Posts Tagged ‘hamules’

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly redux (Part 1)

September 19, 2017

Several Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The same dragonfly was photographed while it perched in several shady places along one of the trails at the park. In my limited experience, Somatochlora filosa seems to prefer perching on bare tree branches or long stems of wild grass. Part 1 features two photo sets showing Fine-lined Emerald resting on other types of perches; Part 2 will feature two more photo sets showing the dragonfly perching on grasses.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

Set 1

The first photograph is a strong contender for my Odonart Portfolio. I like the way the green vegatation complements the dragonfly’s emerald colored eyes. Can anyone identify the type of plant on which the dragonfly is perching?

Set 2

The second set of photos shows the dragonfly perching on a Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca) seed pod.

The next photo was taken a step-or-so closer…

This individual has a distinctive eye injury to the top of his left eye (facing forward).

And after a few side steps, I was able to take a good ventral-lateral shot.

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to several members of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for identifying the species of milkweed plant shown in photo Set 2. “Capital Naturalist” is administered by Alonso Abugattas, Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (males)

September 13, 2017

Three Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa) were spotted during a long photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. All three individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages and prominent hamules.

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. Source Credit: Sir Isaac Newton.

Sincere thanks to Jim Waggener, Wildlife Survey Coordinator, as well as other members of Jim’s survey group for sharing information that enabled me to find this rare to uncommon species of dragonfly. The group has surveyed four sites in Northern Virginia regularly for many years, including Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

No. 1

Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies seem to prefer perching on bare tree branches or long stems of wild grass, typically at chest- or head-height although not exclusively. For example, this guy was perched about waist-high on a cluster of fallen tree branches.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

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

Fine-lined Emerald seems to prefer perching in sun rather than shade, unlike Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis) — another species from the Family Corduliidae (Emeralds) found in Northern Virginia that prefers shady places.

The following ventral-lateral shot shows the lines on the thorax for which this species is named.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

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

No. 2

The male shown in the next photo is perched on a long grass stem, about chest-high. He posed for two shots, patrolled back-and-forth a few times, and then disappeared.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

No. 3

The last male was the most cooperative model. The first photo was taken at a distance of approximately six feet.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

The next photo was taken a step-or-so closer…

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

And after a few side steps, I was able to take a good lateral shot.

10 SEP 2017 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Fine-lined Emerald (male)

The Backstory

This might be one of those stories in which the take-away is “persistence pays dividends.”

I made two trips to Occoquan Bay NWR during Fall 2016 when Fine-lined Emerald was my target species. On 21 September 2016, I spotted one or more dragonflies (species unknown) patrolling the treetops along one of the trails at OBNWR. I didn’t see any signs of Fine-lined Emerald on 25 October 2016, consistent with records for late-date maintained by Kevin Munroe (04 October for Northern Virginia) and Dr. Steven Roble (15 October for the Commonwealth of Virginia).

In retrospect, I realized I started searching too late in the year during 2016 so I started earlier in 2017. My first trip to OBNWR was on 30 August 2017; it turned out to be fruitless. I hit the jackpot on 10 September 2017! Fine-lined Emerald is a new species for my life list of dragonflies.

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. 2006-2017. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: September 14, 2017).

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

Related Resources

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Halloween Pennant (young male)

July 25, 2017

Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young male, as indicated by his yellowish-orange coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

Both photos in this gallery show the dragonfly perching at the top of Eastern gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides). Eastern gamagrass grows to a height of five- to six feet.

Look at the full-size version of the preceding photo. With its jaw open, the head of this pennant reminds me of the skull on a Jolly Roger flag. Argh, matey!

The last photo is my favorite in the set. The clarity, color palette and composition are perfect, he said not too modestly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly claspers

July 13, 2017

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) was spotted along a small creek at a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and hamules.

All 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”).

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

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

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

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

Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3), as shown in the following annotated image. Hamules come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but their function is identical for all species of odonates.

hamules: paired structures that project from genital pocket under second segment and hold female abdomen in place during copulation Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11618-116198). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

09 JUL 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Mocha Emerald (male)

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

Technique Hint: Did you notice that the “focus” of each photo (not to be confused with the focus point) is shown against a lighter background? That’s no accident — I composed each shot that way. As a result, the terminal appendages (cerci and epiproct) are much easier to see in the first two photos than the last shot, in which the composition highlights the hamules.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (male)

June 19, 2017

An Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia alleghaniensis) was netted by Mike Blust at Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA.

The complete yellow ring around abdominal segment seven (S7) is a distinctive field marker for this species. This individual is a male, as indicated by his hamules and terminal appendages.

Allegheny River Cruiser is a good candidate for netting, that is, if you want to get a close look at one.

Males fly rapidly up and down streams, mostly but not always near shore, usually quite low… . Cruise up and down roads through woodland, in sun and shade, or fly up higher into forest canopy. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7313-7315). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following map shows all official records for Allegheny River Cruiser in the United States of America. Notice the records are roughly coincident with the Allegheny Mountains, from which part of the common name for this species is derived.

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).

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

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.

My camera had a mysterious meltdown when I was trying to photograph the dragonfly in Mike Blust’s hand. Sincere thanks to Mike for his extraordinary patience while I was troubleshooting the problem under extreme pressure.

Editor’s Note

Sincere thanks to Mike Boatwright for taking me to a couple of odonate-hunting localities along the James River, including Hardware River WMA (see map, shown below) and Columbia Boat Landing, Cumberland County, Virginia.

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.

Because it’s fun!

May 16, 2017

Why do I hunt odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies? I like being outdoors, visiting beautiful natural places. I like honing my skills as a wildlife photographer. Most importantly, it’s fun! I like the challenge of finding uncommon species, and the thrill of making new discoveries.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and indented hind wings.

The male was perching on colorful kayaks stored in a wooden rack near the boat ramp. Notice the natural coloration of the dragonfly was affected by light reflected from the kayaks. That’s OK since this photo set is all about fun, right?

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

Can you say “hamules?” Males of many species in the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails) have prominent secondary sex organs.

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

09 MAY 2017 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

Tech Tips: I carried two digital cameras during the trip to Riverbend Park: a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking; as well as my Fujifilm X-T1Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. Since Fujifilm digital cameras are well-known for capturing vivid color, the X-T1 was the camera of choice for this colorful scene.

Editor’s Note: 16 May is the one-year anniversary of my first visit to Riverbend Park to see the annual mass emergence of Cobra Clubtail dragonflies that occurs during the first two weeks in May.

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.

Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (mating pair)

March 7, 2017

Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are aquatic insects that spend most of their life as larvae that live in water; this stage of their life cycle can last from a few months to a few years, depending upon the species. Finally, they emerge from the water and metamorphose into adults in order to reproduce; their offspring return to the water and the cycle begins again.

A mating pair of Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel”: the male is on the upper-left; the female on the lower-right.

A mating pair of Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Slaty Skimmer (mating pair, “in wheel“)

All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (male)

January 24, 2017

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and hamules.

One and done. That’s the way some wildlife photographers shoot a subject. I like to “work the shot,” that is, shoot the subject from all angles and in different positions.

In this case, the damselfly was perching over deep water. I waded into the water as far as I could go in my knee-high green wellies and made the best of a less than ideal situation.

Since the subject never moved from his perch above the water, I moved so that my viewpoint featured different backgrounds. Also, the damselfly changed position slightly during the shoot. Although all of the photos in this set are similar, each one is different in the way it looks and feels.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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