Posts Tagged ‘discovery’

Spine-crowned Clubtail (terminal appendages)

May 10, 2017

A male and female Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) were spotted recently in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Male

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”). The epiproct for Spine-crowned Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

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

The hind wings of male clubtail dragonflies are “indented” near the body, as shown in the preceding photograph. In contrast, the hind wings of female clubtails are rounded (shown below). Also notice the right hind wing of the male is slightly malformed.

Female

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The abdomen of female Spine-crowned Clubtails is noticeably thicker than males of the same species.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (female)

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

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (male)

May 8, 2017

A Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) was spotted recently in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Spine-crowned Clubtail is relatively uncommon in Northern Virginia, and a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and indented hind wings. Notice the right hind wing is slightly malformed.

Spine-crowned Clubtail versus Cobra Clubtail

Spined-crowned Clubtail looks similar to Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus). Two field markers can be used to differentiate the species.

Spine-crowned Clubtail features large yellow spots on the sides of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9); Cobra Clubtail has a small yellow spot on the side of abdominal segment eight (S8) and a large yellow spot on the side of abdominal segment nine (S9), as shown below (see inset photo).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

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

The face of Spine-crowned Clubtail is yellow and unmarked; the face of Cobra Clubtail is yellow with horizontal black markings (see inset photo).

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

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

More photos, Spine-crowned Clubtail

This guy was a cooperative model as I followed him to several perches on rocks along a large stream.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Spine-crowned Clubtail (male)

Editor’s Notes: Special thanks to Mike Boatwright, curator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in verifying my tentative field identification. As far as I know, this is the first official record for Hylogomphus abbreviatus in Fairfax County, Virginia.

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.

New discoveries in 2016

December 26, 2016

The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. Huh? There’s always more to discover/learn! My new discoveries in 2016 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly exuviae

Perithemis tenera exuviae, published on 06 December 2016.

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 JUL 2016 | Potomac River | Eastern Amberwing (exuvia, head-on)

I’m a man on a mission to demystify the art and science of odonate exuviae identification. The task is as challenging as I was led to believe, but with determination and persistence it is do-able.

The specimens featured in this post are the first odonate exuviae that I was able to identify to the species level. Although the specimens were collected in early July, they were identified in early December. New species will be added to my Odonate Exuviae page when their identity is confirmed.


Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) is a familiar location where several species, previously unknown to occur at the park, were discovered in 2016.

Shadow Darner dragonfly

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female), posted on 18 October 2016.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male), posted on 26 September 2016.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Another new species discovered at JMAWR, posted on 20 September 2016.

Lancet Clubtail dragonfly

Identifying clubtails by the calendar, posted on 30 June 2016.

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Lancet Clubtail (male)


In addition to my contributions to the odonate species list at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Mike Powell discovered the first official record of Swift Setwing at JMAWR and in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Post update

November 15, 2016

The first official record of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge was observed at Mulligan Pond on 15 September 2016. 10 days later, another Blue-faced Meadowhawk was spotted near the same location.

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an heteromorph.

25 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female heteromorph)

This individual is a female heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration and terminal appendages.

As it turns out, the female spotted on the 15th and this one spotted on the 25th were the only Blue-faced Meadowhawks seen during many photowalks around Mulligan Pond during Fall 2016.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another new species discovered at JMAWR

September 20, 2016

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. As far as I know, this is the first official record of Blue-faced Meadowhawk at JMAWR.

This individual is a female andromorph, as indicated by her male-like coloration, lack of hamules, and terminal appendages.

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female andromorph)

Unlike male Blue-faced Meadowhawks, most female faces are tan.

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female andromorph)

This female is the only Blue-faced Meadowhawk I saw during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond — let’s hope she’s one of many more I didn’t see!

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an andromorph.

15 SEP 2015 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female andromorph)

Related Resource: Post update, published on 15 November 2016, documents another female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly spotted at Mulligan Pond during Fall 2016.

Editor’s Notes: Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) was discovered on 24 June 2016 at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge — the first official record of Swift Setwing in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. For more information, see Swift Setwing dragonfly by Michael Powell and Making new friends by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Identifying clubtails by the calendar

June 30, 2016

Much to my surprise, a Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) was spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Lancet Clubtail (male)

Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus) and Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus exilis) are two species of dragonflies from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) that are similar in appearance.

