Posts Tagged ‘Occoquan Regional Park’

“Grays” on me

July 15, 2019

“Grays” on me? No, don’t eat me! (See what I did there?)

This post features images from guest photographer Michael Powell, taken during a photowalk with me at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The photos show two different male Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) perched on me.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

The last photo shows a male Gray Petaltail perched on my bucket hat. Look closely at the full-size version of the photo. Notice the dragonfly appears to be grazing upon a smaller insect. (See? I did it again!)

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

I call the preceding photo “Wilson Wilson” because it reminds me of a discussion between Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor and his next-door neighbor Wilson Wilson about a flying saucer that Wilson saw. See Home Improvement: Believe It or Not Clip (1:31).

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Widow Skimmer (immature male)

July 12, 2019

A Widow Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa) was spotted near a small pond at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

01 JUN 2019 | ORP | Widow Skimmer (immature male)

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages. He is hunkered down in a hidey-hole, almost out of sight.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

July 3, 2019

The following Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) — spotted in a sunny clearing along a small stream in the forest at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA — is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Actionable Intel

I looked for Gray Petaltail for years without finding one. (Looking for love in all the wrong places?) For habitat-specific odonates such as T. thoreyi, it’s all about location, location, location. I was familiar with the standard guidance in all the field guidebooks regarding ideal habitat for Gray Petaltail, but it wasn’t until I actually saw the right habitat in the wild — and recognized it for what it is — that I began to find Grays in relatively large numbers. Book learning is good (as Jethro would say), but there’s no substitute for real-world experience.

For example, the following photograph shows a forest seep located at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. The plant with broad green leaves is skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus). This is ideal habitat for T. thoreyi, and in fact, one or more “Grays” were observed along a sunny trail near this location, including a male that landed on my friend Mike Powell.

01 JUN 2019 | ORP | forest seep, with skunk cabbage

The following quote is perhaps the best description of a forest seep that I’ve read.

[Some] small tributaries … have their sources in numerous woodland seeps. While a few of these perennial springs bubble up out of the ground, most arise in moist hillside patches with lots of decaying leaf litter and luxuriant stands of skunk cabbage. Source Credit: White, Harold B., III. Natural History of Delmarva Dragonflies and Damselflies (Cultural Studies of Delaware and the Eastern Shore) (Kindle Locations 1213-1215). University Press Copublishing Division. Kindle Edition.

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Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female)

June 5, 2019

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted during a photowalk with Mike Powell at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Beginners beware — immature male Eastern Pondhawks are the same color as females of the same species.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

DMC-FZ150 versus DMC-FZ300

May 8, 2019

For years, my go-to camera kit for photowalking has been the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital camera and a Canon 580EX Speedlite. A formula of camera and flash settings that I call “set it and forget it” works most of the time, enabling me to focus on the subject rather than futzing around with camera/flash settings.

My new Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 features some significant upgrades over the DMC-FZ150 such as a touch-screen LCD, built-in WiFi (enabling remote control of the camera using the “Panasonic Image App“), 49 focus points, 4K video, and an intriguing new feature that Panasonic calls “Post Focus.”

The two cameras are similar, but as I say often, similar is not the same. As appealing as the new features of the FZ300 are, the newer camera doesn’t perform like my older FZ150. After limited testing in both the studio and in the field, I have yet to find the new formula for “set it and forget it” using the FZ300. Disappointed and frustrated, I am!

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/5.2 | 1/800 s | -1 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode. My external flash unit is set for Manual mode at a power ratio of 1/16, plus or minus one stop. The other settings listed in the photo caption are typical of what I call “set it and forget it,” that is, these settings work for most subjects in most lighting conditions.

The preceding photo was included in my “Top 10 Photos of 2018.” Many, if not most, of the photos in this gallery were taken using the DMC-FZ150 and my “set it and forget it” formula.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300

A Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 1 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

A Harlequin Darner dragonfly (Gomphaeschna furcillata) was spotted at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is a female.

