Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

New Life List additions in 2021

December 21, 2021

The anticipation of the hunt and the thrill of discovery — the adrenalin rush from finding new species of odonates is ever more elusive as one gains experience and expertise. Accordingly, the number of additions to my Life List is fewer year after year.

Selys’s Sundragon (Helocordulia selysii)

Selys’ Sundragon dragonfly (Helocordulia selysii) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male with a malformed abdomen. Selys’s Sundragon is a new species for both my Life List of odonates and for Prince William County, VA.

13 APR 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Selys’s Sundragon (male)

Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) and Selys’s Sundragon are colocated at many sites — find one species and you should find the other. I’ve been on the lookout for Selys’s since Uhler’s was found several years ago near the site where this Selys’s was spotted.

Yellow-sided Skimmer (Libellula flavida)

Yellow-sided Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula flavida) were spotted around a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Yellow-sided Skimmer (female)

The last individual is a male, as indicated by his blue coloration and terminal appendages.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Yellow-sided Skimmer (male)

Many species of dragonflies in the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) are habitat generalists and relatively easy to find almost anywhere there is water. In contrast, Yellow-sided Skimmer is a habitat specialist that is challenging to find.

Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea)

Tiger Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster erronea) was captured along a small stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The specimen was photographed and released unharmed.

05 AUG 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail (male)

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

05 AUG 2021 | Prince William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail (male)

“Sight records are insufficient” is one of many “Walterisms.” In other words, I don’t add a species to my Life List until I have photographed it. And so it is with Tiger Spiketail. I have seen several Tiger Spiketail dragonflies during the past few years (at several locations) but had no photos to show for my efforts because they are fliers rather than perchers.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cordulegaster sp. larva

October 22, 2021

Odonates are aquatic insects. They spend most of their life as larvae (nymphs) that live in water; this stage of their life cycle can last from a few months to a few years. Finally, they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adults in order to reproduce; their offspring return to the water and the cycle begins again.

This post features annotated images of a larva (nymph) from the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) that was collected and reared by Bob Perkins. The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

The distinctive jagged crenulations on the face mask of spiketails are unmistakeable!

Cordulegaster sp. larva (preserved specimen) | face-head

This individual is a female, as indicated by her developing ovipositor that can be seen on the ventral side of the specimen along the boundary between abdominal segments eight and nine (S8, S9).

Cordulegaster sp. larva (female) | ventral view

The presence of a ventromedial groove in the prementum is a reliable field mark for larvae/exuviae in Family Corduliidae (Emeralds). Some species of larvae/exuviae in other families of dragonflies, such as Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails), feature a ventromedial groove in the prementum. In this case, the presence of a ventromedial groove does not indicate this specimen is an Emerald.

Most odonate larvae go through 10-13 stages of development known as “instars.” The author lacks sufficient experience to identify the instar of this specimen, although it appears to be one of the later stages as indicated by its well-developed wing pads, shown below.

Post Update: According to Ken Tennessen, author of Dragonfly Nymphs of North America: An Identification Guide, F-0 is the instar of this specimen (final instar). Thanks, Ken!

Cordulegaster sp. larva (female) | dorsal view

Larvae (nymphs)/exuviae in Family Cordulegaster (Spiketails) are burrowers, as indicated by the dirty, sediment-covered dorsal side and relatively clean ventral side of this specimen.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Didymops transversa exuvia

September 21, 2021

An exuvia from a Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) was collected from one of the concrete abutments of a man-made dam located along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

I prefer to photograph odonate exuvia like this one “as is” — presumably its appearance is similar to the way larva looked when it lived underwater.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (dorsal)

If so, then I’m guessing D. transversa larvae are bottom dwellers, as indicated by the dirty, sediment-covered dorsal side and relatively clean ventral side of this specimen.

13 APR 2021 | PNC. William County, VA | Stream Cruiser exuvia (ventral)

Post Update

The nymphs are sprawlers that cling to roots or hunker down in sediments of mixed sand and silt particles. Source Credit: K. J. Tennessen, Dragonfly Nymphs of North America, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-97776-8_10, Macromiidae, p. 330.

The Backstory

The preceding photos were shot using the prototype for a homemade curved clear plastic tray intended for staging subjects against a white background.

With a few minor tweaks, the curved stage performed better than during initial testing. I needed to add a second external flash unit to more evenly illuminate the white background.

