Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (male)

June 25, 2017

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus exilis) was spotted during a photowalk at “Straight Fork Beaver Ponds,” Highland County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

This male Lancet Clubtail was spotted at the same location as a male Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus descriptus) featured in a previous post. Lancet Clubtail is a relatively widespread species of odonate, in contrast with Harpoon Clubtail.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

Bonus Bug

Look closely at the preceding photo. Did you notice the exuvia from another type of aquatic insect, possibly either mayfly or stonefly? I didn’t see the exuvia when I shot the photo, and missed them again when I post-processed the image. Sometimes I get so focused on the subject that I don’t see the bigger picture.

Tech Tips

The photos were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another record shot

June 23, 2017

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted by Mike Boatwright during a photowalk at Columbia Boat Landing, Cumberland County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

This photo is a “record shot” of another species of dragonfly spotted during a road trip with Mike to two locations along the James River in central Virginia. Not my best work, but hey, the photo provides documentation of the first Black-shoulder Spinyleg I’ve seen this year. With any luck, it won’t be the last.

Tech Tips

The photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.text…

Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (male)

June 19, 2017

An Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia alleghaniensis) was netted by Mike Blust at Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA.

The complete yellow ring around abdominal segment seven (S7) is a distinctive field marker for this species. This individual is a male, as indicated by his hamules and terminal appendages.

Allegheny River Cruiser is a good candidate for netting, that is, if you want to get a close look at one.

Males fly rapidly up and down streams, mostly but not always near shore, usually quite low… . Cruise up and down roads through woodland, in sun and shade, or fly up higher into forest canopy. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7313-7315). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following map shows all official records for Allegheny River Cruiser in the United States of America. Notice the records are roughly coincident with the Allegheny Mountains, from which part of the common name for this species is derived.

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2017. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 13, 2017).

Allegheny River Cruiser is a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

Tech Tips

The photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

My camera had a mysterious meltdown when I was trying to photograph the dragonfly in Mike Blust’s hand. Sincere thanks to Mike for his extraordinary patience while I was troubleshooting the problem under extreme pressure.

Editor’s Note

Sincere thanks to Mike Boatwright for taking me to a couple of odonate-hunting localities along the James River, including Hardware River WMA (see map, shown below) and Columbia Boat Landing, Cumberland County, Virginia.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (male)

June 17, 2017

A Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus descriptus) was spotted during a photowalk at “Straight Fork Beaver Ponds,” Highland County, Virginia USA.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

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

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

The following photograph was shot at f/11, since more depth of field was required to show the dragonfly in focus from head-to-tail. The other photos were shot at either f/7.1 or f/8.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

Harpoon Clubtail is a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

Bonus Bugs

Look closely at all of the preceding photos. Did you notice the exuviae from another type of aquatic insect, possibly either mayfly or stonefly? I didn’t see the exuviae when I shot the photos, and missed them again when I post-processed the images. Sometimes I get so focused on the subject that I don’t see the bigger picture.

Tech Tips

The photos were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

The Backstory

I attended the 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting in Staunton, Virginia, 09-11 June 2017. Yes Virginia, there is an organization called the Dragonfly Society of the Americas (DSA). Although I’ve been a member of DSA since August 2011, the 2017 annual meeting is the first one that I’ve attended.

2017 DSA Annual Meeting | Staunton, VA (see red circle)

Source Credit: 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting.

Staunton, Virginia is the county seat of Augusta County. Highland County is located between the western boundary of Augusta County and the border between Virginia and West Virginia. Highland County is the only place in Virginia where there are official records for Harpoon Clubtail.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Harpoon Clubtail (Phanogomphus descriptus)

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2017. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 13, 2017).

In the world of odonates, there are habitat generalists and habit specialists. Harpoon Clubtail is a habitat specialist, as shown clearly by the preceding distribution map of official records.

I was fortunate to be able to ride along with fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for a road trip to Highland County. Straight Fork Beaver Ponds is a unique high-elevation habitat that is well known among expert birders and odonate hunters like Karen and Mike.

Mike scouted the location a week-or-so before the DSA meeting, so he had a good idea of the species of odonates we might see, including Harpoon Clubtail and Riffle Snaketail (Ophiogomphus carolus) dragonflies.

Sincere thanks to Karen and Mike for a fun, productive day hunting odonates with good friends!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Northern Watersnake

June 13, 2017

A Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) was spotted during a photowalk along Pope’s Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Northern Watersnake

Look closely at the full-size version of the following photo. Did you notice the fresh blood on the underside of its body? Also notice the scar on the dorsal side of the snake’s body. The former is probably blood from prey; the latter is probably the result of an attack by another predator.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Northern Watersnake

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pop goes the Cobra!

