Posts Tagged ‘Hike-Bike Trail’

So close, yet so far!

April 10, 2019

Two Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) were spotted perched on a wooden fence rail located near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The individual shown on the left is a mature female; the one on the right is a mature male.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Common Whitetail (mature female and male)

Sexing Common Whitetail dragonflies

For many of the common species of odonates found in Northern Virginia, I created a collection of annotated guides that illustrates how to differentiate gender by looking at terminal appendages. The difference in the pattern of wings spots for male and female Common Whitetails is sufficient to identify gender.

Life Cycle of Odonates

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.

I wonder how these two mature adults were able to be so close yet resist the compelling biological urge to hook up!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Shieldbacks

January 10, 2017

Two Eastern Shieldbacks (Atlanticus sp.) were spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail as I was walking out of Huntley Meadows Park. Eastern Shieldbacks are a type of Katydid (Family Tettigoniidae).

Male

This individual is a male. Notice the pair of cerci (sing. cercus) at the tip of his abdomen. Cerci are anatomical structures that are familiar to experienced odonate hunters like me.

Female

The following individual is a female, as indicated by the long ovipositor that extends from the tip of her abdomen.

An Eastern Shieldback (Atlanticus sp.) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

24 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Eastern Shieldback (female)

Notice the female has two cerci and an ovipositor.

An Eastern Shieldback (Atlanticus sp.) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

24 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Eastern Shieldback (female)

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Arthur V. Evans, a member of the BugGuide Facebook group, for identifying these specimens. Mr. Evans speculates the species of Eastern Shieldback featured in this post could be Protean Shieldback (Atlanticus testaceus).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Luna Moth

January 8, 2017

A Luna Moth (Actias luna) was spotted during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park.

The adults have a life span of only about one week. Adult Luna Moths do not eat; their only object[ive] is to reproduce. Source Credit: Species Actias luna – Luna Moth, BugGuide.com.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Taming of the Shrew

January 4, 2017

A short-tailed shrew carcass was spotted during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. According to Alonso Abugattas — Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia — this individual is probably a Kirtland’s Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi).

A short-tailed shrew carcass spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland's Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi). The flies are probably Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).

01 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | short-tailed shrew carcass

The colorful flies are probably Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).

A short-tailed shrew carcass spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland's Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi). The flies are probably Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).

01 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | short-tailed shrew carcass

Another short-tailed shrew carcass was spotted at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland’s Short-tailed Shrew too.

A short-tailed shrew carcass spotted at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland's Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi).

07 AUG 2016 | Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge | short-tailed shrew carcass

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice several small insects feeding on the fresh carcass.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Life-list additions in 2016

December 28, 2016

2016 was the “Year of the Clubtail dragonfly.” Unofficially, that is. Or maybe it only seems like I saw a lot more clubtail dragonflies than in past years, including four new species for my life-list of odonates. Not that I actually maintain a list — it’s more like a memory file in my brain.

There were three other non-odonate “firsts” this year, one of which was a long time coming! My life-list additions in 2016 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Shadow Darner dragonfly

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female), posted on 18 October 2016.

Although I’ve seen many male Shadow Darners, this is the first female I photographed.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male), posted on 26 September 2016.

I spent a lot of time unsuccessfully looking for Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Soon after I surrendered in defeat, a Russet-tipped Clubtail found me. Imagine my surprise and delight when I spotted one at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Whoa, didn’t see that one coming!

Clearwing Moths

Clearwing Moths (Genus Hemaris), published on 04 October 2016.

Dusky Dancer damselfly

Dusky Dancer damselflies (mating pair), published on 12 September 2016.

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Dusky Dancer (mating pair)

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male), published on 11 August 2016.

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly

Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (males), published on 13 August 2016.

Powdered Dancer damselfly

Powdered Dancer (males, female), published on 23 August 2016.

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

04 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

Swift Setwing dragonfly

Making new friends, published on 10 July 2016.

A Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

Dragonhunter dragonfly

Dragonhunter dragonfly (female), published on 24 June 2016.

This is the first female Dragonhunter I photographed.

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)

Calico Pennant dragonfly

Calico Pennant dragonflies (males), published on 20 June 2016.

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (male)

Prince Baskettail dragonfly

Changing of the guard, published on 16 June 2016.

Although I’ve seen many Prince Baskettail dragonflies, this one is the first I photographed. Prince Baskettails are fliers, not perchers.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Prince Baskettail (male, in flight)

Slender Bluet damselfly

Slender Bluet damselflies (mating pair), published on 24 October 2016.

A mating pair of Slender Bluet damselflies (Enallagma traviatum) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Slender Bluet (mating pair, “in heart”)

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (emergent male), published on 08 June 2016.

Although this was the second emergent dragonfly I saw during 2016, this was the first time I was able to observe the entire metamorphosis from beginning to end.

A Common Sanddragon nymph/dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) spotted along Dogue Creek at Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emergent male.

01 JUN 2016 | WP/DC | Common Sanddragon nymph/dragonfly

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly

Cobra Clubtail claspers, published on 19 May 2016.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus vastus) spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

Polyphemus Silkmoth

Polyphemus Silkmoth, published on 21 April 2016.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) was spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park.

