Posts Tagged ‘in flight’

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.

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Non-stop flight

April 22, 2017

On 18 April 2017, a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted patrolling part of the shoreline at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, in flight.

108mm (600mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/5.2 | 1/800s | -1 ev | flash fired

The photograph was taken using a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera and a Canon 580EX Speedlite external flash set for manual mode at 1/8 power and 105mm zoom.

Related Resource: Stop-action photography of dragonflies in flight, a blog post by Walter Sanford, features Phil Wherry’s answer to my question “How fast would the camera shutter speed need to be in order to freeze all motion of a dragonfly in flight?”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies (males)

July 8, 2016

Let’s play a quick game of word association. What’s the first color you think of when I say “Carolina?” If you’re like me, then you’re thinking “Carolina blue.” And so I was puzzled by the origin of “Carolina Saddlebags,” the common name for Tramea carolina — a remarkably red dragonfly. I consulted the experts of the Southeastern Odes Facebook group.

It was probably first known from [the work of English naturalist Mark Catesby in] Charleston, the source of many specimens that made their way across the Atlantic to European taxonomists, so I suppose we should have named it South Carolina Saddlebags. Source Credit: Dennis Paulson, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides).

Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area

I spotted a single Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly perching near the edge of Hidden Pond at Meadowood Recreation Area.

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Carolina Saddlebags (male)

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

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Carolina Saddlebags (male)

Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly looks similar to Red Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea onusta). One way to differentiate the two species is to look closely at the red “saddlebags” on their hind wings.

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Carolina Saddlebags (male)

Mason Neck West Park

The next photo — showing a male Carolina Saddlebags in flight over a small water retention pond at Mason Neck West Park (MNWP) — features a better view of the red saddlebags.

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

02 JUL 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (male, in flight)

The following composite image — created by Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast — clearly shows the difference in the shape of the saddlebags for Carolina- versus Red Saddlebags. Look closely at the saddlebags in the full-size version of the preceding photo and you can see the pattern perfectly matches the Carolina Saddlebags in Ed’s image, shown below.

Carolina-and-Red-Saddlebags

Composite image used with permission from Ed Lam.

Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies are fliers; it is more common to see them flying than perching. I saw several Carolina Saddlebags at Mason Neck West Park, including both males and females, but I never saw one land during several hours of observation. Based upon this experience, the male I spotted perching at Hidden Pond (shown above) was an unexpected surprise!

A Carolina Saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea carolina) spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

02 JUL 2016 | MNWP | Carolina Saddlebags (male, in flight)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male, in flight)

May 17, 2016

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) spotted at Enchanted Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, in flight.

Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted on 14 May 2016 at Enchanted Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by its terminal appendages. Notice the male’s bright blue-green eyes in the preceding photo. It’s easy to see why Common Baskettail is a member of the Emerald Family of dragonflies!

Enchanted Pond is relatively small. The shoreline seemed to be subdivided into imaginary segments of valuable real estate; each segment was patrolled by a single male Common Baskettail dragonfly. There were frequent aerial skirmishes when one male strayed into the territory of another. During nearly an hour of observation, I never saw one of the males land. Talk about stamina!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Bronze Age

September 15, 2014

The following photograph shows a Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 12 September 2014. This individual is an old female, as indicated by its coloration, terminal appendages, and tattered wings.

Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of 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.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature adult female)

Contrast the coloration of the old female (above) with a young female (below), shown in flight as she is laying eggs (oviposition) in a vernal pool in the forest. The photo was taken on 17 July 2014.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (female, oviposition)

No wonder the first step in “Five steps to the next level of dragonfly spotting” says …

Step 1. Be aware the same species of dragonfly may appear differently depending upon gender, age, and natural variation. Some species display sexual dimorphism; in contrast, both genders look virtually identical for some species. Source Credit: Walter Sanford. Educator, Naturalist, and Photographer.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (adult female, oviposition, in flight)

September 11, 2014

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female, oviposition, in flight)

The photographs in this post show a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) spotted during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 24 August 2014. This individual is an adult female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages, shown in flight as she is laying eggs (oviposition) in the hemi-marsh.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female, oviposition, in flight)

Editor’s Note: I used a Canon 580EX II Speedlite mounted on my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera — it works much better than the built-in pop-up flash! The external flash unit works in manual mode only. For more information, see Lessons Learned: How to use a superzoom camera to shoot insect photos.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair) redux

August 2, 2014

I spotted another mating pair of Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 25 July 2014.

