Posts Tagged ‘forest seep’

Skunk cabbage flowers

February 5, 2020

The following photo gallery shows skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) flowers in a forest seep located at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This is ideal habitat for Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) larvae, and in fact, numerous adult “Grays” have been observed along a sunny trail near this location. Seeps are home for some species of larvae from Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) as well.

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

03 FEB 2020 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage flowers

The last photo shows the same location during early Summer 2019. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage.

01 JUN 2019 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage

The following quote is perhaps the best description of a forest seep that I’ve read.

[Some] small tributaries … have their sources in numerous woodland seeps. While a few of these perennial springs bubble up out of the ground, most arise in moist hillside patches with lots of decaying leaf litter and luxuriant stands of skunk cabbage. Source Credit: White, Harold B., III. Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies (Cultural Studies of Delaware and the Eastern Shore) (Kindle Locations 1213-1215). University Press Copublishing Division. Kindle Edition.

Related Resource: Skunk Cabbage: First Flower of the Year… by Alonso Abugattas, Capital Naturalist blog. The blog post includes an embedded link to an informative video by Mr. Abugattas: Capital Naturalist: Skunk Cabbage Blooming (3:58).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (female)

August 16, 2019

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell around a small seep-fed pond in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. She is perched on a small tree in a sunny clearing.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (female)

A seep is a seep is a seep.

Gray Petaltail is known to occur at a small, seep-fed pond located in the forest. Part of the seep is shown below. The female dragonfly featured in this blog post was perched on a small tree just to the left edge of the photo.

23 MAY 2018 | PNC. William County, VA | seep in the forest

Forest seeps vary in size and associated vegetation, but wherever you find one it provides good habitat for petaltails and some species of spiketails.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly

August 9, 2019

Millions of readers have acquired the secrets of success through The Magic of Thinking Big. Source Credit: Amazon.

One of the secrets of success when scouting good habitat for Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) is “the magic of thinking small,” as in small seep-fed streams in the forest.

What does the right habitat look like?

The following photos were taken during a Tiger hunt with Michael Powell along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA. The photos are shown in sequence as we worked our way downstream from the headwaters. Mike and I have seen a single Tiger Spiketail patrolling this stream on two days during 2019: 01 July; and 06 August.

The first photo shows a seep in the forest at the headwaters of a small stream located along a segment of a marked trail in Prince William County, Virginia. Notice that skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) aren’t associated with this seep.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

The next photo is located a short distance downstream from the headwaters, looking back upstream. The stream channel is ~2-3 feet wide and no more than a few inches deep.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

A smaller “side seep” (upper-right) is a tributary of the same stream (foreground).

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

The last photo shows the view looking downstream from a point just below the small side seep. Although the stream seems to disappear near the bright sunlit patch on the forest floor, in fact the stream flows over the first in a series of mini-“waterfalls” that get progressively higher going downstream.

06 AUG 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Tiger Spiketail habitat

What time of day is best for Tiger hunting?

Based upon field observations by Kevin Munroe, Michael Boatwright, and Mike Powell and me, Tiger Spiketail seems to have two time periods of increased activity that might be site-dependent: 10 a.m. to 12 noon; and 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Mike Boatwright and I speculate increased activity might be associated with the time of day when a given site receives more sunlight. The Tiger at the site Mike Powell and I visited seems to be a “morning person.”

Do other odonates live in the same habitat?

Mike Powell photographed a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) along the same stream on 10 July 2019. Now we know with reasonable certainty that Gray Petaltail and Tiger Spiketail can coexist in the same seep(s).

Mike also photographed a Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) on 16 April 2019 in a field near the mouth of the stream. Twin-spotted Spiketail larvae probably live in the stream itself, rather than the seeps that feed the stream.

Related Resource: Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly, featuring GoPro video showing another small stream where Tiger Spiketail has been observed in Northern Virginia.

