Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

Another black snake

January 19, 2018

A few days before I spotted the black snake featured in my last blog post, I saw another black snake at the same location in Huntley Meadows Park. In fact, I was so focused on searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies that I almost stepped on the snake!

This individual is probably an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis), as indicated by the appearance of its eyes.

22 OCT 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snake

My close encounter of the startling kind shows the snake slithering along a carpet of leaf litter on the ground, heading toward one of several man-made brush piles near a vernal pool at a remote location in the park.

The last two photos show the snake moving around inside the brush pile. According to Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, brush piles are “like a natural cupboard” where snakes hunt for small rodents.

22 OCT 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snake

Eastern Ratsnakes have keeled scales, shown clearly in the full-size version of the preceding photo.

Keeled scales refer to reptile scales that, rather than being smooth, have a ridge down the center that may or may not extend to the tip of the scale, making them rough to the touch. Source Credit: Keeled scales, Wikipedia.

Thanks to Timothy Deering for sharing this field marker in a comment on my last blog post.

22 OCT 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snake

Related Resource: Black snake, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Black snake

January 17, 2018

A black snake was spotted basking on a man-made brush pile at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is either an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) or Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor).

25 OCT 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snake

According to Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, Eastern Ratsnake can be differentiated from Northern Black Racer by looking at their eyes.

Northern Black Racers have a huge, all-black eye with an “eye-brow” ridge (makes racers look angry and somewhat dangerous all the time), while ratsnakes have noticeably smaller eyes with a black/white pupil/iris pattern (which makes them look more friendly/human). Also racers would never sit still long enough for you to take pictures, or at least it would be harder. Ratsnakes are pretty laid-back and easy to approach, while racers are very skittish and quick to flee. Ratsnakes mostly eat small mammals and young birds/eggs, while racers feed mainly on other herps like snakes, lizards and frogs. Ratsnakes are stealth/tracking hunters that smell out nests of young rodents and birds, while racers are active chasers/hunters/sprinters, which may be why they have such different personalities. Source Credit: Kevin Munroe.

25 OCT 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snake

Based upon Kevin’s guidance, I think this individual is an Eastern Ratsnake.

25 OCT 2017 | Huntley Meadows Park | black snake

Another black snake was spotted on the ground, about 20 feet from the brush pile. The snake wasn’t moving, but the vegetation was too dense to get a clear view of the subject.

Related Resource: Another black snake, a blog post by Walter Sanford.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Resting on a Coleman camp stool

January 13, 2018

In addition to my photography gear, I usually carry a Coleman camp stool when I go photowalking. The small, lightweight folding chair is good for resting while waiting for “the game to come to me.” The camp stool also enables me to get closer to subjects either on- or near the ground. And I think it’s easier to hold my camera rock-steady when I’m sitting on the chair with my elbows resting on my knees.

I like my Coleman camp stool. Some of my favorite insects like to rest on the camp stool too!

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (male, perching on a stool)

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (male, perching on a stool)

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (male, perching on a stool)

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs, in wheel)

January 11, 2018

Several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted during a photowalk around a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Both pairs are “in wheel“: the male is on top; the female is on the bottom.

All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

Editor’s Note: Careful readers may be thinking “Hey, wait a minute — you said you spotted several mating pairs, but the post features photos of just two pairs.” Good catch! The photos of two more mating pairs didn’t make the final cut because the focus was slightly soft in all of those photos.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonflies and Damselflies (poster, slideshow)

January 3, 2018

 

D R A G O N F L I E S  A N D  D A M S E L F L I E S
HUNTLEY MEADOWS PARK

W A L T E R  S A N F O R D
Educator | Naturalist | Photographer

 

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2017

January 1, 2018

The following gallery shows 32 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2017.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in November 2017 and ending in April 2017.