Spring Peeper frog

Spring Peeper, published on 01 May 2016.

Although I’ve heard Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) every spring for many years, this is the first one I saw.

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (female)

July 18, 2016

Spot-winged Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. One field marker most migratory dragonflies have in common: broad hindwings.

The very broad hindwings represent an important adaptation for gliding, … Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11276-11277). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The following gallery of photographs shows a Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female.

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 JUL 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Spot-winged Glider (female)

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 JUL 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Spot-winged Glider (female)

A Spot-winged Glider dragonfly (Pantala hymenaea) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

15 JUL 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Spot-winged Glider (female)

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | male | side view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala hymenaea | Spot-winged Glider | female | side view

See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Spot-winged Glider, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Polyphemus Silkmoth

April 21, 2016

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) was spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. Its wingspan is estimated to be approximately five inches from wing tip to wing tip.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The moth seemed to be stunned but it was moving, albeit very slowly. Two quotes from Butterflies and Moths of North America may explain the moth’s sluggish behavior.

Life History: Adults emerge from their cocoons in the late afternoon, and mating occurs the same day from late evening to early morning. … Adult Food: Adults do not feed. Source Credit: Polyphemus moth.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Crane Flies (mating pair)

April 9, 2016

A mating pair of Crane Flies (Infraorder Tipulomorpha) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Crane Flies (Infraorder Tipulomorpha) was spotted on 30 March 2016 during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park. This couple was the consolation prize — my reward at the end of a long, fruitless day hunting for odonates.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Identifying dragonfly larvae to family

April 7, 2016

A couple of odonate exuviae were spotted in the bioswale (when it still retained water) at the head-end of the Hike-Bike Trail, Huntley Meadows Park. Both specimens are dragonfly exuvia, slightly less than 3/4″ long. I shot some quick-and-dirty still photos of the pair, as well as two sets of macro photos focusing on key anatomical parts.

Then I watched (and transcribed) the instructional video “Identifying dragonfly larva to family.” Be forewarned: Although the identification process is vocabulary-rich, the prerequisite terminology is well-illustrated in the video. Here’s the decision tree I used to make a tentative identification of the family.

Turns out I was correct — the exuviae are members of the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers)! Thanks to aquatic entomologist Celeste Searles Mazzacano, Ph.D., for verifying my tentative identification. The next (bigger) challenge: Learn how to identify odonate exuviae to the genus and species level.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800| 400mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/11 | 1/250s

The first two photos were taken using a Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera and Fujinon XF100-400mm telephoto zoom lens set for 400mm.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 800| 400mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | 0 ev | f/11 | 1/250s

The next set of photos was taken using a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter with my tripod-mounted Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera; the scene was lighted using the built-in pop-up flash and Nissin i40 external flash (off-camera, in video mode).

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 28mm (155mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/3s

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 28mm (155mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/160s

The following photo is my favorite in this subset.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 57mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/250s

Notice the teeth on the margins of the labium are relatively smooth.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 55mm (304mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1.3 ev | f/7.1 | 1/250s

The last set of photos was taken using a Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter with my tripod-mounted Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera; the scene was lighted using an off-camera Sunpak LED-160 Video Light (with a white translucent plastic filter) and Nissin i40 external flash (off-camera, in video mode).

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 56mm (311mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/10s

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 57mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/8s

The following photo is my favorite in this subset.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 30mm (164mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/6s

The last two shots are close-ups of the anal pyramid. Notice the cerci are less than half the length of paraprocts.

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 28mm (158mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/8s

A couple of odonate exuviae spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

ISO 100| 56mm (311mm, 35mm equivalent) | -1 ev | f/7.1 | 1/8s

Related Resources

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Ribbonsnake eating a frog

March 26, 2016

The following time-series of photos, shot on 16 March 2016 during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, shows a Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

Although the amphibian looks similar to Pickerel Frog (Lithobates palustris), I tentatively identified the species as Southern Leopard Frog based upon one of two field markers that were visible: distinct dorsolateral folds that extend the full length of the body (shown); a distinct white spot in the center of the tympanum (not shown). Sincere thanks to Alonso Abugattas — Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia — for verifying my identification.

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

As shown in the first photo, the snake had a fatal grip on the frog by the time I spotted the pair.

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

Notice the small green bubble, located on the frog’s dorsal posterior, that is visible in the second and third photos. I consulted the experts of the Virginia Herpetological Society for help in identifying the bubble.

The general consensus is the cloaca (a bag through which reproductive- and waste products leave the body) is inverted and protruded through the anus due to the internal pressure the snake is putting on the body cavity. If the frog were a female in reproductive condition, it could also be either eggs (unlikely due to color) or jelly being forced out, again due to pressure. Source Credit: John, Virginia Herpetological Society.

Just as I thought — the snake was actually squeezing the guts out of the frog!

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

A Common Ribbonsnake (Thamnophis sauritus sauritus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is eating a Southern Leopard Frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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