Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

Left on the cutting room floor

April 15, 2019

Close readers of my blog may have noticed I’ve posted a lot of photos recently that were taken years ago. Why were the photos passed over for publication closer to the time the shots were taken?

Sometimes there are better shots from the same photowalk that I’m eager to share, and sometimes they just don’t make the grade. The former requires no explanation; the following photos help to illustrate the latter.

The following female Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) was spotted during a photowalk around a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. The damselfly was perched in a hidey-hole in the vegetation at angle that made it impossible to get the entire subject in focus from head-to-tail.

The first photo shows the head and thorax in focus, but the tip of the abdomen and terminal appendages are out of focus.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing (female)

The last photo shows the tip of the abdomen and terminal appendages in focus, but the head and thorax are in soft focus. Look closely at a full-size version of the photo and you can see both styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors (like “curb feelers“) in egg positioning during oviposition.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing (female)

The odd thing is the focus point is nearly the same in both photos, and the aperture is identical. Go figure! Anyway, less than ideal focus is something that will cause me to reject photos every time. And then there’s that “too hot” blade of grass in the lower-right corner — talk about distracting!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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.

Smeared Dagger Moth caterpillar

April 8, 2019

A Smeared Dagger Moth caterpillar (Acronicta oblinita), a type of stinging caterpillar, was spotted on 15 September 2016 during a photowalk along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP).

Stinging caterpillars use poison-filled bristles to defend themselves from predators. If you touch a stinging caterpillar, you’ll know it by the burning, itching… Source Credit: 13 Stinging Caterpillars. [Smeared Dagger is No. 10.]

Thanks to Mike Powell, fellow wildlife photographer and blogger, for identifying this unusual caterpillar way back when both of us were less experienced amateur naturalists.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Parts 3, 4)

March 18, 2019

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flowers were photographed on 06 and 10 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Kevin Munroe, former park manager at Huntley Meadows, designated Purple Milkweed as a “plant of interest” due to the fact that it is officially a rare plant species in the state of Virginia (S2).

Part 3

These plants are covered with ants, lots of ants!

Later, a single Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) was feeding on the same milkweed plant, along with lots of ants.

Part 4

Lots of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) were observed feeding on the milkweed. The next two photos show the same individual in two poses.

The proboscis, a specialized structure that enables butterflies to siphon liquids from flowers, is shown clearly in the next two photos.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was feeding on another cluster of milkweed flowers. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the State Insect of Virginia. Really, who knew there are official state insects?

The last photo is my favorite in both galleries.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Part 2)

March 15, 2019

The following Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flower was photographed on 01 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The milkweed is covered by a cornucopia of insects including ants (one ant can be seen in the full-size version of the first photo), what I think is some type of weevil (the darker insects featuring a curved proboscis that reminds me of an elephant trunk), a cool looking metallic gold-green bee, and what I think is a species of Crane Fly.

As it turns out, my tentative identification of the Crane Fly is incorrect.

The crane fly is actually a [species of] Stilt Bug [from the Family Berytidae]. I can tell by the clubbed antennae and distally enlarged femora. Source Credit: Natalie Hernandez, member of the BugGuide Facebook group.

The gold-green bee is shown more clearly in the full-size version of the following photo. Masumi Palhof, another member of the BugGuide Facebook group, thinks the bee might be a Silky Striped-Sweat bee (Agapostemon sericeus).

Related Resources

Post Update

The weevil is in the subfamily Baridinae (commonly known as “flower weevils”), maybe Odontocorynus umbellae or O. salebrosus. Source Credit: Ted C. MacRae, Senior Entomologist & Science Fellow. Beetles In The Bush [blog].

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Part 1)

March 13, 2019

During a two-week period in late-May/early-June 2016, I followed a cohort of Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) that emerged from a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) plants were growing in the fields near the same vernal pool. This blog post is the first of a four-part time series featuring photos of the milkweed, taken during some of my visits to the site in search of Slender Spreadwing.

Related Resources

Post Update

Look closely at the full-size version of the first photo. Notice the small black insects on the milkweed flowers.

Ants are notorious for stealing nectar and love all kinds of Milkweeds… Source Credit: Alonso Abugattas Jr, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA. Alonso is also the creator and administrator of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group, where I requested help with identification of the unknown insects on the milkweed.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


March 8, 2019

Cornflower (Centaurea sp., possibly Centaurea cyanus) was spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The flowers were growing in a field along an electric power line easement on one of the park boundaries.

Sincere thanks to members of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for help in identifying the flowering plant.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


March 4, 2019

Beardtongue (Penstemon sp., possibly Penstemon digitalis), an odd-looking flowering plant, was spotted growing along the margin of a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

One look at the full-size version of the following photo and it’s easy to see the origin of one of the common names for this plant.

Sincere thanks to Karla Jamir for help in identifying the flowering plant. Karla is a plant expert extraordinaire who volunteers at Huntley Meadows Park.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

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.

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