Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ Category

Common Green Darner (male)

June 11, 2021

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

While I was searching for the mythical Appalachian Snaketail dragonfly (Ophiogomphus incurvatus), Mike was tracking several Common Green Darners hawking flying insects over a large field near the stream. Thanks to Mike for giving me a heads-up when one of the darners landed in the field.

13 MAY 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Common Green Darner (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. Sometimes, as in this case, identifying sex can be challenging. Sexing Common Green Darner dragonflies is a blog post I created that illustrates several field marks can be used to identify the gender of female and male Anax junius.

The Backstory

I think the location that Mike and I visited provides the right habitat for Appalachian Snaketail dragonflies. Although we didn’t find the target species on the day of our visit I remain convinced O. incurvatus is there, waiting to be discovered.

Tech Tips

Notice the tips of the dragonfly’s cerci are near the bottom of the photo frame. I prefer to give the subject a little more “breathing room” but this image is the best one from the set of photos I shot and it is what it is — as close as I could get without spooking the dragonfly, albeit less than perfectly composed.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

I was common, when common wasn’t cool.

June 8, 2021

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was observed during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his mostly brown coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

13 MAY 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Common Whitetail (immature male)

This photo is one of a few “warm-up shots” I took at the outset of my photowalk. I think it’s a good idea to be sure your camera gear is working as expected before you blow an opportunity to photograph something rare to uncommon by fiddling with camera settings.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonfly socks

June 4, 2021

A good friend sent a special gift to me. I love me some dragonfly socks. Thanks, Susan!

I know you’re thinking “Gee, I wish had a pair of dragonfly socks.” But you don’t. Hah!

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly exuvia

June 1, 2021

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

I collected the exuvia in order to examine it more closely in my home laboratory/photography studio. Michael photographed the specimen in my hand immediately after I removed it from the abutment, as shown in the following photo.

Photo used with written permission from Michael Powell.

The first photo shows a face-head view of the exuvia.

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

The next two photos, showing a dorsal-lateral view of the specimen, confirm the exuvia is from a Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly (Helocordulia uhleri).

Notice the dorsal hooks on abdominal segments seven through nine (S7-9). This distinctive character confirms the identity of the specimen as H. uhleri.

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

Another photo taken from the same view point, exposed and edited for more contrast, shows the three dorsal hooks a little more clearly than the preceding photo.

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

Knowing when good is good enough

A dear friend sent an article to me years ago entitled “Knowing when good is good enough.” I think she was trying to tell me something.

I tend to be a perfectionist. For example, I’m a man on a mission to take the best possible macro photographs of odonate larvae and exuviae given the limitations of my photography gear and small home studio.

Sometimes perfection is a road block that prevents me from shooting and posting photos that are more than serviceable for my purposes, in this case, informal instruction.

I did a quick Google search for the article from my friend. No luck, but I found one that’s close enough — you might even say one that’s good enough — for a little self-help.

None of the photographs in this blog post are perfect — not even close! But I published them anyway. Baby steps, Bob.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

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.


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