Posts Tagged ‘cerci’

Building a case for Slaty Skimmer

October 23, 2019

With each new photo set of this unknown species of odonate exuvia, a case is building slowly for Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta).

Occoquan Regional Park | unknown species | exuvia (lateral)

A piece of white schmutz was removed from the tip of the abdomen, enabling a clearer view of abdominal segment nine (S9). Look closely at the two photos featured in this post. Notice there are stubby mid-dorsal hooks (not cultriform) on abdominal segments four through eight (S4-S8).

Occoquan Regional Park | unknown species | exuvia (dorsal)

The last photo shows a closer view of the anal pyramid. Notice the lateral caudal appendages (cerci) are less than half as long as the inferior appendages (paraprocts).

Soltesz, p. 43 – Key to the Species of the Genus Libellula

Field marks that match this specimen are highlighted in boldface green text.

1b. Dorsal hooks regularly present on segments 4 to 8. [2]
2b. Palpal setae 5 (sometimes 6 in cyanea). [5]
5a. Epiproct distinctly decurved at tip. [6]
6b. Length of last instar about 26mm; cerci less than half as long as paraprocts. [incesta]

Punch List

I need to look at the inside of the labium (face mask) in order to count palpal setae. The epiproct must be cleaned to see whether it is decurved. This exuvia was deformed as a result of emergence, so it’s impossible to make an accurate measurement of the length of the specimen. That said, the exuvia is more than 22.0 mm (0.9 in) long. (22 mm is the length of the last instar for L. cyanea.)

And of course, I need to annotate all of the images in this series of blog posts in order to illustrate the unfamiliar vocabulary that is used in virtually all dichotomous identification keys.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the quick-and-dirty macro photographs featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); ISO 200; f/16; 1/180s.

Godox X2TF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control two off-camera external flash units set for radio slave mode: Godox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash (manual mode); and Godox TT685o/p Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode). Both flash units were fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Green Darner dragonfly (young male)

September 27, 2019

A mini-swarm of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) was spotted at a dry vernal pool, Old Colchester Park and Preserve (OCPP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. A few Black Saddlebags dragonflies were mixed in with the swarm of A. junius.

Some of the dragonflies were hawking smaller insects; others were resting on vegetation. It’s probable members of the swarm had stopped to rest and refuel before continuing their southward migration.

The following Common Green Darner dragonfly was perched in a bed of dried cattails.

18 SEP 2019 | OCPP | Common Green Darner (young male)

This individual is a young male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. Notice there are points on the tips of his cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the preceding photo. Female cerci are pointless, both literally and figuratively.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Flashback to late-May 2019

September 16, 2019

Look closely at the following photo — there’s a dragonfly in there somewhere!

21 May 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (female)

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus exilis) was spotted by Gary Myers at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The dragonfly is perched on leaf litter in a seepage area upstream from a small pond.

Female and male terminal appendages

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. (Notice the “bonus bug” to the right of the label for cercus.)

21 May 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (female)

Contrast the appearance of those female field marks with males of the same species.

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

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.

Brown Spiketail dragonflies

May 6, 2019

Several Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) were spotted during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Male

The first individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. Notice the epiproct for Brown Spiketail is a wide “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the following photo.

The next individual is also male, as indicated by his hamules, located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3).

Female

The last individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages.

Credits

Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the gender of the first and last individuals.

Phenology

Phenology (noun) is defined as “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.”

There is an annual cycle of odonate activity that can be subdivided into three broad categories: Early Season (spring); Mid-season (summer); and Late Season (fall).

Brown Spiketail is an “Early Season” species for locations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have noticed that the adult flight period for a given species of odonate in Northern Virginia tends to lag behind Amherst County, where my good friend Mike Boatwright (Mike B) lives, by about one-to-two weeks. When Mike B reported his first sighting of Brown Spiketail on 24 April in Amherst County, I knew it wouldn’t be long until Brown Spiketail would be flying in Fairfax County. Eight (8) days later, Mike Powell and I spotted our first-of-season Brown Spiketail dragonflies. Thanks for the heads-up, Mike B!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Harlequin Darner dragonfly (female)

April 24, 2019

On Earth Day 2019 my good friend Mike Powell and I traveled to the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA. Our target species: Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata), one of only two species in Genus Gomphaeschna, the Pygmy Darners.