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.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

July 3, 2019

The following Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) — spotted in a sunny clearing along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA — is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Actionable Intel

I looked for Gray Petaltail for years without finding one. (Looking for love in all the wrong places?) For habitat-specific odonates such as T. thoreyi, it’s all about location, location, location. I was familiar with the standard guidance in all the field guidebooks regarding ideal habitat for Gray Petaltail, but it wasn’t until I actually saw the right habitat in the wild — and recognized it for what it is — that I began to find Grays in relatively large numbers. Book learning is good (as Jethro would say), but there’s no substitute for real-world experience.

For example, the following photograph shows a forest seep located at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). This is ideal habitat for T. thoreyi, and in fact, one or more “Grays” were observed along a sunny trail near this location, including a male that landed on my friend Mike Powell.

01 JUN 2019 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage

The following quote is perhaps the best description of a forest seep that I’ve read.

[Some] small tributaries … have their sources in numerous woodland seeps. While a few of these perennial springs bubble up out of the ground, most arise in moist hillside patches with lots of decaying leaf litter and luxuriant stands of skunk cabbage. Source Credit: White, Harold B., III. Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies (Cultural Studies of Delaware and the Eastern Shore) (Kindle Locations 1213-1215). University Press Copublishing Division. Kindle Edition.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

May 27, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

[Females in the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) feature a] …pointed and spikelike (thus the group name) ovipositor, really a “pseudo-ovipositor” formed from the prolonged subgenital plate. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7005-7006). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Although the pattern of arrowhead-shaped markings visible on the dorsal side of her abdomen is unmistakeable, notice that the thorax features two stripes. The latter field mark can be used to differentiate spiketails from cruisers that have one stripe on their thorax.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Mike Powell and I have photowalked together so many times that we are comfortable working cooperatively to shoot a subject. I wanted to get a shot of the face of the Arrowhead Spiketail but was concerned it would spook the dragonfly if I were to get “up in her grill.” So I waited until Mike had taken all of the photographs he wanted before approaching the dragonlfy for her “beauty shot.” As it turns out, the model was extraordinarily tolerant and didn’t fly away until sometime after Mike and I moved on to the next site.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Notice the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) that appears in the background of every photo of the Arrowhead Spiketail.

Location, location, location.

Some species of odonates are habitat generalists, meaning they can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Habitat-specific odonates can be found only in specific habitats — for these species, finding them is all about location, location, location. Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies are habitat-specialists.

Habitat: Small swift streams and soft-bottomed muddy seeps in forest, also streams reduced to series of small pools during drier weather. As in some other spiketails, skunk cabbage often present. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7081-7082). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) were observed growing in a seep located between a dirt trail and the small stream where the Arrowhead Spiketail was spotted — the perfect place for several species of habitat-specific odonates!

The last photo shows the clearing along a small forest stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted, including the Arrowhead Spiketail featured in this blog post. The stream is no more than a few feet wide and only a few inches deep in most places.

The small stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted.

The backstory

Telephoto lenses can cause a type of distortion called “foreshortening,” as seen in the preceding photo. Mike Powell and I were standing at the edge of the stream bank trying to decide whether we wanted to go down the short, steep slope to explore the clearing when we spotted a large UFO, that is, an “Unidentified Flying Odonate.” Mike and I took “record shots” of the dragonfly; looking at the LCD of our cameras, we identified the UFO as a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

Mike and I had seen a Gray Petaltail at another location (near the beginning of our photowalk), but we were unable to photograph it. So down the bank we went! As it turns out, there were at least two Grays in the meadow: a female; and a male. As Mike was photographing one of the Gray Petaltails he noticed another “large dragonfly.” As we slowly moved closer to the new unknown dragonfly, I quickly realized Mike had spotted an Arrowhead Clubtail. Great catch, Mike!

Please see Female Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly for Mike’s take on our shared experience.

Uncommon

Arrowhead Spiketail is classified as an uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Arrowhead Clubtail (C. obliqua) in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Arrowhead Spiketail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2019. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: May 27, 2019).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Our spotting of Arrowhead Spiketail is a new DSA record for Prince William County, Virginia.

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 C. obliqua is 11 May to 17 July. The species is classified as uncommon. Its habitat is “small streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for C. obliqua seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter — more likely around one month. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Arrowhead is 28 May to 27 June (peaks in June).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

 

New Life List additions in 2018 (odonates)

December 28, 2018

The anticipation of the hunt and the thrill of discovery — the adrenalin rush from finding the target species is ever more elusive as one gains experience and expertise. Accordingly, the number of additions to my Life List is fewer year after year.

Editor’s Note: List items are presented in chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting.

Twin-spotted Spiketail

A Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Brown Spiketail (male)

A Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I saw a female Brown Spiketail on 09 May 2013. This individual is one of several males that I spotted on 07 and 11 May 2018.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted at a forest seep. This individual is a male with a malformed abdomen that I nicknamed “Bender.”

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched near a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Citrine Forktail damselfly (male)

Citrine Forktail damselfly (Ischnura hastata) was spotted during a stream-walk along South Fork Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest Park (PWFP), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.


Next post: Recognition in 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Test shots: Tachopteryx thoreyi exuviae

November 30, 2018

Two Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) exuviae were collected on 23 May 2018 by Walter Sanford near a forest seep at an undisclosed location in Northern Virginia USA. Gray Petaltail is a member of the Family Petaluridae (Petaltails).

Although both specimens are similar, they aren’t identical. For example, twin rows of hook-like structures are clearly visible on the dorsal side of the abdomen on the lower exuvia, and almost invisible on the upper exuvia. The upper exuvia is dirtier and appears to be more “worn” than the lower one. Notice the “schmutz” on the face of the lower exuvia, probably a piece of leaf litter.

Both individuals might be male, as indicated by vestigial hamules that appear to be visible on the ventral side of the specimens.

Test shots of the specimens were taken using a relatively small aperture of f/16 for greater depth of field. Each photo is a “one-off,” that is, not a composite image. Focus stacks will be created sometime in the near future, after the exuviae are rehydrated, cleaned, and posed for better composition.

Tech Tips

The following equipment was used to shoot both of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tubeCanon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); and Canon MT-26EX-RT Macro Twin Lite set for “Master” mode, and several external flashes set for “Slave” mode including Canon 580 EX- and Canon 580EX II Speedlites and a Godox TT685C Thinklite TTL Flash fitted with a Lastolite Ezybox Speed-Lite 2 flash modifier.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to spot-heal and sharpen both images.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bonding with Bender

November 7, 2018

Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) have a well-known preference for perching on gray or tan colored surfaces, including gray or tan colored clothing. Dressed appropriately, I visited a hotspot for Gray Petaltail where I hoped to shoot some “selfie” photographs of T. thoreyi perched on me.

The first photo is a “selfie” that shows a Fiery Skipper butterfly (Hylephila phyleus) perched on my left forearm. Thanks to several members of the BugGuide Facebook group for help in identifying the butterfly!

A Fiery Skipper butterfly perched on my left forearm.

The pained expression on my face says “You should have worn your glasses, you old fool!” I call it “going snake-eyed.”

The last photo is a “selfie” that shows a Gray Petaltail dragonfly perched on my Cabela’s Safari Series vest. This individual is a male that I nicknamed “Bender” because of his malformed abdomen.

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) perched on my Cabela’s safari vest.

Open the full-size version of the preceding photo and zoom in on the dragonfly. Look at Bender’s face. I wonder what he was thinking.

Tech Tips

I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera to shoot the “selfie” photos featured in this blog post. The camera was set for manual focus at the hyperfocal distance for an aperture of f/4, based upon the instructions provided in the excellent video tutorial by Graham Houghton, “Panasonic Lumix FZ camera easier manual focus method — super point-and-shoot tip.”

The camera was mounted on a Sunpak 8001 UT medium duty aluminum tripod, with the articulating LCD facing forward. A JJC TM-Series Multi-Function Timer Remote Control was connected to the camera. I sat on a Coleman camp stool positioned a few feet in front of the camera, with the remote control in one hand.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray on gravel

July 12, 2018

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. He was perched on a gravel road, much to my surprise.

24 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Gray Petaltail (male)

This is the first Gray Petaltail that I’ve seen at the park since 04 June 2018, when I saw several individuals near a forest seep.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: