Archive for the ‘Panasonic DMC-FZ300’ Category

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 6)

July 13, 2020

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The preceding photo is “full frame,” that is uncropped (3,000 x 4,000 pixels).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

July 10, 2020

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

Look at the blade of grass on which the Sable is perched. Notice the “leftovers” from an afternoon snack eaten by the dragonfly before the photo was taken.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”). The epiproct for Sable Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The spiky green grass shown below is probably shallow sedge (Carex lurida) according to Drew Chaney, a.k.a., “Plant Man Drew.”

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Field Observations

All of the photos in the preceding gallery show male No. 2 perched on vegetation overhanging a small stream, enabling him to both hunt/feed and wait for an opportunity to mate with a female.

Natural History: Males perch on sunlit vegetation overhanging stream or on flat rocks in shade at head of riffle, fly up into trees when disturbed. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6102-6103). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

In my experience, Sable Clubtails — both male and female — also perch on ground cover vegetation in sunny clearings near small streams. For example, see my recent blog post featuring male No. 1.

Sable does in fact fly up into trees when their “flight” response is triggered by overzealous photographers; they have been observed perched in trees as high as 20 feet above the ground. Be patient — usually they return to the ground soon afterward.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

July 8, 2020

Behold the humble Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). So common, yet so uncommonly attractive in its own way.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue Dasher (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Initially I thought she might be another species of dragonfly, due to her somewhat atypical coloration.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue Dasher (female)

The Backstory

During a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, we were men on a mission to find three rare to uncommon species of dragonflies: Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua); Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi); and Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi).

Albeit common, and not one of our target species, sometimes you need to stop and smell the Blue Dashers, figuratively speaking.

As for our list of target species, let’s just say two out of three ain’t bad.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male, No. 3)

July 6, 2020

Several Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) were spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This one is No. 3 of 4.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

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

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

After shooting a “record shot,” I like to “work the shot,” that is shoot the subject from all viewpoints. In this case the range of possible shots was somewhat limited so after I felt like I’d taken all the shots I could, I challenged Mike to see how close he could get to the dragonfly.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

As you can see in the photo featured in The Backstory, it turns out Mike was able to get astoundingly close to this very cooperative Gray Petaltail!

The Backstory

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is one of two superzoom bridge cameras that I use as my “go to” rigs for photowalking. The minimum focusing distance in AF Macro mode is 1 m (3.3 feet) at maximum telephoto (600 mm, 35mm equivalent). My usual practice is to set the camera for maximum telephoto and move as close as possible to the minimum focusing distance, resulting in maximum magnification of the subject. That’s how I shot the three photos shown above.

The following photo is shown for scale. The Gray Petaltail is perched on a fallen tree limb approximately six inches (6″) in front of Mike Powell’s 180mm macro lens. Shooting macro is one way to increase magnification; shooting at maximum telephoto is another. I prefer the flexibility afforded by a zoom lens versus a prime lens like Mike is using.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Michael Powell

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail eyes, a companion blog post by Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter dragonfly (male)

July 3, 2020

“Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot” is one my mantras for wildlife photography, as illustrated in the following three-photo time series of a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted by Michael Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy.

Close…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

Closer…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

Closest…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

This individual is a male, although it’s difficult to see some critical field marks in any of my photos such as hamules and “indented” hind wings. Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for refuting my tentative identification of the gender.

The dragonfly moved to a new perch…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

And then another. I must say I was impressed by how effortlessly he seemed to fly. Dragonhunters are so BIG I expected he’d labor to fly. Nope, he made it look too easy!

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I spent a long day looking for Eastern Least Clubtail dragonflies (Stylogomphus albistylus) along a mid-size stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. No luck, but we saw what I think was the same Dragonhunter perched at several places. I was unable to get any good shots of the Dragonhunter until we were almost ready to head home.

I was still searching for ELC when Mike decided to play a hunch and take one last look for our Dragonhunter. We were separated by quite a distance when I thought I heard Mike calling me. As I was working my way upstream, I heard Mike call again; this time I replied. Turns out Mike found our guy again, only this time he was a very cooperative model. Thanks for thinking of me, Mike!

Related Resource:  Dragonhunter adventure, a companion blog post by Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 8)

July 1, 2020

Insects can be beautiful. And some insects, such as dragonflies and damselflies, are more beautiful than others. That’s right, I said it!

I am fortunate to be able to photograph some of the more beautiful odonates that can be found, with a little time and effort, throughout Northern Virginia. Such as the following Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus), spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Both photos in this post are “full frame,” that is uncropped (3,000 x 4,000 pixels). When the subject fills the frame as it does in the first photo, you know I was fairly close to the dragonfly.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

June 29, 2020

Another Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” It’s literally the first shot I took as soon as I spotted the Gray.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

I moved slowly to a slightly closer position; almost had a squared-up dorsal view of the subject before he flew away.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) [No. 1]

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 1)

June 26, 2020

After a two-year hiatus since I spotted my first Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) during June 2018, it was a pleasure see an old friend again!

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” It is literally the first shot I took as soon as I spotted the Sable male. As you can see, he was looking in my direction so I was unable to sneak up on him. That proved to be problematic.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

I tried to move slowly into position for a lateral view of the dragonfly.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The last photo is almost as far as I moved before Mr. Sable flew away — five shots and it was game over, man!

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Later the same day I  was fortunate to photograph a more cooperative male that will be featured in a follow-up post.

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.

As you would expect, there are few official records for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and fewer records for Northern Virginia.

The Backstory

A short segment of a small stream that flows through a park in Northern Virginia seems to provide ideal habitat for Sable. By the end of Summer 2018, the stream had been degraded significantly by siltation as a result of runoff from dirt that was dumped uphill from the stream.

The following year, the stream channel was almost completely choked by vegetation that I assume flourished in the nutrient-rich sediment that had flowed into the stream. Net result: One and only one Sable Clubtail dragonfly was observed by several spotters who visited the stream site during 2019.

That’s the bad news. The good news is I saw at least three Sable Clubtails when I visited the stream site on Saturday, 13 June 2020. That’s not as many individuals as I saw in 2018, but the species seems to have rebounded a little from the damage done to its habitat.

As Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Let’s hope!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (male)

June 24, 2020

During a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, Mike spotted an American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) perched facing the Potomac River. This individual is a male, as indicated by his red coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

All of the photos in the following gallery look similar, although there are subtle differences.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” Actually, this one turned out to be a good photo! The camera was set for an aperture of f/5.6 for all shots in the gallery. This viewing angle provided the clearest look at his terminal appendages given the relatively shallow depth-of-field.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

The next photo shows a better look at the damselfly’s metallic ruby red face. Handsome!

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Finally, I just like the look of the “light” in the last photo. Dark and moody.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Related Resource: American Rubyspot – a blog post by Michael Powell

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 4)

June 22, 2020

At least 11 Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including 10 females and one male. This blog post features several photos of female No. 4.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The last two photos are my favorite in the set. Isn’t she a beauty?

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

Related Resource: Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (females) [No. 1a and 1b]

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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