Posts Tagged ‘male’

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

July 10, 2020

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

Look at the blade of grass on which the Sable is perched. Notice the “leftovers” from an afternoon snack eaten by the dragonfly before the photo was taken.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (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”). The epiproct for Sable Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The spiky green grass shown below is probably shallow sedge (Carex lurida) according to Drew Chaney, a.k.a., “Plant Man Drew.”

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Field Observations

All of the photos in the preceding gallery show male No. 2 perched on vegetation overhanging a small stream, enabling him to both hunt/feed and wait for an opportunity to mate with a female.

Natural History: Males perch on sunlit vegetation overhanging stream or on flat rocks in shade at head of riffle, fly up into trees when disturbed. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6102-6103). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

In my experience, Sable Clubtails — both male and female — also perch on ground cover vegetation in sunny clearings near small streams. For example, see my recent blog post featuring male No. 1.

Sable does in fact fly up into trees when their “flight” response is triggered by overzealous photographers; they have been observed perched in trees as high as 20 feet above the ground. Be patient — usually they return to the ground soon afterward.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male, No. 3)

July 6, 2020

Several Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) were spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This one is No. 3 of 4.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

After shooting a “record shot,” I like to “work the shot,” that is shoot the subject from all viewpoints. In this case the range of possible shots was somewhat limited so after I felt like I’d taken all the shots I could, I challenged Mike to see how close he could get to the dragonfly.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

As you can see in the photo featured in The Backstory, it turns out Mike was able to get astoundingly close to this very cooperative Gray Petaltail!

The Backstory

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is one of two superzoom bridge cameras that I use as my “go to” rigs for photowalking. The minimum focusing distance in AF Macro mode is 1 m (3.3 feet) at maximum telephoto (600 mm, 35mm equivalent). My usual practice is to set the camera for maximum telephoto and move as close as possible to the minimum focusing distance, resulting in maximum magnification of the subject. That’s how I shot the three photos shown above.

The following photo is shown for scale. The Gray Petaltail is perched on a fallen tree limb approximately six inches (6″) in front of Mike Powell’s 180mm macro lens. Shooting macro is one way to increase magnification; shooting at maximum telephoto is another. I prefer the flexibility afforded by a zoom lens versus a prime lens like Mike is using.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Michael Powell

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail eyes, a companion blog post by Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Dragonhunter dragonfly (male)

July 3, 2020

“Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot” is one my mantras for wildlife photography, as illustrated in the following three-photo time series of a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted by Michael Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy.

Close…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

Closer…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

Closest…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

This individual is a male, although it’s difficult to see some critical field marks in any of my photos such as hamules and “indented” hind wings. Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for refuting my tentative identification of the gender.

The dragonfly moved to a new perch…

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

And then another. I must say I was impressed by how effortlessly he seemed to fly. Dragonhunters are so BIG I expected he’d labor to fly. Nope, he made it look too easy!

25 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Dragonhunter (male)

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I spent a long day looking for Eastern Least Clubtail dragonflies (Stylogomphus albistylus) along a mid-size stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. No luck, but we saw what I think was the same Dragonhunter perched at several places. I was unable to get any good shots of the Dragonhunter until we were almost ready to head home.

I was still searching for ELC when Mike decided to play a hunch and take one last look for our Dragonhunter. We were separated by quite a distance when I thought I heard Mike calling me. As I was working my way upstream, I heard Mike call again; this time I replied. Turns out Mike found our guy again, only this time he was a very cooperative model. Thanks for thinking of me, Mike!

Related Resource:  Dragonhunter adventure, a companion blog post by Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

June 29, 2020

Another Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” It’s literally the first shot I took as soon as I spotted the Gray.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

I moved slowly to a slightly closer position; almost had a squared-up dorsal view of the subject before he flew away.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) [No. 1]

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 1)

June 26, 2020

After a two-year hiatus since I spotted my first Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) during June 2018, it was a pleasure see an old friend again!

