselflies calendar looks using the free Google Calendar app on my Apple iPad mini 2.

Like the dragonflies calendar, every event features the following information: common name; scientific name; early-date/late-date; abundance; and habitat.

“FSL” was used to color-code the three families of damselflies common to the mid-Atlantic states (USA); the equivalent colors in the Google Calendar default color palette are shown in brackets.

  • F – Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) [Flamingo (formerly Tomato)]
  • S – Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies) [Sage (formerly Peacock)]
  • L – Family Lestidae (Spreadwings) [Lavendar (formerly Basil)]

For what it’s worth, all of the colors for the damselflies calendar are pastel shades.

New for 2019

An interactive version of the damselflies calendars is available online, as shown below.

Dragonflies and Damselflies

The damselflies calendar was updated for 2019 so that no colors are duplicated from the dragonflies calendar. This should help to eliminate confusion when both calendars are displayed at the same time, as shown below.

Lessons Learned

As I worked on the calendar, patterns began to emerge that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, it’s clear that the serious odonate hunter needs to hit the ground running as soon as early March. Remember that Dr. Roble’s dataset is for the entire state. You may not see a given species on its early-date, but it could be seen on that date and certainly can’t be seen if you don’t look!

Tech Tips

Download the “.ics” file from the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Launch Google Calendar on a desktop computer. Create a new calendar by clicking on the three vertical dots to the right of “Add calendar” and selecting “Create new calendar”; give the calendar a name such as “Test Calendar” and click on the “Create calendar” button. (You can change the name later.) “Test Calendar” should appear in the list of calendars under “My calendars.”

Mouse-over the name “Test Calendar” and click on the vertical column of three dots, labeled “Options for Test Calendar” then select “Settings and sharing.” In the upper-left sidebar, click on “Import and export”; select the “.ics” file to import and select “Test Calendar” from the drop-down menu labeled “Add to calendar.” There are 143 events in the Dragonflies calendar; 56 events in the Damselflies calendar.

If you decide to color-code individual events like I did, click on an event then click on the pencil icon labeled “Edit event.” Select a color and click the “Save” button, then click the radio button for “All events.” Beware: You can right-click on an individual event and change its color but DON’T GO THERE! That results in an event that doesn’t occur annually using the new color you chose.

Related Resources

Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, created an excellent calendar called Dragonflies of Northern Virginia – Flight Periods. This calendar is a valuable resource for hunting dragonflies in Northern Virginia. I think the value of Kevin Munroe’s calendar is enhanced by using it in combination with my visualization of Steve Roble’s dataset.

Dragonflies & Damselflies of Loudoun County features a flight calendar for dragonflies and damselflies.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Powdered Dancer damselfly (female)

March 29, 2019

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) was spotted during a photowalk along a small stream at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration. Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic: this is the tan morph; there is also a blue morph that looks somewhat similar to males of the same species.

10 MAY 2017 | HORP | Powdered Dancer (female)

Also notice the female’s abdomen is thicker near the tip than the tip of a male’s abdomen, due to female egg-laying anatomy.

Credits

Sincere thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen. My tentative identification, recorded in field notes dated 10 May 2017, proved to be incorrect.

I’m comfortable identifying some members of two of the three families of damselflies that occur in the mid-Atlantic states (USA), including Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) and Family Lestidae (Spreadwings). Most members of the Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies), not so much.

I remember clearly the time when I was learning to identify dragonflies. I was more than a little confused at first. With persistence, the puzzle pieces started to fall into place sooner than I expected. Same story when I started learning to identify odonate exuviae. Never happened with damselflies, for whatever reason.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Familiar Bluet damselfly (male)

March 27, 2019

A Familiar Bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by the pattern of coloration on his abdomen. Female E. civile is polymorphic, including two morphs: tan; and blue. Female blue morphs have a different pattern of black and blue markings on their abdomen than males of the same species.

21 SEP 2016 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Familiar Bluet (male)

Related Resource: Familiar Bluet damselfly (female).

Credits

Sincere thanks to Mike Boatwright and Michael Moore for verifying my tentative identification of the damselfly. Mike Boatwright is the founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group; Dr. Michael Moore is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Michael’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

I don’t think so!

March 25, 2019

A horse fly, possibly Tabanus calens, was spotted after a long photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her eyes.

Males have eyes that meet along a seam down the middle of the head (holoptic eyes); females have eyes that are well-separated. Source Credit: Benjamin A. Coulter, member of the BugGuide group on Facebook.

21 SEP 2016 | Occoquan Bay NWR | horse fly (female)

A wider view shows the horse fly is perched on my Honda Civic, just above the handle of the driver’s side front door. Male horse flies don’t bite; females bite, painfully!

Adult horse flies feed on nectar and sometimes pollen. Females of most species are anautogenous, meaning they require a blood meal before they are able to reproduce effectively, if at all. Much like male mosquitoes, male Tabanidae are not ectoparasitic and lack the mouth parts (mandibles) that the females use in drawing the blood on which they feed. Most female horse flies feed on mammalian blood, but some species are known to feed on birds or reptiles. Some are said to attack amphibians as well. Source Credit: Horse-fly, from Wikipedia.

