Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Batch 3)

October 21, 2017

This gallery features photos from Batch 3 (of 4) showing male Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted during a recent photowalk around a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

The last photograph is my favorite in this batch.

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Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Heaven on Earth?

October 19, 2017

Did I find Heaven on Earth? All signs point to yes!

17 OCT 2017 | Webb Nature Sanctuary | NOVA Parks

17 OCT 2017 | Webb Nature Sanctuary | NOVA Parks

Well, maybe. Time will tell. All I know now is I didn’t see any dragonflies anywhere along the trails at Webb Nature Sanctuary, Clifton, Virginia USA on 17 October 2017, my first visit to the park.

As odonate hunting season is winding down I’m transitioning into “exploration mode,” when I check out new places while the weather is still relatively mild.

Getting oriented

The following map is located at the trail head.

17 OCT 2017 | Webb Nature Sanctuary | NOVA Parks

Margaret’s Branch, located along Fern Valley Trail, is a small stream that might provide good habitat for lotic species of dragonflies such as clubtails and spiketails.

Popes Head Creek is known to provide good habitat for many species of odonates, including Fawn Darner dragonfly and Dusky Dancer damselfly, to name a couple of fall species.

17 OCT 2017 | Webb Nature Sanctuary | NOVA Parks

R. Randolph Buckley Park (also known as Eight-Acre Park) is located on the opposite side of Popes Head Creek from Webb Nature Sanctuary. Buckley Park can be accessed via a footbridge across Popes Head Creek.

Related Resource: Lentic and lotic, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies

October 9, 2017

“Target(s) acquired. Shots fired!” That’s my generic field report after a successful odonate hunting excursion. Usually I have an idea of the target species I hope to see every time I go photowalking. Shadow Darner dragonfly, Great Spreadwing damselfly, and Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly were the target species for a recent trip to a favorite hotspot where all three types of odonates can be found.

Several Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were spotted near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Both individuals featured in this blog post are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and turquoise-colored faces.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk 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 summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawk is an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Consistent with my speculation, Blue-faced Meadowhawk seems to prefer habitats where standing water is found near the forest, such as the small vernal pool located at a clearing in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. Be on the lookout for Blue-faced Meadowhawk everywhere you find similar habitat.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lentic and lotic

October 3, 2017

Doesn’t this idyllic place look like ideal habitat for lotic species of odonates? It is!

Lotic refers to flowing water, from the Latin lotus, washed. … Lotic ecosystems can be contrasted with lentic ecosystems, which involve relatively still terrestrial waters such as lakes and ponds. Source Credit: River ecosystem, Wikipedia.

The preceding photo shows the stream crossing at Popes Head Creek, Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA (facing downstream toward Bull Run). Both streams provide ideal habitat for many species of dragonflies and damselflies that prefer flowing water rather than still water.

Tech Tip: I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The ugly side of Mother Nature

October 1, 2017

A Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a teneral damselfly.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Big Bluet (male, eating prey)

I think they may both be Big Bluets. Source Credit: Michael Moore, Virginia Odonata Facebook group.

Some species of odonates are cannibals, that is, they feed on their own species. And there it is — the ugly side of Mother Nature!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer (mature females)

September 27, 2017

Two Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) were photographed during photowalks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Both individuals are mature female, as indicated by their terminal appendages, muted coloration, and tattered wings. They were perching in shady hidey-holes relatively far from water.

Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer (mature females)

September 25, 2017

In my experience, female Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) seem to be more abundant than males toward the end of the adult flight period for that species.

Two Needham’s Skimmers were photographed during photowalks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are mature female, as indicated by their terminal appendages and muted coloration.

Post Update: Sincere thanks to Drew Chaney for identifying the flowering plant shown in the preceding photo. According to Drew, “It’s either Clematis terniflora or virginiana. I can’t tell without leaves: Terniflora has entire leaves; virginiana has toothed ones.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Up close and personal

September 23, 2017

A single Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) was spotted during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

The preceding photograph is the “scene setter” for this gallery. I like to get as close as possible to the subject, and this guy was an extraordinarily cooperative model.

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly redux (Part 1)

September 19, 2017

Several Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The same dragonfly was photographed while it perched in several shady places along one of the trails at the park. In my limited experience, Somatochlora filosa seems to prefer perching on bare tree branches or long stems of wild grass. Part 1 features two photo sets showing Fine-lined Emerald resting on other types of perches; Part 2 will feature two more photo sets showing the dragonfly perching on grasses.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

Set 1

The first photograph is a strong contender for my Odonart Portfolio. I like the way the green vegatation complements the dragonfly’s emerald colored eyes. Can anyone identify the type of plant on which the dragonfly is perching?

Post Update: Sincere thanks to Drew Chaney for identifying the green plant shown in the preceding photo. According to Drew, “It’s common evening-primrose, probably Oenothera biennis.”

Set 2

The second set of photos shows the dragonfly perching on a Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seed pod.

The next photo was taken a step-or-so closer…

This individual has a distinctive eye injury to the top of his left eye (facing forward).

And after a few side steps, I was able to take a good ventral-lateral shot.

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to several members of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for identifying the species of milkweed plant shown in photo Set 2. “Capital Naturalist” is administered by Alonso Abugattas, Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (males)

September 13, 2017

Three Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a long photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. All three individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Source Credit: Sir Isaac Newton.

Sincere thanks to Jim Waggener, Wildlife Survey Coordinator for The Audubon Society of Northern Virginia, as well as other members of Jim’s survey group for sharing information that enabled me to find this rare to uncommon species of dragonfly. The group has surveyed four sites in Northern Virginia regularly for many years, including Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

No. 1

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies seem to prefer perching on bare tree branches or long stems of wild grass, typically at chest- or head-height although not exclusively. For example, this guy was perched about waist-high on a cluster of fallen tree branches.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Fine-lined Emerald seems to prefer perching in sun rather than shade, unlike Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis) — another species from the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) found in Northern Virginia that prefers shady places.

The following ventral-lateral shot shows the lines on the thorax for which this species is named.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

No. 2

The male shown in the next photo is perched on a long grass stem, about chest-high. He posed for two shots, patrolled back-and-forth a few times, and then disappeared.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

No. 3

The last male was the most cooperative model. The first photo was taken at a distance of approximately six feet.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

The next photo was taken a step-or-so closer…

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

And after a few side steps, I was able to take a good lateral shot.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

The Backstory

This might be one of those stories in which the take-away is “persistence pays dividends.”

I made two trips to Occoquan Bay NWR during Fall 2016 when Fine-lined Emerald was my target species. On 21 September 2016, I spotted one or more dragonflies (species unknown) patrolling the treetops along one of the trails at OBNWR. I didn’t see any signs of Fine-lined Emerald on 25 October 2016, consistent with records for late-date maintained by Kevin Munroe (04 October for Northern Virginia) and Dr. Steven Roble (15 October for the Commonwealth of Virginia).

In retrospect, I realized I started searching too late in the year during 2016 so I started earlier in 2017. My first trip to OBNWR was on 30 August 2017; it turned out to be fruitless. I hit the jackpot on 10 September 2017! Fine-lined Emerald is a new species for my life list of dragonflies.

Rare to Uncommon

A distribution map of official records for Fine-lined Emerald helps to illustrate its classification as a rare to uncommon species of odonate.

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: September 14, 2017).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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