The Top 10 photos will be selected using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 5, 8, 14, 17, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

No. 1

No. 2

No. 3

27 OCT 2017 | MRA | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in tandem“)

No. 4

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

20 JUN 2017 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (immature male)

No. 22

No. 23

10 MAY 2017 | HORP | crayfish (underwater)

No. 24

No. 25

No. 26

No. 27

No. 28

No. 29

No. 30

No. 31

No. 32

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

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2017 (odonates)

December 28, 2017

There’s always more to discover/learn! My odonate-related new discoveries in 2017 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly

A Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) was spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is one of several males spotted during a period of a week-or-so in mid-September 2017.

Immature male Calico Pennant

20 JUN 2017 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (immature male)

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male. Notice its coloration is similar to female Calico Pennants.

Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly

An Allegheny River Cruiser (Macromia alleghaniensis) was netted by Mike Blust at Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

A Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus descriptus) was spotted at “Straight Fork,” Highland County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. Sincere thanks to fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for guiding me to this unique high-elevation habitat.

It’s worth noting that I saw two more new species during the same trip: Riffle Snaketail (Ophiogomphus carolus); and Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta).

Those who know me well are familiar with one of many “Walterisms”: “I haven’t ‘seen’ something until I have photographed it.” My rationale is two-fold: 1) A photograph verifies a sighting. 2) The detail visible in a good photograph exceeds the acuity of the human eye. Suffice it to say I saw two other species but haven’t seen them. Makes sense to me!

Swift River Cruiser dragonfly

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) was spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emergent/teneral female.

Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly

A Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) spotted along Bull Run at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. A female was spotted on the same day at a nearby location.

Epitheca cynosura exuvia

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) exuvia was collected at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Epitheca princeps exuvia

05 MAR 2017 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (face-head)

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia was collected from an unknown location. This specimen was on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Like a bad guest at a party

October 31, 2017

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like bad guests at a party — they are among the first odonates to arrive in spring and among the last to leave in fall. Unlike bad guests, it’s good to see Common Whitetails after a long, cold winter and you have to admire the fact that they survived a long, hot summer.

22 OCT 2017 | HMP | Common Whitetail (mature female)

The preceding photograph shows a Common Whitetail dragonfly that was spotted near a vernal pool at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and pattern of wing spots.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 2)

October 29, 2017

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) was spotted on 25 October 2017 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel.” The female is the primary subject; the tip of the male’s red abdomen is the secondary subject.

The first photo is my favorite in the set.

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

All odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Notice the small black “rivets” around the joint between segments seven and eight (S7, S8) of the male’s abdomen. Does anyone know the function of these structures?

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Each compound eye has approximately 30,000 ommatidia!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Tech Tips

The photographs in this gallery were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera set for ~12x zoom, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (manual mode). The close-up filter screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

I estimate the “working distance” between the camera and subject was approximately three-to-six inches (~3-6″). I attempted to photograph several mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawks; this is the only pair that allowed me to get close enough to shoot some macro photos.

Related Resource: Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 1), a blog post by Walter Sanford featuring photos of male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 1)

October 27, 2017

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted on 25 October 2017 during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of these individuals are male.

The photographs in this gallery were taken using my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera set for ~12x zoom, Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter, and Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash (manual mode). I estimate the “working distance” between the camera and subject was approximately three-to-six inches (~3-6″). Now that’s what I call cooperative models!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

The following photo is my favorite in the set.

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

Each compound eye has approximately 30,000 ommatidia!

ISO 100 | 56mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent) | f/4.1 | 1/800s | -1 ev

The Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter is a relatively inexpensive solution that enables my Panasonic superzoom digital camera to be used for macro photography. Set-up is quick and easy — the filter simply screws onto the front of the camera lens using a 52-43mm step-down ring.

As you can see, depth-of-field is very shallow, caused in part by shooting in Shutter Priority mode rather than Aperture Priority. A cooperative subject, good light, and a lot of patience are essential for success.

Related Resource: Quick and dirty macro photos (Part 2), a blog post by Walter Sanford featuring photos of a mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (in wheel).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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