Posts Tagged ‘prey’

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

July 16, 2021

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellusProtographium marcellus) was spotted near a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

17 JUN 2021 | Prince William County | Zebra Swallowtail

Notice the Zebra Swallowtail lost part of one of its tails, possibly the result of a close encounter with predator.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

July 13, 2021

A Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell along the shoreline of a small pond at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Mike spotted the Gray Petaltail first, when we were on opposite sides of the pond. Mike was able to shoot a few photos before the dragonfly flew away and Mike moved on. I thought Mike gave up on the subject too quickly so I decided to use one of my tried and true strategies for finding and photographing odonates: Sit in a good spot and wait for the game to come to me.

I walked around to the other side of the pond and sat down on my small, lightweight camp stool about 12-15 feet from the place where Mike had seen the Gray Petaltail. Sure enough, the dragonfly returned to the same perch soon afterward!

The first photo is the “record shot,” that is, get a shot, any shot.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Gray Petaltail (male)

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

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Gray Petaltail (male)

The dragonfly would perch briefly, then fly away.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Gray Petaltail (male)

The male dragonfly did the same thing repeatedly, always returning to a slightly different perch each time. Turns out he was hunting for food.

17 JUN 2021 | PNC. Wm. County | Gray Petaltail (male)

I would describe T. thoreyi as an “ambush predator” — sometimes Gray Petaltail hunts for prey by waiting for other flying insects to pass by and ambushing them aerially when they do. Like the crane fly shown below that the Gray grabbed before landing on my bucket hat.

Photo used with written permission from Michael Powell.

I was happy to provide a white table cloth for a classy dining experience with one of my favorite species of dragonflies.

Habitat

For habitat-specific odonates such as T. thoreyi, it’s all about location, location, location. “Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)” is another blog post by Walter Sanford that provides actionable intel regarding ideal habitat for Grays.

Range map

The following map shows all official records for Tachopteryx thoreyi in the United States of America. Gray Petaltail is a habitat specialist that is challenging to find.

Related Resources

  • Tachopteryx thoreyi Gray Petaltail on NatureServe Explorer. The conservation status for T. thoreyi in Virginia is “Apparently Secure (S4).” That’s good news. The bad news: That doesn’t mean it’s easy to find.
  • Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)” – another blog post by Walter Sanford that provides actionable intel regarding ideal habitat for Grays.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonflies (female, male)

June 18, 2021

Several Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) were observed at an undisclosed location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Only two individuals perched long enough to pose for photos.

The first one I spotted was perched relatively high on a tree on the earthen berm of a small pond. This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. I was able to take just four photos of the female before she flew toward the top of the same tree.

05 JUN 2021 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (female)

Quite a while later, I spotted another Gray Petaltail land on another tree briefly, and by “briefly” I mean briefly. I had time for one shot as I was approaching the tree slowly, and just like that, the dragonfly flew toward the top of another tree. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings and terminal appendages.

05 JUN 2021 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

As it turns out, the preceding male was the last Gray Petaltail I saw for the day. Mike Powell and I had noticed the Grays seemed to be spending a lot of time in the tree canopy. I speculated their atypical behavior might be caused by the peak- or near-peak activity of Brood X Peridical Cicadas. Mike was, as always, skeptical of my speculation.

A little more than a week later, a post by Harold Bancroft White in the Northeast Odonata Facebook group seems to provide some support for my speculative theory. I like it when Gray Petaltails perch near the ground, so I hope their new hunting habit isn’t imprinted on the next generation!

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (immature male)

April 30, 2021

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was observed near a small pond during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Occoquan Regional Park (ORP).

This individual is an immature male, as indicated by his mostly brown coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. Part of his left fore wing is missing, probably as a result of an encounter with a predator.

28 APR 2021 | ORP | Common Whitetail (immature male)

Common Whitetail dragonflies are habitat generalists that can be found almost anywhere there is water. They are among the first species of dragonflies to appear during spring and the last to disappear in fall.

