Posts Tagged ‘Fairfax County’

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (males)

July 11, 2017

Several Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonflies (Dromogomphus spinosus) were spotted recently in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of these individuals are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

Male 1

Male 1 and 2 were observed along a mid-size rocky stream. It’s possible the photos show the same male observed at different times, although several Black-shouldered Spinyleg have been seen at this location.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

Male 2

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

It seems like all of the male Black-shouldered Spinyleg at this location are very skittish — they flew away almost every time I waded slowly into the stream for a closer shot!

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

Male 3

The last male was spotted perching on a large boulder, overlooking Bull Run.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

The water was too deep on three sides of the rock to allow me to photograph the dragonfly from multiple angles, so I made the most of the only view that was available.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

July 9, 2017

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted recently along a rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

Notice the spider in front of the dragonfly. Also notice the female is missing part of her left front leg.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

I followed the female to several perches — she was a very cooperative model, unlike the males I photographed later the same day!

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

July 7, 2017

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted recently along a rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

The first photograph is the “record shot.” Admittedly not my best work, I shot the photo in order to document the first sighting of Black-shouldered Spinyleg at this location.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

As a wildlife photographer with a focus on insect photography, one of my mantras is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” The next few photos show how I was able to refine the first shot by being patient and persistent.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

Better…

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

Best…

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Northern Watersnake

June 13, 2017

A Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) was spotted during a photowalk along Pope’s Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Northern Watersnake

Look closely at the full-size version of the following photo. Did you notice the fresh blood on the underside of its body? Also notice the scar on the dorsal side of the snake’s body. The former is probably blood from prey; the latter is probably the result of an attack by another predator.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Northern Watersnake

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Warming up

June 3, 2017

Faithful followers of my photoblog know I’m all about the odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies. But hey, I’m an equal opportunity wildlife photographer so when the ode-hunting starts slowly — as it did on this day — I like to “warm up” by shooting a few photos of anything that catches my eye.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (male)

Like this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that was spotted along Pope’s Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

If snakes could talk

June 1, 2017

In my experience, snakes flick their tongue frequently when they feel threatened by a predator. If snakes could talk, then this one might be saying “You’re making me feel anxious!”

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) was spotted along Pope’s Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. A wider view shows the snake is approximately two (2) feet in length. Notice its tail appears to have been amputated and healed afterward.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

A closer look at the snake shows several fresh injuries along the body, such as the gash near its head.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

Several bus loads of middle school students were visiting the park on 10 May 2017. I saw three students downstream from me who were separated from the larger group. They were throwing rocks at something along the shore. As I approached them, they started walking in the opposite direction. I spotted the snake when I reached the same place where the students had been throwing rocks.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

I’m guessing the students were trying to kill the snake before they saw me. So if snakes could talk, then this one might be saying “Thank you for saving my life!”

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Gartersnake

Editor’s Comments: What’s the take-away from this ugly experience? This is another example of “good thought, bad idea.” It was a good thought to schedule a school field trip to a nature park; it was a bad idea to lose track of several students! Middle school students require adult supervision at all times. Trust me, as a retired K-12 science teacher, this is the voice of experience talking. The teachers are lucky none of their students were injured when they were missing in action. The snake wasn’t as fortunate — it was injured as a consequence of the teachers’ negligence. Let’s hope the snake survived its injuries!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Crayfish

May 26, 2017

A crayfish was spotted in the shallows of Bull Run, under several inches of water. I estimate it was 3-4 in (~7.6-10.2 cm) in length.

Many crayfish can be particularly hard to identify from a photograph and many new species are still being discovered in Virginia’s waterways. This large crayfish is from the Family Cambaridae and is likely a native species. Other crayfish found in Northern Virginia, like the rusty crayfish (Orconectes rusticus) and red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii), were likely introduced via the food industry and pose a serious threat to native crayfish populations. Source Credit: John Burke, Ecologist III, Stormwater Management Branch, Fairfax County Department of Public Works and Environmental Services.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | crayfish (underwater)

Notice the first, second, and third pairs of walking legs feature chelae (plural).

A chela /kˈiːlə/, also named claw, nipper, or pincer, is a pincer-like organ terminating certain limbs of some arthropods. The name comes from Greek (χηλή) through New Latin (chela). The plural form is chelae. Legs bearing a chela are called chelipeds. Source Credit: Chela (organ), Wikipedia.

Also notice the slimy stuff on the rocks that makes them super slippery!

The slimy, slippery coating you find on rocks in aquatic systems is periphyton. In freshwater systems, periphyton is mostly comprised of algae but other microorganisms and detritus also collect on submerged rocks. Periphyton serves as an essential food source to many aquatic organisms and can also act as a bioindicator, signaling changes in water chemistry and nutrient levels in the system (Chetelat et al. 1997). Source Credit: John Burke.

Tech Tip:  My Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash unit was set for 1/16 power in order to penetrate the water and illuminate the subject on a bright, sunny day.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

May 24, 2017

The only downside — or upside, depending upon your point of view — to my new hotspot for hunting odonates is there are only two trails in/out and both paths are steeply-inclined. Going in, not so bad walking downhill; going out, not so much fun!

I stopped to catch my breath as I was walking up a long trail with a 45-degree slope. I heard a rustling sound in the vegetation on the left side of the trail, a little beyond where I was standing. I moved closer slowly until I spotted my first Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)!

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

Although the name for this snake is less than flattering, notice the distinctive orange fleur-de-lis shape on top of its head. The coloration of Eastern Hog-nosed Snake is variable; I was fortunate to see one of the more colorful ones.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Hog-nosed Snake

I never had a clear view of the entire snake, but I estimate it was two-to-three feet in length.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The party’s over

May 22, 2017

Several Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) were spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Pondhawk (immature male)

For some types of dragonflies, immature males have the same coloration as females of the same species. This is true for many members of the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) such as Eastern Pondhawk. Terminal appendages can be used to identify gender.

10 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

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 revisited the same location a week later. Let’s just say lightning didn’t strike the same place twice. I saw several Eastern Pondhawks but none of the uncommon species of odonates that I saw a week earlier. I don’t know whether it’s phenology or the fact that Eastern Pondhawks are voracious predators, but it seems like whenever they show up it’s game over for the uncommon species of dragonflies and damselflies that emerge during spring. By the way, that explains the title of this post.

When I see the first-of-season Eastern Pondhawks, I start singing “The Party’s Over” like Don Meredith used to at the end of Monday Night Football games on ABC-TV. Yes, I’m old enough to remember Dandy Don!

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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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