Posts Tagged ‘Painted Turtle Pond’

Common Whitetail (mature male)

August 21, 2019

Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted near the Painted Turtle Pond Environmental Study AreaOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by the white coloration of his abdomen, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. He is perched vertically on the corner of a storage shed.

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Common Whitetail (mature male)

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratch marks on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Gear Talk

“Expose for the highlights” is a well-known rule of thumb in photography, that is, adjust the camera settings so the highlights are exposed perfectly.

Mature male Common Whitetail dragonflies are challenging to photograph because they prefer perching in direct sunlight, so it’s easy to blow out the highlights on their bright white abdomen. After a few test shots, I was able to adjust the flash power ratio so that the subject is exposed properly.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Blown away!

August 19, 2019

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted at the Painted Turtle Pond Environmental Study Area, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his brown coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

Gear Talk

“Expose for the highlights” is a well-known rule of thumb in photography, that is, adjust the camera settings so the highlights are exposed perfectly.

The preceding photo was a test shot. The highlights are almost blown out completely because the flash power ratio was set too high for proper exposure of the scene; the dragonfly flew away before I could reduce the flash power.

All of that being said, there’s something about this image that I like. It reminds me of an old, faded black-and-white photo print. The word “sepia” comes to mind.

Related Resource: Common Whitetail dragonflies (young males, mature males)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Calico Pennant dragonfly (female)

August 13, 2018

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

10 AUG 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Calico Pennant (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Adult flight period

The adult flight period  for Calico Pennant is from 11 May to 23 September (peaks in June-July), according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park. In my experience, mid-August is past peak in Northern Virginia so I was happy to see a beautiful Calico female.

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, a zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, 26 April to 27 October is the adult flight period for Calico Pennant.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

World Turtle Day

May 23, 2018

23 May 2018 is the 17th annual World Turtle Day.

The day was created as an annual observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world. Source Credit: About World Turtle Day

21 MAY 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | small turtle (species unknown)

A small turtle was spotted along Lake Drive at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, relatively far from Painted Turtle Pond.

This individual is estimated to be 1-2 inches in length. The genus/species is unknown. No obvious match is found on the Virginia Herpetological Society Turtles of Virginia Web page. I wonder whether it might be a species of “pet shop” turtle that was released into the wild.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Corporal (teneral males)

May 3, 2018

Several teneral male Blue Corporal dragonflies (Ladona deplanata) were spotted near Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Teneral/immature/young male Blue Corporals look similar to females of the same species. Terminal appendages can be used to differentiate gender: males have three (3) appendages; females have two (2).

Some of the ground cover is charred from a recent controlled burn at Occoquan Bay NWR.

The common name for Blue Corporal is derived from two cream-colored stripes that appear on the front of the thorax, similar to the two stripes that signify the rank of corporal in the military. As a mature male, those stripes will be partially obscured by dark blue pruinescence.

Related Resource: Blue Corporal (teneral females).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Corporal (teneral females)

May 1, 2018

Lots of Blue Corporal dragonflies (Ladona deplanata) were spotted near Painted Turtle Pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This is the first time the author has observed Blue Corporal at Painted Turtle Pond.

Both individuals featured in this post are teneral females, as indicated by their tenuous wings and terminal appendages.

Female 1

The first female was spotted perching on vegetation near the shoreline of Painted Turtle Pond. Some of the ground cover is charred from a recent controlled burn at Occoquan Bay NWR.

The common name for Blue Corporal is derived from two cream-colored stripes that appear on the front of the thorax, similar to the two stripes that signify the rank of corporal in the military.

Notice the abdomen of this female seems to be bent slightly to the right (facing forward). This malformation probably occurred during emergence.

Female 2

The last female was spotted perching on the gravel road leading to Painted Turtle Pond. The purple rock located in the upper-right corner of the photo might contain the mineral fluorite.

Like many teneral dragonflies, if not most, this individual was quite skittish. I followed the female to two locations before calling the photowalk a wrap.

Related Resource: Blue Corporal (teneral males).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Baskettail (teneral female)

April 29, 2018

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted near Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by her tenuous wings and relatively short, straight terminal appendages.

Spring 2018 has been slow to spring in the mid-Atlantic USA, as evidenced by the fact that the first Common Baskettails were spotted at Painted Turtle Pond beginning in mid-April 2017.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Turtle shell

April 21, 2018

The following photo shows a shell from an unknown species of dead turtle that was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

18 APR 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | turtle shell

The Backstory

I visited several sites in Northern Virginia in search of adult odonates (dragonflies and damselflies). I saw two Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) hawking smaller insects over a small field at my second stop; no odes were spotted at the other two stops. The start of ode-hunting season has been delayed by an unusually cool/cold spring in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The Common Green Darners that I saw are probably migratory, rather than “home grown.”

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2017 (odonates)

December 28, 2017

There’s always more to discover/learn! My odonate-related new discoveries in 2017 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly

A Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) was spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is one of several males spotted during a period of a week-or-so in mid-September 2017.

Immature male Calico Pennant

20 JUN 2017 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (immature male)

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male. Notice its coloration is similar to female Calico Pennants.

Allegheny River Cruiser dragonfly

An Allegheny River Cruiser (Macromia alleghaniensis) was netted by Mike Blust at Hardware River Wildlife Management Area, Fluvanna County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly

09 JUN 2017 | Highland County, VA | Harpoon Clubtail (male)

A Harpoon Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus descriptus) was spotted at “Straight Fork,” Highland County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. Sincere thanks to fellow Virginians Karen Kearney and Mike Boatwright for guiding me to this unique high-elevation habitat.

It’s worth noting that I saw two more new species during the same trip: Riffle Snaketail (Ophiogomphus carolus); and Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta).

Those who know me well are familiar with one of many “Walterisms”: “I haven’t ‘seen’ something until I have photographed it.” My rationale is two-fold: 1) A photograph verifies a sighting. 2) The detail visible in a good photograph exceeds the acuity of the human eye. Suffice it to say I saw two other species but haven’t seen them. Makes sense to me!

Swift River Cruiser dragonfly

A Swift River Cruiser dragonfly (Macromia illinoiensis) was spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emergent/teneral female.

Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly

A Spine-crowned Clubtail dragonfly (Hylogomphus abbreviatus) spotted along Bull Run at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. A female was spotted on the same day at a nearby location.

Epitheca cynosura exuvia

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) exuvia was collected at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Epitheca princeps exuvia

05 MAR 2017 | Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) | exuvia (face-head)

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) exuvia was collected from an unknown location. This specimen was on temporary loan from Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.


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