Posts Tagged ‘Common Whitetail dragonfly’

Common Whitetail (mature male)

August 21, 2019

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted near the Painted Turtle Pond Environmental Study AreaOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by the white coloration of his abdomen, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. He is perched vertically on the corner of a storage shed.

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Common Whitetail (mature male)

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratch marks on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gear Talk

“Expose for the highlights” is a well-known rule of thumb in photography, that is, adjust the camera settings so the highlights are exposed perfectly.

Mature male Common Whitetail dragonflies are challenging to photograph because they prefer perching in direct sunlight, so it’s easy to blow out the highlights on their bright white abdomen. After a few test shots, I was able to adjust the flash power ratio so that the subject is exposed properly.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Blown away!

August 19, 2019

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted at the Painted Turtle Pond Environmental Study Area, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his brown coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

Gear Talk

“Expose for the highlights” is a well-known rule of thumb in photography, that is, adjust the camera settings so the highlights are exposed perfectly.

The preceding photo was a test shot. The highlights are almost blown out completely because the flash power ratio was set too high for proper exposure of the scene; the dragonfly flew away before I could reduce the flash power.

All of that being said, there’s something about this image that I like. It reminds me of an old, faded black-and-white photo print. The word “sepia” comes to mind.

Related Resource: Common Whitetail dragonflies (young males, mature males)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

So close, yet so far!

April 10, 2019

Two Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) were spotted perched on a wooden fence rail located near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The individual shown on the left is a mature female; the one on the right is a mature male.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Common Whitetail (mature female and male)

Sexing Common Whitetail dragonflies

For many of the common species of odonates found in Northern Virginia, I created a collection of annotated guides that illustrates how to differentiate gender by looking at terminal appendages. The difference in the pattern of wings spots for male and female Common Whitetails is sufficient to identify gender.

Life Cycle of Odonates

Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are aquatic insects that spend most of their life as larvae that live in water; this stage of their life cycle can last from a few months to a few years, depending upon the species. Finally, they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adults in order to reproduce; their offspring return to the water and the cycle begins again.

I wonder how these two mature adults were able to be so close yet resist the compelling biological urge to hook up!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail (immature males)

May 7, 2018

A first-of-season Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted perching on the ground near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, brown colored abdomen, and pattern of wing spots.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Another immature male was spotted along an informal trail at a remote location in the park.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Young male Common Whitetails begin to develop white pruinescence that changes the color of their abdomen from brown to white, hence the common name for this species.

Sexing Common Whitetail dragonflies

For many of the common species of odonates found in Northern Virginia, I created a collection of annotated guides that illustrates how to differentiate gender by looking at terminal appendages. The difference in the pattern of wings spots for male and female Common Whitetails is sufficient to identify gender.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (female)

May 5, 2018

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like bad party guests: they are among the first to arrive and last to leave. Nonetheless, it was good to see one on a day when almost no adult odonate species were observed.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

A Common Whitetail was spotted perching on a man-made brush pile near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and pattern of wing spots.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

The “schmutz” that appears at the tip of her abdomen is probably excrement. Hey, schmutz happens!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Predator and prey

February 8, 2018

A Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. A female Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) is trapped in the spider web.

“Eat or be eaten” is perhaps the most fundamental law of nature. Predator-prey relationships can change suddenly: one minute a predator, such as a dragonfly, is hunting for its next meal; next minute the dragonfly becomes the prey and is a meal for another predator, such as a spider, elsewhere in the food web.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Like a bad guest at a party

October 31, 2017

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like bad guests at a party — they are among the first odonates to arrive in spring and among the last to leave in fall. Unlike bad guests, it’s good to see Common Whitetails after a long, cold winter and you have to admire the fact that they survived a long, hot summer.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Whitetail (mature female)

The preceding photograph shows a Common Whitetail dragonfly that was spotted near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and pattern of wing spots.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail (teneral female)

April 6, 2017

After a seemingly endless off-season, I’m pleased to report odonate hunting season has begun in Northern Virginia!

05 APR 2017 | ABWR | Common Whitetail (teneral female)

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted during a photowalk along Beaver Pond Loop Trail at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge (ABWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and the tenuous appearance of her wings.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Perchers like perching on Coleman

October 6, 2016

Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Members of the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) are perchers. Further, males of many species of Skimmers perch near prime egg-laying habitat — like a small vernal pool located in Huntley Meadows Park — in order to attract mates.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was photographed as it perched on my Coleman camp stool.  This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

If I were going to post only my best shots, then I would choose the first photo (shown above) and the last. I included the next photo because it provides a closer look at the head and body of the dragonfly; the trade-off is the terminal appendages are in soft focus.

Common Whitetail dragonfly

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted at the same location as the Blue-faced Meadowhawk. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

I love the head-tilt shown in the following photo!

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (male)

Notice the scratches along his abdomen, an indication he has mated many times.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the midabdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (male)

I like to rest during long photowalks by sitting my Coleman camp stool for a few minutes, and as you can see, some species of my favorite insects like to rest on the camp stool too!

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (male)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (teneral female)

May 13, 2016

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted on 15 April 2016 at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by its terminal appendages (cerci) and the pale coloration of her wings.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

Miraculous metamorphosis, the last post in my photoblog, featured a three-hour time-series of still photos documenting the astounding transformation of a female Common Whitetail dragonfly from a larva to an adult. The teneral female dragonfly in this post emerged recently, probably sometime during the same day these photos were taken.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

A pattern of dark spots on all four wings, characteristic of female Common Whitetail dragonflies, will develop within a few days to a week-or-so after emergence.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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