Although I’m fairly satisfied with the results of these test shots, more testing is required to be sure the set-up is working the way I want.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Yellow-sided Skimmer (terminal appendages)

August 24, 2021

Female and male Yellow-sided Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula flavida) were spotted at a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Female

The first individual is a female, as indicated by her mostly yellow coloration and terminal appendages.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Yellow-sided Skimmer (female)

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Mature male

The last individual is a mature male, as indicated by his light-blue pruinescence and terminal appendages.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Yellow-sided Skimmer (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”).

Immature male Yellow-sided Skimmers look similar to females of the same species. Terminal appendages can be used to differentiate the sex of immature males and mature females.

Related Resource: Yellow-sided Skimmer (male and female) – a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

August 13, 2021

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk with me along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

05 AUG 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

We followed the female from one location…

05 AUG 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

to another.

05 AUG 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

I was able to take no more than three shots at each perch before she moved on to the next stop.

05 AUG 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

Habitat

I’m not sure I’d call Black-shouldered Spinyleg a habitat specialist. I’ve seen and photographed D. spinosus along small streams in the forest, mid-size streams (like the one in this post), and large rivers.

Habitat: Rocky and muddy streams and rivers from small to large, more often in woodland. Also in rocky lakes in northern part of range. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6416-6417). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Range map

The following map shows all official records for Dromogomphus spinosus in the United States of America. Given the wide range of lotic habitats where Black-shouldered Spinyleg is found, I’m puzzled by the fact that the species isn’t more widespread than it appears to be.

Related Resource: All posts in my blog tagged with the words “Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly.”

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (male)

July 30, 2021

An Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) was spotted along a small stream located in Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

05 JUN 2021 | Fairfax County, VA | Ebony Jewelwing (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his all black wings and terminal appendages.

05 JUN 2021 | Fairfax County, VA | Ebony Jewelwing (male)

Habitat

It’s easy to find Ebony Jewelwing. Look for a small stream in the forest.

Slow-flowing woodland streams, usually associated with herbaceous vegetation. Tend to be more at rapids when that habitat is present. Occur on open banks when trees nearby (trees essential for roosting at night). May be abundant at small streams in woods where very few other species are present. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 1249-1251). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More Bar-winged Skimmers (males)

July 23, 2021

At least two male Bar-winged Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula axilena) were spotted along the shoreline of a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

It’s possible all of the photos featured in this blog post are of the same mature male that is featured in another recent post, as indicated by a distinctive pattern of spider web strands on the wings of the dragonfly.

Look closely along the leading edge of the wings. Notice the dark bars from which the common name for this species is derived are almost invisible.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County |  Bar-winged Skimmer (mature male)

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County |  Bar-winged Skimmer (mature male)

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County |  Bar-winged Skimmer (mature male)

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County |  Bar-winged Skimmer (mature male)

For what it’s worth, the first and last photos in this set are my favorite.

Related Resource: Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male).

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Variable Dancer damselfly (male)

July 20, 2021

A Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) was spotted near a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

17 JUN 2021 | Prince William County | Variable Dancer (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his mostly purple coloration.

Variable Dancer is a habitat generalist that can be found almost anywhere there is water. Mature males are easy to recognize due to their unique coloration — there are no other species of violet damselflies found in the eastern one-third of the United States. Female Variable Dancers, like many female odonates, are more challenging to identify than males.

It’s helpful to get shots of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different. The excellent high-resolution digital scans by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland, listed under “Related Resources” (below), provide clear views of male and female Variable Dancer damselflies.

Related Resources: High-resolution digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland.

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The taxonomic classification of Variable Dancer is as follows: Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies); Suborder Zygoptera (Damselflies); Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies); Genus Argia (Dancers); Subspecies Argia fumipennis violacea (Violet Dancer).

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where Argia (Dancers) fit into the bigger picture of the Order Odonata, Suborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are four families of damselflies in the United States of America, although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic USA: Broad-winged damselflies; Narrow-winged damselflies (a.k.a., Pond Damselflies); and Spreadwing damselflies.

Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

Family Coenagrionidae is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

Family Lestidae is comprised of two genera.

  • Archilestes (e.g., Great Spreadwing)
  • Lestes (e.g., Slender Spreadwing, Southern Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing)

There are relatively few genera of Broad-winged Damselflies and Spreadwing Damselflies. In contrast, there are many more genera and species of Narrow-winged Damselflies — more species, including many that look similar, makes this family the most challenging to learn!

Editor’s Note: Please comment to let me know whether the preceding information is helpful.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

July 16, 2021

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellusProtographium marcellus) was spotted near a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

17 JUN 2021 | Prince William County | Zebra Swallowtail

Notice the Zebra Swallowtail lost part of one of its tails, possibly the result of a close encounter with predator.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: