Posts Tagged ‘Family Gomphidae (Clubtails)’

Flashback to late-May 2019

September 16, 2019

Look closely at the following photo — there’s a dragonfly in there somewhere!

21 May 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (female)

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus exilis) was spotted by Gary Myers at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The dragonfly is perched on leaf litter in a seepage area upstream from a small pond.

Female and male terminal appendages

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. (Notice the “bonus bug” to the right of the label for cercus.)

21 May 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (female)

Contrast the appearance of those female field marks with males of the same species.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Lancet Clubtail (male)

Related Resource: Odonate Terminal Appendages — single-topic field guides for dragonflies and damselflies featuring both text and annotated photos.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Quick-and-dirty test shots

September 13, 2019

I took some quick-and-dirty test shots using a new piece of photo gear in combination with some old gear. The focus (no pun intended) was more about testing the camera rig and less about posing and lighting the subject perfectly.

~16mm (86mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/4.5 | 1/400 s | -2.66 ev

An exuvia from an unknown species of odonate was collected by Joe Johnston on 17 July 2019 along Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is definitely from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) and is probably a Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus).

Tech Tips

The macro photograph in this post was taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom digital camera, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, Godox X2To/p wireless flash trigger for Olympus and Panasonic (New!), and a Godox TT685O Thinklite Flash for Olympus/Panasonic Cameras (manual mode). The close-up filter screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Ringtail reunion, continued

August 5, 2019

Whenever possible I prefer to photograph odonates against a clean background, such as the concrete pavement in my last blog post. In my opinion, a simpler background makes it easier for the viewer to focus on the subject.

In contrast, my photowalking buddy Mike Powell prefers a “natural” background (as opposed to man-made). Knowing Mike’s preference, I “influenced” an Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus) to relocate from his perch on a concrete sidewalk to a new perch on a grass lawn. Although the green grass complements the unusual color palette of the dragonfly, the viewer’s eye must work harder to find the subject.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. He is perched on a grassy area in between concrete sidewalks surrounding a berm/observation area alongside the boat ramp, near the main parking lot at Riverbend Park.

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for E. designatus is from May 16 to September 24. The species is classified as uncommon to common. Its habitat is “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for E. designatus seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Eastern Ringtail is 09 June to 20 September.

Related Resource: Posts tagged ‘Eastern Ringtail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Reconnecting with Eastern Ringtail

August 2, 2019

I used to be a science teacher at a public school where the building engineer had a great line for postponing and/or begging off maintenance work: “I’m only one man!” Well, when it comes to odonate hunting I have come to realize you can’t have it all — every year you need to make and prioritize a “target list” of species that you would really like to find/see and pass on many other old favorites.

For example, Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus). Although E. designatus is one of my favorite dragonflies, I had to pass on seeing them during 2018 in favor of hunting the elusive Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea). It was good to reconnect with Eastern Ringtail recently during a brief photowalk with Michael Powell along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The following photo set provides a brief example of what I call “working the shot.” The first photo is what some other ode hunters call the “record shot,” meaning get a shot, any shot of the subject in case it flies away and is never seen again.

Slowly I moved into position to get the shot I wanted, shown below.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. He is perched on a concrete sidewalk around a berm/observation area alongside the boat ramp, near the main parking lot.

By this time in the ode hunting season, I was happy to be able to find the target species quickly and with almost no fear of pesty parasites such as chiggers, ticks, and mosquitos!

Related Resource: Posts Tagged ‘Eastern Ringtail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another seep deep in the forest

July 24, 2019

“Two-board Bridge” is located along a marked trail in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The small, wooden footbridge crosses a large seep. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus).

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | “Two-board Bridge”

Location, location, location.

Seepage areas in the forest are prime locations for hunting habitat-specific odonates such as petaltails and some species of spiketails.

The Backstory

DSA members Ken Larsen and Michael Ready saw and photographed a single male Sable Clubtail (S. rogersi) on 01 June 2010 in Prince William County. Nine years later, neither Ken nor Michael were able to recall the exact location of their sighting, but they were able to point me toward the general vicinity where I might “rediscover” one of the descendants of the Sable they’d seen.

I asked Mike Powell to help me hunt for Sable. Mike did some solo exploration before we visited the site together. He mentioned there is a LOT of skunk cabbage along one of the trails he had followed. As soon as I saw the place, Mike will tell you I said “We should find Gray Petaltail here.” Not long afterward, we spotted the first of many T. thoreyi!

Coming full circle, Mike spotted a single male Sable Clubtail dragonfly about a week later in the same “neighborhood.” We searched the location intensively several more times but never saw another Sable.

Although Sable doesn’t live in seeps, our search for the right habitat for Sable led us to several seeps that are tributaries of the small creek where S. rogersi does live.

Gear Talk

Notice the disjointed human legs at the top of the image — they belong to Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy. Sometimes I get so focused on the subject of interest that I don’t see the bigger picture. I could say I included Mike’s legs in order to provide a sense of scale, but the truth is it’s an unintended consequence of poor photo composition.

Also gotta love the blown highlights in the photo! The high dynamic range between the shadows of the forest canopy and direct sunlight would have been better photographed as an HDR composite image.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another Common Sanddragon

July 10, 2019

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) was spotted by my good friend Mike Powell during a photowalk along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

It’s possible the subject is the same male we saw a short distance upstream from this location.

