Posts Tagged ‘Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge’

Up close and personal

September 23, 2017

A single Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) was spotted during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

The preceding photograph is the “scene setter” for this gallery. I like to get as close as possible to the subject, and this guy was an extraordinarily cooperative model.

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

18 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Late-season Swift Setwing dragonflies

September 9, 2017

Several Swift Setwing dragonflies (Dythemis velox) were spotted during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

05 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (mature male)

Both individuals featured in this post are mature males, as indicated by their terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

05 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (mature male)

05 SEP 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (mature male)

Adult Flight Period for Swift Setwing

Late-season Swift Setwing dragonflies,” the title of this blog post, implies that the adult flight period for this species in Northern Virginia is well known. It isn’t.

The Dragonflies of Northern Virginia Calendar of Flight Periods by Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, doesn’t include Swift Setwing because the species was unknown to occur in Northern Virginia before it was discovered on 24 June 2016 in Fairfax County by my good friend Michael Powell. One year later, we’re still gathering data for this newcomer to the region.

The adult flight period for Swift Setwing in the Commonwealth of Virginia is from 20 June to 02 October, according to records maintained by Steven M. Roble, Ph.D., Staff Zoologist, Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage.

September is in fact late-season for Swift Setwing, based upon state records — a fact underscored by qualitative observations of the appearance of males photographed in early August and early September at the same location.

Post Update

I just realized Mike Powell spotted the First Swift Setwing in 2017 on 19 June 2017 at Mulligan Pond — a new early date for this species in Virginia!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pond pals

September 7, 2017

A male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) was spotted perching on the nose of a water turtle, possibly a Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris), at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Eastern Amberwing (male) and water turtle

As soon as the turtle surfaced the dragonfly appeared out of thin air and landed on the turtle’s nose. I shot two photos before the turtle dove underwater and swam out of sight, but for a magical moment, the turtle and dragonfly were pond pals!

Editor’s Notes

Sincere thanks to Matt Ratcliffe, member of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the water turtle. Now that the identity of the turtle is certain, I named the pair of pond pals Scooter and Cooter.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Russet-tipped Clubtail (terminal appendages)

August 14, 2017

Male Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) have a larger, more colorful club than females of the same species, their hind wings are “indented,” and their terminal appendages are shaped differently. Compare and contrast the appearance of males and females by looking at the following annotated images.

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”).

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Notice the epiproct is a wide “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the preceding annotated image.

Female

All female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function. The hind wings of female clubtails are rounded.

21 AUG 2015 | Powhatan County, VA | Russet-tipped Clubtail (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

The female Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly shown in the preceding image was spotted along the James River by my good friend Michael Boatwright, founder of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group. Sincere thanks to Mike for permission to use his photographs (background and inset).

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

  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | male | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | top view
  • Genus Stylurus | Stylurus plagiatus | Russet-tipped Clubtail | female | side view

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennant dragonflies (males)

August 12, 2017

Several Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) were spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of the individuals in this gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Fujifilm X-T1

The first photo was taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens plus a Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. The lens was set for a focal length of 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent).

The camera was set for an aperture of f/11. I forgot to decrease the aperture to f/16 (one of the lessons learned from recent field testing). Although depth of field (DoF) wasn’t an issue for the lateral view of a male Swift Setwing dragonfly featured in my last post, DoF is an issue for this viewpoint of a male Banded Pennant dragonfly. Notice the head and thorax are in focus; the terminal appendages are not.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

The photos in the last set were taken using my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Is that a head-tilt I see below? Did you notice the male Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis) in the background?

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennant (male)

Editor’s Notes

What are the take-aways from looking at photo sets of the same subject taken using different camera kits, shown head-to-head?

First, the Fujifilm X-T1 is a good camera that I should use more often. My comfort level with the Fujifilm camera isn’t the same as my trusty Panasonic, but that should develop in time.

Second, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 is capable of capturing high-quality photographs, especially when used in combination with a good external flash unit such as the Canon 580EX Speedlite.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Swift Setwing dragonflies (males)

August 10, 2017

Several Swift Setwing dragonflies (Dythemis velox) were spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. All of the individuals in this gallery are male, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

The photos in the first set were taken using my Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera plus Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking. Many of these photos are uncropped; some of the images were cropped slightly in order to improve composition.