108mm (600mm, 35mm equivalent) | ISO 100 | f/2.8 | 1/800 s | 0 ev

Flash fired, in compulsory flash mode.

What are the take-aways?

I prefer shooting in Shutter Priority mode at relatively fast shutter speeds (using the reciprocal rule) in order to reduce camera shake at longer focal lengths. If the ISO is set for 100 then the exposure triangle tells us that the only variable is aperture (f/stop). Using my “set it and forget it” formula of settings, the FZ150 typically opts for an f/stop of f/5.6 or higher (that is, a smaller lens opening); for some reason the FZ300 always seems to opt for f/2.8.

Problem is, there is too little depth of field at f/2.8! The only way I’m able to shoot serviceable photos using the FZ300 is to compose photos so the entire subject is nearly parallel to the focal plane and to sharpen the images using Adobe Photoshop.

I’m planning to start shooting in Manual mode so that I can set the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. During limited testing in the studio, it was necessary to use a higher flash power ratio in order to get good exposure. Otherwise, Manual mode is the ultimate in “set it and forget it!”

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Brown Spiketail dragonflies

May 6, 2019

Several Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) were spotted during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Male

The first individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. Notice the epiproct for Brown Spiketail is a wide “plate” that spans both cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the following photo.

The next individual is also male, as indicated by his hamules, located below abdominal segments two and three (S2 and S3).

Female

The last individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages.

Credits

Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for confirming my tentative identification of the gender of the first and last individuals.

Phenology

Phenology (noun) is defined as “the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, especially in relation to climate and plant and animal life.”

There is an annual cycle of odonate activity that can be subdivided into three broad categories: Early Season (spring); Mid-season (summer); and Late Season (fall).

Brown Spiketail is an “Early Season” species for locations in the Commonwealth of Virginia. I have noticed that the adult flight period for a given species of odonate in Northern Virginia tends to lag behind Amherst County, where my good friend Mike Boatwright (Mike B) lives, by about one-to-two weeks. When Mike B reported his first sighting of Brown Spiketail on 24 April in Amherst County, I knew it wouldn’t be long until Brown Spiketail would be flying in Fairfax County. Eight (8) days later, Mike Powell and I spotted our first-of-season Brown Spiketail dragonflies. Thanks for the heads-up, Mike B!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New Life List additions in 2018 (odonates)

December 28, 2018

The anticipation of the hunt and the thrill of discovery — the adrenalin rush from finding the target species is ever more elusive as one gains experience and expertise. Accordingly, the number of additions to my Life List is fewer year after year.

Editor’s Note: List items are presented in chronological order, based upon the date of the spotting.

Twin-spotted Spiketail

A Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Brown Spiketail (male)

A Brown Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster bilineata) was spotted at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I saw a female Brown Spiketail on 09 May 2013. This individual is one of several males that I spotted on 07 and 11 May 2018.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted at a forest seep. This individual is a male with a malformed abdomen that I nicknamed “Bender.”

06 JUN 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched near a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

08 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Citrine Forktail damselfly (male)

Citrine Forktail damselfly (Ischnura hastata) was spotted during a stream-walk along South Fork Quantico Creek in Prince William Forest Park (PWFP), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.


Next post: Recognition in 2018.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Five-lined Skink

November 9, 2018

A Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a juvenile as indicated by its dark brown color and bright blue tail.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

August 23, 2018

A Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) was spotted during a photowalk at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages.

This camera-shy girl was hiding her face from me behind the thin veil of her left forewing.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

You look Familiar

August 3, 2018

A Familiar Bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile) was spotted during a photowalk along one of many trails at Occoquan Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

08 JUN 2018 | Occoquan Regional Park | Familiar Bluet (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by the pattern of coloration on his abdomen. Female E. civile is polymorphic, including two morphs: tan; and blue. Female blue morphs have a different pattern of black and blue markings on their abdomen than males of the same species.

Editor’s Note

Sincere thanks to my good friend Mike Boatwright, administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for verifying my tentative identification.

Related Resource: Familiar Bluet damselfly (female).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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