Posts Tagged ‘immature female’

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (immature female)

July 28, 2018

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages.

24 JUN 2018 | ORP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (immature female)

Now you see her; now you don’t.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies are classified as a fall species of odonate. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawks are an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Editor’s Note

Sincere thanks to my good friend Mike Boatwright, administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for verifying my tentative identification.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Rambur’s Forktail damselfly (female)

December 16, 2016

A Rambur’s Forktail damselfly (Ischnura ramburii) was spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature heteromorph female, as indicated by the reddish-orange coloration of her thorax and abdominal segments one and two (S1-2), and reddish-orange postocular spots; her coloration will become duller as she matures. Andromorph females are colored like males.

A Rambur's Forktail damselfly (Ischnura ramburii) spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature heteromorph female.

03 OCT 2016 | Mason Neck West Park | Rambur’s Forktail (female)

This sighting was another reminder of one of many Walterisms: Don’t be dismissive! Huh? Male Rambur’s Forktail damselflies look similar to male Eastern Forktail damselflies (Ischnura verticalis). Eastern Forktails are relatively common, especially during spring and early-summer. Common. That’s the key word. When I noticed several male Rambur’s Forktails at the water retention pond I thought, “Oh, Eastern Forktails. Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.” Fortunately I spotted the immature heteromorph female and realized the error of my ways.

I’ll say it again: Don’t be dismissive — that kind of thinking can result in missed opportunities for wildlife photographers. I never expected to see Rambur’s Forktails at Mason Neck West Park and my preconceptions almost caused me to miss a golden opportunity to see a relatively uncommon damselfly.

Related Resources: Excellent digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland. Click on the button labeled “Download file” in order to view full-size version of the graphics.

  • Ischnura ramburii female #2 | heteromorph female | JPG
  • Ischnura ramburii female #8 | andromorph female | JPG
  • Ischnura ramburii male #2 | male | JPG

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More previews of coming attractions

November 5, 2016

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted during photowalks at two wildlife watching parks located in Northern Virginia (suburban Washington, D.C.). All specimens are teneral, as indicated by their coloration and the tenuous appearance of their wings.

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

During mid-June 2016, a single Autumn Meadowhawk was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by its terminal appendages.

Female abdomens are slightly thicker than those of males and noticeably flared toward both the thorax and tip of the abdomen. The “subgenital plate,” located under the ninth abdominal segment (S9), is a large scoop-like structure used for laying eggs (exophytic oviposition).

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral female)

The dragonfly is perching on “soft rush” (Juncus effusus), the common name for the shoreline/emergent plant with a light green round stem and brownish flowers shown in the preceding photo. Soft rush is common in wetland areas. Thanks to Christopher Wicker and Bonne Clark, naturalists at OBNWR, for identifying the plant.

Huntley Meadows Park

About one week later, many teneral Autumn Meadowhawks were spotted at a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first individual is a teneral female, perching on soft rush.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral female)

The next specimen is also a teneral female.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral female)

The following individual is a teneral male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral male)

The last specimen is another teneral male.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral male)

Editor’s Notes: This post is a belated companion piece for Previews of coming attractions, published on 04 June 2016, that documented teneral Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) observed during late-May 2016. About two weeks later, the first teneral Autumn Meadowhawks were observed.

Both Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are classified as fall species of odonates. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are arboreal species of dragonflies that return to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (teneral female)

May 13, 2016

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted on 15 April 2016 at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by its terminal appendages (cerci) and the pale coloration of her wings.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

Miraculous metamorphosis, the last post in my photoblog, featured a three-hour time-series of still photos documenting the astounding transformation of a female Common Whitetail dragonfly from a larva to an adult. The teneral female dragonfly in this post emerged recently, probably sometime during the same day these photos were taken.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

A pattern of dark spots on all four wings, characteristic of female Common Whitetail dragonflies, will develop within a few days to a week-or-so after emergence.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Miraculous metamorphosis

May 11, 2016

I was sitting on my Coleman camp stool on the earthen dam at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, hoping the sky would clear so I could see some odonates. The sky was almost completely overcast; as a result, I hadn’t seen any dragonflies or damselflies all morning.

My cell phone rang. Matt Ryan, a good friend and part-time naturalist at Huntley Meadows Park, called to tell me about a dragonfly larva he spotted that had just started to transform into an adult. I was conflicted for a few minutes: Meadowood Recreation Area is much farther from my home than Huntley Meadows Park so I was reluctant to leave empty-handed, so to speak, especially since several species of odonates can be seen at Meadowood that aren’t known to occur at Huntley. Fortunately I came to my senses and drove to Huntley as quickly as possible.

The following photo is the first image from a three-hour time-series documenting an emergent female Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia), located within a few feet from the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park. The miraculous metamorphosis was well underway by the time I arrived at the spot. Elapsed time is expressed in hh:mm:ss format.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 11:21 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:00:00

The wings, folded like accordions, then begin to fill from the base with fluid transferred from the body and fairly soon reach full length. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 466-467). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 11:32 am EDT | Elapsed time: ~00:11:00

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 12:20 pm EDT | Elapsed time: ~00:59:00

The fluid is then pumped back into the abdomen, and it expands. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 467-468). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Notice the wings are nearly clear in following photo, indicating the greenish-colored fluid that formerly filled the wings is almost gone. The abdomen is noticeably longer in this photo than in the first image in the time-series, taken at 11:21 EDT.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 12:43 pm EDT | Elapsed time: ~01:22:00

At this point, a pair of terminal appendages (cerci) was clearly visible at the end of the abdomen, indicating this individual is a female.

Notice the wing spots are beginning to darken. A pattern of dark spots on all four wings, characteristic of female Common Whitetail dragonflies, will develop within a few days to a week-or-so after emergence.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 01:23 pm EDT | Elapsed time: ~02:02:00

Finally, the wings open up, and very soon the teneral adult flies away. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 468). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The pair of wings on her right side snapped into the resting position approximately two hours and 18 minutes (~02:18:00) after I started this time-series of photos.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 01:38:42 pm EDT | Elapsed time: 02:17:42

The pair of wings on her left side snapped into the resting position one minute and four seconds (00:01:04) later.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 01:39:46 pm EDT | Elapsed time: 02:18:46

Her wings quivered slightly at ~02:24:00 pm and then she flew away.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 02:24 pm EDT | Elapsed time: ~03:03:00

The last photo shows the cast skin from the emergent dragonfly, technically known as an exuvia (singular).

A cast skin from a Common Whitetail dragonfly spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This is the exuvia of an emerging female.

07 MAY 2016 | 02:28 pm EDT | Elapsed time: ~03:07:00

Although I have seen two emerging dragonflies from a different family, albeit briefly, and seen several exuviae (plural) in situ, this was my first opportunity to observe the process carefully for several hours. Sincere thanks to Matt Ryan for kindly thinking of me!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (young female)

June 12, 2015

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted on 20 May 2015 during a photowalk alongside the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a young female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

The young female was sheltering in vegetation close to the ground.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

She was quite skittish, flying to a new location whenever I violated her comfort zone.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

Look closely at the full-size version of the following annotated image. Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment (S8) that are used to scoop water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

Immature Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies and immature Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) — including both females and males — look very similar. In my opinion, the best field marker for differentiating the two species is femur coloration: Great Blue Skimmer femora are mostly tan; Slaty Skimmer femora are mostly black.

The following female Slaty Skimmer was spotted along the “Hike-Bike Trail” at Huntley Meadows Park. Contrast the difference in coloration of the Slaty Skimmer femurs (below) with the Great Blue Skimmer femurs (above).

A Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) spotted along the "Hike-Bike Trail" at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

04 JUN 2012 | HMP | Slaty Skimmer (young female)

Related Resources:

  • Great Blue Skimmers – “The femora are pale over their basal half with the remaining length, tibiae and tarsi black.”
  • Slaty Skimmer – “The legs are black with brown only at their extreme bases.”

Digital Dragonflies: presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | side view

Digital scans by G & J Strickland:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Corporal dragonfly terminal appendages

April 1, 2015

Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata) is a member of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies that is commonly spotted during the spring months at many water bodies in the mid-Atlantic United States.

Immature males appear similar to immature/mature females of the same species for many types of dragonflies that display sexual dimorphism. This is true for many members of the Skimmer Family of dragonflies, such as Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), and the following Blue Corporal dragonflies  spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA).

Immature male and female Blue Corporal dragonflies are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages — the abdomen of both genders is black and copper in coloration.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (immature male)

01 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (immature male)

Male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers,” that are used to grab and hold female dragonflies during mating: an upper pair of cerci (“superior appendages”) and a lower unpaired epiproct (“inferior appendage”).

Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (female)

01 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (immature female)

As male Blue Corporals mature their coloration turns black and dark blue, although some mature males turn a lighter shade of blue.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (male)

02 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (mature male)

Mature females turn shades of light grayish-tan. Although the terminal appendages aren’t shown clearly in the following annotated photo, the image illustrates the change in coloration that occurs as females mature.

Blue Corporal dragonfly (mature female)

09 MAY 2013 | MRA | Blue Corporal (mature female)

Related Resources: Odonate Terminal Appendages.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

They’re back!

April 30, 2014

Adult-stage Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia), that is. Larval-stage dragonflies, also known as nymphs, live year-round in the waters of the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park although they are seen rarely.

I didn’t see any “home grown” dragonflies flying over the central wetland area during a photowalk on 27 April 2014. All of the dragonflies featured in this post are immature — they were hunkered down for safety in fields near the hemi-marsh where they emerged recently.

The three dragonflies shown below are immature males, as indicated by their coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. Can you tell which one is oldest?

Common Whitetail dragonfly (immature male)

Common Whitetail dragonfly (immature male)

Common Whitetail dragonfly (immature male)

The two dragonflies shown below are immature females, as indicated by their coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. Can you tell which one is older?

Common Whitetail dragonfly (female)

Common Whitetail dragonfly (immature female)

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (immature female)

August 20, 2012

The following photos show a dragonfly spotted during a photowalk along the “Hike-Bike Trail” at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated the terminal appendages at the end of its abdomen. It is either a Slaty Skimmer or Great Blue Skimmer, both of which are somewhat similar in appearance. A couple of definitive characters aren’t clearly visible in these photos.

  1. A black triangle below the base of the front wing is a good way to separate the species: Slaty Skimmers have it; Great Blue Skimmers do not.
  2. Face color can be used too: the faces of Slaty females are reddish-brown; the faces of Great Blue females are white.

Conclusion: Since this individual’s femora are mostly dark colored, it is an immature female Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta).

P1090839-rw2-ver3_apertureP1090839-rw2-ver2_apertureP1090836-rw2-ver2_aperture

Related Resources:

  • Slaty Skimmer – “The legs are black with brown only at their extreme bases.”
  • Great Blue Skimmers – “The femora are pale over their basal half with the remaining length, tibiae and tarsi black.”

Digital Dragonflies: presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula incesta | Slaty Skimmer | male | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula incesta | Slaty Skimmer | male | side view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | side view

Copyright © 2012 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved. www.wsanford.com


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