Archive for the ‘photowalking’ Category

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (female)

September 11, 2019

Identification of tan damselflies, such as the one shown below, can be a source of great frustration. Many species of tan damselflies look virtually identical: sometimes they are immature females and males; sometimes they are adult females. Very confusing!

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (female)

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

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I explored a segment of Popes Head Creek near the confluence with Bull Run. We saw only three types of damselflies along the rocky stream: Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis), Blue-ringed Dancer (Argia sedula); and Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta). This individual doesn’t look like either a female or male for any of those species. Stumped, I was. So I consulted Dr. Michael Moore for help in identifying this specimen.

This is a female Blue-ringed Dancer. They are quite variable, but usually have the last three abdominal segments pale like this [one]. Also, I think there is a very slight amber tint to the wings which is typical of female Blue-rings. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore, a professor (retired) in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Dr. Moore’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Sincere thanks, Dr. Moore!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Calico Pennant dragonfly (female)

September 9, 2019

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her yellow abdomen and tan pterostigma. Gender identification based upon coloration alone is speculative at best, especially for this species of odonate. I was able to confirm the gender by looking at two other unpublished photos that show her terminal appendages.

Related Resource: Odonate Terminal Appendages — single-topic field guides for dragonflies and damselflies featuring both text and annotated photos.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Calico Pennant dragonfly (male)

September 6, 2019

There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving.

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his red coloration, the secondary genitalia (hamules) located on the underside of abdominal segments two-three (2-3), and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (female)

September 4, 2019

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | American Rubyspot (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her muted coloration (relative to males of the same species), thick abdomen, and terminal appendages.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | American Rubyspot (female)

Mike and I saw the female as we worked our way upstream, and again on the way downstream. She was near the same location both times, perched facing the water.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (male)

September 2, 2019

A 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.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his blue coloration and terminal appendages. (Female Blue-ringed Dancer is mostly brown/tan in color.)

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (male)

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for A. sedula is from May 17 to October 24. The species is classified as common. Its habitat is “streams” and “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for A. sedula seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter.

New species

Blue-ringed Dancer is a new species for my Life List of Damselflies (Order Zygoptera).

Credit

Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Hey Mike, don’t move!

August 30, 2019

There’s a butterfly on your hat. A Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).

This comical butterfly-man union was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Painted Turtle PondOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The weather was extremely hot and humid. (Notice the Cumulus congestus clouds building in the background.) Both Mike and I were soaked with sweat as soon as we started our photowalk earlier the same day at another site. The butterfly was feeding upon mineral salts on Mike’s “Duck Dynasty” hat.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

August 28, 2019

A Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his dark coloration and terminal appendages.

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Slaty Skimmer (mature male)

Habitat preference

Slaty Skimmer is a habitat generalist that can be found virtually anywhere there is water, such as a mid-size pond like Painted Turtle Pond.

This species is a true habitat generalist; only whitetails and pondhawks can be found in as many different habitat types. I’ve seen Slaties along river edges, sunny sections of woodland streams, ponds, lakes, swamps, old roads and flooded meadows. Dragonflies of summer, if you’re in any of these habitats June through September, you’re likely to come face to face with a Slaty Skimmer. Source Credit: Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, by Kevin Munroe.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fawn Darner dragonfly (male)

August 26, 2019

A Fawn Darner dragonfly (Boyeria vinosa) was spotted, netted, and released unharmed along the Little Patuxent River in the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA.

02 SEP 2012 | Patuxent Research Refuge | Fawn Darner (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by the secondary genitalia (hamules) located on the underside of abdominal segments two-three (2-3).

02 SEP 2012 | Patuxent Research Refuge | Fawn Darner (male)

Thanks to Louisa Craven, my good friend and photowalking buddy, for holding the specimen in the first two photos while I used her Apple iPhone 4S to take photos. This was our first “stream walk” in search of dragonflies and damselflies and both of us were afraid to carry our camera gear as we waded in the river.

02 SEP 2012 | Patuxent Research Refuge | Fawn Darner (male)

The Backstory

I posted these photos in my Project Noah Nature Journal two days after an Audubon Naturalist Society field trip to the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge, led by Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

Some of the photos from the Project Noah “spotting” were added to my photoblog in order to backfill my Life List of Odonates to include a record of an adult Fawn Darner.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (female)

August 16, 2019

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell around a small seep-fed pond in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. She is perched on a small tree in a sunny clearing.

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

A seep is a seep is a seep.

Gray Petaltail is known to occur at a small, seep-fed pond located in the forest. Part of the seep is shown below. The female dragonfly featured in this blog post was perched on a small tree just to the left edge of the photo.

23 MAY 2018 | PNC. William County, VA | seep in the forest

Forest seeps vary in size and associated vegetation, but wherever you find one it provides good habitat for petaltails and some species of spiketails.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly

August 9, 2019

Millions of readers have acquired the secrets of success through The Magic of Thinking Big. Source Credit: Amazon.

One of the secrets of success when scouting good habitat for Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) is “the magic of thinking small,” as in small seep-fed streams in the forest.

What does the right habitat look like?

The following photos were taken during a Tiger hunt with Michael Powell along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The photos are shown in sequence as we worked our way downstream from the headwaters. Mike and I have seen a single Tiger Spiketail patrolling this stream on two days during 2019: 01 July; and 06 August.

The first photo shows a seep in the forest at the headwaters of a small stream located along a segment of a marked trail in Prince William County, Virginia. Notice that skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) aren’t associated with this seep.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

The next photo is located a short distance downstream from the headwaters, looking back upstream. The stream channel is ~2-3 feet wide and no more than a few inches deep.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

A smaller “side seep” (upper-right) is a tributary of the same stream (foreground).

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

The last photo shows the view looking downstream from a point just below the small side seep. Although the stream seems to disappear near the bright sunlit patch on the forest floor, in fact the stream flows over the first in a series of mini-“waterfalls” that get progressively higher going downstream.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

What time of day is best for Tiger hunting?

Based upon field observations by Kevin Munroe, Michael Boatwright, and Mike Powell and me, Tiger Spiketail seems to have two time periods of increased activity that might be site-dependent: 10 a.m. to 12 noon; and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mike Boatwright and I speculate increased activity might be associated with the time of day when a given site receives more sunlight. The Tiger at the site Mike Powell and I visited seems to be a “morning person.”

Do other odonates live in the same habitat?

Mike Powell photographed a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) along the same stream on 10 July 2019. Now we know with reasonable certainty that Gray Petaltail and Tiger Spiketail can coexist in the same seep(s).

Mike also photographed a Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) on 16 April 2019 in a field near the mouth of the stream. Twin-spotted Spiketail larvae probably live in the stream itself, rather than the seeps that feed the stream.

Related Resource: Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly, featuring GoPro video showing another small stream where Tiger Spiketail has been observed in Northern Virginia.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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