Copyright © 2021 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stealthy spider stalks Swift Setwing

September 4, 2020

There I was, trying to create some Odonart©.

18 AUG 2020 | 12:02:18 PM | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

As I “worked the shot,” the imaginary soundtrack in my mind reminded me of the music bed at the beginning of Bambi Meets Godzilla. Peaceful. And just as suddenly as the animated film ends rudely, the idyllic scene before my eyes took a turn for the ugly!

Cue the Jaws Theme Song as the walk-on music for a Long-jawed Orb Weaver.

18 AUG 2020 | 12:03:10 PM | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

52 seconds of elapsed time could have been the difference between life and death for the dragonfly. As far as I know, the Swift Setwing survived this near-death experience.

The Backstory

Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

The first photo was taken when the dragonfly landed on a grass stem near the shoreline of the pond. Soon afterward his wings were “set” forward in the position from which the latter part of its common name is derived, as shown in the last photo. It is assumed by the author that the set wing position enables the dragonfly to take flight swiftly — a useful adaptation when being stalked by a stealthy spider!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

We have a history

August 21, 2020

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Eastern Pondhawk, especially female E. simplicicollis, are voracious predators.

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

Regular readers of my blog know I love me some head-tilts, as shown in the preceding photo.

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

The Backstory

As the title of this blog post suggests, Eastern Pondhawk and I have a history — a negative history. A cohort of Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) was observed for a two-week period during early May 2015 at a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park.

The sudden disappearance of the damselfly cohort seemed to coincide with a population explosion of Eastern Pondhawk in mid-May. After years of heavy predation by Eastern Pondhawk, Southern Spreadwing disappeared completely from the vernal pool.

Related Resource: A Southern Fortnight – Part 1-7.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Faked out!

May 13, 2019

A Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) was perched on a tree alongside Wildlife Loop trail at the North Tract of Patuxent Research Refuge, Anne Arundel County, Maryland USA. This individual is an immature male, as indicated by its lighter coloration and terminal appendages.

My good friend Mike Powell and I were searching for Harlequin Darner (Gomphaeschna furcillata). At first glance, we thought we might have found our first Harlequin; after a closer look, we realized we’d been faked out by a Blue Corporal.

Another Blue Corporal dragonfly was perched on the great red spot of the planet Jupiter. Kidding! Seriously, Blue Corporals typically perch on the ground — this dragonfly was perched on a wooden boardwalk near a small pond.

The last two individuals are mature males, as indicated by their darker coloration and terminal appendages.

Predator-prey relationship?

There is some speculation that Blue Corporal dragonflies might prey upon Harlequin Darners, so Mike and I weren’t happy to see lots of mature Blue Corporals in our target search area. For what it’s worth, we hunted intensively for Harlequin Darner for hours and found only one individual; G. furcillata was described as “relatively abundant” two-to-three weeks earlier at the same location, before Blue Corporal began emerging.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Lunch

October 18, 2018

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched alongside a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages. Notice the dragonfly is eating another insect. I called the meal lunch, since the photograph was taken at approximately 12:30 p.m.

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

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Life and death at Occoquan Bay revisited

September 16, 2018

I revisited the set of photos that I shot of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a fish in its talons, perched on a dead tree limb overhanging Fox Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia.

The Osprey was looking at me directly in the following photo. I wonder what the bird was thinking. With a piercing glare like that, I’m guessing he wasn’t thinking “Would you like to join me for lunch?”

23 AUG 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Osprey (male, plus prey)

In stark contrast with the Osprey’s piercing glare, notice the fish’s vacant stare.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another Black and Yellow Argiope

August 31, 2018

Another Black and Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. A cicada was trapped in the spider web.

23 AUG 2018 | OBNWR | Black and Yellow Argiope (plus prey)

This post is the last part in a three-part series related to predator and prey at Occoquan Bay. The photos in all three posts were taken on the same day.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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