June 5, 2017

Good photographers strive to shoot photos that “pop,” rather than ones that are dull and flat. If you look at the full-size version of the following image, then I think you’ll agree with me — this photo pops!

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

Tech Tips: I carried two digital cameras during the trip to Riverbend Park: a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking; as well as my Fujifilm X-T1Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. I’ve used the Panasonic camera for years and know to set the camera for optimal performance. In contrast, every time I picked up the Fujifilm camera I felt like I had no idea what I was doing!

Although I’ve owned the X-T1 for several years, I have used it mostly for studio photography. Now that Fujifilm has embraced high-speed sync flash photography, I plan to continue experimenting with using the X-T1 for wildlife photography. The X-T1 is a very capable camera — in time I hope to become as familiar with it as I am with my DMC-FZ150.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

If snakes could talk

June 1, 2017

In my experience, snakes flick their tongue frequently when they feel threatened by a predator. If snakes could talk, then this one might be saying “You’re making me feel anxious!”

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) was spotted along Pope’s Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. A wider view shows the snake is approximately two (2) feet in length. Notice its tail appears to have been amputated and healed afterward.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

A closer look at the snake shows several fresh injuries along the body, such as the gash near its head.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

Several bus loads of middle school students were visiting the park on 10 May 2017. I saw three students downstream from me who were separated from the larger group. They were throwing rocks at something along the shore. As I approached them, they started walking in the opposite direction. I spotted the snake when I reached the same place where the students had been throwing rocks.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

I’m guessing the students were trying to kill the snake before they saw me. So if snakes could talk, then this one might be saying “Thank you for saving my life!”

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

Editor’s Comments: What’s the take-away from this ugly experience? This is another example of “good thought, bad idea.” It was a good thought to schedule a school field trip to a nature park; it was a bad idea to lose track of several students! Middle school students require adult supervision at all times. Trust me, as a retired K-12 science teacher, this is the voice of experience talking. The teachers are lucky none of their students were injured when they were missing in action. The snake wasn’t as fortunate — it was injured as a consequence of the teachers’ negligence. Let’s hope the snake survived its injuries!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

May 24, 2017

The only downside — or upside, depending upon your point of view — to my new hotspot for hunting odonates is there are only two trails in/out and both paths are steeply-inclined. Going in, not so bad walking downhill; going out, not so much fun!

I stopped to catch my breath as I was walking up a long trail with a 45-degree slope. I heard a rustling sound in the vegetation on the left side of the trail, a little beyond where I was standing. I moved closer slowly until I spotted my first Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)!

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Although the name for this snake is less than flattering, notice the distinctive orange fleur-de-lis shape on top of its head. The coloration of Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is variable; I was fortunate to see one of the more colorful ones.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

I never had a clear view of the entire snake, but I estimate it was two-to-three feet in length.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The party’s over

May 22, 2017

Several Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) were spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Pondhawk (immature male)

For some types of dragonflies, immature males have the same coloration as females of the same species. This is true for many members of the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) such as Eastern Pondhawk. Terminal appendages can be used to identify gender.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

The Backstory

I visited a new location in Fairfax County, Virginia on 03 May 2017, following my hunch that the spot might be a good place to find some of the more uncommon species of odonates. Turns out my hunch was right!

I revisited the same location a week later. Let’s just say lightning didn’t strike the same place twice. I saw several Eastern Pondhawks but none of the uncommon species of odonates that I saw a week earlier. I don’t know whether it’s phenology or the fact that Eastern Pondhawks are voracious predators, but it seems like whenever they show up it’s game over for the uncommon species of dragonflies and damselflies that emerge during spring. By the way, that explains the title of this post.

When I see the first-of-season Eastern Pondhawks, I start singing “The Party’s Over” like Don Meredith used to at the end of Monday Night Football games on ABC-TV. Yes, I’m old enough to remember Dandy Don!

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

May 20, 2017

An Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

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

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

The last photo is uncropped. The wider view shows the Ashy Clubtail is well-camouflaged when perching on the ground.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

The Backstory

I visited a new location in Fairfax County, Virginia on 03 May 2017, following my hunch that the spot might be a good place to find some of the more uncommon species of odonates. Turns out my hunch was right!

I saw species from four families of dragonflies: male Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa); male Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata); female and male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura); female and male Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus); at least two male Lancet Clubtail dragonflies (Phanogomphus exilis); and the male Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) featured in this post.

In addition, I saw lots of teneral damselflies from the Family Coenagrionidae (Pond Damsels), possibly Blue-tipped Dancer (Argia tibialis).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | teneral damselfly

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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