Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

What is it?

February 7, 2020

It’s time for another exciting edition of “What is it?” Well, what is shown in the following photograph? If you think you know what it is, then please leave a comment. The answer will be provided in a post update.

03 FEB 2020 | Occoquan Regional Park | What is it?

Post Update

Congratulations to the two readers who correctly identified the mantis ootheca shown in the preceding photo! (See Comments/Responses, below.)

This is a Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) egg case, as indicated by the distinctive roundish shape of the ootheca. Chinese Mantis is a non-native species.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Skunk cabbage flowers

February 5, 2020

The following photo gallery shows skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) flowers in a forest seep located at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This is ideal habitat for Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) larvae, and in fact, numerous adult “Grays” have been observed along a sunny trail near this location. Seeps are home for some species of larvae from Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) as well.

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

The last photo shows the same location during early Summer 2019. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage.

01 JUN 2019 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage

The following quote is perhaps the best description of a forest seep that I’ve read.

[Some] small tributaries … have their sources in numerous woodland seeps. While a few of these perennial springs bubble up out of the ground, most arise in moist hillside patches with lots of decaying leaf litter and luxuriant stands of skunk cabbage. Source Credit: White, Harold B., III. Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies (Cultural Studies of Delaware and the Eastern Shore) (Kindle Locations 1213-1215). University Press Copublishing Division. Kindle Edition.

Related Resource: Skunk Cabbage: First Flower of the Year… by Alonso Abugattas, Capital Naturalist blog. The blog post includes an embedded link to an informative video by Mr. Abugattas: Capital Naturalist: Skunk Cabbage Blooming (3:58).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top Pix of 2019

January 1, 2020

The following gallery shows my “Top Pix of 2019.” (See what I did there?) 28 photos are presented in chronological order beginning in February 2019 and ending in December 2019.

As you will see, I declare 2019 is/was unofficially “Year of the Gray Petaltail (T. thoreyi).”

01 FEB 2019 | Cordulegaster sp. larva (preserved specimen) | face

18 FEB 2019 | “Generic Baskettail” larva (preserved specimen) | face

28 FEB 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Valentines Day rose

16 APR 2019 | Northern Virginia | Uhler’s Sundragon (male)

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Painted Skimmer (female)

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

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

29 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

09 DEC 2019 | BoG Photo Studio | Common Green Darner | exuvia (face)

13 DEC 2019 | BoG PS | Common Green Darner | exuvia (anterior)

16 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (face)

18 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (dorsal)

20 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Genus Celithemis | exuvia (face)

27 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Genus Celithemis | exuvia (dorsal)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New Life List additions in 2019

December 30, 2019

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

List items are presented in chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting/studio photo shoot.

Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly exuvia

25 photos were used to create this focus-stacked composite image of an Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly (Stylogomphus albistylus) exuvia from an odonate nymph that Bob Perkins collected and reared. S. albistylus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly

A Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA.

16 APR 2019 | Northern Virginia | Uhler’s Sundragon (male)

Harlequin Darner dragonfly

A Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This is the first female Arrowhead Spiketail that I’ve seen.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly exuvia

A dragonfly exuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 22 May 2019 at Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is the cast skin from a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) larva. D. spinosus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails). Although I have seen many adult Black-shouldered Spinyleg, this is the first exuvia I’ve seen/photographed.

Aurora Damsel damselfly

A mating pair of Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum) was spotted along along a trail in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel” (“in heart”).

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Aurora Damsel (mating pair)

Eastern Copperhead snake

An Eastern Copperhead (Agkistrodon contortrix) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Eastern Copperhead

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly exuvia

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) exuvia was collected and identified by Andy Davidson near Richmond, Virginia USA. Spot-winged Glider is a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers). I’ve seen many adult Spot-winged Glider but this is the first exuvia I’ve seen/photographed.

18 DEC 2019 | Richmond, VA | Spot-winged Glider | exuvia (dorsal)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk is a fall species

November 11, 2019

Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) is classified as a fall species of odonate. This blog post features two of many Autumn Meadowhawks that were spotted during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. He is perched on a Swamp Rose (Rosa palustris) leaf. Nothing says “fall” like this little red devil against a background of fiery foliage!

The last individual is a male, perched on a cattail (Typha sp.) leaf near Swamp Rose and buttonbush (Cephalanthus sp.). The brown globes are the fruit of buttonbush.

The Backstory

My collection of field notes includes two text files that list lots of photos of both Blue-faced Meadowhawk (S. ambiguum) and Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies that were never published in my photoblog.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another unknown species of odonate exuvia

November 4, 2019

Another odonate exuvia was collected by Michael Powell during a photowalk with me on 01 June 2019 at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The genus and species is unknown.

Occoquan Regional Park | unknown species | exuvia (face-head)

This specimen might be a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), as indicated by its labium (face mask) and pointy eyes.

Although this exuvia looks similar to the other one that Mike collected on 01 June 2019, it’s smaller and probably not another Slaty Skimmer (L. incesta) exuvia. Many species of skimmers are habitat generalists; the small pond where both exuviae were found is a perfect spot for many members of this family.

The photo (shown above) is a one-off, not a composite image. I plan to create higher quality composite images of this exuvia, shown from all viewpoints including dorsal, ventral, and lateral views. The composite images and one or more dichotomous keys will be used to attempt to identify the genus/species of the specimen.

Related Resource: Vimeo video: Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06).