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for P. obscurus is from May 15 to September 19. The species is classified as common. Its habitat is “sandy streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for P. obscurus seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter — more likely around two months. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Commom Sanddragon is 29 May to 06 August.

Cut Banks and Sand Point Bars

Here’s a quick lesson on the geomorphology and basic hydrology of meandering streams, as it relates to odonates such as the Common Sanddragon that Mike and I observed along a small stream in the forest.

Streamflow is faster along cut banks and slower along sand point bars. As a result, erosion occurs along cut banks and deposition occurs along sand point bars.

P. obscurus — like the male featured in this post — can be found perching on sand point bars, usually facing the water.

Source Credit: The preceding image is a file from the Wikimedia Commons, United States Geological Survey.

Tech Tips

The first photo is uncropped, that is, full resolution for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera (4,000 x 3,000 pixels). Needless to say, I was fairly close to the subject!

The second photo is cropped in order to eliminate some distracting elements near the edges of the image.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Enter Sandman

July 1, 2019

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) was spotted by my good friend Mike Powell during a photowalk along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

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

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

The Common Sanddragon is perched on a medium size fallen tree in the first photo, and on a boulder in the creek in the last photo. In both photos, the male is perched facing the water — presumably in search of a mate.

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Common Sanddragon (male)

Related Resource: Metallica – Enter Sandman [Official Music Video]

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dromogomphus spinosus exuvia

June 28, 2019

A dragonfly exuvia was collected by Joe Johnston on 22 May 2019 at Aquia Creek, Stafford County, Virginia USA. This specimen is the cast skin from a Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) larva. D. spinosus is a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails).

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (Dromogomphus spinosus) | exuvia (dorsal)

At first I thought the exuvia might be a species from the genus Stylurus, based upon the mid-dorsal spine on abdominal segment nine (S9). After careful examination of two excellent photo-illustrated PowerPoint presentations by Kevin Hemeon at NymphFest 2016 (see Related Resources, below), I noticed none of the species in the genus Stylurus have dorsal hooks. That’s when I realized the specimen must be D. spinosus. Eureka!

Related Resources

The following PowerPoint presentations by Kevin Hemeon are available in the “Files” section of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group. Direct links to the documents are provided below.

The Backstory

Joe Johnston is an avid boater and sport fisherman who kindly agreed to be my “Eyes on the Aquia,” always on the lookout for odonate exuvia to share with me. On 22 May 2019 Joe caught a largemouth bass that swam around one of the wooden pilings of a boat dock that extends far into Aquia Creek. The fishing line was snagged on the piling so Joe moved his boat into position to free the fish. That’s when he noticed the exuvia clinging to a piling on the underside of the dock. Good catches, Joe!

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot the quick-and-dirty handheld macro photograph featured in this post: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; and Fujinon XF80mm macro lens plus lens hood. The camera was set for both manual exposure and manual focus. That’s right, a switch on the camera body is used to set the type of focus. It’s a Fujifilm thing. Actually, back-button focus was used to autofocus the image and adjusted manually as necessary. That’s also a Fujifilm thing. Camera settings: focal length 80mm (120mm, 35mm equivalent); ISO 200; f/9; 1/180s.

Godox XProF radio flash trigger, mounted on the hotshoe of my X-T1, was used to control an off-camera Godox TT685 Thinklite TTL Flash (TT685F) set for radio slave mode. The flash was fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen the image, plus add annotations.

Sometime in the future (probably the odonate “off-season”) I will create higher quality composite images of this exuvia, shown from all viewpoints including the ventral view. As it turns out, the dorsal view is sufficient to identify this species.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

June 26, 2019

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted by my good friend Mike Powell during a photowalk along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages.

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

Notice the broad, mostly black stripe on the shoulder of her thorax, and large spines on the femur — two field marks from which the common name of this species is derived.

21 JUN 2019 | PNC. Wm. County, VA | Black-shouldered Spinyleg (female)

As this relatively young individual matures, its coloration will change from bright yellow to a dull shade of olive green similar to this mature male spotted at another location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The dragonfly is perched on the broad green leaves of skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) in both of the preceding photos.

Tech Tips

The first photo is uncropped, that is, full resolution for the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom bridge camera (4,000 x 3,000 pixels). Needless to say, I was very close to this cooperative subject!

The second photo is cropped in order to eliminate some leading lines near the edges of the image.

An external flash unit was used for both photos featured in this post. Sometimes other wildlife photographers ask me why I prefer using flash for insect photography. See for yourself by looking at Mike Powell’s photo of the same subject, taken without flash. Although we were literally standing side-by-side when our photos were taken, the difference is striking. Mike’s photo shows the dim ambient light of the place where we photographed the dragonfly better than my photos; in contrast, I prefer to highlight the details of the subject.

Related Resource: Posts Tagged ‘Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter (female)

June 24, 2019

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) was spotted at South Fork Quantico Creek along “South Valley Trail,” Prince William Forest Park, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 JUN 2019 | Prince William Forest Park | Dragonhunter (female)

This individual is a female, although it is difficult to see some critical field marks from the viewpoint in the preceding photo. Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the gender.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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