It’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat.

Seeps and small streams in the forest are perfect places to look for habitat specialist dragonflies such as petaltails and spiketails.

An old place revisited.

The following photograph of a forest seep has been featured in my blog at least once in the past. The seep feeds a small pond; Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) can be found feeding and perching in sunny spots around the pond during late-May and early-June.

23 MAY 2018 | Prince William County, VA | forested seep

The seep is the habitat where Gray Petaltail larvae live most of their lives, not the pond. I always wondered how so many adult petaltails could emerge from this relatively small seep.

Turns out Michael Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, must have been wondering the same thing because he explored the area upstream from the small seep shown above and discovered several more seeps located close to the one near the pond.

The next photo shows Mike resting on a log along the edge of one of the seeps, near the confluence of two small streams. Notice the patch of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) growing in the seep — a good sign that you might be looking at habitat suitable for Gray Petaltail.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | forested seep

A new place worth exploring further.

Mike also discovered another small stream in the forest when he was exploring for Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri). The stream is located at the approximate midpoint between two trails, so I nicknamed it “Middle Creek.” Clever, huh? Note the patch of skunk cabbage growing in a seep alongside the stream. Did an alarm just go off in your head?

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | forested stream and seep

Mike and I are eager to explore the stream further, mainly looking for Gray Petaltail during late spring. Several species of spiketails might be found there as well.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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One Response to “It’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat.”

  1. Mike Powell Says:

    Thanks for the mentions, Walter. You have definitely caused me to pay attention to habitat, especially when I am searching for low density, early season dragonflies. I am reminded of Kevin Munroe’s commentary on the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, “Searching for dragonflies in spring is a wholly different endeavor than finding them in July and August. Most summer dragonflies spend their time at sunny ponds or open fields, and engage in showy displays and aerial battles – they are, in a word, visible. The majority belong to the showy and successful skimmer family, along with a few darners and emeralds. The spring dragonfly community is more diverse, and has a very different M.O. They are for the most part, habitat specialists, with low population numbers, secretive habits, and denizens of woodland streams, not sunny ponds.” (See

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