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Lancet Clubtail (male)

Kevin Munroe, author of the excellent Dragonflies of Northern Virginia Web site, explains how to identify Ashy Clubtail versus Lancet Clubtail on the page for Ashy Clubtail (see the section entitled “Notes from the field”). In this case, item No. 5 explains how to use a calendar to differentiate the two species.

Lastly, use the calendar: April = Ashy Clubtail; June or July = Lancet Clubtail; May = could be either one. (These dates work in Northern Virginia.) Source Credit: Ashy Clubtail, by Kevin Munroe.

Since the specimen shown in the preceding photographs was spotted on 26 June, Lancet Clubtail is almost certainly the correct identification. Further, the physical characteristics described in item No. 3 on Kevin’s checklist confirms what the calendar tells us.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2015

December 27, 2015

As the story is told, a reporter asked Willie Sutton “Why do you rob banks?” “Because that’s where the money is,” Willie answered. So when people ask me why I go to the remote locations in Huntley Meadows Park, I answer “Because that’s where the undiscovered species of odonates are.”

There are undiscovered species of odonates at the remote places in the park, in part, because fewer people go to the more difficult to reach locations. Also, the remote locations are often where the “habitat specialists” are found, in contrast with the “habitat generalists” that inhabit the central wetland area.

Springtime Darner dragonfly

Teamwork, and some take-aways

Springtime Darner dragonfly (female)

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

Southern Spreadwing damselfly

A Southern Fortnight, Part 1 – Year-long mystery solved!

A mating pair of Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem.

03 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (mating pair, in tandem)

Roseate Skimmer dragonfly

Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (male)

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly

Another new species of spreadwing damselfly?

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Recognition received in 2015

December 25, 2015

It’s the time of year for reflection upon the past year. This is part one in a three-part series: part two will highlight New discoveries in 2015; part three will showcase my Top 10 Photos of 2015.

Several of my photographs received special recognition during 2015.

  • Chesapeake Explorer – National Park Service Web portal for exploring the Chesapeake Bay region
  • Vernal Pools are Wet and Dry – signage facilitating informal science education at a new park in the Town of DeWitt, New York
  • Argia, Vol. 27, Issue 4, “Parting Shots,” p. 31

The December 2015 issue of Argia, The News Journal of the Dragonfly Society of the Americas, features one of my photographs of a Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) that I discovered on 23 September 2015 at Huntley Meadows Park. Roseate Skimmer is extremely uncommon in Virginia: there are only three other confirmed records of this species in the state. See Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (male) for more information and photos of this handsome dragonfly.

Tech Tip: Apple “Preview” was used to extract one page from the December 2015 issue of “Argia.”

Sidebar:Argia” is a genus of damselfly, commonly known as “dancers.” For example, Variable/Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis) is commonly found along streams in Northern Virginia.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (male)

September 26, 2015

Breaking news: I discovered a new species of dragonfly at Huntley Meadows Park — a Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea). This is the first official record of Orthemis ferruginea in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Actually, I discovered this species last year but was unable to shoot a photo to prove I wasn’t hallucinating pink dragonflies! On 10 September 2014, I spotted a male Roseate Skimmer that made one patrol around a pool near an old beaver lodge (one that overlapped the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area), landed for one second (no kidding) and flew upstream along Barnyard Run; I never saw it again. This year, I have photographic proof.

This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

Dig that crazy metallic purple face!

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

After one spotting, I was willing to dismiss the 2014 Roseate as a transient species; after two spottings, I’m beginning to wonder whether there’s a small reproducing population at Huntley Meadows Park. Perhaps I’m guilty of wishful thinking, but some of the marks on the dragonfly’s abdomen look like scratches from mating.

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

Look to the left…

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

Look to the right. Stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight! Huh? I repurposed a cheer for my old high school football team since it seems to appropriately describe the male Roseate’s aggressive behavior whenever males of other species invaded his space.

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

Roseate Skimmers are common at tropical latitudes; they are uncommon to rare in the middle latitudes.

These have been working their way north but they are rare … in our area.  I have a record at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. in 1998, and two were found in Howard County, Maryland in 1999. Source Credit: Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

I’ve never seen a Roseate Skimmer but am aware of three (3) previous records for Virginia. Source Credit: Steven M. Roble, Ph.D., Staff Zoologist, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage.

Related Resource: Roseate Skimmer (Othemis ferruginea) spotted in Henrico County, Virginia by Allen Bryan.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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