Posts Tagged ‘Hemlock Overlook Regional Park’

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (female)

September 11, 2019

Identification of tan damselflies, such as the one shown below, can be a source of great frustration. Many species of tan damselflies look virtually identical: sometimes they are immature females and males; sometimes they are adult females. Very confusing!

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (female)

This individual is a female Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula), spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I explored a segment of Popes Head Creek near the confluence with Bull Run. We saw only three types of damselflies along the rocky stream: Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis), Blue-ringed Dancer (Argia sedula); and Powdered Dancer (Argia moesta). This individual doesn’t look like either a female or male for any of those species. Stumped, I was. So I consulted Dr. Michael Moore for help in identifying this specimen.

This is a female Blue-ringed Dancer. They are quite variable, but usually have the last three abdominal segments pale like this [one]. Also, I think there is a very slight amber tint to the wings which is typical of female Blue-rings. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore, a professor (retired) in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Dr. Moore’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Sincere thanks, Dr. Moore!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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American Rubyspot damselfly (female)

September 4, 2019

An American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | American Rubyspot (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her muted coloration (relative to males of the same species), thick abdomen, and terminal appendages.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | American Rubyspot (female)

Mike and I saw the female as we worked our way upstream, and again on the way downstream. She was near the same location both times, perched facing the water.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (male)

September 2, 2019

A Blue-ringed Dancer damselfly (Argia sedula) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his blue coloration and terminal appendages. (Female Blue-ringed Dancer is mostly brown/tan in color.)

29 AUG 2019 | HORP | Blue-ringed Dancer (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 A. sedula is from May 17 to October 24. The species is classified as common. Its habitat is “streams” and “rivers.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for A. sedula seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter.

New species

Blue-ringed Dancer is a new species for my Life List of Damselflies (Order Zygoptera).

Credit

Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Bluebells

May 20, 2019

What do you call bluebells growing in Maryland? That’s right, Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)!

The preceding photograph shows Virginia Bluebells growing in a meadow alongside the Little Patuxent River at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. The flowers seem to be a little past peak.

I’m aware of three locations where Virginia Bluebells are prolific every spring during the month of April, and probably not coincidentally, all three locations are stream valleys. As is often the case with where plants and animals are found, it’s all about habitat, habitat, habitat!

By the way, the three locations are Riverbend Park and Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, and now Patuxent Research Refuge in Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. Riverbend Park charges a fee to view the bluebells during an annual festival; the nature show is free at the other two locations.

Related Resource: Virginia Bluebells, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

DMC-FZ150 versus DMC-FZ300

May 8, 2019

For years, my go-to camera kit for photowalking has been the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera and a Canon 580EX Speedlite. A formula of camera and flash settings that I call “set it and forget it” works most of the time, enabling me to focus on the subject rather than futzing around with camera/flash settings.

My new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 features some significant upgrades over the DMC-FZ150 such as a touch-screen LCD, built-in WiFi (enabling remote control of the camera using the “Panasonic Image App“), 49 focus points, 4K video, and an intriguing new feature that Panasonic calls “Post Focus.”

The two cameras are similar, but as I say often, similar is not the same. As appealing as the new features of the FZ300 are, the newer camera doesn’t perform like my older FZ150. After limited testing in both the studio and in the field, I have yet to find the new formula for “set it and forget it” using the FZ300. Disappointed and frustrated, I am!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/5.2 | 1/800 s | -1 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode. My external flash unit is set for Manual mode at a power ratio of 1/16, plus or minus one stop. The other settings listed in the photo caption are typical of what I call “set it and forget it,” that is, these settings work for most subjects in most lighting conditions.

The preceding photo was included in my “Top 10 Photos of 2018.” Many, if not most, of the photos in this gallery were taken using the DMC-FZ150 and my “set it and forget it” formula.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

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

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 1 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

A Harlequin Darner dragonfly (Gomphaeschna furcillata) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

What are the take-aways?

I prefer shooting in Shutter Priority mode at relatively fast shutter speeds (using the reciprocal rule) in order to reduce camera shake at longer focal lengths. If the ISO is set for 100 then the exposure triangle tells us that the only variable is aperture (f/stop). Using my “set it and forget it” formula of settings, the FZ150 typically opts for an f/stop of f/5.6 or higher (that is, a smaller lens opening); for some reason the FZ300 always seems to opt for f/2.8.

