Posts Tagged ‘Fairfax County’

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

July 30, 2018

Two photo sets of Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi), taken on 08 June 2018 at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA, were lost in the excitement of my rediscovery of Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) later the same day in Fairfax County, VA. This gallery is one of two posts featuring some of the “lost” photos.

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

The Gray Petaltail ambushed several smaller insects that flew near his perch; he always returned to the same tree after each brief excursion.

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Related Resource: “Lost” photos, redux.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

July 24, 2018

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted along an unnamed small creek in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

19 JUl 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

The tip of the dragonfly’s right hind wing appears to be slightly malformed; her ability to fly didn’t seem to be impaired by the malformation.

Look at the full-size version of the following photo. Notice the fuzzy schmutz on her face and legs. I speculate the dragonfly might have enjoyed either a butterfly or moth for her last meal.

19 JUl 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Getting started

February 26, 2018

Michael Powell, a good friend and fellow Northern Virginian, collected several odonate exuviae during a photowalk along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The four exuviae that Mike collected are stored in one of those empty containers of Philadelphia cream cheese spread that I endorsed in a recent blog post. I shot several quick-and-dirty photographs of the exuviae, without removing them from the small plastic tub. Usually I wouldn’t publish photos of this quality. The photos are like a sketch pad that will be used to make a tentative plan for photographing the specimens and attempting to identify them to the genus and species level, if possible.

Spoiler Alert: If you can identify any of the exuviae featured in this post, then PLEASE DON’T TELL ME! I enjoy the challenge of solving the mystery of their identity. Thank you!

Dragonfly exuviae

Mike collected two dragonfly exuviae that are from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), as indicated by a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face as well as club-like antennae.

My working theory is the first specimen might be an exuvia from an Eastern Ringtail dragonfly (Erpetogomphus designatus).

Potomac River, Fairfax County, VA | odonate exuvia

Post Update: The identity of the first specimen is confirmed as an Erpetogomphus designatus exuvia.

The next exuvia appears to be a member of the genus Stylurus, possibly plagiatus (Russet-tipped Clubtail).

Potomac River, Fairfax County, VA | odonate exuvia

The preceding photo was focused on the head; the following photo was focused on abdominal segment nine (S9). This specimen may need to be cleaned in order to see more clearly some key field markers used for identification.

Potomac River, Fairfax County, VA | odonate exuvia

Post Update: The identity of the first specimen is confirmed as a Stylurus plagiatus exuvia.

Damselfly exuviae

It is relatively easy to identify damselflies (Suborder Zygoptera) to the family level based upon the shape of the prementum. Both damselfly exuviae that Mike collected are members of the Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies).

It is more challenging to identify damselfly specimens to the genus/species level. In this case, possible genera include Argia (Dancers), Enallagma (American Bluets), and Ischnura (Forktails).

Potomac River, Fairfax County, VA | odonate exuvia

The last damselfly exuvia is smaller than the first. It will need to be soaked in soapy water for at least 24 hours in order to make the specimen pliable so it can be re-posed before it is photographed.

Potomac River, Fairfax County, VA | odonate exuvia

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Exuviart

August 22, 2017

Regular readers of my blog remember when I coined the term “Odonart” and created an “Odonart Portfolio.”

I just coined a new term: “Exuviart.” Exuviart is a concatenation of two words: exuvia; and art. The following photographs are the first additions to the Exuviart wing of my Odonart Portfolio.


Unpublished Photo

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia, from the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers), was collected from the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Whenever possible, I like to collect exuviae along with some of the vegetation that was the site for emergence. The vegetation helps to show scale. In this case, the small specimen is approximately 1.4 cm (~0.6″) in length and approximately 0.6 cm (~0.2″) in maximum width. I like the way the desiccated leaf retained its color and gained a velvety texture.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: Canon EOS 5D Mark II DSLR; Canon EF100mm f/2.8 Macro lens plus Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Canon 580EX II Speedlite; Canon 580EX Speedlite; and a coiled six-foot Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras. The specimen was staged on a piece of white plastic (12″ square, matte finish).


Published Photos

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) exuvia, from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), was collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon.


A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) exuvia, from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), was collected at Riverbend Park with permission from park staff.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photograph: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus) plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube and Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter; Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer (males, female)

August 20, 2017

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) was spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. There is a whitish-blue morph female Powdered Dancer, therefore the male’s whitish-blue coloration is insufficient to identify its gender.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Powdered Dancer (male)

A week later, a mating pair of Powdered Dancers was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in tandem“: the male is on the upper-left; the female on the lower-right.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancers (mating pair, in tandem)

The male is “contact guarding” the female as the pair flies “in tandem” to egg-laying sites where the female uses her ovipositor to insert eggs into vegetation (endophytic oviposition).

It’s helpful to take photos of mating pairs of damselflies, especially “in tandem,” since males and females of the same species can look quite different.

Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic, including a whitish-blue andromorph and a brown heteromorph. The brown morph, shown in this pair, is more common than whitish-blue.

28 JUN 2017 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancers (mating pair, in tandem)

Did you notice the male Stream Bluet damselfly (Enallagma exsulans) perching near the Powdered Dancers? Thanks to Karen Kearney and Michael Boatwright, members of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the Stream Bluet.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-fronted Dancer (male, female)

August 18, 2017

Many Blue-fronted Dancer damselflies (Argia apicalis) were spotted along Bull Run, Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Male

The first individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

There is a blue morph female Blue-fronted Dancer, therefore the male’s blue coloration is insufficient to identify its gender.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-fronted Dancer (male)

Female

Female Blue-fronted Dancers are polymorphic, including a blue andromorph and a brown heteromorph, shown below. Thanks to Ken Larsen, member of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this individual.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue-fronted Dancer (heteromorph female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunters

August 4, 2017

Several male Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) were spotted during photowalks along a mid-size rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I think the first photo looks and feels like summer.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The next photo is my favorite in the set. Did you notice the male Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) in the background?

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

I flushed the last Dragonhunter as I was walking along a path that leads to/from the stream. He flew to a perch on a tree limb overhead, posed for one photo, and flew toward the top of a nearby tree.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The Backstory

Winter is the longest season, that is, for odonate hunters. OK, I realize winter is three months like every other season, but it certainly seems longer! Winter is a good time for reflecting upon the last ode-hunting season and planning for the next one.

Last winter, I was thinking about new places to explore where I might see Dragonhunter dragonflies. Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, told me about a hotspot for Dragonhunters along Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia. Manassas is a little farther from home than I am willing to travel, especially in heavy traffic. So I used Google Maps (satellite view) to work downstream from Manassas Battlefield Park until I found a location that seemed to have potential.

I had a hunch the new spot would be ideal habitat for Dragonhunters and other less common species of odonates. Turns out my hunch was right! In fact, I considered calling this post “Dragonhunchers” but decided to play it straight.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.


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