Posts Tagged ‘female’

“Winter Meadowhawk” dragonflies

December 8, 2017

The season called “winter” is defined two ways: atmospheric scientists, including meteorologists and climatologists, define winter as the three-month period from December to February; astronomers define winter as the time period that begins on the December Solstice (12/21) and ends on the March Equinox (03/21), although the actual dates for these events may vary slightly.

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted on the first day of climatological winter at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Therefore I think it is appropriate to call them “Winter Meadowhawks.”

The last two photos show the same male, perching on different surfaces. My guess is he was looking for a good source of thermal energy on a cool, windy day.

The Sun is always low in the sky during winter, even at its maximum altitude. Indirect incoming solar radiation (insolation) is less intense than direct insolation. The last photo shows the male dragonfly perched on a south-facing wooden board that is perpendicular to the surface of the Earth, therefore the solar energy received by the board is more intense than the energy received by the ground. This probably explains why the male moved from the ground to the board.

Enrichment

The last photo was taken on 01 December 2017 at 11:33:50 a.m. EST, as shown by the EXIF information for the image. The altitude of the Sun was 28.9° at 11:30 a.m., meaning a ray of sunlight formed an angle of 28.9° with horizontal surfaces such as the ground. At the same time, a ray of sunlight formed an angle of 61.1° with vertical surfaces such as the wooden board shown in the first and last photos. That’s the beauty of mathematics — some simple geometry shows clearly which surface received more intense insolation. Smart dragonflies!

Related Resource: Sun or Moon Altitude/Azimuth Table, U.S. Naval Observatory.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (females)

December 6, 2017

Male and female Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages: females have two terminal appendages (cerci); males have three (claspers). Also notice the subtle difference in the shape of their hind wings: female hind wings are rounded; male hind wings are “indented.”

Several female Cobra Clubtails were photographed during the annual mass emergence along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first female, shown above, has a malformed wing.

Notice part of an insect leg on the wooden beam, underneath the female’s abdomen. Is it a leftover from a late-morning snack?

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Reminiscing

December 2, 2017

As I was reminiscing about the annual mass emergence of Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA, I realized there are lots of photos shot in May 2017 that were never edited.

This photo set features a female perching on colorful kayaks in a storage rack near the boat ramp. Both photos are uncropped, that is, they are full-size images (4,000 x 3,000 pixels).

Related Resource: Because it’s fun, a blog post featuring photos of a male Cobra Clubtail (perching on the same kayaks) shot on the same day using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unambiguously Sympetrum ambiguum

November 10, 2017

Two Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were spotted during a photowalk along Charlie Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Although Blue-faced Meadowhawk is on the species list of dragonflies and damselflies at Occoquan Bay NWR, this is the first time I have seen Sympetrum ambiguum at the refuge.

Male

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

19 OCT 2017 | OBNWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

This guy was skittish. I was able to take one photo before he flew toward the tree canopy. The preceding photograph is what my good friend Mike Boatwright calls a “record shot,” that is, a photograph that records (verifies) my sighting of the male Sympetrum ambiguum. The photo was cropped slightly for improved composition.

Female

The last individual is a female heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration and terminal appendages.

The preceding photograph is my “record shot” of the female. I worked the shot…

…until I found the best viewpoint, shown below.

The first and last photos of the female were cropped slightly for improved composition; the second photo is uncropped.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Polymorphism or old age?

October 25, 2017

Some species of female odonates are polymorphic, meaning females can be one of two or more colors. In contrast, some species of female odonates become discolored with age.

The thorax and abdomen of female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) can be either tan or red. The difference in color is the result of either polymorphism or age-related discoloration. More research is required to establish cause and effect.

Several tan and red female Autumn Meadowhawks were spotted during a recent photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Tan

This individual is a tan female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and noticeably thicker abdomen than males of the same species.

Red

The following individuals are red females.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Spreadwing (practice oviposition)

October 15, 2017

This gallery — named “practice oviposition” (egg-laying) — features a six-photo time series of a female Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis).