21 SEP 2016 | Occoquan Bay NWR | horse fly (female)

I shooed the fly away from the front door handle, but she didn’t go far. She landed on the Honda logo on the trunk of my car — still too close for comfort! I’m happy to report I was able to get into my car without being bitten.

21 SEP 2016 | Occoquan Bay NWR | horse fly (female)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-fronted Dancers (male, female)

March 22, 2019

Male

A Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by the pattern of blue coloration on his thorax and abdomen, plus the blue coloration on abdominal segments eight through 10 (S8-10).

25 SEP 2016 | Jackson Miles Abbott WR | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

Female

Several Blue-fronted Dancers were spotted during a photowalk along Accotink Creek/Great Blue Heron Trail at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge (ABWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first individual is a female, as indicated by two field marks.

Eyes brown, darker above; lack of blue in eyes in andromorph good distinction from male. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 3451-3452). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Female Blue-fronted Dancers are polymorphicandromorph females are blue like males; heteromorph females are brown-green. Andromorph females tend to be a lighter shade of blue than males of the same species.

This individual is a blue andromorph. Regardless of the color morph…

females never have blue on the last abdominal segments (S8-10). Source Credit: Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group.

02 AUG 2016 | ABWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (female)

More males

Two male Blue-fronted Dancers were spotted at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge.

02 AUG 2016 | ABWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

02 AUG 2016 | ABWR | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stonefly exuvia

March 20, 2019

A Stonefly (Order Plecoptera) exuvia was spotted clinging to the boat ramp at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This specimen is approximately 1.5 inches in length.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Stonefly (Order Plecoptera) exuvia

Now I know the identity of the unknown species of aquatic insect that photobombed my photographs of Harpoon Clubtail (Phanogomphus descriptus) and Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis), taken at another location a few weeks before the preceding photo.

Related Resources

Credits

Sincere thanks to Jacklyn Gautsch and Graham Floyd, members of the BugGuide Facebook group, for help in identifying this exuvia.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Parts 3, 4)

March 18, 2019

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flowers were photographed on 06 and 10 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Kevin Munroe, former park manager at Huntley Meadows, designated Purple Milkweed as a “plant of interest” due to the fact that it is officially a rare plant species in the state of Virginia (S2).

Part 3

These plants are covered with ants, lots of ants!

Later, a single Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) was feeding on the same milkweed plant, along with lots of ants.

Part 4

Lots of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) were observed feeding on the milkweed. The next two photos show the same individual in two poses.

The proboscis, a specialized structure that enables butterflies to siphon liquids from flowers, is shown clearly in the next two photos.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was feeding on another cluster of milkweed flowers. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the State Insect of Virginia. Really, who knew there are official state insects?

The last photo is my favorite in both galleries.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Part 2)

March 15, 2019

The following Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flower was photographed on 01 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The milkweed is covered by a cornucopia of insects including ants (one ant can be seen in the full-size version of the first photo), what I think is some type of weevil (the darker insects featuring a curved proboscis that reminds me of an elephant trunk), a cool looking metallic gold-green bee, and what I think is a species of Crane Fly.

As it turns out, my tentative identification of the Crane Fly is incorrect.

The crane fly is actually a [species of] Stilt Bug [from the Family Berytidae]. I can tell by the clubbed antennae and distally enlarged femora. Source Credit: Natalie Hernandez, member of the BugGuide Facebook group.

The gold-green bee is shown more clearly in the full-size version of the following photo. Masumi Palhof, another member of the BugGuide Facebook group, thinks the bee might be a Silky Striped-Sweat bee (Agapostemon sericeus).

Related Resources

Post Update

The weevil is in the subfamily Baridinae (commonly known as “flower weevils”), maybe Odontocorynus umbellae or O. salebrosus. Source Credit: Ted C. MacRae, Senior Entomologist & Science Fellow. Beetles In The Bush [blog].

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Part 1)

March 13, 2019

During a two-week period in late-May/early-June 2016, I followed a cohort of Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) that emerged from a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) plants were growing in the fields near the same vernal pool. This blog post is the first of a four-part time series featuring photos of the milkweed, taken during some of my visits to the site in search of Slender Spreadwing.

Related Resources

Post Update

Look closely at the full-size version of the first photo. Notice the small black insects on the milkweed flowers.

Ants are notorious for stealing nectar and love all kinds of Milkweeds… Source Credit: Alonso Abugattas Jr, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA. Alonso is also the creator and administrator of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group, where I requested help with identification of the unknown insects on the milkweed.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Late bloomers

March 11, 2019

This blog post features photos of two late-summer flowering plants: Garden Phlox; and Common Evening Primrose.

Garden Phlox

A small plot of Garden Phlox (Phlox sp.) was spotted growing along Great Blue Heron Trail, beside Accotink Creek at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This species is a garden variety that escaped into the wild.

Common Evening Primrose

Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera sp.) was spotted in a shady location alongside Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Evening Primrose is quite common but sometimes is not noticed because the flowers close up in bright light… Source Credit: Alonso Abugattas Jr, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA.

Credits

Sincere thanks to members of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for help in identifying these flowering plants.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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