Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

Powdered Dancer (males, female)

August 20, 2017

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. There is a whitish-blue morph female Powdered Dancer, therefore the male’s whitish-blue coloration is insufficient to identify its gender.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Powdered Dancer (male)

A week later, a mating pair of Powdered Dancers was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-left; the female on the lower-right.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancers (mating pair, in tandem)

The male is “contact guarding” the female as the pair flies “in tandem” to egg-laying sites where the female uses her ovipositor to insert eggs into vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

It’s helpful to take photos of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different.

Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic, including a whitish-blue andromorph and a brown heteromorph. The brown morph, shown in this pair, is more common than whitish-blue.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancers (mating pair, in tandem)

Did you notice the male Stream Bluet damselfly (Enallagma exsulans) perching near the Powdered Dancers? Thanks to Karen Kearney and Michael Boatwright, members of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the Stream Bluet.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly (female)

August 16, 2017

A Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Look for immature- and female dragonflies in fields near water, sometimes far from water. I found this female perching in a large field several hundred yards from Painted Turtle Pond.

As a wildlife photographer with a focus on insect photography, one of my mantras is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” In other words, don’t miss the opportunity to document a spotting by trying to get a great shot first.

The preceding photo is the record shot. Next, I worked my way around the subject slowly; several shots later I was able to get a good shot of the dorsal side of the dragonfly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennant dragonflies (males)

August 12, 2017

Several Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) were spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of the individuals in this gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Fujifilm X-T1

The first photo was taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens plus a Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. The lens was set for a focal length of 200mm (~350mm, 35mm equivalent).

The camera was set for an aperture of f/11. I forgot to decrease the aperture to f/16 (one of the lessons learned from recent field testing). Although depth of field (DoF) wasn’t an issue for the lateral view of a male Swift Setwing dragonfly featured in my last post, DoF is an issue for this viewpoint of a male Banded Pennant dragonfly. Notice the head and thorax are in focus; the terminal appendages are not.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

The photos in the last set were taken using my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Is that a head-tilt I see below? Did you notice the male Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) in the background?

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Editor’s Notes

What are the take-aways from looking at photo sets of the same subject taken using different camera kits, shown head-to-head?

First, the Fujifilm X-T1 is a good camera that I should use more often. My comfort level with the Fujifilm camera isn’t the same as my trusty Panasonic, but that should develop in time.

Second, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is capable of capturing high-quality photographs, especially when used in combination with a good external flash unit such as the Canon 580EX Speedlite.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennants (mating pair, in wheel)

August 8, 2017

“In wheel”

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) was spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel.”

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennants (mating pair, “in wheel“)

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennants (mating pair, “in wheel“)

“Insex”

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I used to photowalk the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park frequently. In deference to the many women and children who visit the park, I coined the term “insex” (sounds like “insects” to the uninitiated) as a family-friendly way to alert my fellow odonate hunters/photowalkers that I heard/saw a mating pair of dragonflies.

More often than not, I hear the clatter of wings before I see a mating pair. When I hear that unique sound, “insex” is the code word I use to give people a heads-up to search for the noisy couple.

In this case, the male Banded Pennant made a silky-smooth, soundless hook-up with the female. I had been watching the female oviposit along the shoreline of the pond while a male was hover guarding her. The fact is, I’m not sure whether he was actually hover guarding or an interloper waiting for an opportunity to grab the female. Either way, I was able to shoot just two photos of the mating pair before they flew in wheel to the top of a nearby tree.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Blue Boy

August 6, 2017

Several Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) were spotted during a photowalk along Dogue Creek at Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and slaty blue coloration.

09 JUL 2017 | Wickford Park | Slaty Skimmer (male)

This guy was my constant companion while I was photographing a male Common Sanddragon perching on a small sandbar in the creek.

09 JUL 2017 | Wickford Park | Slaty Skimmer (male)

I nicknamed this dragonfly “The Blue Boy” because his rich blue-indigo color is reminiscent of an oil painting by Thomas Gainsborough.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunters

August 4, 2017

Several male Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) were spotted during photowalks along a mid-size rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I think the first photo looks and feels like summer.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The next photo is my favorite in the set. Did you notice the male Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) in the background?

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

I flushed the last Dragonhunter as I was walking along a path that leads to/from the stream. He flew to a perch on a tree limb overhead, posed for one photo, and flew toward the top of a nearby tree.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The Backstory

Winter is the longest season, that is, for odonate hunters. OK, I realize winter is three months like every other season, but it certainly seems longer! Winter is a good time for reflecting upon the last ode-hunting season and planning for the next one.

Last winter, I was thinking about new places to explore where I might see Dragonhunter dragonflies. Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, told me about a hotspot for Dragonhunters along Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia. Manassas is a little farther from home than I am willing to travel, especially in heavy traffic. So I used Google Maps (satellite view) to work downstream from Manassas Battlefield Park until I found a location that seemed to have potential.

I had a hunch the new spot would be ideal habitat for Dragonhunters and other less common species of odonates. Turns out my hunch was right! In fact, I considered calling this post “Dragonhunchers” but decided to play it straight.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Summertime is skimmer time

July 31, 2017

Refer to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia Calendar of Flight Periods by Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park. Notice the flight period for most Skimmers (Family Libellulidae) is centered on June, July, and August. Since meteorological summer is defined as June, July, and August, summertime is skimmer time.

A female Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, as indicated by her mostly black femora, brown face, and terminal appendages.

Female Slaty Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment (S8) that are used to scoop water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.”

Female Slaty Skimmer dragonflies and female Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) look similar. The following blog post provides guidance regarding key field markers that can be used to differentiate the two species: Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (young female).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (female)

July 27, 2017

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted during a photowalk along Bull Run in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. As far as I know, this is the first official record for American Rubyspot at this location.

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

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (female)

Notice one of the damselfly’s wings is either malformed or injured. She was able to fly, although it seemed to be a struggle.

The Backstory

The damselfly landed on my thigh a few minutes before the preceding photograph was taken. It was like she was pleading with me to help her, although I admit I tend to project my thoughts onto the odonates I photograph. I would have tried to unfold her wing, but I never had an opportunity. Two teenage girls and a bear-sized dog startled me! (I never heard/saw them approaching. The girls told me their dog is a Long Hair German Shepherd.) When I flinched the damselfly flew to the perch shown above, just beyond my reach.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Halloween Pennant (young male)

July 25, 2017

Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young male, as indicated by his yellowish-orange coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

Both photos in this gallery show the dragonfly perching at the top of Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). Eastern gamagrass grows to a height of five- to six feet.

Look at the full-size version of the preceding photo. With its jaw open, the head of this pennant reminds me of the skull on a Jolly Roger flag. Argh, matey!

The last photo is my favorite in the set. The clarity, color palette and composition are perfect, he said not too modestly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Sanddragon (male)

July 23, 2017

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) was spotted along Dogue Creek at Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Some people imagine the yellow markings along the abdomen look like small burning candles.

All of the photographs in this set are uncropped. Knee-high rubber boots enabled me to photowalk some segments the stream, allowing me to get close to the subject.

This guy was a cooperative model; he allowed me to photograph him from many viewpoints.

The water level was relatively high after recent heavy rainfall. As a result, there were fewer sandy “beaches” than usual along the stream. I speculate the dragonfly may have been more cooperative because he wasn’t going to abandon one of only a few available preferred places to perch.

It’s possible the right front leg (facing forward) is either malformed or injured. Although the male flew several short patrols, landing in different places, the leg was never fully extended.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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