Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ Category

Dragonhunter (female)

June 24, 2019

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) was spotted at South Fork Quantico Creek along “South Valley Trail,” Prince William Forest Park, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 JUN 2019 | Prince William Forest Park | Dragonhunter (female)

This individual is a female, although it is difficult to see some critical field marks from the viewpoint in the preceding photo. Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the gender.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Another Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

June 21, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small-to-medium size forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Did you recognize the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) in the background of every photo in this gallery?

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I stopped to use GPS to get a fix on our position at the end of a long photowalk that included lots of bushwhacking. We stopped because the small stream we were exploring was getting wider and deeper the farther we walked downstream, and we decided the stream habitat had changed to be less suitable for our target species.

The place where we stopped is a sunny meadow near the confluence of a tiny side stream with the larger stream we were following. As Mike was testing a few GPS apps for his Android cell phone, I noticed a big dragonfly as it flew down the tiny stream, turned left past us, and landed in the sunny meadow. I found the dragonfly after a few minutes of searching the area where I saw it land. I was hoping for a Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) but nonetheless delighted to see a female Arrowhead Spiketail — our second record of this species for the year at the remote location!

Related Resource: Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

June 19, 2019

Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) have a well-known preference for perching on gray or tan colored surfaces, including gray or tan colored clothing.

Most of the photos of Gray Petaltail featured in my blog show them perched on gray/grayish surfaces. In contrast, the following Gray Petaltail is perched on a mostly tan colored tree.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

This individual — spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA — is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

The preceding photo is uncropped, that is, full resolution for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera (4,000 x 3,000 pixels). Needless to say, I was fairly close to this cooperative subject!

Related Resource: Posts Tagged ‘Gray Petaltail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (male)

June 17, 2019

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) was spotted by my good friend Mike Powell during a photowalk along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

I was standing in the creek looking toward the sandy shoreline where the Common Sanddragon was perching.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

Both of the photos featured in this blog post are uncropped, that is, full resolution for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera (4,000 x 3,000 pixels).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

June 12, 2019

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Painted Skimmer (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Notice her right hind wing is slightly malformed near the body. It appears the wing failed to inflate completely during emergence. The malformation didn’t impair her ability to fly.

Did you recognize the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) in the background?

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Grays” come in peace.

June 10, 2019

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk with Mike Powell at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by its “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages. The male is perched on the left sleeve of Mike’s gray “Army” logo t-shirt. I nicknamed this Gray “The Gripper” because Mike said he could feel the dragonfly tightening its grip on a small fold in the t-shirt.

“Grays”

If you look into the eyes of a Gray Petaltail dragonfly at close range, then you might agree with me that they look like the space aliens known as “Grays.” Hey, I’m just saying — Mike might have experienced a close encounter of the Gray kind!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female)

June 5, 2019

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted during a photowalk with Mike Powell at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Beginners beware — immature male Eastern Pondhawks are the same color as females of the same species.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

June 3, 2019

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Painted Skimmer (female)

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

Habitat

Look for Painted Skimmer near some sort of water body in the forest, such as a vernal pool or small streams and ponds.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

May 29, 2019

Several Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) were observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

This individual — spotted in a sunny clearing — is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Both of the photos featured in this blog post are uncropped, that is, full resolution for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera (4,000 x 3,000 pixels). Needless to say, I was fairly close to this cooperative subject!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

May 27, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

[Females in the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) feature a] …pointed and spikelike (thus the group name) ovipositor, really a “pseudo-ovipositor” formed from the prolonged subgenital plate. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7005-7006). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Although the pattern of arrowhead-shaped markings visible on the dorsal side of her abdomen is unmistakeable, notice that the thorax features two stripes. The latter field mark can be used to differentiate spiketails from cruisers that have one stripe on their thorax.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Mike Powell and I have photowalked together so many times that we are comfortable working cooperatively to shoot a subject. I wanted to get a shot of the face of the Arrowhead Spiketail but was concerned it would spook the dragonfly if I were to get “up in her grill.” So I waited until Mike had taken all of the photographs he wanted before approaching the dragonlfy for her “beauty shot.” As it turns out, the model was extraordinarily tolerant and didn’t fly away until sometime after Mike and I moved on to the next site.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Notice the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) that appears in the background of every photo of the Arrowhead Spiketail.

Location, location, location.

Some species of odonates are habitat generalists, meaning they can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Habitat-specific odonates can be found only in specific habitats — for these species, finding them is all about location, location, location. Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies are habitat-specialists.

Habitat: Small swift streams and soft-bottomed muddy seeps in forest, also streams reduced to series of small pools during drier weather. As in some other spiketails, skunk cabbage often present. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7081-7082). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) were observed growing in a seep located between a dirt trail and the small stream where the Arrowhead Spiketail was spotted — the perfect place for several species of habitat-specific odonates!

The last photo shows the clearing along a small forest stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted, including the Arrowhead Spiketail featured in this blog post. The stream is no more than a few feet wide and only a few inches deep in most places.

The small stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted.

The backstory

Telephoto lenses can cause a type of distortion called “foreshortening,” as seen in the preceding photo. Mike Powell and I were standing at the edge of the stream bank trying to decide whether we wanted to go down the short, steep slope to explore the clearing when we spotted a large UFO, that is, an “Unidentified Flying Odonate.” Mike and I took “record shots” of the dragonfly; looking at the LCD of our cameras, we identified the UFO as a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

Mike and I had seen a Gray Petaltail at another location (near the beginning of our photowalk), but we were unable to photograph it. So down the bank we went! As it turns out, there were at least two Grays in the meadow: a female; and a male. As Mike was photographing one of the Gray Petaltails he noticed another “large dragonfly.” As we slowly moved closer to the new unknown dragonfly, I quickly realized Mike had spotted an Arrowhead Clubtail. Great catch, Mike!

Please see Female Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly for Mike’s take on our shared experience.

Uncommon

Arrowhead Spiketail is classified as an uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Arrowhead Clubtail (C. obliqua) in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Arrowhead Spiketail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2019. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: May 27, 2019).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Our spotting of Arrowhead Spiketail is a new DSA record for Prince William County, Virginia.

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for C. obliqua is 11 May to 17 July. The species is classified as uncommon. Its habitat is “small streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for C. obliqua seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter — more likely around one month. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Arrowhead is 28 May to 27 June (peaks in June).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

 


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