Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

New discoveries in 2018 (non-odonates)

December 24, 2018

As 2018 is coming to a close quickly, it’s time to indulge in a little retrospection. This blog post features a few new non-odonates that I spotted for the first time in 2018.

Editor’s Note: Photos are presented in reverse-chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting.

Pandora Sphinx moth

This beauty was my reward after a long, mostly unproductive photowalk at Huntley Meadows ParkPosted on 24 September 2018.

20 SEP 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Pandora Sphinx moth

Wild Turkey

Although I have seen signs of Wild Turkey at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, 10 August 2018 is the first time I’ve seen actual birds at OBNWR. Posted on 19 August 2018 and 10 September 2018.

Northern Black Racer (mating pair)

Look closely — both heads are shown in the following photo. Posted on 30 September 2018.

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


Next post: New odonate exuviae in 2018 (by family).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Walking tour of CAHH parks

November 26, 2018

Hollin Hills is a development in Fairfax County, Virginia, about 10 miles outside of Washington, D.C. It has about 450 houses. It was designed by Charles Goodman and developed by Robert Davenport.” Source Credit: “Hollin Hills” website (no longer online).

The Civic Association of Hollin Hills (CAHH) owns and maintains seven small parks in the community: the Wildlife Sanctuary; Sutton Potter Park; Brickelmaier Park; Charles Goodman Park; Paul Spring Park; “Mac” McCalley Park; and Voigt Memorial Park.

All of the parks are located along streams except Sutton Potter Park and McCalley Park. The Wildlife Refuge/Sanctuary extends from Woodlawn Trail to the dogleg in the road at Boswell Avenue and Delafield Place. Two parks straddle creeks that are tributaries of Paul Spring, a stream that runs along Paul Spring Road: Brickelmaier Park runs from Popkins Lane to Paul Spring Road; Goodman Park runs from Marthas Road to Paul Spring Road. Paul Spring Park runs along Paul Spring from the intersection of Rebecca Drive and Paul Spring Road to the intersection of Rippon Road and Paul Spring Road, directly across the street from McCalley Park and Voigt Park. The upstream end of Paul Spring Park is near White Oaks Park, a mid-size park maintained by Fairfax County Park Authority.

Sutton Potter Park was featured in an article that appeared in Washingtonian Magazine, “Best of 2004: Sledding Hills.” I shot two photos from a viewpoint about halfway up the long hill: one looking downhill; another looking uphill. Trust me, neither photo provides a sense of the true steepness of the hillslope — a sled ride downhill could be either extremely exhilarating or very terrifying! The park entrance is located at the 7400 block of Range Road; another entrance is located behind the townhouses along Windbreak Drive.

The Wildlife Sanctuary is (or was) a good place to look for Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis). Peak activity was observed during July. A segment of Paul Spring, a stream located in Paul Spring Park, is (or was) good for Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami); the entire length of the stream is good for damselflies, including Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) and Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis)/Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea).

The Backstory

During Fall 2010, I used my Apple iPhone 3G and an app called “EveryTrail” to create an interactive map showing the location of the entrances to the CAHH parks. At some point, I noticed the hyperlink to the interactive map stopped working.

As it turns out, ownership of “EveryTrail” transferred to “TripAdvisor” in 2011; EveryTrail was acquired by “AllTrails” in 2016.

All of the interactive trail maps that I created eight years ago survived two ownership transfers, much to my surprise! Some of the interactivity of the original maps was lost in translation, but hey, all is not lost. “Walking Tour of CAHH Parks” is the current iteration of the interactive map, available from AllTrails. See also “Walking Tour of Huntley Meadows Park (Ver. 2).”

Tech Tips

The “EveryTrail” app was used to record a GPX file that traces the route I walked.

Photos were shot at selected waypoints. All photos featured in both interactive trail maps were taken using the built-in camera of my Apple iPhone 3G; the photos were geotagged automatically by the iPhone’s GPS receiver.

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.

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.


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