Problem is, there is too little depth of field at f/2.8! The only way I’m able to shoot serviceable photos using the FZ300 is to compose photos so the entire subject is nearly parallel to the focal plane and to sharpen the images using Adobe Photoshop.

I’m planning to start shooting in Manual mode so that I can set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. During limited testing in the studio, it was necessary to use a higher flash power ratio in order to get good exposure. Otherwise, Manual mode is the ultimate in “set it and forget it!”

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Powdered Dancer damselfly (female)

March 29, 2019

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) was spotted during a photowalk along a small stream at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration. Female Powdered Dancers are polymorphic: this is the tan morph; there is also a blue morph that looks somewhat similar to males of the same species.

10 MAY 2017 | HORP | Powdered Dancer (female)

Also notice the female’s abdomen is thicker near the tip than the tip of a male’s abdomen, due to female egg-laying anatomy.

Credits

Sincere thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for help in identifying this specimen. My tentative identification, recorded in field notes dated 10 May 2017, proved to be incorrect.

I’m comfortable identifying some members of two of the three families of damselflies that occur in the mid-Atlantic states (USA), including Family Calopterygidae (Broad-winged Damselflies) and Family Lestidae (Spreadwings). Most members of the Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies), not so much.

I remember clearly the time when I was learning to identify dragonflies. I was more than a little confused at first. With persistence, the puzzle pieces started to fall into place sooner than I expected. Same story when I started learning to identify odonate exuviae. Never happened with damselflies, for whatever reason.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mountain Laurel

March 6, 2019

Mountain Laurel (Kalmia latifolia), a shade-tolerant flowering shrub, was spotted on the steep slopes alongside Horseshoe Trail at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Look closely at the full-size version of the following photo. The flower buds remind me of the medieval weapon called a “flail,” also known as a Mace and Chain.

Now that I own a lot of macro photography gear, I’m looking forward to revisiting sites like this one to shoot some close-up photos of flowers. In this case, be sure to bring some sort of camera flash or LED as the Mountain Laurel is found growing in the shade of a deciduous forest.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Virginia Bluebells

May 21, 2018

The following photographs show Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) growing in a valley meadow at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

23 APR 2018 | Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | Virginia Bluebells

The flowers seemed to be a little past peak, as shown in the following close-up view. Nonetheless, the sea of blue was spectacularly beautiful.

23 APR 2018 | Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | Virginia Bluebells

Related Resources

Tech Tips

I used my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera to shoot the landscape photo 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 color saturation was increased slightly for both photos during post-processing.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Springtime Darner (male claspers)

May 19, 2018

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

23 APR 2017 | HORP | Springtime Darner (male)

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

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”).

23 APR 2017 | HORP | Springtime Darner (male)

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

Editor’s Notes

The preceding photos are new, that is, previously unpublished. Both photos are full-frame (uncropped). Springtime Darners can be quite skittish. In this case, I was very close to an unusually cooperative model.

The last photo was shot using Aperture Priority. I prefer shooting in Shutter Priority, but I like to shoot a few shots using Aperture Priority whenever I can use either a monopod or tripod. In this situation, I improvised.

In addition to my photography gear, I usually carry a Coleman camp stool when I go photowalking. The small, lightweight folding chair is good for resting while waiting for “the game to come to me.” The camp stool also enables me to get closer to subjects either on- or near the ground, such as the Springtime Darner featured in this blog post. I think it’s easier to hold my camera rock-steady when I’m sitting on the chair with my elbows resting on my knees.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Good luck charm

April 27, 2018

I noticed a golden/yellow horseshoe painted on both sides of a tree and thought, “This might be my lucky day.” Turns out the good luck symbol proved to be prophetic.

23 APR 2018 | Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | Horseshoe Trail

A yellow horseshoe is the trail marker for Horseshoe Trail at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. Part of Horseshoe Trail is co-located with Union Mill Trail (marked in red); the latter leads to Popes Head Creek.

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek, just downstream from what appears to be either a natural dam or beaver dam.

Habitat: Woodland streams and rivers with some current; also at beaver ponds along stream course… Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 4063-4064). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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

The preceding photo is full-frame, that is uncropped. Springtime Darners can be quite skittish. In this case, I was very close to the unusually cooperative model. A follow-up blog post will be published after I edit a large set of photos of this individual.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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