The pair is shown “in wheel.” All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia are located in segments two and three (2 and 3); female genitalia in segment eight (8). Therefore, the male dragonfly is on top; the female is on the bottom.

Blue Dasher dragonflies (mating pair)

The following photograph shows the female, resting briefly after copulation (before oviposition).

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

The next gallery shows a short time-series of photographs of the female, in flight, laying eggs (oviposition) in the hemi-marsh.

The last photo shows the female resting after oviposition, waiting for the next hook-up.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black Saddlebags dragonflies (males, in flight)

July 27, 2014

The following photographs show two Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata) spotted in flight over the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 25 July 2014.

Both individuals are males, as indicated by the hamules that are visible below the second segment of their abdomen. Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back. Digital Dragonflies features a side view of a male Black Saddlebags in which the hamules are shown clearly.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male, in flight)

Black Saddlebags is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Black Saddlebags, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership.

Black Saddlebags dragonfly (male, in flight)

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

  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | male | top view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | male | side view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | female | top view
  • Genus Tramea | Tramea lacerata | Black Saddlebags | female | side view

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Mochas gracias, amigos!

July 25, 2014

The following photographs show several male Mocha Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora linearis) spotted along a small stream that flows through the forest at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park. Mochas were my constant companions as I explored the habitat in search of more uncommon species of dragonflies, such as the Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly I discovered on 07 July 2014.

It’s challenging to photograph perching Mochas Emeralds because they prefer shady spots; it’s more challenging to shoot them in flight. Mocha Emerald dragonflies patrol back-and-forth along the center of a stream, pausing to hover in place at times — be prepared to go for it when they hover nearby. Properly exposed photographs are practically impossible to capture: graininess is inevitable using relatively low ISOs and faster shutter speeds; a flash-equipped camera is essential.

All of the photos were shot using the following camera settings: RAW+JPEG; Auto exposure; Auto ISO, Limit Set (400); Auto white balance; Shutter priority; Flash On, Fired; Spot metering; AF Mode (1-area-focusing). Select EXIF information appears in the caption for each photo.

The first two photos were shot on 17 July 2014.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/5.2; 108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent)

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/5.2; 108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent)

The last two photos were taken on 22 July 2014.

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/4.1; 57.2mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent)

Mocha Emerald dragonfly (male, in flight)

ISO 400; 1/1000s; f/4.1; 57.2mm (318mm, 35mm equivalent)

I prefer a shutter speed of 1/1,300s for stop-action photography of dragonflies in flight, although that shutter speed is a little too fast for low-light conditions and a little too slow to stop wing motion completely. See Dragonflies in Flight, a slideshow featuring 68 still photographs by Walter Sanford. (Hey, that’s me!)

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lessons Learned: Poor composition

February 7, 2013

The following photo shows a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

P1040743-rw2-ver2_aperture-bfx

This image is SO CLOSE to being a good photograph! If the tip of the hawk’s right wing weren’t clipped at the upper edge of the photo, then the composition would be improved greatly. I tried to track the bird in flight by looking at the LCD on the back of the camera. I thought it would be easier to look at the larger image provided by the 3″ LCD rather than looking through the camera’s electronic viewfinder. The take-away from this very frustrating experience: It’s easier to track moving objects by looking through the camera viewfinder, especially at telephoto focal lengths.

Tech Tips: I shot the photo using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom camera in Shutter Priority Mode with a focal length of 108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent). I selected a shutter speed of 1/2,000 second to stop action (bird in flight); the camera automatically selected an ISO of 100 and an aperture of f/5.2.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved. www.wsanford.com


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