Posts Tagged ‘female’

Another record shot

June 23, 2017

A Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) was spotted by Mike Boatwright during a photowalk at Columbia Boat Landing, Cumberland County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

This photo is a “record shot” of another species of dragonfly spotted during a road trip with Mike to two locations along the James River in central Virginia. Not my best work, but hey, the photo provides documentation of the first Black-shoulder Spinyleg I’ve seen this year. With any luck, it won’t be the last.

Tech Tips

The photo was taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon 55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.text…

Testing 1, 2, 3.

June 11, 2017

During a trip to Riverbend Park on 09 May 2017 to observe the annual mass emergence of Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus), I experimented with my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash.

The first photo shows a male perching on the pavement near the boat ramp at the park. Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality.

200mm (300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | ISO 800 | +1 ev

The last two photos show a female, perching on a fence rail.

200mm (300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | ISO 800 | 0 ev

200mm (300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/11 | 1/500s | ISO 800 | 0 ev

Tech Tips: My Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera was set for manual aperture, manual shutter speed, and automatic ISO; the EF-X500 external flash was set for ETTL.

I like to use relatively fast shutter speeds in order to reduce camera shake, resulting in more tack-sharp photos. The default flash sync speed of the X-T1 is 1/180s. (Actually, up to 1/250s works.) My new EF-X500 external flash is high-speed sync compatible so I was able to shoot at shutter speeds faster than the sync speed of the camera, in this case 1/500s. The reciprocal rule says I should have used a shutter speed of at least 1/600s at a focal length of 300mm, but I decided to go conservative and shoot at a slightly slower speed. Most of my photos turned out to be acceptably sharp.

At f/11 and 1/500s, the camera increased the ISO to 800. That’s higher than I prefer to shoot, but hey, the photos look relatively noise-free so no problem.

In my opinion, the EF-X500 external flash was consistently underpowered in ETTL mode. During follow-up testing, I rediscovered something I learned a long time ago: If you want to control the way a photo turns out, then Manual Mode is the way to go.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pop quiz

June 7, 2017

OK, it’s time to assess what you’ve learned about damselflies by following my blog.

Two Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) were photographed on the same day at the same location. Both damselflies are teneral/immature, that is, they are relatively young. One is a female; one is a male. Can you identify the gender of the damselflies shown in the following photos?

I’ll give you a hint: Examine their terminal appendages by looking at the full-size version of both photos.

No. 1

No. 2

Editor’s Note: The answer key will be published in my next post.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Swift River Cruiser (emergent female)

May 30, 2017

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a late-stage emergent teneral female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Many of the major milestones during the miraculous process of emergence occurred before I spotted the dragonfly. I photographed the process from the first sighting to the time when I had to stop (see The Backstory, below): I shot 102 photos in approximately one hour; time is compressed by showcasing five (5) select photos from the first-to-last sighting.

The following photo is the first image from a time-series documenting the late-stage emergence of the teneral female. Elapsed time is expressed in hh:mm:ss format, e.g., 00:00:00 is the time when I spotted the emergent teneral female, and 01:01:15 is the total elapsed time.

27 MAY 2017 | 09:09:13 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:00:00

The wings seem to be fully expanded (as shown in the preceding photo), evidenced by the fact that it appears some of the greenish hemolymph has been pumped out of the wings and into the abdomen.

27 MAY 2017 | 09:51:08 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:41:55

Notice the wings are mostly clear in the following photo, in contrast with the first photo in this gallery. Next the abdomen expanded slowly until it was longer than the wings, as shown in the last photo.

27 MAY 2017 | 09:52:33 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:43:20

As time passed, more of the adult coloration began to appear. Notice the large yellow spot on the dorsal side of abdominal segment seven (S7).

27 MAY 2017 | 09:57:39 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:48:26

The last photo shows the dragonfly waiting for the wings and body to harden before its first flight.

27 MAY 2017 | 10:10:28 am EDT | Elapsed time: 01:01:15

The Backstory

I woke up at 4:30 a.m. in order to be at Riverbend Park when the gates open at 7 a.m. I had to attend a training session in order to be a volunteer collector of dragonfly exuviae for a research program sponsored by the park. The class started at 10 a.m., but I wanted to look around and shoot photos before the class.

I found almost nothing photo-worthy until soon after 9:00 a.m. when I spotted the emergent Swift River Cruiser dragonfly. The emergence was well underway at that point; I had to go to class before the wings spread and the teneral dragonfly flew away.

