Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

Northern Black Racer (mating pair)

September 30, 2018

A mating pair of black snakes, probably Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor), was spotted during a photowalk along Little Hunting Creek at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Information about this species, provided by the Virginia Herpetological Society, leads the author to infer mating Northern Black Racers are observed uncommonly.

Head hunting

The snakes were mating on a bed of Virginia Springbeauty (Claytonia virginica).

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

My eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be when I was younger. As a result, it was challenging for me to find the head of both snakes. Look closely — both heads are shown in each of these photos.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

Head shots

After a few wide-angle shots, I turned my attention to close-ups of the head. I’m not sure I captured a head shot for both snakes.

Northern Black Racers have a huge, all-black eye with an “eyebrow” ridge that makes racers look angry and somewhat dangerous all the time. Source Credit: Kevin Munroe, former Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County Park Authority.

The “eyebrow” ridge is especially noticeable in the following photo.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

From this viewpoint, it appears one of the snakes may be getting ready to shed.

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

The parting shot

Direct eye contact can be unnerving when one is perhaps a little too close to a snake. Time to go!

21 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snakes (mating pair)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

September 28, 2018

20 SEP 2018 | HMP | Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

The preceding photograph shows a female Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) perched on the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Blue eyes are a good field marker for identifying Handsome Meadow Katydids. Notice the long, curved, reddish, scimitar-shaped structure extending from the posterior end of the abdomen. It’s an ovipositor that female katydids …

… use to insert eggs into hiding places … which can be in crevices on plants or even inside plant tissues [endophytic oviposition]. Source Credit: Matt Pelikan, BugGuide group on Facebook.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (male)

September 26, 2018

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) was observed perched on a snag in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

The Backstory

Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are easy to find — they’re both common and abundant at almost any lentic ecosystem such as ponds and lakes. After spending a lot of time and energy during 2018 hunting some of the more exotic species of odonates such as spiketails, petaltails, and some of the rare-to-uncommon species of clubtails, I must confess the more common species of dragonflies and damselflies don’t hold my interest the way they did when I was a beginner. Sometimes I need to stop and remind myself to appreciate life’s simpler pleasures, like Eastern Amberwings.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More Mocha males

July 20, 2018

Nearly two weeks after my last visit to Huntley Meadows Park in search of Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis), I revisited the small forested stream in search of Mocha exuviae.

No luck finding exuviae, but hey, I decided to make lemonade from lemons and photograph a couple of Mocha males that hung up near each other, especially since there were noticeably fewer S. linearis in contrast with my last trip to the site.

Male 1

Both individuals are male, as indicated by their “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

Male 2

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mocha male

July 10, 2018

The following photos show a Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) perched alongside a small stream in the forest at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Mocha Emerald appears dark and featureless when viewed with the unaided eye in the shade of the forest canopy. More detail is revealed with added light from a fill flash.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When Mocha flies

July 8, 2018

Many Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis) were spotted along a small stream in a remote location at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Most of the creek is shaded by the forest canopy — the perfect habitat for Mocha and mosquitos, a primary food source for all species of odonates.

05 JUL 2018 | HMP | Mocha Emerald (male, in flight)

Both individuals are male, shown hovering in flight above the water. Mocha Emerald males patrol back-and-forth along a short segment of the stream, stopping to hover in place sometimes.

05 JUL 2018 | HMP | Mocha Emerald (male, in flight)

Adult flight period

The adult flight period  for Mocha Emerald is from 16 June to 16 September (peaks in July-August), according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park. In my experience, July is Mocha month in Northern Virginia.

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, a zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, 22 June to 10 October is the adult flight period for Mocha Emerald.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail (immature males)

May 7, 2018

A first-of-season Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted perching on the ground near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, brown colored abdomen, and pattern of wing spots.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Another immature male was spotted along an informal trail at a remote location in the park.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Young male Common Whitetails begin to develop white pruinescence that changes the color of their abdomen from brown to white, hence the common name for this species.

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.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (female)

May 5, 2018

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like bad party guests: they are among the first to arrive and last to leave. Nonetheless, it was good to see one on a day when almost no adult odonate species were observed.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

A Common Whitetail was spotted perching on a man-made brush pile near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and pattern of wing spots.

30 APR 2018 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

The “schmutz” that appears at the tip of her abdomen is probably excrement. Hey, schmutz happens!

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

A good spot for spiketails and emeralds

April 23, 2018

21 APR 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | Little Hunting Creek

The preceding photo shows a view of the forest, seen from the banks of Little Hunting Creek as it flows through Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The forest floor is carpeted with Spring Beauty wildflowers (Claytonia virginica).

Little Hunting Creek is a good place to look for Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster maculata). Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster obliqua) and Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis) have been observed at the same site.

Tech Tip: 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.”

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Male Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies

February 4, 2018

On the same day that I saw a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) with an eye injury, one or more other males were photographed at the same location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Please look at the full-size version of each photo in order to fully appreciate these handsome little devils!

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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