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” It is literally the first shot I took as soon as I spotted the Sable male. As you can see, he was looking in my direction so I was unable to sneak up on him. That proved to be problematic.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

I tried to move slowly into position for a lateral view of the dragonfly.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The last photo is almost as far as I moved before Mr. Sable flew away — five shots and it was game over, man!

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Later the same day I  was fortunate to photograph a more cooperative male that will be featured in a follow-up post.

Rare to Uncommon

Sable Clubtail has a limited range and is classified as a rare to uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Sable Clubtail in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Sable Clubtail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2018. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: June 11, 2018).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

As you would expect, there are few official records for the Commonwealth of Virginia, and fewer records for Northern Virginia.

The Backstory

A short segment of a small stream that flows through a park in Northern Virginia seems to provide ideal habitat for Sable. By the end of Summer 2018, the stream had been degraded significantly by siltation as a result of runoff from dirt that was dumped uphill from the stream.

The following year, the stream channel was almost completely choked by vegetation that I assume flourished in the nutrient-rich sediment that had flowed into the stream. Net result: One and only one Sable Clubtail dragonfly was observed by several spotters who visited the stream site during 2019.

That’s the bad news. The good news is I saw at least three Sable Clubtails when I visited the stream site on Saturday, 13 June 2020. That’s not as many individuals as I saw in 2018, but the species seems to have rebounded a little from the damage done to its habitat.

As Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way.” Let’s hope!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (male)

June 24, 2020

During a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, Mike spotted an American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) perched facing the Potomac River. This individual is a male, as indicated by his red coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

All of the photos in the following gallery look similar, although there are subtle differences.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” Actually, this one turned out to be a good photo! The camera was set for an aperture of f/5.6 for all shots in the gallery. This viewing angle provided the clearest look at his terminal appendages given the relatively shallow depth-of-field.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

The next photo shows a better look at the damselfly’s metallic ruby red face. Handsome!

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Finally, I just like the look of the “light” in the last photo. Dark and moody.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Related Resource: American Rubyspot – a blog post by Michael Powell

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

June 19, 2020

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

The Gray Petaltail is shown perched on the sunny side of a tree where the dragonfly landed after he flew past me. This is my first photo of my first Gray for 2020.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

The Gray moved to another place on the same tree. The “hairy” vine where he is perched is poison ivy. Yikes, please don’t land on me Mr. Petaltail!

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

The dragonfly flew to another tree nearby the first one. The next photo is my favorite in the set.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

The last photo shows a side view of the Gray, featuring a partial view of his face.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Related Resource: Posts Tagged ‘Gray Petaltail dragonfly’

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

June 17, 2020

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (male)

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

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (male)

The Backstory

At the end of a long day in the field, Mike Powell and I were walking back to the car slowly when we spotted a group of 10-or-so large dragonflies hawking insects over a HUGE field, near a small drainage pipe. We stopped to watch the hawkers hoping one would land; I sat on my Coleman camp stool to rest in the shade and enjoy the aerial acrobatics show.

One of the large dragonflies zoomed past Mike (he says he never saw it) and landed on a tall grass stem near the drainage pipe. It was the male Arrowhead Spiketail shown above!

Turns out the place is nothing like the habitat described as ideal (see below). I’ll say this: Three out of four times I’ve seen Arrowhead Spiketails, a fly-by was how I found them. So maybe just sit in a good spot and wait for the game to come to you. Maybe.

Habitat

Disclaimer: I have observed and photographed four (4) Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies. I feel somewhat uncomfortable providing habitat guidance based upon a sample size of four. That being said, here goes.

Almost every Arrowhead siting had three common ingredients: a seep (or soggy place) in the forest, with skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana); a small stream in the forest fed by the seep/soggy place; and a sunny clearing.

I found my first Arrowhead Spiketail at a small stream in Huntley Meadows Park. I walked the stream to its source, not that the source is well defined. Instead it’s a BIG soggy area. I wouldn’t call it a seep and I have never seen skunk cabbage anywhere in the park. There are two virtually identical streams elsewhere in the park where Arrowhead has been photographed. The male Arrowhead flew a LONG patrol along the stream, flying approximately six inches (6″) above the water level. At the end points of his patrol, he would hang up to rest in a sunny spot. It took a long time for me to find the hang up places!