Female Great Spreadwing damselflies, like all female odonates, have two cerci (sing. cercus), superior appendages that have little or no function. Also notice two styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors (like “curb feelers“) in egg positioning during oviposition.

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

The female uses her styli to guide the ovipositor into position, as shown in the next two photos.

In this case, I saw no evidence that the ovipositor actually penetrated the tree twig. I think this was a practice run in preparation for the real thing, as the title of this blog post says.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Spreadwing damselfly (female)

October 13, 2017

A Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) was spotted near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and external reproductive anatomy, including two styli and an ovipositor.

Sometimes I struggle to choose between two similar images, so I decided to post both photos.

The following photo captured the “feel” of the morning light especially well.

The next two photos are among my favorites in this set.

This female was a more cooperative model after she moved to a perch on a man-made brush pile that provides habitat and shelter for many types of animals.

Female Great Spreadwing damselflies, like all female odonates, have two cerci (sing. cercus), superior appendages that have little or no function. Also notice two styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors (like “curb feelers“) in egg positioning during oviposition.

My next blog post will feature a six-photo time series that I named “practice oviposition” (egg-laying).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Should I stay or should I go?

October 7, 2017

Two Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) were observed flying back-and-forth over a field alongside a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA — typical feeding behavior for Common Green Darners. Sometimes they would land briefly, perching in shady hidey-holes in the thick vegetation covering the ground. I followed one of the two to a couple of perches.

This individual was very skittish! I was able to shoot one photo at the first perch…

03 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Green Darner (female)

…and another photo at the last perch. The dragonfly flew toward the tree canopy when I tried to move a step closer.

03 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Green Darner (female)

It’s relatively easy to identify this type of dragonfly to the species level.

The easiest field mark for identification of a Common Green Darner is that “bull’s eye” on the back of the head. No other [odonate] has it. Source Credit: John Gregoire, Kestrel Haven Wildlife Sanctuary.

On the other hand, it can be more challenging to identify the gender.

Several field markers can be used to identify the gender of this dragonfly. The cerci (sing. cercus) of female Common Green Darners look like almonds, both in color and shape. Two more field markers verify this specimen is female.

Note the brown stripe extending onto abdominal segment 2. Segment 2 [S2] is typically all pale on males. Also [viewing the second photo at full resolution and zooming in on the head] the rear margin of the occiput is not straight. Females have blunt dark colored “teeth” back there which makes the margin look wavy. Source Credit: Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast, Northeast Odonata Facebook group.

Common Green Darner is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. It’s possible the two Common Green Darners that I observed stopped at Huntley Meadows Park in order to “refuel” before continuing their southward migration.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

You know it’s fall when…

October 5, 2017

mature adult Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are seemingly everywhere there is water. Several Autumn Meadowhawks were spotted recently near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

03 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The last individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages, noticeably thicker abdomen, and coloration.

03 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

Autumn Meadowhawk is classified as a fall species of odonate. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Autumn Meadowhawk is an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Related Resource: More previews of coming attractions, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha Emerald terminal appendages (female)

September 29, 2017

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) was spotted by Andrew Rapp in Henrico County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

Terminal appendages

All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The hind wings of female Mocha Emerald dragonflies are rounded.

21 JUL 2017 | Henrico County, VA | Mocha Emerald (female)

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

21 JUL 2017 | Henrico County, VA | Mocha Emerald (female)

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

Notice the subgenital plate shown in the preceding photo.

subgenital plate: plate below S8 that holds bunches of eggs when enlarged; variable enough in shape to be of value in identification. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11723-11724). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

“S8” refers to abdominal segment eight. Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Oviposition (egg-laying)

The following Apple iPhone 3GS “raw” video clip shows a female Mocha Emerald dragonfly laying eggs by the process of oviposition. The process typically lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. This individual was spotted on 16 July 2011 during a photowalk through the “Wildlife Sanctuary,” one of seven small parks in the community of Hollin Hills, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (female, ovipositing) [Ver. 2] (0:23)

Related Resource: Mocha Emerald terminal appendages (male).

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Andrew Rapp for permission to use his still photographs.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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