Archive for May, 2021

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

May 28, 2021

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividus) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

13 MAY 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. A dorsal view of the same species shows the hind wings of Ashy males are “indented.” The male was perched on rocks, sand, and leaf litter deposited along the edges of the stream channel.

13 MAY 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

I’ve seen Ashy Clubtail dragonflies many times, but this was the first time I noticed their unusual flight pattern. Imagine a one-car roller coaster, going up and down smoothly while moving forward slowly. That’s the best way I can describe what I saw. You’ll recognize it when you see it — very distinctive!

My buddy Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, told me Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis) has the same flight pattern.

Tech Tips

Both photos are full-frame (4,000 x 3,000 pixels), that is, uncropped. I considered cropping the photos to make the dragonfly appear larger. I decided to post the uncropped photos to show the smallish size of Ashy Clubtail more authentically. Click on each photo in order to see a full-size version that you can zoom-in on to see more detail.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A Beginners’ Guide to Identifying the Exuviae of Wisconsin Odonata to Family

May 25, 2021

A Beginners’ Guide to Identifying the Exuviae of Wisconsin Odonata to Family, by Freda Van den Broek and Walter Sanford was published in the Spring 2021 issue of the Wisconsin Dragonfly Society newsletter.

The article is richly illustrated with lots of photographs, many annotated, and includes a decision tree flow chart for identifying dragonfly and damselfly exuviae to the family level, plus a photo-illustrated glossary.

Wisconsin Odonata News | Vol. 9 Issue 1 | Spring 2021

Although the guide is focused primarily on odonate exuviae found in Wisconsin, it should be useful for any location in the United States of America.

Giving credit where credit is due

Freda Van den Broek did most of the heavy lifting; my contribution was modest. Congratulations for a job well done, Freda — it was a pleasure working with you!

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Turn! Turn! Turn!

May 21, 2021

Perceptive observers of nature notice gradual changes that indicate the change of season.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)
There is a season (turn, turn, turn)
And a time to every purpose, under heaven.
Source Credit: Turn! Turn! Turn! Song by The Byrds

For example, sighting a Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) is a sure sign the subtle transition from spring to summer is underway.

13 MAY 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Spangled Skimmer (teneral female)

One of my mantras for wildlife photography is “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” The preceding photo is one I took when I noticed the dragonfly; the following photo is one I took after slowly working my way into position for a better shot. Notice the dragonfly changed positions too, moving from one perch to another when I moved closer to her.

13 MAY 2021 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Spangled Skimmer (teneral female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stream Cruiser dragonfly (female)

May 18, 2021

A Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) was spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her thick abdomen and terminal appendages.

13 MAY 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Stream Cruiser (female)

The female was perched in a large field near the same location where Mike Powell found a Stream Cruiser exuvia on 13 April 2021.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Exuvia from Family Macromiidae (Cruisers)

May 14, 2021

Michael Powell spotted a large odonate exuvia clinging to the concrete abutment of a man-made dam located along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This cast skin is definitely from a member of Family Macromiidae (Cruisers), as indicated by its long legs and the shape of its body.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Stream Cruiser (exuvia)

Mike’s macro photo of the same subject (shown below) turned out better than mine, taken with a superzoom bridge camera. Look closely at the full-size version of Mike’s photo. Nothing says Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) like the “horn” on the front of the face/head of the exuvia!

Photo used with written permission from Michael Powell.

The following excerpt from Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, compiled by Ken Soltesz, shows the couplet that I think indicates this specimen is from a Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa).

The adult flight periods for the three species of cruisers found in Northern Virginia provide circumstantial evidence in support of my tentative identification. Source Credit: “Dragonflies of Northern Virginia” Web site by Kevin Munroe.

What’s next?

The specimen was collected in order to shoot a complete set of macro photographs of the exuvia in my home “studio.”

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Waiting for the sky to clear

May 11, 2021

A picturesque dam was visited during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA

As you can see, the sky was completely overcast when the photograph was taken and the weather was cool and breezy. Not ideal conditions for odonate hunting, but hey, sometimes you just have to make lemonade from lemons by stopping to enjoy the beautiful scenery!

Tech Tips

I used Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC to edit the preceding photo. A graduated filter was used to enhance detail in clouds in the sky without making the shadows too dark in the rest of the image. The area affected by the graduated filter is highlighted in red, as shown in the following screen capture: I decreased the Exposure, affecting the clouds/sky); and increased the Shadows, affecting the tree tops.

The last screen capture shows the global adjustments I made to the entire photo using the Develop module — notice these settings are different from the settings for the selective adjustments I made using the graduated filter, shown above.

Related Resources

Two complementary videos demonstrate how to use the graduated filter in Adobe Lightroom: Matt Kloskowski shows a practical example of how to use a graduated filter to enhance the sky; Julieanne Kost provides an excellent tutorial that explains in detail how the graduated filter works.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another female Uhler’s Sundragon

May 7, 2021

Before we move on from the early spring species of odonates, here are a couple of photos of another one of several female Uhler’s Sundragon dragonflies (Helocordulia uhleri) that were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

At first she wanted to play peek-a-boo.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon (female)

After a while, both of us moved to a slightly different position that worked better for me to photograph the subject.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Uhler’s Sundragon (female)

That reminds me of another one of my mantras for wildlife photography: Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot. In this case, that’s exactly what I did.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonflies

May 4, 2021

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was observed near a small pond during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP). This individual is a female, as indicated by her mostly brown coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

28 APR 2021 | ORP | Common Whitetail (female)

Contrast the appearance of the female (shown above) with an immature male (shown below) seen on the same day at the same location. Notice the wing spots and terminal appendages are quite different for female and male Common Whitetail dragonflies.

28 APR 2021ORP | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Later the same day, another Common Whitetail dragonfly was observed near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by the white pruinescence covering his abdomen. “Common Whitetail,” the common name for Plathemis lydia, is derived from the coloration of mature males of this species.

28 APR 2021 | JMAWR | Common Whitetail (mature male)

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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