I’d walk a mile for a Clubtail.

I would, and I did. Several miles, in fact.

Approximately 4 miles of gravel roads are reserved for foot traffic only. The wildlife drive is a one way, 2-mile loop. Source Credit: General brochure, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

It’s hard to believe there was a time in the United States of America that tobacco companies were allowed to advertise in both electronic- and print media. I was 12 years old when this “I’d walk a mile for a Camel” commercial was shown on broadcast television in 1966. Paraphrasing the TV commercial, “Clubtail hunters, you know what I mean. You other guys, start walking.”

Did I lose you with my little trip down memory lane? Like Camel cigarettes, I wouldn’t walk a mile for just any clubtail dragonfly. But for this relatively uncommon handsome devil, definitely!

The Backstory

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) was spotted by Michael Powell during a long photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR). This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

By the time I caught up to Mike, the somewhat skittish Russet-tipped Clubtail flew away. I thought I saw the dragonfly fly through an opening in a line of trees along a gravel road. I walked to the other side of the tree line to look for the elusive dragonfly, one of two target species for the day. Mike followed along behind me. Seeing nothing, I gave up too soon. Fortunately Mike was more persistent and rediscovered the Russet-tipped male farther along the backside of the treeline. This time, Mr. Skittish was a little more cooperative.

American Sweetgum

The dragonfly is perched on an American Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua) tree. Thanks to Mike Boatwright and Drew Chaney for confirming my tentative identification based upon the distinctive shape of the tree leaves. Sweetgum leaves turn spectacular colors during fall (see Related Resources, below).

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

4 Responses to “I’d walk a mile for a Clubtail.”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Nice capture, Walter, and wonderful narrative. It was really cool to find this dragonfly as we were nearing the end of a long day, particularly because it was in a somewhat unexpected location.

  2. Wally Jones Says:

    Madison Avenue gave us a lot of memorable lines as they tried to convince us to part with our money! Your “walk a mile” line triggered a slew of memories.

    I saw my first Russet-tipped Clubtail last year and have been returning to that spot regularly hoping for chance to get a photograph.

    Enjoyed this post, Walter!

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