The emergence site was in a high-traffic location, so the daughter of a woman in the class guarded/watched the teneral until it flew away safely. After class, I collected the exuvia. I will shoot a set of studio macro photographs of the exuvia before returning the specimen to the park.

Swift River Cruiser is a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail external reproductive anatomy

May 28, 2017

I liked to make paper- and plastic models when I was a child. Seems like the directions for assembling many models — not that anyone reads the directions — always started by saying something like “Insert Tab A in Slot B.”

Oddly enough, that line reminds me of how odonates copulate, in general, and Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) in particular.

Male

The hamules are “Tab A.”

Female

The subgenital plate is “Slot B.”

Putting it all together

Insert Tab A in Slot B. That’s the PG-rated version of how Cobra Clubtail dragonflies copulate in order to reproduce.

The Backstory

There is an annual mass emergence of Cobra Clubtails during the first week-or-two of May at Riverbend Park. It’s a spectacular event worth seeing firsthand!

The following photo shows a dead female, one of several Cobra Clubtails that were trampled by groups of elementary school children visiting the park on 09 May 2017. Her premature death saddens me because it was avoidable — the students should have been warned to watch their step because there were lots of Cobra Clubtails perching on the ground almost everywhere.

In the hope the female didn’t die in vein, I reluctantly decided to photograph the corpse in order to illustrate her external reproductive anatomy.

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Dennis Paulson for help in identifying the female parts on the ventral side of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9).

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.

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.

Epitheca cynosura exuvia

April 26, 2017

On 13 April 2017, a late-stage emergent teneral female Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was observed at Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk around Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Several dragonfly exuviae were collected near the same location as the emergent teneral female. All of the exuviae look identical, although there is some variation in size. A two-step process was used to verify the genus and species for one of the larger exuvia.

  • Determine the family.
  • Determine the genus and species.

This specimen is approximately 22 mm (~0.87 in) in length.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

  • The specimen has a mask-like labium that covers the face, characteristic of four families: Cordulegastridae (Spiketails); Corduliidae (Emeralds); Libellulidae (Skimmers); and Macromiidae (Cruisers).
  • There is no horn on top of the face-head, characteristic of Macromiidae, so it’s not a cruiser.
  • Cordulegastridae has jagged crenulations on its labium, so it’s not a spiketail. The crenulations for Corduliidae and Libellulidae look similar.
  • Look at the anal pyramid to differentiate Corduliidae and Libellulidae [See Photo No. 7.]: It’s probably Corduliidae if the cerci are at least half as long as the paraprocts. [Editor’s Note: It’s probably Libellulidae if the cerci are less than half the length of the paraprocts.]

In summary, the exuvia has a mask-like labium with relatively smooth crenulations, no horn on its face-head, and the cerci are more than half as long as the paraprocts, confirming that the specimen is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds).

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

Notice that dorsal hooks are present and well developed on most abdominal segments.

No. 4 | Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) | exuvia (dorso-lateral)

A lateral view of the exuvia provides a good look at the labium, also known as the mentum, a two-segment hinged “jaw” that is used to grab food: the prementum is the segment of the labium closer to the mouth; the postmentum is the segment closer to the base of the head.

The white filaments that extend from the split in the thorax (as shown in Photo No. 1-7) are breathing tubes, artifacts of the unique respiratory system of dragonfly nymphs.

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

A closer view of the head shows two “bumps” that may be a pair of tubercles.

Step 2. Genus and species

Characters from Identification Keys to Northeastern Anisoptera Larvae, dichotomous keys compiled by Ken Soltesz, were used to identify the genus and species for the exuvia. Although palpal/mental setae were not examined, all other characters match Epitheca cynosura.

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Alternate Key to the Genera of the Family Corduliidae, p. 29.

Key to the species of the genus (subgenus) Tetragoneuria, p. 32.

No. 7 | Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) | exuvia (anal pyramid)

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

The last photo shows a ventral view of the exuvia. The vestigial hamuli located between abdominal segments two and three (S2-3) strongly suggests this individual is a male, therefore this specimen probably is not the same exuvia from which the teneral female emerged.

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

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: 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; Canon 580EX II external flash tethered to the camera by a coiled six-foot Vello Off-Camera TTL Flash Cord for Canon Cameras, off-camera, in manual mode; the Canon flash optically triggered a small Nissin i40 external flash (in SF mode) used for backlight; and a Sunpak LED-160 Video Light with a white translucent plastic filter used for side light.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Sue Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Migration Observatory, for verifying my tentative identification, and for sharing some good odonate nymph knowledge regarding vestigial hamuli!

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.


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