Archive for the ‘dragonflies’ Category

Last man standing

July 14, 2018

One, possibly two Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was/were spotted perched alongside a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All individuals featured in this photo set are male, as indicated by their indented hind wings and terminal appendages.

Male 1

The first shot is a “record shot,” that is, a quick-and-dirty shot that provides a record of the spotting. In this case, I was able to shoot one photo before Male 1 flew away. I didn’t see where he landed.

26 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Male 2

I found Male 2 perched on overhanging vegetation along a nearby cut bank in the stream channel.

26 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Notice the prominent peach-colored schmutz on the right forewing, located near the pterostigma, that is visible in both photos of Male 2. Since I don’t see the schmutz in the photo of Male 1, I think Male 1 and 2 are probably different individuals.

26 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

New late date?

Dr. Edward Eder and I visited the same site on the same day. Dr. Eder is one of the best all-around amateur naturalists I know. Ed saw/photographed a male Sable Clubtail near the same location as my photos, a little earlier in the day. Both of us thought we’d set a new late-date for S. rogersi in Northern Virginia. As it turns out, I spotted a female Sable Clubtail on 05 July 2018. Photos of the female will be featured in my next blog post.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Gray on gravel

July 12, 2018

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

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. He was perched on a gravel road, much to my surprise.

24 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

This is the first Gray Petaltail that I’ve seen at the park since 04 June 2018, when I saw several individuals near a forested seep.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha male

July 10, 2018

The following photos show a Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) perched alongside a small stream in the forest at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

Mocha Emerald appears dark and featureless when viewed with the unaided eye in the shade of the forest canopy. More detail is revealed with added light from a fill flash.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When Mocha flies

July 8, 2018

Many Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis) were spotted along a small stream in a remote location at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Most of the creek is shaded by the forest canopy — the perfect habitat for Mocha and mosquitos, a primary food source for all species of odonates.

05 JUL 2018 | HMP | Mocha Emerald (male, in flight)

Both individuals are male, shown hovering in flight above the water. Mocha Emerald males patrol back-and-forth along a short segment of the stream, stopping to hover in place sometimes.

05 JUL 2018 | HMP | Mocha Emerald (male, in flight)

Adult flight period

The adult flight period  for Mocha Emerald is from 16 June to 16 September (peaks in July-August), according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park. In my experience, July is Mocha month in Northern Virginia.

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, a zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, 22 June to 10 October is the adult flight period for Mocha Emerald.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (female)

July 6, 2018

A Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Female Needham’s Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

The dragonfly was backlighted by the Sun. These photographs would have been impossible without the use of fill flash. Both photos are strong contenders for my Odonart Portfolio.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly (immature male)

July 4, 2018

A Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. As a mature male, the front of his thorax and abdomen will be covered by white pruinescence.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (male)

June 30, 2018

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted during a stream-walk along South Fork Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest Park (PWFP), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This is my first-of-year sighting of this species.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Off-season” homework pays dividends

June 24, 2018

The ode-hunting “off-season” is used for experimenting with new photography gear and techniques, studio photography (mostly odonate exuviae), and researching/exploring sites for finding new species of dragonflies and damselflies.

During Winter 2017-2018, Google Earth/Maps was used to virtually explore potential sites for Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi). A location where Sable Clubtail had been spotted by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, was rejected as practically inaccessible.

I recalled seeing Sable Clubtail on a species list for one of several sites surveyed regularly by a group of volunteers coordinated by Jim Waggener, in association with the Audubon Society. I contacted Jim and asked for information regarding sightings of S. rogersi by the survey group. Jim sent an e-mail to all members of the group; Bob Blakney kindly responded by sending a photograph and guidance for finding the location where his photo was taken on 08 June 2012.

As it turns out, only one Sable Clubtail was seen by the survey group in 2012 and that was the last sighting of the species for the next six years. I speculate the gap in sightings might be explained by the fact that scheduled dates for site surveys by Jim Waggener’s group didn’t coincide with the limited adult flight period for Sable.

I scouted the site for the first time on 01 December 2017. Fred Siskind kindly provided guidance that helped to focus the search area. I started actively hunting for Sable Clubtails beginning in mid-May 2018. 04 June 2018 was my last fruitless search. The “off-season” homework paid dividends for the first time on 08 June 2018.

Eureka!

Several Sable Clubtail dragonflies were spotted perched alongside a small forested stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

All of the individuals featured in this post are male, as indicated by their “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Rare to uncommon

Sable Clubtail has a limited range and is classified as a rare to uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Sable Clubtail in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Sable Clubtail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2018. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 11, 2018).

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

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Bender” on grass

June 22, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) is well-known for its tendency to perch on gray and tan colored surfaces, including tree trunks. Less well-known is the fact that Gray Petaltail perches wherever it wants, including tall grasses growing in the forested seeps from which the species emerges.

“Bender,” my nickname for a male Gray Petaltail with a malformed abdomen, is shown perched on grass stems in the following photo set.

No. 1 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

The next photo provides a good view of the gentle curve in Bender’s abdomen, as well as his hamules, visible on the ventral side of abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3).

No. 2 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Like many male odonates, Bender probably perched on the grass in order to make himself available for hook-ups with females of the same species.

No. 3 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Bender aggressively defended the prominent perch against other odonates that intruded upon his territory.

No. 4 | 06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

No flash/flash

Compare/contrast Photo No. 3-4. The batteries in my external flash unit were almost drained completely by the time I shot the photos. As a result, the flash worked sometimes and didn’t work other times. I’m fairly certain the flash didn’t fire for the Photo No. 3, and equally certain it fired for Photo No. 4. Some photographers might contend the no-flash photo is “arty”; I contend Photo No. 4 — the fill-flash version — has better color balance, color saturation, and more detail in the shadows.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Bender” on bark

June 20, 2018

I nicknamed this male Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) “Bender” because of his malformed abdomen.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Bender is shown perched on a tree that fell across a forested seep. It’s possible the tree makes the seep seepier, and that’s a good thing for the Gray Petaltail larvae that are well-adapted for this specific type of habitat.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Just look at that face — Bender exudes personality! In the following photo, Bender perched in a spot so that he was looking at me directly. Yep, that’s when we bonded.

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Next post: “Bender” on grass. No, wait — that doesn’t sound right!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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