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the quick-and-dirty macro photograph featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-11 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); ISO 200; f/16; 1/180s.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode: Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash (manual mode); and Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode). Both flash units were fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Detente

October 30, 2019

Two Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted perched side-by-side on the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

15 NOV 2013 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (males)

Male dragonflies of the same species are natural rivals, competing for the attention of females that are willing to mate. Like many, if not most other species of dragonflies, male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies stake out a “territory” near prime spots for females to lay eggs (oviposition); unlike many, if not most other species, male Autumn Meadowhawks don’t seem to defend their territory aggressively.

15 NOV 2013 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (males)

Notice the male shown on the upper-left is using his front legs like windshield wipers to clean his eyes and face. Hey, he wants to look well-groomed for the ladies!

Related Resources

The Backstory

My collection of field notes includes two text files that list lots of photos of both Blue-faced Meadowhawk and Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (S. vicinum) that were never published in my photoblog. Most of the photos were taken during Fall 2013 when one of many vernal pools at Huntley Meadows Park was near peak diversity for odonate species that inhabited the pool. Sadly, those days are long gone!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Are adult Autumn Meadowhawks arboreal?

October 25, 2019

Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) is classified as a fall species of odonate. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early to mid-summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Autumn Meadowhawk is an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Emergence

The first individual — photographed soon after emergence — is a/an teneral/immature male, as indicated by the tenuous appearance of his wings, coloration, and terminal appendages.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral/immature male)

The next individual is a/an teneral/immature female, as indicated by the tenuous appearance of her wings, coloration, and terminal appendages.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral/immature female)

Time to mate

Fall is the time to mate for mature adult Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (S. vicinum), as you can see in the following photo.

15 NOV 2013 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel”)

This mating pair is “in wheel”: the male is on the upper-left; the female is on the lower-right. All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

Forest Canopy Walk at Vermont Institute of Natural Science

Observing dragonflies at the Earth’s surface is fairly easy; observing dragonflies at the treetops, not so much. The new Forest Canopy Walk at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) should facilitate the latter.

During 2020, I hope to collaborate with Kelly Stettner, Black River Action Team (BRAT), and Anna Morris, Lead Environmental Educator, VINS, to gather evidence that supports my speculation that adult meadowhawk dragonflies are arboreal. Field observations will be collected on the ground and along the Forest Canopy Walk.

Hosted by Anna Morris, Kelly Stettner and her family scouted the VINS site on 05 October 2019, including the new Forest Canopy Walk and nearby water bodies that provide suitable habitat for Autumn Meadowhawk. Special thanks to Anna for providing a behind the scenes tour a week before the official opening of the Forest Canopy Walk.

Gallery photos used with permission from Kelly Stettner, BRAT.

A week later, Autumn Meadowhawk was observed along the Forest Canopy Walk for the first time. The following photos provide circumstantial evidence that we might be on the right track. I love it when a plan comes together!

Gallery photos used with permission from Anna Morris, VINS.

I’m happy to share that during our public Forest Canopy Walk opening today [12 October 2019], I was stationed at the Eagle platform and got to see two (2) meadowhawks zooming around, then perched on the railing (pictures attached)! This is about 60 feet up, near a Sugar Maple and a Red Oak. [More meadowhawks were seen] the next day at nearly 90 feet up! At this height and as it was so sunny there were at least four individuals zooming around, landing on visitors, etc. Source Credit: Anna Morris, Lead Environmental Educator, VINS.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Building a case for Slaty Skimmer

October 23, 2019

With each new photo set of this unknown species of odonate exuvia, a case is building slowly for Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta).

Occoquan Regional Park | unknown species | exuvia (lateral)

A piece of white schmutz was removed from the tip of the abdomen, enabling a clearer view of abdominal segment nine (S9). Look closely at the two photos featured in this post. Notice there are stubby mid-dorsal hooks (not cultriform) on abdominal segments four through eight (S4-S8).

Occoquan Regional Park | unknown species | exuvia (dorsal)

The last photo shows a closer view of the anal pyramid. Notice the lateral caudal appendages (cerci) are less than half as long as the inferior appendages (paraprocts).

Soltesz, p. 43 – Key to the Species of the Genus Libellula

Field marks that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text.

1b. Dorsal hooks regularly present on segments 4 to 8. [2]
2b. Palpal setae 5 (sometimes 6 in cyanea). [5]
5a. Epiproct distinctly decurved at tip. [6]
6b. Length of last instar about 26mm; cerci less than half as long as paraprocts. [incesta]

Punch List

I need to look at the inside of the labium (face mask) in order to count palpal setae. The epiproct must be cleaned to see whether it is decurved. This exuvia was deformed as a result of emergence, so it’s impossible to make an accurate measurement of the length of the specimen. That said, the exuvia is more than 22.0 mm (0.9 in) long. (22 mm is the length of the last instar for L. cyanea.)

And of course, I need to annotate all of the images in this series of blog posts in order to illustrate the unfamiliar vocabulary that is used in virtually all dichotomous identification keys.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the quick-and-dirty macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); ISO 200; f/16; 1/180s.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode: Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash (manual mode); and Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode). Both flash units were fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unknown species of odonate exuvia (ventral)

October 21, 2019

This post features another photo of an odonate exuvia collected by Michael Powell during a photowalk with me on 01 June 2019 at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The photo is a one-off (not a composite image) showing the ventral view of the exuvia.

The genus and species is unknown. This specimen might be a member of Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), probably Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta).

Occoquan Regional Park | unknown species | exuvia (ventral)

Related Resource: Vimeo video: Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06).

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the quick-and-dirty macro photograph featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); ISO 200; f/16; 1/180s.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode: Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash (manual mode); and Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode). Both flash units were fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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