Posts Tagged ‘Emerald Family’

Common Baskettail dragonfly (female)

July 12, 2016

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and simple, straight terminal appendages.

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Common Baskettail (female)

The shoreline of Mulligan Pond was patrolled actively by male Common Baskettail dragonflies during late-May 2016. It’s worth noting that no male Common Baskettails were spotted during my photowalk around the pond approximately one month later.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Changing of the guard

June 16, 2016

Several Prince Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca princeps) were spotted on 14 June 2016 at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR).

Mulligan Pond is relatively small. The shoreline seemed to be subdivided into imaginary segments of valuable real estate; each segment was patrolled by a single male Prince Baskettail dragonfly. There were frequent aerial skirmishes when one male strayed into the territory of another. During nearly three hours of observation, I never saw one of the males land!

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Prince Baskettail (male, in flight)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages (see annotated image, shown below). Notice the male’s bright blue-green eyes. It’s easy to see why Prince Baskettail is a member of the Emerald Family of dragonflies!

The shoreline of Mulligan Pond was patrolled by Common Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca cynosura) during May 2016. A changing of the guard occurred sometime since my last visit: same family; same genus; different species.

Prince Baskettail dragonfly terminal appendages (male)

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”).

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Prince Baskettail (male, in flight)

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

  • Genus Epitheca | Epitheca princeps | Prince Baskettail | male | top view
  • Genus Epitheca | Epitheca princeps | Prince Baskettail | male | side view
  • Genus Epitheca | Epitheca princeps | Prince Baskettail | female | top view
  • Genus Epitheca | Epitheca princeps | Prince Baskettail | female | side view

See also Uncommonly cooperative Common Baskettail, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Uncommonly cooperative Common Baskettail

May 31, 2016

Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted on 24 May 2016 during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

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

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Some segments of the lake shoreline were patrolled by a single male Common Baskettail dragonfly, like the one featured in this photo set. Common Baskettails are fliers rather than perchers. I noticed this individual would fly back-and-forth for 10s of minutes, then pause to perch for a while — never longer than a minute-or-so.

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

I staked out a position near the center of the male’s patrol route and waited for him to land. Although he never landed in the same spot, all of the perches were confined to a relatively small area.

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

My front-row seat had an obstructed view for the last shot. Soon afterward, the dragonfly simply disappeared. But hey, it was a good show while it lasted!

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male, in flight)

May 17, 2016

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Enchanted Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, in flight.

Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted on 14 May 2016 at Enchanted Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by its terminal appendages. Notice the male’s bright blue-green eyes in the preceding photo. It’s easy to see why Common Baskettail is a member of the Emerald Family of dragonflies!

Enchanted Pond is relatively small. The shoreline seemed to be subdivided into imaginary segments of valuable real estate; each segment was patrolled by a single male Common Baskettail dragonfly. There were frequent aerial skirmishes when one male strayed into the territory of another. During nearly an hour of observation, I never saw one of the males land. Talk about stamina!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

April 25, 2016

Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) is a member of the Emerald Family of dragonflies that is seen during early spring in mid-Atlantic United States like Virginia.

The following annotated image shows a male Common Baskettail dragonfly spotted on 20 April 2016 at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. 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”).

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

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

I think baskettail cerci look “rubberized,” like the handles of metal tools made for working with electricity. Whenever I see this distinctive field marker, I know the dragonfly is probably a species of baskettail.

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

  • Genus Epitheca | Epitheca cynosura | Common Baskettail | male | top view
  • Genus Epitheca | Epitheca cynosura | Common Baskettail | male | side view

See also What was your first clue? – a tutorial illustrating female Common Baskettail reproductive anatomy.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What was your first clue?

April 27, 2015

I have photographed relatively few members of the Emerald Family of dragonflies. After tentatively identifying the following individual as a female Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura), I consulted the experts of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group for verification: I was fairly certain of the species; less certain of the gender.

Experienced odonate hunters like Chris Hill and Ed Lam looked at the specimen and quickly recognized its gender, as indicated by the cerci (terminal appendages) and thickness of its abdomen. In contrast, I haven’t seen enough baskettails to feel comfortable using those field markers to identify the gender.

So you may be wondering, “What was your first clue this individual is a female?” In a word (well, two) its subgenital plate, as shown in the following annotated image.

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

24 APR 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Baskettail (female)

A better view of the subgenital plate is provided by the following digital scan of the underside of the abdomen of a female Common Baskettail. The subgenital plate looks a little like a pair of calipers. Also known as vulvar lamina, the subgenital plate is located under the ninth abdominal segment (S9) of some female odonates and “serves to hold eggs in place during exophytic oviposition.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

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Image used with permission from Ed Lam.

Related Resource: Common Baskettail dragonfly (male) – a tutorial illustrating male reproductive anatomy.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to Chris Hill and Ed Lam, members of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group, for kindly confirming my tentative identification of the gender of this specimen and for teaching me about the subgenital plate (a.k.a., vulvar lamina) — a feature that I misidentified as an “ovipositor” in my initial post to the group.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (female)

April 25, 2015

Common Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca cynosura) are relatively uncommon at Huntley Meadows Park. I spotted this one during a long photowalk with Mike Powell to several remote locations in the forest.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (female)

24 APR 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Baskettail (female)

This individual is a female as indicated by its “simple cerci (appendages) and wide body.” Source Credit: Chris Hill, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (female)

24 APR 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Baskettail (female)

Common Baskettail is a member of the Emerald Family of dragonflies.

Copyright © 2015 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 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.

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.


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