Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

Fishing spider?

November 4, 2020

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wolf Spider (Tigrosa helluo)

A medium-size spider — possibly a species in the genus of Fishing Spiders — was observed along the railing of the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The spider was very skittish. It would venture out from a crack between two pieces of boardwalk railing, only to scurry back to safety every time I tried to move closer for a tighter shot.

Post Update

Sincere thanks to Sarah Rose, Laura Lee Paxson, and Todd Traxler — members of the BugGuide Facebook group — for help in identifying this individual as a Wolf Spider (Tigrosa helluo).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

November 2, 2020

“It ain’t over till it’s over” is a phrase commonly associated with baseball player/coach/manager Yogi Berra. In this case, “it” refers to odonate season and it’s not over in Northern Virginia till Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) disappear. Clearly, it ain’t over although “the end is near.”

This individual is a female, as indicated by her red/tan coloration and terminal appendages.

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is a similar saying that is often attributed to Yogi Berra mistakenly. “The fat lady” refers to the fact that many female dragonflies, such as Autumn Meadowhawk, have a wider body than males of the same species.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice what appears to be an egg mass located on the underside of her body, near the tip of the abdomen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn colors

October 30, 2020

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was perched near the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Damselfly (species unknown)

October 28, 2020

A damselfly was spotted near a small pool of water in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | damselfly (species unknown)

This individual is definitely a member of Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies), possibly a female Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile).

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where the genus Enallagma (American Bluets) fits into the bigger picture of the Order OdonataSuborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are four families of damselflies in the United States of America (USA), although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic USA: Broad-winged damselflies; Narrow-winged damselflies (a.k.a., Pond Damselflies); and Spreadwing damselflies.

  1. Family Calopterygidae – Broad-winged Damselflies
  2. Family Coenagrionidae – Narrow-winged Damselflies
  3. Family Lestidae – Spreadwings

Note: Family Platystictidae (Shadowdamsels) is the fourth family of damselflies in the USA. Desert Shadowdamsel (Palaemnema domina) is the only member of this family. P. domina is rare, known to occur only in Arizona in the southwestern United States.

1. Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

2. Family Coenagrionidae is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

3. Family Lestidae is comprised of two genera.

  • Archilestes (e.g., Great Spreadwing)
  • Lestes (e.g., Slender Spreadwing, Southern Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing)

There are relatively few genera of Broad-winged Damselflies and Spreadwing Damselflies. In contrast, there are many more genera and species of Narrow-winged Damselflies — more species, including many that look similar, makes this family the most challenging to learn!

Related Resource: “The Odonata of North America” is a complete list of both scientific names and common names for damselflies and dragonflies, maintained by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.

An interactive version of the same species list is available from the Odonata Central Web site. The master list can be filtered in many ways. Location is perhaps the most useful filter.

For example, my good friend Mike Boatwright lives in Amherst County, Virginia USA. Click on the blue button labeled “Filter Results.” Then click the down arrow in the Location field, enter “Amherst” and select the complete location name that appears in a list of available options; click the “Apply Filtering” button. You should see a list of 97 species of odonates reported to occur in Amherst County, including 10 species in the genus Enallagma. Notice that Familiar Bluet is on the list, as well as several species of Enallagma that aren’t found where I live in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

HMK at HMP

October 26, 2020

14 OCT 2020 | HMP | Handsome Meadow Katydid (female)

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

Blue eyes are a good field mark 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.

I like the way the reddish-pink American tearthumb (Persicaria sagittata) flowers in the background complement the color palette of the katydid.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Service call for HMP weather station

October 23, 2020

The following photo gallery shows David M. Lawlor, Natural Resource Manager at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA, working to repair the automated weather observation station located in the central wetland area.

According to Dave, the components of the weather station were working properly although data couldn’t be accessed remotely.

The first photo shows Dave getting out a volt meter in order to check battery voltage and power to the weather station data logger.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The next photo shows Dave preparing to connect a laptop computer to the data logger.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

Dave testing battery voltage and power to data logger…

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The last photo shows Dave using a laptop computer, connected to the data logger, in an attempt to diagnose the connection issue.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | David M. Lawlor

The Backstory

During a photowalk with Michael Powell along the boardwalk that goes through the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park, we ran into Dave Lawlor when he was about to go overboard into the wetlands.

Related Resource

New HMP Weather Station (posted on 10 December 2016) – Real-time weather data was available from the old weather station, installed and maintained by Virginia Tech University, until it went offline after 23 September 2016. We look forward to a time when the new weather station goes online for public access.

In the meantime, real-time weather data is available at a new exhibit located just inside the front doors of the HMP Visitor Center.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

October 21, 2020

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was perched along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

The boardwalk deck and railings are a composite material made from recycled plastic milk bottles. In my opinion, those surfaces provide a “cleaner background” that enables the viewer to focus on the subject easier than if it were posed against a more natural setting. So if the goal is to teach people how to identify common odonates, then the boardwalk is an ideal “studio” for photographing dragonflies.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

“Sleepy”

October 19, 2020

Another photographer spotted a Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea) along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA and she was kind enough to share her discovery with Michael Powell and me.

14 OCT 2020 | Huntley Meadows Park | Green Treefrog (Hyla cinerea)

Later the same day, Mike and I showed the Green Treefrog to a mother and her two children, Aria and Dante. They seemed excited to see one of many hidden treasures at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). I asked Aria to give the frog a name; she chose “Sleepy.” I think that’s a perfect name, given the frog’s half-closed pupil(s).

I hope the family will revisit HMP at the appropriate time next year when the mating calls of Green Treefrogs are as loud as the annual symphony of Spring Peepers — it’s an astounding aural experience!

Related Resource: Calls April – August, an audio file (45 s) from Virginia Herpetological Society.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

October 16, 2020

Michael Powell spotted a Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) perched on greenbriar vine in a wetland area alongside the gravel trail we were following out of Huntley Meadows Park, located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Notice the tip of her abdomen is enlarged because of her reproductive anatomy, including an ovipositor.

Female Slender Spreadwing can be confused with female Southern Spreadwing damselflies. Several key field marks are used to differentiate the two species.

Blue shoulder stripes, slender abdomen, the ratio of abdominal segments seven and nine (S7 and S9), and whitish wing tips all point to Slender Spreadwing. S7 is more than twice the length of S9 in Slender, covered in Ed Lam’s book. 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.

Related Resource: Damselflies of the Northeast, by Ed Lam (author and illustrator).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

We have a history

August 21, 2020

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Eastern Pondhawk, especially female E. simplicicollis, are voracious predators.

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

Regular readers of my blog know I love me some head-tilts, as shown in the preceding photo.

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

The Backstory

As the title of this blog post suggests, Eastern Pondhawk and I have a history — a negative history. A cohort of Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) was observed for a two-week period during early May 2015 at a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

The sudden disappearance of the damselfly cohort seemed to coincide with a population explosion of Eastern Pondhawk in mid-May. After years of heavy predation by Eastern Pondhawk, Southern Spreadwing disappeared completely from the vernal pool.

Related Resource: A Southern Fortnight – Part 1-7.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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