Male Swift Setwings prefer perching on low vegetation overlooking water. The first two photos show males perching briefly away from the shoreline.

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

I think the next two photos are strong candidates for my Odonart Portfolio. What do you think?

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

The last two photos were taken within minutes of each other using two different camera kits. Is that a head-tilt I see below?

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

Fujifilm X-T1

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

The last photo in this gallery was taken using my Fujifilm X-T1 digital camera, Fujinon XF55-200mm zoom lens plus a Fujifilm 11mm extension tube, and Fujifilm EF-X500 shoe mount flash. The lens was set for a focal length of 200mm (~300mm, 35mm equivalent).

The camera was set for an aperture of f/11. I forgot to decrease the aperture to f/16 (one of the lessons learned from recent field testing), although depth of field wasn’t an issue from this viewpoint of the dragonfly.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Banded Pennants (mating pair, in wheel)

August 8, 2017

“In wheel”

A mating pair of Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) was spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is “in wheel.”

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennants (mating pair, “in wheel“)

02 AUG 2017 | JMAWR | Banded Pennants (mating pair, “in wheel“)

“Insex”

In a recent blog post, I mentioned that I used to photowalk the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park frequently. In deference to the many women and children who visit the park, I coined the term “insex” (sounds like “insects” to the uninitiated) as a family-friendly way to alert my fellow odonate hunters/photowalkers that I heard/saw a mating pair of dragonflies.

More often than not, I hear the clatter of wings before I see a mating pair. When I hear that unique sound, “insex” is the code word I use to give people a heads-up to search for the noisy couple.

In this case, the male Banded Pennant made a silky-smooth, soundless hook-up with the female. I had been watching the female oviposit along the shoreline of the pond while a male was hover guarding her. The fact is, I’m not sure whether he was actually hover guarding or an interloper waiting for an opportunity to grab the female. Either way, I was able to shoot just two photos of the mating pair before they flew in wheel to the top of a nearby tree.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

Phanogomphus

April 20, 2017

Two teneral dragonflies were observed near Mulligan Pond during a photowalk at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I was able to photograph the first one I spotted; the second flew away as soon as I approached it.

This dragonfly is either Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis). Based upon the short, faded yellow markings on the dorsal side of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9), this individual is probably an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly. Less reliably, the 18 April date of the spotting also suggests Ashy Clubtail (for Northern Virginia).

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

Both Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies were formerly classified as members of the genus Gomphus. Both species were reclassified recently as Phanogomphus. In the world of taxonomic classification, there are “lumpers” and “splitters.” Score one for the splitters!

Notice the first photo shows the wings folded above the abdomen. I spotted the teneral dragonfly when it flew toward me from the pond shoreline. The dragonfly rested in this location for a few minutes before it flew to a new spot (shown below) where it perched briefly with its wings unfolded. The last time I saw the dragonfly, it was flying toward the forest alongside the pond.

The other teneral dragonfly that I saw — “the one that got away” — was perched on the lawn near the walking path around the lake; it flew toward the forest when I moved closer to take some photographs.

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

This specimen is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages.

All female dragonflies have two cerci (superior appendages); in contrast all male dragonflies have two cerci and one epiproct (inferior appendage), collectively called “claspers.” Contrast the appearance of the terminal appendages of this female Ashy Clubtail with a male of the same species.

The last photo in the set is a wider view that shows how well-camouflaged the dragonfly was perched on the lawn around the pond.

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

The Backstory

I was surprised to discover a Lancet Clubtail dragonfly near Mulligan Pond during late-June 2016. Knowing that Ashy Clubtails can be found in the same habitats preferred by Lancet Clubtails, I decided to look for Ashy Clubtails at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge beginning in mid-April 2017. Apparently Mulligan Pond is a good place for both species, because I spotted two Ashy Clubtails the first time I went looking for them. Ah, if only odonate hunting were always so easy!

Post Update

As far as I know, this is the first record for this species at this location. A new record for Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge was submitted to the Odonata Central records database on 22 April 2017.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Black and Yellow Argiope spiders

March 31, 2017

Two Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) spiders were spotted during a photowalk around Mulligan PondJackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Larger (female?)

The zig-zag pattern in the center of the web is a characteristic field marker for Black and Yellow Argiope. Females (14-25 mm) are larger than males (5-6 mm), so it’s possible the first spider is a female and the last spider is a male.

Smaller (male?)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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