Posts Tagged ‘Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly’

Needham’s Skimmer (mature females)

September 25, 2017

In my experience, female Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) seem to be more abundant than males toward the end of the adult flight period for that species.

Two Needham’s Skimmers were photographed during photowalks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are mature female, as indicated by their terminal appendages and muted coloration.

Post Update: Sincere thanks to Drew Chaney for identifying the flowering plant shown in the preceding photo. According to Drew, “It’s either Clematis terniflora or virginiana. I can’t tell without leaves: Terniflora has entire leaves; virginiana has toothed ones.”

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Before and After

August 24, 2017

On Saturday, 25 January 2014, I had the honor of co-presenting a program called “Flying Dragons” with Kevin Munroe, former Park Manager, Huntley Meadows Park. Kevin invited me to talk about how to make the transition from a beginner- to intermediate/advanced-intermediate dragonfly hunter. I prepared a photoblog post related to my part of the program, called “Five steps to the next level of dragonfly spotting.” Step 1 is as follows.

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. Finally, females of some species display polymorphism (also known as polychromatism).

Male Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) look different depending upon age, as shown by the “Before” and “After” photos (below). Further, immature male Needham’s Skimmers look similar to immature/mature females of the same species. Although this might be confusing for a beginner dragonfly hunter, with patience and persistence everything falls into place relatively quickly.

Before

Male Needham’s Skimmers were photographed during photowalks at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA in late-June and again in late-July. Notice the dramatic difference in appearance of the same species of dragonfly.

After

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer (immature males)

July 3, 2017

Lots of Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) were spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its terminal appendages and yellow-ish coloration. Mature male Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies are red.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies

September 6, 2016

Several Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) were spotted during a photowalk at River Towers Condominiums (RTC), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Females

The following photos show two females, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

19 JUL 2019 | RTC | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

Notice the natural variation in the coloration of the two females.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

19 JUL 2019 | RTC | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

Male

A single mature male was spotted near the location where the females were photographed.

Editor’s Note: This is the same location I described in “Ground truth,” posted on 02 March 2016. As I speculated in the post, by mid-July the banks of the stream were so choked with vegetation that I was unable to do more than work the edges of the thicket.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (males)

September 4, 2016

Two Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) were spotted during a photowalk along Dogue Creek, Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). Both individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

The first photo shows an immature male. At this point in the male’s maturation, his coloration is similar to females of the same species.

The handsome devil shown in the last photo shows a mature male, probably one- to two weeks older than the male featured in the first photo.

Needham’s Skimmers were more common at Huntley Meadows Park several years ago. For some reason, they’re harder to find now. I speculate their numbers might have been reduced by back-to-back colder than average winters.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (female)

September 2, 2016

Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) was spotted at Meadowood Recreation Area (MRA). This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

The orangish-red coloration of this specimen could mislead you into thinking it’s a male. Be aware that the same species of dragonfly may appear differently depending upon gender, age, and natural variation.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality, especially when the individual is looking at me.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

02 JUL 2016 | MRA | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

Another day, another head tilt…

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

06 JUL 2016 | MRA | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

The preceding photo was taken a few days after the first two photos. Is it the same female? That seems likely since her orangish-red coloration is uncommon. Also, some species of dragonflies seem to be creatures of habit, returning to the same location day-after-day. It’s worth noting this dragonfly was perching in roughly the same spot on both days.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly terminal appendages

June 26, 2016

Several Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) were spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Mature male

The first individual is a mature male, as indicated by his red coloration and terminal appendages.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Needham’s Skimmer (mature male)

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

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

The next individual is a female, as indicated by her mostly yellow coloration and terminal appendages. I love a good head-tilt!

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

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

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

Immature male

The last individual is an immature male, as indicated by his mostly yellow coloration and terminal appendages. Immature males and females are nearly identical in appearance except for their terminal appendages.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Needham’s Skimmer (immature male)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

HMP needs some Needham’s!

July 20, 2015

“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone?” Source Credit: Big Yellow Taxi, Joni Mitchell.

Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, used to have a big breeding population of Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami). 2013 and 2014, not so much. We’re talking about spotting one or two individuals per year.

Is it a coincidence that the past two winters have been unusually cold in the mid-Atlantic states? Same question asked another way: Is there a reason Needham’s larvae would be less likely than other species of dragonflies to survive harsh winters? For example, Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) seem to be as abundant as ever. I consulted the experts of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group for answers to my questions.

Problem is I don’t think anyone knows the requirements that a breeding population of Needham’s needs to flourish. There could be other factors at play besides cold winters. Source Credit: Ed Lam, author and illustrator of Damselflies of the Northeast.

