Posts Tagged ‘habitat specialist’

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

November 8, 2019

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a young male, as indicated by the red pruinescence that partially covers his yellow-orange and black abdomen, plus his terminal appendages.

20 SEP 2013 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality, especially when the individual is looking at me (below).

20 SEP 2013 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

Left, right, left. I followed this guy from perch to perch for several minutes.

20 SEP 2013 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

The Backstory

My collection of field notes includes two text files that list lots of photos of both Blue-faced Meadowhawk and Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (S. vicinum) that were never published in my photoblog. Most of the photos were taken during Fall 2013 when one of many vernal pools at Huntley Meadows Park was near peak diversity for odonate species that inhabited the pool. Sadly, those days are long gone!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Final Fine-lined Emerald

October 7, 2019

Several Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. At least six S. filosa were spotted along two dirt/gravel roads at the refuge; this is the last one we saw.

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

Decisions, decisions!

I shot 37 photographs of the following dragonfly perched in several places: two photos are out of focus; most of the rest are flawed in some way (in my opinion), for example I don’t like the background, or the composition, etc.

As it turns out, the last group of photos is my favorite. Within that group, I selected a subset of three photos that I like. Although the photos are similar, they are subtly different. I think one of the images is the clear winner, but I suffer from decision paralysis sometimes. The photos are shown in the order in which they were taken. Which one is your favorite?

No.1

No. 2

No. 3

Sidestory

I think I might have figured out the habitat/breeding habitat for Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies. As Mike Powell and I were walking along one of several roads at Occoquan Bay NWR that lead to hotspots for hunting Fine-lined Emerald, I noticed shallow pools of “black water” in the forest, beginning about halfway down one of the dirt/gravel roads at the park. I mentioned to Mike that I think the black water pools are habitat for S. filosa.

Sure enough, that’s exactly where we spotted the male featured in this post — the last one we saw as we were walking back to Mike’s car. It’s worth noting we have never seen a Fine-lined Emerald that far from the main hotspots. Mike saw several more S. filosa in the same area a few days later. Hey, I might be onto something!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (male)

September 20, 2019

A Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Several specimens were spotted along two dirt/gravel roads at the refuge; this is the first one I saw.

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

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 S. filosa is from July 10 to October 15. The species is classified as rare to uncommon. Its habitat is “boggy streams, swamps, and marshes.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for S. filosa 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 Fine-lined Emerald is August 23 to October 04.

Rare to Uncommon

A distribution map of official records for Fine-lined Emerald helps to illustrate its classification as a rare to uncommon species of odonate.

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: September 19, 2019).

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

Related Resource: Posts tagged ‘Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly’

Copyright © 2019 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 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.

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.

 

Habitat for Tiger Spiketail dragonfly

August 9, 2018

In the world of odonates, there are habitat generalists and habitat specialists. Tiger Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster erronea) is a habitat specialist.

Habitat: Small forest streams and seeps, often with skunk cabbage and interrupted fern. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7028-7029). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following video shows ideal habitat for C. erronea: A clean, seep-fed small stream in the forest.

The black rock in the middle of the creek is approximately five feet (~5′) from the place in the stream channel where I was sitting on a Coleman camp stool. The video begins with me looking at a seep that feeds the stream; then I pan left, right, and back to center stage.

Tech Tips: The preceding movie looks better viewed in full-screen mode. The video was recorded in 1080p at 60 fps using a head-mounted GoPro Hero4 Black action camera. The camera was positioned so that it recorded what I saw when looking straight ahead; the scene changed by moving my head. 60 fps was used so that I could edit the video to show smooth slow-motion video of Tiger Spiketail dragonflies in flight. I think one of the bigger take-aways is a Tiger fly-by would have been recorded clearly enough to be able to identify the species. For what it’s worth, the closest focusing distance of the GoPro Hero4 Black is approximately 12 inches (~1′).

GoPro CapCam©

A GoPro QuickClip was used to mount an action camera on the bill of a baseball cap.

GoPro Hero4 Black action camera, plus QuickClip mount.

The GoPro Head Strap + QuickClip is compatible with all GoPro cameras and sells for $19.95 retail.

GoPro Hero4 Black action camera, plus QuickClip mount.

The Backstory

I visited the location shown in the video three times: Several Tiger Spiketail dragonflies were observed at the site on 19- and 26 July 2018; no Tiger Spiketails were spotted on 06 August 2018, the day the video was recorded. It’s worth noting that the adult flight period for C. erronea peaks in July in Northern Virginia (USA). Most of the window of opportunity was missed due to near record setting rainfall for the month of July, including a period of seven consecutive days of rain totaling nearly 10 inches!

Although I saw several Tiger Spiketail dragonflies, every individual was in flight and I was unable to shoot still photos and/or video — they were gone by the time I reached for my camera! The GoPro CapCam© is my solution to this problem.

An Apple iPad mini is used to remotely control the action camera using the GoPro app (formerly known as “Capture”) via Bluetooth. Among many features, the app provides real-time display of the camera field of view. The camera is positioned correctly on the bill of my cap by holding the iPad directly in my line of sight and adjusting the camera mount so the iPad is shown in the middle of the screen, against the background.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (male)

June 17, 2017

A Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus descriptus) was spotted during a photowalk at “Straight Fork Beaver Ponds,” Highland County, Virginia USA.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

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

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

The following photograph was shot at f/11, since more depth of field was required to show the dragonfly in focus from head-to-tail. The other photos were shot at either f/7.1 or f/8.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

Harpoon Clubtail is a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

Bonus Bugs

Look closely at all of the preceding photos. Did you notice the exuviae from another type of aquatic insect, possibly either mayfly or stonefly? I didn’t see the exuviae when I shot the photos, and missed them again when I post-processed the images. Sometimes I get so focused on the subject that I don’t see the bigger picture.

Tech Tips

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

The Backstory

I attended the 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting in Staunton, Virginia, 09-11 June 2017. Yes Virginia, there is an organization called the Dragonfly Society of the Americas (DSA). Although I’ve been a member of DSA since August 2011, the 2017 annual meeting is the first one that I’ve attended.

2017 DSA Annual Meeting | Staunton, VA (see red circle)

Source Credit: 2017 Dragonfly Society of the Americas Annual Meeting.

Staunton, Virginia is the county seat of Augusta County. Highland County is located between the western boundary of Augusta County and the border between Virginia and West Virginia. Highland County is the only place in Virginia where there are official records for Harpoon Clubtail.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Harpoon Clubtail (Phanogomphus descriptus)

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2017. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 13, 2017).

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

In the world of odonates, there are habitat generalists and habitat specialists. Harpoon Clubtail is a habitat specialist, as shown clearly by the preceding distribution map of official records.

I was fortunate to be able to ride along with fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for a road trip to Highland County. Straight Fork Beaver Ponds is a unique high-elevation habitat that is well known among expert birders and odonate hunters like Karen and Mike.

Mike scouted the location a week-or-so before the DSA meeting, so he had a good idea of the species of odonates we might see, including Harpoon Clubtail and Riffle Snaketail (Ophiogomphus carolus) dragonflies.

Sincere thanks to Karen and Mike for a fun, productive day hunting odonates with good friends!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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