Working the shot

A Harlequin Darner dragonfly was perched on a tree, approximately head height, near a mid-sized pond. This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. Both cerci are visible clearly in the full-sized version of the following photo.

Harlequin Darner is a new species for my life list of odonates.

First contact

Those who know me well are familiar with one of many “Walterisms”: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” The following photo is the “record shot”; the preceding photo shows one of my attempts to refine the record shot.

The record shot shows a better view of the female’s face than the refined shot, as shown in the following closer crop of the same photo.

Credits

Sincere thanks to Richard Orr and Rick Borchelt for detailed guidance regarding two sites where Harlequin Darner is known to occur at Patuxent Research Refuge as well as lots of practical tips for finding G. furcillata in the field.

Richard is a renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, and Rick is Director for Communications and Public Affairs, Office of Science at U.S. Department of Energy.

The Backstory

Harlequin Darner and Taper-tailed Darner (Gomphaeschna antilope) are sibling species. Taper-tailed Darner is known to occur at Huntley Meadows Park, based upon confirmed sightings by Geoffrey Cohrs and Karen Sheffield, park staff members, Fred Siskind, park volunteer (photo used with permission), and Daryl & Erin Elliott. Since both Harlequin and Taper-tailed Darner are in the same genus and prefer the same habit, I speculated Harlequin should be found at Huntley Meadows too. Every spring I wandered the wetlands of Huntley Meadows Park in search of both species of the elusive Pygmy Darners. No luck.

After three years of frustration, I decided to expand my search area to include two hotspots in Maryland where there is a better chance of finding Harlequin Darner. I was fortunate to find my first Harlequin at the location closer to my home in Northern Virginia.

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

  • Genus Gomphaeschna | G. furcillata | Harlequin Darner | male | top view
  • Genus Gomphaeschna | G. furcillata | Harlequin Darner | male | side view

See also Harlequin Darner dragonfly for Mike Powell’s take on our trip to Patuxent Research Refuge.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Uhler’s Sundragon (female)

April 19, 2019

A Uhler’s Sundragon (Helocordulia uhleri) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. Both cerci are visible clearly in the full-size version of the following photo.

16 APR 2019 | Northern Virginia | Uhler’s Sundragon (female)

Notice the right hind wing is slightly malformed. It appears the wing failed to inflate completely during emergence. The malformation didn’t impair her ability to fly. Pollen (probably tree pollen) is especially noticeable on the darker parts of the body.

Just the facts, ma’am.

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 H. uhleri is 29 March to 27 June. The species is classified as common. Its habitat is “streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for H. uhleri seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably no more than a month, and more likely around two-to-three weeks. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Uhler’s is 11 April to 05 May.

It’s also worth noting that the window of opportunity to see Uhler’s Sundragon closes rapidly after trees are in full leaf.

Is Uhler’s Sundragon common? I guess the answer to that question depends upon where you live. In Northern Virginia, Kevin Munroe classified H. uhleri as “rare.” In fact, I’m aware of only one location in Northern Virginia where Uhler’s Sundragon can be found with reasonable certainty.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: “Generic Baskettail?”

February 15, 2019

larva/nymph in the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) was collected by Bob Perkins on 02 December 2017 from a pond in Orange Park, Florida (USA). The larva died before it metamorphosed into an adult.

Test shots of this beautifully preserved specimen were taken using a small-ish aperture of f/11 for greater depth of field. The following photos are “one-offs,” that is, not composite images.

Dorsal

A single focus point — located on the thorax (specifcally, the “shoulder pad” along the right side of the body) — was used to shoot this photo. The specimen has enough “relief” that focus on the wing pads and dorsal hooks is slightly soft. This view of the larva is a good candidate for focus-stacking.

The terminal appendages (cerci, epiproct, paraprocts) are shown clearly in the following photo.

“Generic Baskettail” larva (preserved specimen) | Orange Park, FL USA

Bob’s best guess of the identity of the specimen is Epitheca sp., either Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) or Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps).

