Archive for the ‘Panasonic DMC-FZ300’ Category

Common Whitetail (mature male)

August 21, 2019

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted near the Painted Turtle Pond Environmental Study AreaOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by the white coloration of his abdomen, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. He is perched vertically on the corner of a storage shed.

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Common Whitetail (mature male)

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratch marks on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gear Talk

“Expose for the highlights” is a well-known rule of thumb in photography, that is, adjust the camera settings so the highlights are exposed perfectly.

Mature male Common Whitetail dragonflies are challenging to photograph because they prefer perching in direct sunlight, so it’s easy to blow out the highlights on their bright white abdomen. After a few test shots, I was able to adjust the flash power ratio so that the subject is exposed properly.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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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.

Eastern Ringtail reunion, continued

August 5, 2019

Whenever possible I prefer to photograph odonates against a clean background, such as the concrete pavement in my last blog post. In my opinion, a simpler background makes it easier for the viewer to focus on the subject.

In contrast, my photowalking buddy Mike Powell prefers a “natural” background (as opposed to man-made). Knowing Mike’s preference, I “influenced” an Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus) to relocate from his perch on a concrete sidewalk to a new perch on a grass lawn. Although the green grass complements the unusual color palette of the dragonfly, the viewer’s eye must work harder to find the subject.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. He is perched on a grassy area in between concrete sidewalks surrounding a berm/observation area alongside the boat ramp, near the main parking lot at Riverbend Park.

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 E. designatus is from May 16 to September 24. The species is classified as uncommon to common. Its habitat is “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for E. designatus seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Eastern Ringtail is 09 June to 20 September.

Related Resource: Posts tagged ‘Eastern Ringtail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Reconnecting with Eastern Ringtail

August 2, 2019

I used to be a science teacher at a public school where the building engineer had a great line for postponing and/or begging off maintenance work: “I’m only one man!” Well, when it comes to odonate hunting I have come to realize you can’t have it all — every year you need to make and prioritize a “target list” of species that you would really like to find/see and pass on many other old favorites.

For example, Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus). Although E. designatus is one of my favorite dragonflies, I had to pass on seeing them during 2018 in favor of hunting the elusive Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea). It was good to reconnect with Eastern Ringtail recently during a brief photowalk with Michael Powell along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The following photo set provides a brief example of what I call “working the shot.” The first photo is what some other ode hunters call the “record shot,” meaning get a shot, any shot of the subject in case it flies away and is never seen again.

Slowly I moved into position to get the shot I wanted, shown below.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. He is perched on a concrete sidewalk around a berm/observation area alongside the boat ramp, near the main parking lot.

By this time in the ode hunting season, I was happy to be able to find the target species quickly and with almost no fear of pesty parasites such as chiggers, ticks, and mosquitos!

Related Resource: Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Ringtail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another female Gray Petaltail

July 31, 2019

This blog post features two of my favorite photos of another Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, and terminal appendages. She is perched on a large tree in a sunny clearing.

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

In natural sunlight, the Gray Petaltail was nearly impossible to see against the tree bark. An external flash unit added enough “fill” light so that the dragonfly “pops” with detail!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (female)

July 26, 2019

21 May 2019 was a great day for spotting Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) during a photowalk with Michael Powell along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

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

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

Mike and I saw a Gray Petaltail in virtually every sunny spot we passed in the shady forest!

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

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.

Shine on you crazy diamond!

July 22, 2019

Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) was spotted along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Widow Skimmer (immature male)

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

Gear Talk

The preceding photo was challenging, exposure-wise — the ambient light spanned the entire range from light to dark. The problem was made worse by the behavior of the Widow Skimmer: the dragonfly didn’t sit still; it flitted from one perch to another so I felt rushed to “get a shot, any shot.”

The subject is slightly overexposed, most noticeably along the yellow line on top of the thorax. Using my new “set it and forget it” configuration for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom digital camera, I’m still adjusting to the fact that exposure compensation isn’t an option when shooting in Manual Mode.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (mature male)

July 19, 2019

I like to take some test shots/warm-up shots at the beginning of every photowalk, in order to check exposure, etc. and practice muscle memory. The idea is simple: Prepare to shoot before I see something rare to uncommon, as happened on 21 May 2019.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Blue Corporal (mature male)

A Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) was spotted near a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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