Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male)

June 10, 2018

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched alongside a small forested stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The following photo shows the lotic habitat in which Sable Clubtail lives. You’re looking down into the stream channel: the channel is a few feet deep; the stream itself is no more than a foot wide and a few inches deep.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | small stream

When I scouted the location during the off-season I recall thinking, “I don’t see clubtails coming from this tiny stream!” Once again I am reminded that dismissive thinking can be wrong-headed.

Sable Clubtail has a limited range and is classified as a rare to uncommon species of odonate. It is a prized addition to my “life list” of dragonflies!

The following map shows all official records for Sable Clubtail in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Sable Clubtail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2018. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 11, 2018).

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

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Camouflage

June 8, 2018

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Look closely at the full-size version of all three images. Notice the dragonfly is eating a large, cream-colored winged insect, probably either a butterfly or moth.

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Many photographers “chimp” after every photo they take, that is, look at the image on the camera LCD. I chimp rarely — you can’t be sure an image is tack-sharp until you look at it on a large-screen display. In this case, it was so difficult to see the dragonfly perched on similarly colored tree bark that I chimped to be sure I’d actually nailed the shot. Don’t be fooled by the images in this post — significantly enhanced by post-processing — it was nearly impossible to see the subject!

04 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another summer species of odonate

May 29, 2018

Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is another summer species of odonate that appears in Northern Virginia in late spring. The following individual — spotted at Hidden Pond during a photowalk at Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA), Fairfax County, Virginia USA — is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

Blue Dasher is a habitat generalist that “can be found almost anywhere there is still water.” Source Credit: Species Pachydiplax longipennis – Blue Dasher.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Seamless transition

May 27, 2018

A seamless transition from the spring species of odonates to the summer species is slowly but surely underway.

Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea) is a summer species that starts to appear in Northern Virginia in late spring. The following individual — spotted at Hidden Pond during a photowalk at Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA), Fairfax County, Virginia USA — is a teneral female, as indicated by her tenuous wings and terminal appendages.

21 MAY 2018 | MRA | Spangled Skimmer (teneral female)

Female Spangled 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 © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

World Turtle Day

May 23, 2018

23 May 2018 is the 17th annual World Turtle Day.

The day was created as an annual observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Source Credit: About World Turtle Day

21 MAY 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | small turtle (species unknown)

A small turtle was spotted along Lake Drive at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, relatively far from Painted Turtle Pond.

This individual is estimated to be 1-2 inches in length. The genus/species is unknown. No obvious match is found on the Virginia Herpetological Society Turtles of Virginia Web page. I wonder whether it might be a species of “pet shop” turtle that was released into the wild.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Virginia Bluebells

May 21, 2018

The following photographs show Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) growing in a valley meadow at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

23 APR 2018 | Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | Virginia Bluebells

The flowers seemed to be a little past peak, as shown in the following close-up view. Nonetheless, the sea of blue was spectacularly beautiful.

23 APR 2018 | Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | Virginia Bluebells

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 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.”

The color saturation was increased slightly for both photos during post-processing.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Brown Spiketail dragonfly (male)

May 11, 2018

My first Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata) was a female that I photographed on 01 May 2013 at Meadowood Recreation Area in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. That was the last Brown Spiketail I saw for the next five years. As it turns out, spiketails are relatively uncommon in Northern Virginia. Who knew?

Soon after Mike Powell and I photographed one or two Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster maculata) on 07 May 2018 at Occoquan Regional Park, we spotted a male Brown Spiketail perched in a sunny place along the same dirt/gravel trail where we had seen the Twin-spotted.

As a wildlife photographer with a focus on insect photography, one of my mantras is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” The preceding photo is the “record shot”; the following photos show my efforts to refine the record shot.

There were at least two males competing for the same prime location. It’s possible that all of the photos in this gallery feature the same individual, although I think it’s just as likely more than one male is shown.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (male)

May 9, 2018

A Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Those who know me well are familiar with one of many “Walterisms”: “I haven’t ‘seen’ something until I have photographed it.” My rationale is two-fold: 1) A photograph verifies a sighting. 2) The detail visible in a good photograph exceeds the acuity of the human eye.

Although I’m fairly certain I’ve seen a Twin-spotted Spiketail at another location, this is the first time I was fortunate to photograph the species. Twin-spotted Spiketail is relatively uncommon in Northern Virginia.

The last two photos show what might be the same male shown in the first two photos, but it might be another male. As Mike Powell and I were photographing the first male, another dragonfly swooped in and there was either a brief aerial ballet or battle, depending upon whether the second dragonfly was a female or male. I visually tracked the first dragonfly to a new perch about 10 feet away.

When I started to move toward the new perch, Mike shouted “Don’t move, don’t move!” Mike had spotted another Twin-spotted Spiketail that landed close to the place where I spotted the first one.

We didn’t have much time to shoot photos. This Twin-spotted Spiketail and another one hooked up and they flew in wheel toward the nearby treetops. The mating process for Twin-spotted Spiketails lasts about an hour, a fact that may explain why we never saw another Twin-spotted during our photowalk.

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegaster maculata | Twin-spotted Spiketail | male | top view
  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegaster maculata | Twin-spotted Spiketail | male | side view
  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegaster maculata | Twin-spotted Spiketail | female | top view
  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegaster maculata | Twin-spotted Spiketail | female | side view

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail (immature males)

May 7, 2018

A first-of-season Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted perching on the ground near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, brown colored abdomen, and pattern of wing spots.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Another immature male was spotted along an informal trail at a remote location in the park.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Young male Common Whitetails begin to develop white pruinescence that changes the color of their abdomen from brown to white, hence the common name for this species.

Sexing Common Whitetail dragonflies

For many of the common species of odonates found in Northern Virginia, I created a collection of annotated guides that illustrates how to differentiate gender by looking at terminal appendages. The difference in the pattern of wings spots for male and female Common Whitetails is sufficient to identify gender.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (female)

May 5, 2018

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like bad party guests: they are among the first to arrive and last to leave. Nonetheless, it was good to see one on a day when almost no adult odonate species were observed.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

A Common Whitetail was spotted perching on a man-made brush pile near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and pattern of wing spots.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

The “schmutz” that appears at the tip of her abdomen is probably excrement. Hey, schmutz happens!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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