Archive for the ‘landscapes’ Category

Bridge across Quantico Creek

August 3, 2021

The following photos show a small wooden bridge across Quantico Creek, near Burma Road in Prince William Forest Park, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

13 MAY 2021 | PNC. Wm. Forest Park | bridge across Quantico Creek

If you like bridges that bounce when you walk across them, then this is the bridge for you! I prefer bridges that are rock-solid.

13 MAY 2021 | PNC. Wm. Forest Park | bridge across Quantico Creek

Related Resource: All posts in my blog tagged with the word “bridge.”

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.

It’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat.

April 23, 2021

Small streams and seeps 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.

Service call for HMP weather station

October 23, 2020

The following photo gallery shows David M. Lawlor, Natural Resource Manager at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA, working to repair the automated weather observation station located in the central wetland area.

According to Dave, the components of the weather station were working properly although data couldn’t be accessed remotely.

The first photo shows Dave getting out a volt meter in order to check battery voltage and power to the weather station data logger.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The next photo shows Dave preparing to connect a laptop computer to the data logger.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

Dave testing battery voltage and power to data logger…

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The last photo shows Dave using a laptop computer, connected to the data logger, in an attempt to diagnose the connection issue.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The Backstory

During a photowalk with Michael Powell along the boardwalk that goes through the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park, we ran into Dave Lawlor when he was about to go overboard into the wetlands.

Related Resource

New HMP Weather Station (posted on 10 December 2016) – Real-time weather data was available from the old weather station, installed and maintained by Virginia Tech University, until it went offline after 23 September 2016. We look forward to a time when the new weather station goes online for public access.

In the meantime, real-time weather data is available at a new exhibit located just inside the front doors of the HMP Visitor Center.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Skunk cabbage flowers

February 5, 2020

The following photo gallery shows skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) flowers in a forest seep located at an undisclosed location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This is ideal habitat for Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) larvae, and in fact, numerous adult “Grays” have been observed along a sunny trail near this location. Seeps are home for some species of larvae from Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) as well.

03 FEB 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | skunk cabbage flowers

The last photo shows the same location during early Summer 2019. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage.

01 JUN 2019 | Fairfax County, VA | forest seep, with skunk cabbage

The following quote is perhaps the best description of a forest seep that I’ve read.

[Some] small tributaries … have their sources in numerous woodland seeps. While a few of these perennial springs bubble up out of the ground, most arise in moist hillside patches with lots of decaying leaf litter and luxuriant stands of skunk cabbage. Source Credit: White, Harold B., III. Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies (Cultural Studies of Delaware and the Eastern Shore) (Kindle Locations 1213-1215). University Press Copublishing Division. Kindle Edition.

Related Resource: Skunk Cabbage: First Flower of the Year… by Alonso Abugattas, Capital Naturalist blog. The blog post includes an embedded link to an informative video by Mr. Abugattas: Capital Naturalist: Skunk Cabbage Blooming (3:58).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (female)

August 16, 2019

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell around a small seep-fed pond in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. She is perched on a small tree in a sunny clearing.

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

A seep is a seep is a seep.

Gray Petaltail is known to occur at a small, seep-fed pond located in the forest. Part of the seep is shown below. The female dragonfly featured in this blog post was perched on a small tree just to the left edge of the photo.

23 MAY 2018 | PNC. William County, VA | seep in the forest

Forest seeps vary in size and associated vegetation, but wherever you find one it provides good habitat for petaltails and some species of spiketails.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly

August 9, 2019

Millions of readers have acquired the secrets of success through The Magic of Thinking Big. Source Credit: Amazon.

One of the secrets of success when scouting good habitat for Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) is “the magic of thinking small,” as in small seep-fed streams in the forest.

What does the right habitat look like?

The following photos were taken during a Tiger hunt with Michael Powell along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The photos are shown in sequence as we worked our way downstream from the headwaters. Mike and I have seen a single Tiger Spiketail patrolling this stream on two days during 2019: 01 July; and 06 August.

The first photo shows a seep in the forest at the headwaters of a small stream located along a segment of a marked trail in Prince William County, Virginia. Notice that skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) aren’t associated with this seep.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

The next photo is located a short distance downstream from the headwaters, looking back upstream. The stream channel is ~2-3 feet wide and no more than a few inches deep.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

A smaller “side seep” (upper-right) is a tributary of the same stream (foreground).

