Posts Tagged ‘Ashy Clubtail dragonfly’

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

May 20, 2017

An Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and indented hind wings.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

The last photo is uncropped. The wider view shows the Ashy Clubtail is well-camouflaged when perching on the ground.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

The Backstory

I visited a new location in Fairfax County, Virginia on 03 May 2017, following my hunch that the spot might be a good place to find some of the more uncommon species of odonates. Turns out my hunch was right!

I saw species from four families of dragonflies: male Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa); male Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata); female and male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura); female and male Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus); at least two male Lancet Clubtail dragonflies (Phanogomphus exilis); and the male Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) featured in this post.

In addition, I saw lots of teneral damselflies from the Family Coenagrionidae (Pond Damsels), possibly Blue-tipped Dancer (Argia tibialis).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | teneral damselfly

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Lancet Clubtail dragonflies (males)

May 14, 2017

At least two Lancet Clubtail dragonflies (Phanogomphus exilis) were spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

These individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages and indented hind wings.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

The next photograph was taken at a later time than the first two photos. All of the photos in this post were taken near the same location. Is this another male, or the same one featured in the preceding photos? Who knows?

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

Lancet Clubtail versus Ashy Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail looks similar to Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus). The only way to differentiate the two species with certainty is to examine their external reproductive anatomy; this is impossible unless the specimens are captured and examined in-hand.

Relative size is used sometimes to identify the two species: Lancet Clubtail is slightly smaller than Ashy Clubtail. There are two problems with this method of identification. First, it is virtually impossible to determine the exact size of a specimen in the field unless it is captured and measured. Second, some natural variation in size should be expected among individuals of the same species.

A quick-and-dirty method for differentiating Lancet- and Ashy Clubtails with some degree of certainty is to look at the markings on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9). Lancet Clubtail has a “spearpoint” on top of abdominal segment eight (S8) that almost reaches the end of the segment, a wide yellow stripe on top of segment nine (S9), and irregular yellow markings on the sides of segments eight and nine (S8-9).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

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

In contrast, Ashy Clubtail has a spearpoint on top of abdominal segment eight (S8) that is less than half the length of the segment, segment nine (S9) may or may not have a pale yellow stripe on top, and the sides of segments eight and nine (S8-9) may or may not have “poorly defined” yellow markings.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Ashy Clubtail (male)

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

Coloration is variable among individuals of the same species, so looking at abdominal markings isn’t always a reliable method of identification. In this case, it works beautifully.

Editor’s Note: The word “spearpoint” and the phrase “poorly defined” are descriptors attributed to Dennis Paulson, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

April 28, 2017

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividus) was spotted during a photowalk at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages.

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”); and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Notice the epiproct is a large “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the following photo.

One thing you can count on when photographing Ashy Clubtails (well, usually) is the subject will be perching on a chaotic background that is difficult to crop without creating leading lines that mislead the viewer’s eye and distracting elements near the edges of the image.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Phanogomphus

April 20, 2017

Two teneral dragonflies were observed near Mulligan Pond during a photowalk at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I was able to photograph the first one I spotted; the second flew away as soon as I approached it.

This dragonfly is either Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis). Based upon the short, faded yellow markings on the dorsal side of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9), this individual is probably an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly. Less reliably, the 18 April date of the spotting also suggests Ashy Clubtail (for Northern Virginia).

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

Both Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies were formerly classified as members of the genus Gomphus. Both species were reclassified recently as Phanogomphus. In the world of taxonomic classification, there are “lumpers” and “splitters.” Score one for the splitters!

Notice the first photo shows the wings folded above the abdomen. I spotted the teneral dragonfly when it flew toward me from the pond shoreline. The dragonfly rested in this location for a few minutes before it flew to a new spot (shown below) where it perched briefly with its wings unfolded. The last time I saw the dragonfly, it was flying toward the forest alongside the pond.

The other teneral dragonfly that I saw — “the one that got away” — was perched on the lawn near the walking path around the lake; it flew toward the forest when I moved closer to take some photographs.

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

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

This specimen is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages.

All female dragonflies have two cerci (superior appendages); in contrast all male dragonflies have two cerci and one epiproct (inferior appendage), collectively called “claspers.” Contrast the appearance of the terminal appendages of this female Ashy Clubtail with a male of the same species.

The last photo in the set is a wider view that shows how well-camouflaged the dragonfly was perched on the lawn around the pond.

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

The Backstory

I was surprised to discover a Lancet Clubtail dragonfly near Mulligan Pond during late-June 2016. Knowing that Ashy Clubtails can be found in the same habitats preferred by Lancet Clubtails, I decided to look for Ashy Clubtails at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge beginning in mid-April 2017. Apparently Mulligan Pond is a good place for both species, because I spotted two Ashy Clubtails the first time I went looking for them. Ah, if only odonate hunting were always so easy!

Post Update

As far as I know, this is the first record for this species at this location. A new record for Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge was submitted to the Odonata Central records database on 22 April 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Can I see some eye-dentification?