Alas, the virtual disappearance of Needham’s Skimmer from Huntley Meadows remains a puzzling mystery.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by its terminal appendages. She is perching on a Tick Seed (Coreopsis grandiflora) flower dead-head.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

This is only the second Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly that the author has spotted during 2015, both females. The first female is featured in another post that includes an annotated image illustrating several key field markers that may be used to identify Needham’s Skimmers.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

05 JUL 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (female)

Back in the good old days, Needham’s Skimmers were seen frequently everywhere in the central wetland area.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUN 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by its reddish-orange coloration and the terminal appendages at the tip of its abdomen.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUN 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (male)

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

24 JUN 2012 | Huntley Meadows Park | Needham’s Skimmer (male)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (young female)

June 8, 2015

Imagine my excitement when a flash of bright yellow flew past me as I was standing in a small meadow near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) — I thought I’d spotted the elusive Yellow-sided Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula flavida)! I say “elusive” because no one I know has ever seen a Yellow-sided Skimmer at the park, although it appears on the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Odonata species list.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Now imagine my disappointment when I looked closely at full-size versions of the photos I took — turns out I had seen a young female Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. A beautiful specimen nonetheless, but one I have seen many times at several locations.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Notice the female’s cerci (terminal appendages) are flared in the following photo. I don’t know what the opposite of a “butt crunch” is called, but this is the pictionary definition for the word.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

The last two images in this set are used to illustrate the field markers that enabled me to identify the species for this specimen.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Wings with veins fairly dark, [ptero]stigma and anteriormost veins yellow except basal part of costa dark before nodus. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 9291-9292). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The leading edge of a dragonfly wing is called the “costa”; the midpoint of the costa is called the “nodus.” Notice the pterostigmata are yellow and the costa is dark between the thorax and nodus, light between the nodus and wing tip — these are key field markers for Needham’s Skimmer, not Yellow-sided Skimmer.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

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

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula needhami | Needham’s Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula needhami | Needham’s Skimmer | female | side view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula flavida | Yellow-sided Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula flavida | Yellow-sided Skimmer | female | side view

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Advanced Dragonfly Studies

November 26, 2014

During June 2014, I attended an adult class and field trip offered by the Audubon Naturalist Society called “Advanced Dragonfly Studies: Common Darners, Spiketails, Cruisers, and Clubtails of the Mid-Atlantic.” The class instructor was Richard Orr, renowned expert on odonates of the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The field trip to the Patuxent Research Refuge was led by Mr. Orr and Stephanie Mason, Senior Naturalist, Audubon Naturalist Society.

As I was writing a recent blog post entitled Year in Review: New finds in 2014 (odonates), I decided against including odonates spotted during during the ANS field trip. My rationale was simple: I didn’t find most of the specimens. 42 species of odonates were observed in one day, including many new species for my “life list.” I was able to photograph only a few of the odonates seen by the group due to the fast pace of the advanced class.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly

While waiting for all participants to arrive for the field trip, Bonnie Ott spotted a Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) perching in a flower bed beside the North Tract Visitor Contact Station. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Widow Skimmer dragonfly (immature male)

Elegant Spreadwing damselfly

An Elegant Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes inaequalis) was netted at Rieve’s Pond. This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration. Notice the ovipositor visible on the underside of its abdomen, near the tip. “Usually not very common,” according to Dennis Paulson, author of Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East. [New species for my “life list.”]

Elegant Spreadwing damselfly (female)

Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly

A Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis verna) was spotted at New Marsh. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. [New species for my “life list.”]

Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly (immature male)

Another Double-ringed Pennant was spotted at Sundew Bog in the Central Tract. This individual is a mature male. Stephanie Mason is shown in the background, referring to Stokes Beginner’s Guide to DragonfliesEditor’s Note: “The Central Tract of the refuge is closed to public visitation due to the sensitive nature of much of the scientific work.” Source Credit: Patuxent Research Refuge brochure.

Double-ringed Pennant dragonfly (mature male)

Elfin Skimmer dragonfly

Tiny Elfin Skimmer dragonflies (Nannothemis bella) can be found at Sundew Bog. This individual is either a female or immature male, based upon its coloration. [New species for my “life list.”]

Elfin Skimmer dragonfly (Nannothemis bella)

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly

A Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) was netted at Sundew Bog. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly

A Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula auripennis) was netted at Sundew Bog. This individual is a male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Golden-winged Skimmer dragonflies and Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami) are similar in appearance. [New species for my “life list.”]

Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male)

The distinguished gentleman holding the dragonfly is Peter Munroe, Kevin Munroe’s father. Kevin is the manager of Huntley Meadows Park.

Golden-winged Skimmer dragonfly (male)

Clubtail dragonfly

The following specimen, spotted at Sundew Bog, is either an Ashy Clubtail (Gomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Gomphus exilis) dragonfly. Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies are similar in appearance and difficult to differentiate with complete certainty. Both species were spotted at this location. This individual is a female, as indicated by its terminal appendages and the rounded shape of its hind wings (near the abdomen).

Clubtail dragonfly (female)

Emerging Common Sanddragon dragonflies

The last stop on the field trip was a walk/wade in the Little Patuxent River, southeast of Bailey Bridge, where we spotted several Common Sanddragon dragonflies, including a few individuals metamorphosing from larvae to adults. [New species for my “life list.”]

Tech Tips: All of the preceding photos were taken using a Panasonic LUMIX DMC-ZS7 digital camera. The camera is no longer available. The ZS7 was one of the first digital cameras that featured GPS geotagging. Good idea; bad implementation. After extensive field-testing, I discovered the ZS7’s built-in GPS didn’t work as well as Apple iPhone’s “A-GPS” for geotagging photos, and stopped using the camera. I decided to bring the camera with me on the field trip because it is small, lightweight, and relatively inexpensive in contrast with several other digital cameras I own. Turns out “lightweight” is the operative word. After a long hiatus, I’d forgotten how poorly the camera performs — regrettably, the photos featured in this post are an unpleasant reminder!

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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