Whenever I see an odonate larvae/exuviae with long legs, my first thought is Family Macromiidae (Cruisers). Then I check for a horn on top of the head, a key field marker for Cruisers. Look closely at the dorsal view of the larva and I think you’ll agree with me there appears to be a horn on the head. I would like to take close-up photos of the head and key out the specimen in order to determine its identity. In the meantime, my best guess is Stream Cruiser (Didmops transversa) as indicated by the lateral spines on abdominal segment nine (S9) and the absence of a dorsal hook on S10.

Ventral

The ventral side of the specimen has almost no “relief,” so a “one-off” focused on the thorax looks fairly good from head-to-tail.

“Generic Baskettail” larva (preserved specimen) | Orange Park, FL USA

Related Resource: “Generic Baskettail” (definitely not a Cruiser)

Tech Tips

The following equipment (shown below) was used to shoot the preceding photos: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujifilm MCEX-16 extension tube; Fujinon XF80mm macro lensGodox XProF TTL Wireless Flash Trigger for Fujifilm camerasGodox TT685F Thinklite TTL Flash for Fujifilm CamerasGodox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash for Canon Cameras fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier; and a Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on a Godox X1R-C TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Receiver for Canon. A new Godox TT685O Thinklite TTL Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras was added to an array of radio-controlled external flash units used to light the specimen. All flashes were set for Manual Mode at 1/128 power.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More composite images: P. obscurus exuvia

February 6, 2019

The following focus-stacked composite images show dorsal- and ventral views of the exuvia from a Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscuruslarva that was collected and reared by Bob Perkins.

Here are some personal observations after examining the specimen carefully.

The front- and middle legs block the mentum (prementum). This specimen is a good candidate for rehydrating the exuvia and reposing its legs.

Related Resource: Composite image: Progomphus obscurus exuvia.

Tech Tips

Six (6) photos were used to create the first focus stack; seven (7) photos were used for the second. A single focus point was positioned over select anatomical features, working from back-to-front; photos were taken at each point of interest.

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the photographs for the two focus-stacked composite images, shown above: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and several external flashes set for “Slave” mode including Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the focus-stacked composite images, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Post Focus” images: Shadow Darner dragonfly

January 30, 2019

Bob Perkins collected and reared a Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) larva/nymph. This blog post features two focus-stacked composite images of a beautifully preserved specimen of the adult that emerged from the larva.

Each composite image was created from 30 TIF files extracted from a one-second MP4 video of the subject, “photographed” using my new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus.”

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings (shown above). All male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers”: the two cerci are missing (they broke off the terminal end of the abdomen during shipping); the epiproct is intact.

Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) | dorsal-lateral view

Takeaways

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from on-going experimentation with Panasonic “Post Focus” is that the process continues to impress — it works quickly (typically one second or so) and works well, using lightweight, inexpensive equipment for making composite images of acceptable quality.

What’s not to like? The obvious answer: The image quality isn’t as high as comparable images created using HEAVY and EXPENSIVE camera gear in the controlled environment of a photo studio. On the other hand, I know from experience I’m unlikely to lug all of that gear into the field. I call it a BIG WIN to have found a relatively lightweight, inexpensive camera kit that does essentially the same job almost as well!

The next test: Use adult dragonflies in the wild as the subject. Regrettably, that will have to wait until the first odonates begin emerging during early spring.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the “photos” for creation of the composite images, shown above: Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 digital camera set for “Post Focus“; and two Sunpak LED-160 Video Lights.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to create the preceding focus-stacked composite images, as well as spot-heal and sharpen the final output.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unicorn Clubtail (female terminal appendages)

September 22, 2018

Two field markers can be used to identify female Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes), as shown in the following annotated image: 1) they have two terminal appendages (cerci) rather than three (males); and 2) their hind wings are rounded rather than “indented” (males).

Image used with permission from Bob Blakney.

Editor’s Notes

In my experience, female Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies are seen uncommonly. Sincere thanks to Bob Blakney for kindly granting permission to use his excellent photograph of this uncommon beauty for instructional purposes.

Bob’s photo was taken on 18 May 2012 at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge using a Canon EOS Rebel T2i digital camera and Tamron AF 18-270mm macro lens.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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