Posts Tagged ‘Family Gomphidae (Clubtails)’

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.

Because it’s fun!

May 16, 2017

Why do I hunt odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies? I like being outdoors, visiting beautiful natural places. I like honing my skills as a wildlife photographer. Most importantly, it’s fun! I like the challenge of finding uncommon species, and the thrill of making new discoveries.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and indented hind wings.

The male was perching on colorful kayaks stored in a wooden rack near the boat ramp. Notice the natural coloration of the dragonfly was affected by light reflected from the kayaks. That’s OK since this photo set is all about fun, right?

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

Can you say “hamules?” Males of many species in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) have prominent secondary sex organs.

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

Tech Tips: I carried two digital cameras during the trip to Riverbend Park: a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking; as well as my Fujifilm X-T1Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. Since Fujifilm digital cameras are well-known for capturing vivid color, the X-T1 was the camera of choice for this colorful scene.

Editor’s Note: 16 May is the one-year anniversary of my first visit to Riverbend Park to see the annual mass emergence of Cobra Clubtail dragonflies that occurs during the first two weeks in May.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lancet Clubtail dragonflies (males)

May 14, 2017

At least two Lancet Clubtail dragonflies (Phanogomphus exilis) were spotted during a photowalk along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

These individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages and indented hind wings.

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

The next photograph was taken at a later time than the first two photos. All of the photos in this post were taken near the same location. Is this another male, or the same one featured in the preceding photos? Who knows?

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

Lancet Clubtail versus Ashy Clubtail

Lancet Clubtail looks similar to Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus). The only way to differentiate the two species with certainty is to examine their external reproductive anatomy; this is impossible unless the specimens are captured and examined in-hand.

Relative size is used sometimes to identify the two species: Lancet Clubtail is slightly smaller than Ashy Clubtail. There are two problems with this method of identification. First, it is virtually impossible to determine the exact size of a specimen in the field unless it is captured and measured. Second, some natural variation in size should be expected among individuals of the same species.

A quick-and-dirty method for differentiating Lancet- and Ashy Clubtails with some degree of certainty is to look at the markings on abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9). Lancet Clubtail has a “spearpoint” on top of abdominal segment eight (S8) that almost reaches the end of the segment, a wide yellow stripe on top of segment nine (S9), and irregular yellow markings on the sides of segments eight and nine (S8-9).

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

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

In contrast, Ashy Clubtail has a spearpoint on top of abdominal segment eight (S8) that is less than half the length of the segment, segment nine (S9) may or may not have a pale yellow stripe on top, and the sides of segments eight and nine (S8-9) may or may not have “poorly defined” yellow markings.

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

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

Coloration is variable among individuals of the same species, so looking at abdominal markings isn’t always a reliable method of identification. In this case, it works beautifully.

Editor’s Note: The word “spearpoint” and the phrase “poorly defined” are descriptors attributed to Dennis Paulson, Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (male)

April 28, 2017

An Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividus) was spotted during a photowalk at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages.

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”).

Notice the epiproct is a large “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the following photo.

One thing you can count on when photographing Ashy Clubtails (well, usually) is the subject will be perching on a chaotic background that is difficult to crop without creating leading lines that mislead the viewer’s eye and distracting elements near the edges of the image.

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.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (male)

March 29, 2017

As you might expect, Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) commonly perch on the sandy banks of small woodland streams. Not this one!

A Common Sanddragon was spotted perching on the vegetation growing alongside a manmade concrete drainage ditch that flows into Dogue Creek, Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. Like all male clubtail dragonflies, the hindwings of male Common Sanddragons are “indented” near the body. This distinctive field marker is shown well by the last photo in this gallery.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Malformed Cobra Clubtail dragonflies

February 21, 2017

I took 255 photographs during my first photowalk along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including lots of photos of Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus). I noticed several malformed individuals when I reviewed the entire photo set recently (in search of look-alike species of clubtail dragonflies). None of the malformations prevented the dragonflies from functioning normally.

The first Cobra Clubtail is a male with a slightly crimped right hind wing, where a small part of the wing failed to fully inflate during emergence.

The next individual is a female. Notice that abdominal segment seven (S7) was crimped during emergence. (All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.)

The last individual is a male. Notice his left front leg is missing. The male is either malformed or he lost the leg due to injury.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male; its left front leg is missing. Two dark face bars are field markers that can be used to differentiate Cobra Clubtail from other similar looking species of clubtails.

16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male, missing leg)

Two thick dark face bars are field markers that can be used to differentiate Cobra Clubtail from other similar looking species in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails): Midland Clubtail (Gomphus fraternus) has no face bars; Splendid Clubtail (Gomphus lineatifrons) has thin dark face bars.

Tech Tips:

Shutter Priority mode was used for the first two photographs. Aperture Priority mode was used for the last photo, in order to increase the depth of field. As you can see, the depth of field at f/7.1 was insufficient for the tip of the dragonfly abdomen to be in focus. Typically, I wouldn’t publish the last photo, but I made an exception because it is the only photo I took that shows the face bars clearly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (males, eating)

February 13, 2017

Two Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) were spotted during photowalks at Mulligan PondJackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Both individuals are males, as indicated by the large russet-colored club at the end of their abdomen, “indented” hindwings (see annotated image), and their terminal appendages.

Members of the genus Stylurus are known as “Hanging Clubtails” because they usually perch hanging vertically from trees, unlike most other species of clubtails that perch horizontally on the ground.

Most of them spend much time in flight over water, leading to speculation whether species of this genus may feed in flight rather than from a perch like most other clubtails. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6127-6128). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Both of the male Russet-tipped Clubtails featured in this post were observed feeding from a perch in a tree, although a sample size of two may be insufficient for drawing a meaningful conclusion.

22 September 2016

The first individual is eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) .

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

The next photo is my favorite in the set. The color, clarity, and composition combine to create a beautiful canvas for conveying the brutality of the eat-or-be-eaten natural world.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

The last photo was shot using Aperture Priority mode in order to achieve maximum depth of field.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

27 September 2016

The last individual is eating an unknown species of winged insect.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating an unknown winged insect.

27 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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