Posts Tagged ‘2017 DSA Annual Meeting’

Visualizing data temporally: Dragonflies

December 14, 2017

Regular readers of my blog know I love me some odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies. My interest in odonates was rekindled in 2011, along with my interest in photography. Good resources were harder to find in those days. Within the past few years, several datasets of adult flight periods became available publicly. If you are interested in seeing and photographing a particular species of dragonfly, it helps to know when (and where) to look!

In the run-up to the 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting in Staunton, Virginia, 09-11 June 2017, Dr. Steve Roble’s excellent datasets for the Commonwealth of Virginia were posted in the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. (Click on “Files” in the upper-left sidebar.) I used Google Calendar to synthesize “CHECKLIST OF THE DRAGONFLIES AND DAMSELFLIES OF VIRGINIA, April 2017 update” into two calendars: Dragonflies (VA Flight Dates); and Damselflies (VA Flight Dates). Dragonflies is presented in this post; Damselflies will be presented in my next post.

The Google Calendar default color palettes were used to color-code both calendars: Dragonflies is Graphite; and Damselflies is Birch. Individual events on each calendar are also color-coded by family. Here’s the way Dragonflies looks using the Chrome Web browser on my Apple iMac desktop computer.

And here’s the way the calendar looks using the free Google Calendar app on my Apple iPad mini 2.

Every event features the following information: common name; scientific name; early-date/late-date; abundance; and habitat.

Regrettably, the color-coding is lost when the calendar is exported as an “.ics” file. That’s the bad news. The good news is the calendar can be edited after it is imported into Google Calendar and it’s easy to edit the entries to color-code them any way you like.

The colors of the rainbow (ROYGBIV) were used to color-code the seven families of dragonflies; the equivalent colors in the Google Calendar default color palette are shown in brackets.

  • R = Family Aeshnidae (Darners) [Tomato]
  • O = Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) [Tangerine]
  • G = Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) [Basil]
  • Y = Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) [Banana]
  • B = Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) [Peacock]
  • I = Family Macromiidae (Cruisers) [Blueberry]
  • V = Family Petaluridae (Petaltails) [Grape]

The colors for Emeralds and Clubtails were flip-flopped because it just makes sense the Emeralds should be color-coded green!

Lessons Learned

As I worked on the calendar, patterns began to emerge that I hadn’t noticed before. For example, it’s clear that the serious odonate hunter needs to hit the ground running as soon as early March. Remember that Dr. Roble’s dataset is for the entire state. You may not see a given species on its early-date, but it could be seen on that date and certainly can’t be seen if you don’t look!

Tech Tips

Download the “.ics” file from the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Launch Google Calendar on a desktop computer. Create a new calendar by clicking on the “+” symbol to the left of “Add a friend’s calendar.” (Yeah, yeah — I realize that’s counterintuitive!) Give the calendar a name such as “Test Calendar” and click on the “Create Calendar” button. (You can change the name later.) “Test Calendar” should appear in the list of calendars under “My calendars.”

Mouse-over the name “Test Calendar” and click on the vertical column of three dots, labeled “Options for Test Calendar” then select “Settings and sharing.” In the upper-left sidebar, click on “Import and export”; select the “.ics” file to import and select “Test Calendar” from the drop-down menu labeled “Add to calendar.” There are 243 events in the Dragonflies calendar.

If you decide to color-code individual events like I did, click on an event then click on the pencil icon labeled “Edit event.” Select a color and click the “Save” button, then click the radio button for “All events.” Beware: You can right-click on an individual event and change its color but DON’T GO THERE! That results in an event that doesn’t occur annually using the new color you chose.

Related Resource

Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, created an excellent calendar called Dragonflies of Northern Virginia – Flight Periods. This calendar is a valuable resource for hunting dragonflies in Northern Virginia. I think the value of Kevin Munroe’s calendar is enhanced by using it in combination with my visualization of Steve Roble’s dataset.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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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…

“Record shot”

June 21, 2017

As a wildlife photographer with a focus on insect photography, one of my mantras is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” In other words, don’t miss the opportunity to document a spotting by trying to get a great shot first.

11 JUN 2017 | Fluvanna County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The preceding photograph — heavily-cropped in order to compensate for the distance to the subject — is a “record shot” (at best) of a male Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) that was spotted at the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA.

The dragonfly was photographed from the banks of the Hardware River, approximately 20 feet above the water. Distance seems to be compressed in the photo, an effect of the mid-range telephoto lens used to take the shot. The Dragonhunter was perching ~10 feet above the water. I settled for a “record shot” since there was no way to get closer to the subject.

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. Adobe Photoshop was used to remove a small distracting element from the left edge of the photo.

Editor’s Note

Thanks to fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for adding the phrase “record shot” to my vocabulary.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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).

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

In the world of odonates, there are habitat generalists and habitat 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.


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