Posts Tagged ‘Mulligan Pond’

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.

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (males, eating)

February 13, 2017

Two Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) were spotted during photowalks at Mulligan PondJackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Both individuals are males, as indicated by the large russet-colored club at the end of their abdomen, “indented” hindwings (see annotated image), and their terminal appendages.

Members of the genus Stylurus are known as “Hanging Clubtails” because they usually perch hanging vertically from trees, unlike most other species of clubtails that perch horizontally on the ground.

Most of them spend much time in flight over water, leading to speculation whether species of this genus may feed in flight rather than from a perch like most other clubtails. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6127-6128). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Both of the male Russet-tipped Clubtails featured in this post were observed feeding from a perch in a tree, although a sample size of two may be insufficient for drawing a meaningful conclusion.

22 September 2016

The first individual is eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis) .

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

The next photo is my favorite in the set. The color, clarity, and composition combine to create a beautiful canvas for conveying the brutality of the eat-or-be-eaten natural world.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

The last photo was shot using Aperture Priority mode in order to achieve maximum depth of field.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (Harmonia axyridis).

22 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

27 September 2016

The last individual is eating an unknown species of winged insect.

A Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating an unknown winged insect.

27 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Russet-tipped Clubtail (male, eating)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Monarch butterflies

February 3, 2017

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) were spotted at several wildlife-watching locations in Northern Virginia during Fall 2016. Although I saw more Monarchs in 2016 than in past years, their numbers have decreased significantly since I started photowalking in 2010.

Huntley Meadows Park

A solitary Monarch butterfly was spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by the absence of scent scales on her hind wings.

The butterfly is feeding on an unknown species of thistle. Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo — the detailed structure of the flower head is astounding!

Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge

Another solitary female Monarch was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. JMAWR is located along Dogue Creek, downstream from the southeastern boundary of Huntley Meadows Park.

A Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

25 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Monarch butterfly

It seems as though Monarchs like purple-colored flowers. Can anyone identify the flowering plant shown in the preceding photo?

Editor’s Note: My next blog post will feature photos of a male Monarch butterfly spotted on 25 October 2016 at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (mating pair)

February 1, 2017
A mating pair of Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

25 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle (mating pair)

A mating pair of Multicolored Asian Lady Beetles (Harmonia axyridis) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

When I looked closely at the preceding photo during post-processing, I noticed the face of the two beetles is colored/patterned differently. That seemed odd to me — I thought there might be an interspecies breeding thing going on here. Turns out that’s just the way it is.

The different pattern on the pronotum isn’t odd at all. They are Harmonia axyridis, the Multicolored Asian Lady Beetle, and there are hundreds of different color morphs. Source Credit: Natalie Hernandez, one of many helpful members of the BugGuide Facebook group.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Pearl Crescent butterflies (mating pair)

January 28, 2017

A mating pair of Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

03 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Pearl Crescent (mating pair)

Pearl Crescent is a common species of butterfly that is abundant at many of the wildlife-watching locations I visit. Although I’ve seen many Pearl Crescents, this is the first mating pair I’ve seen/photographed.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Variegated Fritillary butterflies (mating pair)

January 26, 2017

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) was spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Variegated Fritillary (mating pair)

Notice the contrast in appearance between the dorsal view (shown above) and the ventral view (shown below).

A mating pair of Variegated Fritillary butterflies (Euptoieta claudia) spotted near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Variegated Fritillary (mating pair)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2016

December 26, 2016

The more you know, the more you know how much you don’t know. Huh? There’s always more to discover/learn! My new discoveries in 2016 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Eastern Amberwing dragonfly exuviae

Perithemis tenera exuviae, published on 06 December 2016.

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 JUL 2016 | Potomac River | Eastern Amberwing (exuvia, head-on)

I’m a man on a mission to demystify the art and science of odonate exuviae identification. The task is as challenging as I was led to believe, but with determination and persistence it is do-able.

The specimens featured in this post are the first odonate exuviae that I was able to identify to the species level. Although the specimens were collected in early July, they were identified in early December. New species will be added to my Odonate Exuviae page when their identity is confirmed.


Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) is a familiar location where several species, previously unknown to occur at the park, were discovered in 2016.

Shadow Darner dragonfly

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female), posted on 18 October 2016.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male), posted on 26 September 2016.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

Another new species discovered at JMAWR, posted on 20 September 2016.

Lancet Clubtail dragonfly

Identifying clubtails by the calendar, posted on 30 June 2016.

A Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Lancet Clubtail (male)


In addition to my contributions to the odonate species list at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Mike Powell discovered the first official record of Swift Setwing at JMAWR and in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Hamules

December 2, 2016

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) was spotted during a photowalk at Mulligan PondJackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). This individual is a male, as indicated by the large russet-colored club at the end of his abdomen and by his prominent hamules.

hamules: paired structures that project from genital pocket under second segment and hold female abdomen in place during copulation Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11618-116198). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3), as shown in the following annotated image. Hamules come in a variety of sizes and shapes, but their function is identical for all species of odonates. Some species of dragonflies and damselflies — such as Ashy Clubtail versus Lancet Clubtail and Southern Spreadwing versus Sweetflag Spreadwing, to name a few — can be differentiated/identified with certainty only by examining the hamules under magnification.

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

Like many species of Family Gomphidae (Clubtail dragonflies), the hamules of male Russet-tipped Clubtails are conspicuous — there’s nothing subtle about these guys!

12552572_1009225655800695_4776761615247349936_n

Meme used with permission from Jacki Morrison (Minnesota Dragonflies).

The preceding meme features an outtake from “War of the Coprophages,” an episode of The X-Files (TV Series). Fox Mulder is an FBI agent who investigates paranormal activity; Dr. Bambi Berenbaum is a fictional scientist named after American entomologist Dr. May Berenbaum. I wasn’t into dragonflies when the episode aired in 1996, so the snippet of risque dialog about cockroaches (quoted in the meme) was lost on me. In retrospect, it’s clear that at least one of the writers/consultants for the episode must be quite familiar with dragonflies!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


%d bloggers like this: