Posts Tagged ‘Hagenius brevistylus’

Dragonhunters

August 4, 2017

Several male Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) were spotted during photowalks along a mid-size rocky stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I think the first photo looks and feels like summer.

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The next photo is my favorite in the set. Did you notice the male Blue-fronted Dancer damselfly (Argia apicalis) in the background?

21 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

I flushed the last Dragonhunter as I was walking along a path that leads to/from the stream. He flew to a perch on a tree limb overhead, posed for one photo, and flew toward the top of a nearby tree.

26 JUN 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The Backstory

Winter is the longest season, that is, for odonate hunters. OK, I realize winter is three months like every other season, but it certainly seems longer! Winter is a good time for reflecting upon the last ode-hunting season and planning for the next one.

Last winter, I was thinking about new places to explore where I might see Dragonhunter dragonflies. Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, told me about a hotspot for Dragonhunters along Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia. Manassas is a little farther from home than I am willing to travel, especially in heavy traffic. So I used Google Maps (satellite view) to work downstream from Manassas Battlefield Park until I found a location that seemed to have potential.

I had a hunch the new spot would be ideal habitat for Dragonhunters and other less common species of odonates. Turns out my hunch was right! In fact, I considered calling this post “Dragonhunchers” but decided to play it straight.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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“Record shot”

June 21, 2017

As a wildlife photographer with a focus on insect photography, one of my mantras is: “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” In other words, don’t miss the opportunity to document a spotting by trying to get a great shot first.

11 JUN 2017 | Fluvanna County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The preceding photograph — heavily-cropped in order to compensate for the distance to the subject — is a “record shot” (at best) of a male Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) that was spotted at the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA.

The dragonfly was photographed from the banks of the Hardware River, approximately 20 feet above the water. Distance seems to be compressed in the photo, an effect of the mid-range telephoto lens used to take the shot. The Dragonhunter was perching ~10 feet above the water. I settled for a “record shot” since there was no way to get closer to the subject.

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. Adobe Photoshop was used to remove a small distracting element from the left edge of the photo.

Editor’s Note

Thanks to fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for adding the phrase “record shot” to my vocabulary.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

June 24, 2016

I’ve spent a lot time looking for Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) in their preferred habitat with limited success. Imagine my surprise and delight when I spotted one in a less than ideal habitat! I could tell you where I found the Dragonhunter, but then I’d have to give you a cyanide capsule, so let’s just call the location “Northern Virginia.”

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Thanks to Michael Moore, member extraordinaire of the Southeastern Odes Facebook group, for verifying my tentative identification.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

I love a good head-tilt. This girl has a grill as big as a Mack truck!

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

Related Resource: Dragonhunter dragonfly exuvia, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter dragonfly exuvia

June 12, 2016

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuvia was collected along the Little Patuxent River by Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, during an Audubon Naturalist Society adult class and field trip to the Patuxent Research Refuge on 15 June 2014.

Dragonhunter [nymphs] crawl out of the river and often cling on wet wood or roots/vegetation. I have seen them on mud but they seem to like vegetation or wood to cling to during emergence. I took a photo…of a cast skin at the same area [where this specimen was collected]. Source Credit: Personal communication from Richard Orr.

The decision tree used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Gomphidae Family (Clubtails) is fairly simple and straightforward.

  • The specimen has a flat labium (not mask-like).
  • Antennae are either club-shaped or paddle-like (not thin and threadlike as in Aeshnidae).

Dragonhunter is the largest of North American clubtails; accordingly the large size and shape of a Dragonhunter exuvia is so distinctive that it is relatively easy to identify to the species level.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Lateral view showing left side, facing forward (annotated).

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

Notice the large, paddle-like antennae. They remind me of ping pong paddles.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Head-on view (annotated).

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

The large size and shape of Dragonhunter exuviae are key field markers.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Dorsal view.

All clubtail nymphs/evuviae have a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) exuviae collected along the Little Patuxent River, Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA.

Ventral view (annotated).

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

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot the preceding photographs: Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera; Fujinon XF18-55mm (27mm-82.5mm, 35mm equivalent) zoom lens plus “Fotasy” brand 10mm extension tube; Fujifilm Shoe Mount Flash EF-42 (on-camera, in TTL mode); Nissin i40 external flash unit (off-camera, in SD mode). A snap-on plastic diffuser was used for each external flash.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 was used to annotate selected images.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter dragonfly (male)

September 5, 2012

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted during an Audubon Naturalist Society field trip to the Little Patuxent River, a forested stream that flows through the North Tract of the Patuxent Research Refuge, Laurel, Maryland USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by the secondary genitalia located on the underside of abdominal segments 2-3 (see Photos 1-2).

Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Dragonhunter_3-ver3_apertureDragonhunter_3-ver2_apertureDragonhunter_1-ver2_apertureDragonhunter_2a-ver3_aperture3Dragonhunter_2a-ver2_aperture

According to Wikipedia, Dragonhunters are …

much larger than any other North American clubtail, at 3.3 inches (84 mm), with black and yellow markings and green eyes. … The adult feeds on large insects, including darner and clubtail dragonflies, sometimes ambushing them from above. It also takes Monarch butterflies, eating the thorax and abdomen first to avoid the greatest concentration of cardenolide toxins.

Copyright © 2012 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved. www.wsanford.com


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