Posts Tagged ‘Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly’

Another Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

June 21, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small-to-medium size forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

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

Did you recognize the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) in the background of every photo in this gallery?

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

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I stopped to use GPS to get a fix on our position at the end of a long photowalk that included lots of bushwhacking. We stopped because the small stream we were exploring was getting wider and deeper the farther we walked downstream, and we decided the stream habitat had changed to be less suitable for Sable Clubtail (S. rogersi), our target species.

The place where we stopped is a sunny meadow near the confluence of a tiny side stream with the larger stream we were following. As Mike was testing a few GPS apps for his Android cell phone, I noticed a big dragonfly as it flew down the tiny stream, turned left past us, and landed in the sunny meadow. I found the dragonfly after a few minutes of searching the area where I saw it land. I was hoping for a Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) but nonetheless delighted to see a female Arrowhead Spiketail — our second record of this species for the year at the remote location!

Related Resource: Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

May 27, 2019

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.

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

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

[Females in the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) feature a] …pointed and spikelike (thus the group name) ovipositor, really a “pseudo-ovipositor” formed from the prolonged subgenital plate. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7005-7006). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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

Although the pattern of arrowhead-shaped markings visible on the dorsal side of her abdomen is unmistakeable, notice that the thorax features two stripes. The latter field mark can be used to differentiate spiketails from cruisers that have one stripe on their thorax.

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

Mike Powell and I have photowalked together so many times that we are comfortable working cooperatively to shoot a subject. I wanted to get a shot of the face of the Arrowhead Spiketail but was concerned it would spook the dragonfly if I were to get “up in her grill.” So I waited until Mike had taken all of the photographs he wanted before approaching the dragonlfy for her “beauty shot.” As it turns out, the model was extraordinarily tolerant and didn’t fly away until sometime after Mike and I moved on to the next site.

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

Notice the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) that appears in the background of every photo of the Arrowhead Spiketail.

Location, location, location.

Some species of odonates are habitat generalists, meaning they can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Habitat-specific odonates can be found only in specific habitats — for these species, finding them is all about location, location, location. Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies are habitat-specialists.

Habitat: Small swift streams and soft-bottomed muddy seeps in forest, also streams reduced to series of small pools during drier weather. As in some other spiketails, skunk cabbage often present. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7081-7082). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) were observed growing in a seep located between a dirt trail and the small stream where the Arrowhead Spiketail was spotted — the perfect place for several species of habitat-specific odonates!

The last photo shows the clearing along a small forest stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted, including the Arrowhead Spiketail featured in this blog post. The stream is no more than a few feet wide and only a few inches deep in most places.

The small stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted.

The backstory

Telephoto lenses can cause a type of distortion called “foreshortening,” as seen in the preceding photo. Mike Powell and I were standing at the edge of the stream bank trying to decide whether we wanted to go down the short, steep slope to explore the clearing when we spotted a large UFO, that is, an “Unidentified Flying Odonate.” Mike and I took “record shots” of the dragonfly; looking at the LCD of our cameras, we identified the UFO as a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

Mike and I had seen a Gray Petaltail at another location (near the beginning of our photowalk), but we were unable to photograph it. So down the bank we went! As it turns out, there were at least two Grays in the meadow: a female; and a male. As Mike was photographing one of the Gray Petaltails he noticed another “large dragonfly.” As we slowly moved closer to the new unknown dragonfly, I quickly realized Mike had spotted an Arrowhead Clubtail. Great catch, Mike!

Please see Female Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly for Mike’s take on our shared experience.

Uncommon

Arrowhead Spiketail is classified as an uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Arrowhead Clubtail (C. obliqua) in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Arrowhead Spiketail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2019. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: May 27, 2019).

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

Our spotting of Arrowhead Spiketail is a new DSA record for Prince William County, Virginia.

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 C. obliqua is 11 May to 17 July. The species is classified as uncommon. Its habitat is “small streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for C. obliqua seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter — more likely around one month. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Arrowhead is 28 May to 27 June (peaks in June).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

 

New discoveries in 2014-2015

April 21, 2015

My interest in odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies, began during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park. Toward the end of Summer 2012 and continuing in 2013, my goal was to explore new venues for hunting odonates. Along the way, I spotted several species of odonates that are either uncommon or unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows, including Blue Corporal dragonfly, Stream Cruiser dragonfly, and Rambur’s Forktail damselfly, to name a few.

During 2014, continuing in 2015, I have been a man on a mission to explore the relatively unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park in search of habitat-specific odonates unlikely to be found in the central wetland area of the park. In retrospect, 2014-2015 has been a good run: five new species of odonates were discovered and added to the list of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus)

20 June 2014

Mike Powell and I collaborated to identify a clubtail dragonfly that Mike spotted on 17 June 2014. As it turns out, Mike had discovered a Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus), a new species of dragonfly for Huntley Meadows Park. Mike guided me to the same spot on 20 June, where we photographed several sanddragons (like the male shown above), including two mating pairs!

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

07 July 2014

I feel fortunate to have discovered an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) — many experienced odonate hunters go years without seeing one of these handsome dragonflies!

Great Spreadwing damselfly

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

09 October 2014

Although I may not be the first ode-hunter to spot a Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) at Huntley Meadows Park, I am the first person to notify the park manager of its occurrence. As a result, Great Spreadwing was added to the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Odonata species list.

Southern Spreadwing damselfly/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly

Southern/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (male)

23 May 2014

Time will tell which new species of spreadwing damselfly I discovered at Huntley Meadows Park. Either way, both Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) and Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) were formerly unknown to occur at the park.

Springtime Darner dragonfly

Springtime Darner dragonfly (female)

18 April 2015 | Photograph used with permission from Michael Powell.

Mike Powell and I co-discovered the first Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata) ever seen/photographed at Huntley Meadows Park! This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A sampler of male dragonfly claspers (Part 2)

March 18, 2015

The theme of the “sampler series” is simple. Male dragonfly claspers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but their function is identical for all species of dragonflies: male dragonflies use their claspers to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating.

There are seven families of dragonflies. Part 2 (of 2) features a sampler of select images showing male dragonfly claspers from the Emerald Family, Skimmer Family, and Spiketail Family. The author never has been fortunate to photograph either species of the Petaltail Family.

Emerald Family

The following image shows a Slender Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca costalis) spotted in an open field along the trail to Hidden Pond, a small lake located at Meadowood Recreation Area.

Slender Baskettail dragonfly (male)

01 MAY 2013 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Slender Baskettail (male)

Skimmer Family

The next image shows a Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. Many members of the Skimmer Family have terminal appendages that look similar to the Bar-winged Skimmer, such as Painted Skimmer, Eastern Pondhawk, and Blue-faced Meadowhawk, to name a few species.

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young adult male)

31 MAY 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Bar-winged Skimmer (male)

The following image shows a battle-scarred Black Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerata) spotted alongside the boardwalk in the central wetland area hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park. Black Saddlebags’ terminal appendages are unlike most members of the Skimmer Family.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male)

12 SEP 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Black Saddlebags (male)

Spiketail Family

The last image shows an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) I discovered while exploring a small stream at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

07 JUL 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Arrowhead Spiketail (male)

Related Resources:

Editor’s Notes: Part 1 (of 2) features a sampler of select images showing male dragonfly dragonfly claspers from the Clubtail Family, Cruiser Family, and Darner Family. The author has never been fortunate to photograph either species of the Petaltail Family.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2014

January 1, 2015

The following gallery shows 25 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2014.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in October 2014 and ending in April 2014.

This year I decided to select the Top 10 photos using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 2, 5, 11, 20, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

Editor’s Note: The “Discussion Settings” for this blog were edited to remove most of the “filters” that are intended to prevent SPAM comments. This should make it much easier for regular readers to share their list of favorite photos.

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

No. 22

No. 23

No. 24

No. 25

Common Ribbonsnakes (mating pair)

02 APR 2014 | HMP | Common Ribbonsnakes (mating pair)

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in the photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New discoveries in 2014

November 18, 2014

My interest in odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies, began during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park. Toward the end of Summer 2012 and continuing in 2013, my goal was to explore new venues for hunting odonates. Along the way, I spotted several species of odonates that are either uncommon or unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows, including Blue Corporal dragonfly, Stream Cruiser dragonfly, and Rambur’s Forktail damselfly, to name a few.

During 2014, I have been a man on a mission to explore the relatively unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park in search of habitat-specific odonates unlikely to be found in the central wetland area of the park. In retrospect, 2014 was a good year: four new species of odonates were discovered and added to the list of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park. Realistically it will be challenging to repeat the successes enjoyed this year!

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus)

20 June 2014

Mike Powell and I collaborated to identify a clubtail dragonfly that Mike spotted on 17 June 2014. As it turns out, Mike had discovered a Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus), a new species of dragonfly for Huntley Meadows Park. Mike guided me to the same spot on 20 June, where we photographed several sanddragons (like the male shown above), including two mating pairs!

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

07 July 2014

I feel fortunate to have discovered an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) — many experienced odonate hunters go years without seeing one of these handsome dragonflies!

Great Spreadwing damselfly

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

09 October 2014

Although I may not be the first ode-hunter to spot a Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) at Huntley Meadows Park, I am the first person to notify the park manager of its occurrence.

Southern Spreadwing damselfly/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly

Southern/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (male)

23 May 2014

Time will tell which new species of spreadwing damselfly I discovered at Huntley Meadows Park. Either way, both Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) and Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) were formerly unknown to occur at the park.

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

July 9, 2014

On 07 July 2014, I discovered an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) while exploring a small stream at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park. Arrowhead Spiketails are an uncommon species of dragonfly formerly unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows Park. According to Kevin Munroe, Park Manager at Huntley Meadows and author of Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, my discovery sets a new flight record for the latest date Arrowhead Spiketails have been observed in Northern Virginia.

I noticed the Arrowhead Spiketail as it patrolled back-and-forth down the middle of the stream, about six inches (6”) above the water. After hours of searching, I discovered a location near one end of the dragonfly’s long flight path where it stopped to perch several times.

This individual is a male, as indicated by its terminal appendages and the “indentations” on its hind wings (near the body). [See “Related Resources,” below, for images that show female terminal appendages (notice the ovipositor visible between her cerci) and hind wing shape (rounded rather than indented).]

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

The blue orb located near the upper-right side of the following photo is probably an artifact of my camera flash rather than a ghostly apparition.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

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

  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegester obliqua | Arrowhead Spiketail | male | top view
  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegester obliqua | Arrowhead Spiketail | female | top view
  • Genus Cordulegaster | Cordulegester obliqua | Arrowhead Spiketail | female | side view

Editor’s Note:Odonatacoccygia” is defined as seeing shapes in the patterns on odonates, and I should know, since I coined the term! Look at the yellow markings on top of the thorax, shown best in the full-size version of Photo 1. Do you see a bucktooth Energizer Bunny® (wearing sunglasses)? I do!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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