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

The last photo shows the view looking downstream from a point just below the small side seep. Although the stream seems to disappear near the bright sunlit patch on the forest floor, in fact the stream flows over the first in a series of mini-“waterfalls” that get progressively higher going downstream.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

What time of day is best for Tiger hunting?

Based upon field observations by Kevin Munroe, Michael Boatwright, and Mike Powell and me, Tiger Spiketail seems to have two time periods of increased activity that might be site-dependent: 10 a.m. to 12 noon; and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mike Boatwright and I speculate increased activity might be associated with the time of day when a given site receives more sunlight. The Tiger at the site Mike Powell and I visited seems to be a “morning person.”

Do other odonates live in the same habitat?

Mike Powell photographed a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) along the same stream on 10 July 2019. Now we know with reasonable certainty that Gray Petaltail and Tiger Spiketail can coexist in the same seep(s).

Mike also photographed a Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) on 16 April 2019 in a field near the mouth of the stream. Twin-spotted Spiketail larvae probably live in the stream itself, rather than the seeps that feed the stream.

Related Resource: Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly, featuring GoPro video showing another small stream where Tiger Spiketail has been observed in Northern Virginia.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another seep deep in the forest

July 24, 2019

“Two-board Bridge” is located along a marked trail in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The small, wooden footbridge crosses a large seep. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | “Two-board Bridge”

Location, location, location.

Seepage areas in the forest are prime locations for hunting habitat-specific odonates such as petaltails and some species of spiketails.

The Backstory

DSA members Ken Larsen and Michael Ready saw and photographed a single male Sable Clubtail (S. rogersi) on 01 June 2010 in Prince William County. Nine years later, neither Ken nor Michael were able to recall the exact location of their sighting, but they were able to point me toward the general vicinity where I might “rediscover” one of the descendants of the Sable they’d seen.

I asked Mike Powell to help me hunt for Sable. Mike did some solo exploration before we visited the site together. He mentioned there is a LOT of skunk cabbage along one of the trails he had followed. As soon as I saw the place, Mike will tell you I said “We should find Gray Petaltail here.” Not long afterward, we spotted the first of many T. thoreyi!

Coming full circle, Mike spotted a single male Sable Clubtail dragonfly about a week later in the same “neighborhood.” We searched the location intensively several more times but never saw another Sable.

Although Sable doesn’t live in seeps, our search for the right habitat for Sable led us to several seeps that are tributaries of the small creek where S. rogersi does live.

Gear Talk

Notice the disjointed human legs at the top of the image — they belong to Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy. Sometimes I get so focused on the subject of interest that I don’t see the bigger picture. I could say I included Mike’s legs in order to provide a sense of scale, but the truth is it’s an unintended consequence of poor photo composition.

Also gotta love the blown highlights in the photo! The high dynamic range between the shadows of the forest canopy and direct sunlight would have been better photographed as an HDR composite image.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bluebells

May 20, 2019

What do you call bluebells growing in Maryland? That’s right, Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)!

The preceding photograph shows Virginia Bluebells growing in a meadow alongside the Little Patuxent River at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. The flowers seem to be a little past peak.

I’m aware of three locations where Virginia Bluebells are prolific every spring during the month of April, and probably not coincidentally, all three locations are stream valleys. As is often the case with where plants and animals are found, it’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat!

By the way, the three locations are Riverbend Park and Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, and now Patuxent Research Refuge in Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. Riverbend Park charges a fee to view the bluebells during an annual festival; the nature show is free at the other two locations.

Related Resource: Virginia Bluebells, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Little Patuxent River

May 3, 2019

Sometimes people ask why I like to hunt and photograph odonates. One answer is illustrated by the following photograph — ode hunting takes me to many picturesque locations like this one!

The preceding photo shows the Little Patuxent River, looking downstream from Bailey Bridge. The bridge is located along Wildlife Loop trail at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA.

If you look closely at the lower limit of the upper-right quadrant, then you might notice a shadowy figure standing near the bank of the river. That’s either my buddy Mike Powell or a rare sighting of Bigfoot!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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