March 20, 2015

It may seem like all dragonflies look alike when you’re beginning to learn how to identify dragonflies. For example, all dragonflies have large, multifaceted compound eyes. Look closely. Careful observation of the color, shape, and size of eyes should enable you to quickly identify the family (or families) of dragonflies to which a specimen may belong.

The following field markers — used in combination with a good field guide to dragonflies, a species list for your location, and the process of elimination — should enable you to identify unknown specimens more quickly than randomly trying to find a match between your specimen and one of the 316 of species of dragonflies known to occur in the United States!

Clubtail Family (and Petaltail Family)

The eyes of clubtail dragonflies (and petaltails) are widely separated, somewhat similar to the eyes of damselflies. The Clubtail Family is the second largest family of dragonflies, so this field marker should be useful for identifying a lot of dragonflies to the family level — if only clubtails were as easy to identify down to the species level!

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail dragonfly

09 MAY 2013 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Ashy/Lancet Clubtail (female)

The preceding dragonfly is either an Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Gomphis exilis). Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies are similar in appearance and difficult to differentiate with complete certainty. But one look at those eyes and you know it’s definitely some species of clubtail!

Spiketail Family

Notice the eyes of the following dragonfly nearly touch at a point between its eyes — that’s a distinctive field marker for the Spiketail Family.

Brown Spiketail dragonfly (female)

09 MAY 2013 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Brown Spiketail (female)

Cruiser, Emerald, and Skimmer Families

In a few families of dragonflies, the eyes meet along a short seam near the face.

The Skimmer Family is the largest family of dragonflies. Many species of Skimmers are common and fairly easy to identify.

There are fewer species of dragonflies in the Cruiser Family than the Skimmer Family; no other dragonflies in the United States look similar to cruisers.

Stream Cruiser dragonfly (male)

02 MAY 2013 | Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge | Stream Cruiser (male)

Many species of the Emerald Family feature distinctive bright green eyes, hence the family name.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis)

25 JUL 2012 | The Wildlife Sanctuary | Mocha Emerald (male)

Darner Family

The eyes of Darners meet along a long seam from front-to-back.

Common Green Darner dragonflies (mating pair, in tandem)

14 AUG 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Green Darner (mating pair)

Self-test

OK, let’s apply what you just learned. Looking at the eyes only, can you identify the family for the following dragonfly? If you would like to know whether your answer is correct, then please leave a comment.

Teacher’s Note: In order to avoid revealing the answer to the one-question quiz as soon as the first person comments, I changed the settings for this blog so that comments must be approved manually.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (male)

26 JUN 2015 | Wickford Park | [Insert family name here.]

Editor’s Notes: This post is adapted from Dragonfly Head & Eyes, one of many excellent guides on the Odes for Beginners Web site. Thanks for the inspiration, Sheryl Chacon!

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A sampler of male dragonfly claspers (Part 1)

March 16, 2015

All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”). Claspers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but their function is identical for all species of dragonflies.

There are seven families of dragonflies. Part 1 (of 2) features a sampler of select images showing male dragonfly claspers from the Clubtail Family, Cruiser Family, and Darner Family.

Clubtail Family

The following image shows a male Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus) perching on the ground in a field located near Giles Run at Meadowood Recreation Area in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

02 MAY 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area | Ashy Clubtail (male)

Cruiser Family

The next image shows a male Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) spotted along “Beaver Pond Loop Trail” at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 1,200 acre preserve located at Army Garrison Fort Belvoir, Fairfax County, Virginia.

Stream Cruiser dragonfly (male)

02 May 2013 | Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge | Stream Cruiser (male)

Darner Family

The last image shows a male Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

24 OCT2014 | Huntley Meadows Park | Shadow Darner (male)

Related Resources:

Editor’s Notes: Part 2 (of 2) will feature a sampler of select images showing male dragonfly 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.

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.

Advanced Dragonfly Studies

November 26, 2014

During June 2014, I attended an adult class and field trip offered by the Audubon Naturalist Society called “Advanced Dragonfly Studies: Common Darners, Spiketails, Cruisers, and Clubtails of the Mid-Atlantic.” The class instructor was Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The field trip to the Patuxent Research Refuge was led by Mr. Orr and Stephanie Mason, Senior Naturalist, Audubon Naturalist Society.

As I was writing a recent blog post entitled Year in Review: New finds in 2014 (odonates), I decided against including odonates spotted during during the ANS field trip. My rationale was simple: I didn’t find most of the specimens. 42 species of odonates were observed in one day, including many new species for my “life list.” I was able to photograph only a few of the odonates seen by the group due to the fast pace of the advanced class.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

While waiting for all participants to arrive for the field trip, Bonnie Ott spotted a Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) perching in a flower bed beside the North Tract Visitor Contact Station. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly (immature male)

Elegant Spreadwing damselfly

An Elegant Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes inaequalis) was netted at Rieve’s Pond. This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration. Notice the ovipositor visible on the underside of its abdomen, near the tip. “Usually not very common,” according to Dennis Paulson, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East. [New species for my “life list.”]

Elegant Spreadwing damselfly (female)

Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly

A Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis verna) was spotted at New Marsh. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. [New species for my “life list.”]

Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly (immature male)

Another Double-ringed Pennant was spotted at Sundew Bog in the Central Tract. This individual is a mature male. Stephanie Mason is shown in the background, referring to Stokes Beginner’s Guide to DragonfliesEditor’s Note: “The Central Tract of the refuge is closed to public visitation due to the sensitive nature of much of the scientific work.” Source Credit: Patuxent Research Refuge brochure.

Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly (mature male)

Elfin Skimmer dragonfly

Tiny Elfin Skimmer dragonflies (Nannothemis bella) can be found at Sundew Bog. This individual is either a female or immature male, based upon its coloration. [New species for my “life list.”]

Elfin Skimmer dragonfly (Nannothemis bella)

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly

A Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) was netted at Sundew Bog. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly

A Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula auripennis) was netted at Sundew Bog. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Golden-winged Skimmer dragonflies and Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) are similar in appearance. [New species for my “life list.”]

Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male)

The distinguished gentleman holding the dragonfly is Peter Munroe, Kevin Munroe’s father. Kevin is the manager of Huntley Meadows Park.

Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Clubtail dragonfly

The following specimen, spotted at Sundew Bog, is either an Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus exilis) dragonfly. Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies are similar in appearance and difficult to differentiate with complete certainty. Both species were spotted at this location. This individual is a female, as indicated by its terminal appendages and the rounded shape of its hind wings (near the abdomen).

Clubtail dragonfly (female)

Emerging Common Sanddragon dragonflies

The last stop on the field trip was a walk/wade in the Little Patuxent River, southeast of Bailey Bridge, where we spotted several Common Sanddragon dragonflies, including a few individuals metamorphosing from larvae to adults. [New species for my “life list.”]

Tech Tips: All of the preceding photos were taken using a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS7 digital camera. The camera is no longer available. The ZS7 was one of the first digital cameras that featured GPS geotagging. Good idea; bad implementation. After extensive field-testing, I discovered the ZS7’s built-in GPS didn’t work as well as Apple iPhone’s “A-GPS” for geotagging photos, and stopped using the camera. I decided to bring the camera with me on the field trip because it is small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive in contrast with several other digital cameras I own. Turns out “lightweight” is the operative word. After a long hiatus, I’d forgotten how poorly the camera performs — regrettably, the photos featured in this post are an unpleasant reminder!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Year in review: New finds in 2014 (odonates)

November 20, 2014

In addition to several “New discoveries in 2014,” I spotted several species of odonates in 2014 that were new finds for my “life list,” as well as a few first-time sightings of either a male or female for familiar species of dragonflies.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus).

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

This is my first confirmed spotting of a male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura). I have seen a few females in the past.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

02 May 2014 | Meadowood Recreation Area

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young male)

This is my first spotting of a Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena).

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (young adult male)

31 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (male, female)

Although I had seen one Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) in the past, these individuals are among the first ones I photographed.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Male | 06 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

Female | 23 May 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

I have seen lots of Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) in the past, but it’s challenging to identify their gender on the wing. I photographed one perching male on 04 June 2012. The following individual is one of the first confirmed females that I have spotted.

Swamp Darner dragonfly (female, oviposition)

02 June 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

This is the first confirmed female Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) that I have spotted.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea)

15 July 2014 | Beacon of Groveton

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

This mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) is one of the first times I was quick enough to photograph a pair “in wheel.” This image is also among the first photographs taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, 55-200mm zoom lens (88-320mm, 35mm equivalent), and Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 in TTL mode.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

20 August 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

I have seen many female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) in the past, but this is the first male I spotted.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (male)

28 September 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

Although I have spotted Shadow Darner dragonflies (Aeshna umbrosa) in the past, this is one of the first individuals I photographed.

Shadow Darner dragonfly (male)

24 October 2014 | Huntley Meadows Park

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a three-part series — a retrospective look at 2014.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

May 6, 2014

The following photos show an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus lividus) perching on the ground in a field located near Giles Run at Meadowood Recreation Area in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual, spotted on 02 May 2014, is a male — there are clearly three terminal appendages and its hind wings aren’t rounded like a female.

Ashy Clubtail dragonflies have been “documented in previous years at Meadowood as well as Occoquan Regional Park, but this is a first-of-season record for this year,” quoting Jim Waggener, coordinator for wildlife surveys of the Potomac River National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

Ashy- or Lancet Clubtail

Ashy Clubtail, Lancet Clubtail (Gomphis exilis), and Dusky Clubtail (Gomphus spicatus) dragonflies are very similar in appearance and difficult to differentiate with complete certainty, as shown by the following composite image created by Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast.

Ashy-Lancet-Dusky_Clubtail

According to Ed, my tentative field identification of the dragonfly species is probably correct and it is definitely a male.

The abdominal pattern fits Ashy better than Lancet. While there’s a hint of a pale marking on top of Segment 9, it’s usually paler [on Ashy] and well-defined on Lancet. It is indeed a male. Source Credit: Ed Lam, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

Remember that “Segment 9” refers to abdominal segment nine (of 10), numbered from front to back.

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

  • Genus Gomphus | Gomphus lividus | Ashy Clubtail | male | top view
  • Genus Gomphus | Gomphus lividus | Ashy Clubtail | male | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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