Michael Powell spotted the second Arrowhead Spiketail I’ve seen, perched in a small, sunny clearing in the forest along a small stream. A seep with skunk cabbage and interrupted fern was located nearby. For what it’s worth, we saw/photographed several Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) in the same field.

MUCH FARTHER downstream, the same creek is a little larger in size. At one point, a small iron-stained creek flows into the main creek. Mike and I were standing at the mouth of the tiny creek when I saw an Arrowhead fly like a bat out of hell straight down the stream and turn left; it perched in a large, sunny field. I was able to find it, and we took photos. A week-or-so later, Mike traced the smaller creek to its source. Wouldn’t you know it? The headwaters are a seep with lots of skunk cabbage!

My most recent Arrowhead Spiketail sighting — the individual featured in this blog post — is the one that doesn’t fit the pattern. The dragonfly was spotted in a HUGE field of grasses, etc. There are small creeks and seeps nearby, but not within sight of the location where the Arrowhead perched.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Springtime Darner dragonflies (female, male)

May 8, 2020

Several Springtime Darner dragonflies (Basiaeschna janata) were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell at an undisclosed location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Mike spotted the first one; then we teamed up to find a few more.

Female

Female Springtime Darners are polymorphic: the spots on their abdomen are either blue (andromorphic) or green (heteromorphic); the female featured in this post is a blue andromorph.

The terminal appendages and rounded shape of the hind wings can be used to identify andromorph female Springtime Darners.

“Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot” is one my mantras for wildlife photography. The first photo is an example of what some of my odonate hunter friends call a “record shot,” that is, a shot (any shot) that serves as a record of a spotting in the field.

Notice the photo appears to have been taken using only natural light. I speculate the external flash unit didn’t “wake up” from power-saving mode when I pressed the camera shutter. Do you see why I like to use fill flash for insect photography?

02 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Springtime Darner (female)

Mike and I followed the female to a second location where we were able to shoot more photos.

02 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Springtime Darner (female)

Refine the shot. (Get closer, in this case.)

02 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Springtime Darner (female)

Male

The last individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

02 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Springtime Darner (male)

All of the Springtime Darners that Mike and I spotted were very skittish, like the preceding male. I was only able to shoot one photo before he flew away. We couldn’t find it again.

Related Resource

Springtime Darner dragonflies” features photos of the same subject shot by Michael Powell: Mike used a DSLR camera, macro lens, and no flash to take his photos; I used a mirrorless superzoom “bridge” camera and an external flash unit to take mine.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

MYN – Hylogomphus adelphus exuvia (ventral)

May 1, 2020

The following Anisoptera exuvia — collected by Freda van den Broek on 10 June 2019 along the St. Croix River in Polk County, Wisconsin USA — is definitely a member of Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), probably Mustached Clubtail (Hylogomphus adelphus).

Ventral view

Notice the exuvia has a flat labium (prementum). There are lateral spines located on abdominal segments six through nine (S6-S9); the lateral spine on S9 is spinulose-serrate along the outer edge. Also notice the well-developed tibial burrowing hooks on its legs.

10 JUN 2019 | Polk County, WI | H. adelphus exuvia (ventral)

Male (vestigial genitalia)

Male odonates have two sets of sex organs: primary genitalia located on abdominal segment nine (S9); and secondary genitalia located on abdominal segments two-to-three (S2-3).

Both sets of vestigial genitalia are clearly visible on the ventral side of some (but not all) specimens, such as the H. adelphus exuvia shown above.

Related Resources

Tech Tips

This subject was photographed against a pure white background (255, 255, 255) using the “Meet Your Neighbours” (MYN) technique.

12 photos of the specimen were taken using an aperture of f/16; in-camera focus peaking was used to highlight select areas in each photo. A subset of six (6) photos and Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 were used to create- and annotate the focus-stacked composite image shown above.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: