Posts Tagged ‘Prince William County’

“Grays” love them some me!

August 14, 2019

2019 was a record-setting year for observing Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) with Mike Powell at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

  • 21 May 2019 was the day that we observed at least a dozen (12+) Gray Petaltail — the most on any day during 2019.
  • 14 June 2019 was the day that the most “Grays” landed on me, including one female and two males plus some others that didn’t perch long enough to be photographed by either Mike or me.

Female

The first individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. She is perched on the front of my gray-green shirt.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

Please get this man to a barber STAT! On the other hand, there isn’t much else that can be done about the face. As you can see, I’m the owner of a high mileage “vehicle” — fortunately it still runs good!

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

Males

The next individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages. He is perched on the right sleeve of my shirt.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

The same male is shown in the following image. This photo is my favorite in the gallery.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

The last individual, possibly/probably a male, is perched on my off-white bucket hat. The “Gray” was doing a Vulcan mind-meld with me by using specialized contact via the tips of his legs.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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More “Grays” on me

August 12, 2019

Well, really just one “Gray.” Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi), that is. Perched on my … er, hip. This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages.

Guest photographer Michael Powell shot both images during a photowalk with me on 21 May 2019 at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The following photo set provides a brief example of what we call “working the shot.” The first photo is what some other ode hunters call the “record shot,” meaning get a shot, any shot of the subject in case it flies away and is never seen again.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

Slowly Mike moved closer to get the shot he wanted, shown below.

Photo used with permission from Mike Powell.

The Backstory

21 May 2019 was a great day for spotting Gray Petaltail dragonflies during a long, productive photowalk with Michael Powell at two locations: along a small stream in the forest; and around a small seep-fed pond. At least a dozen (12+) T. thoreyi were observed during the day, including two “Grays” that landed on Mike.

As we were walking toward Mike’s car at the end of the day, I was feeling disappointed that we hadn’t taken any photos of T. thoreyi perched on me. That’s when I noticed a Gray Petaltail perched on a fence rail. Before I was able to take a picture of the dragonfly, she flew from the fence rail to a new perch on my backside. Fortunately Mike was close behind me and was able to shoot the good photos featured in this blog post. Needless to say, I suffered as the butt of many jokes related to my indelicate circumstance!

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Another Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

June 21, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small-to-medium size forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Did you recognize the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) in the background of every photo in this gallery?

14 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

The Backstory

Mike Powell and I stopped to use GPS to get a fix on our position at the end of a long photowalk that included lots of bushwhacking. We stopped because the small stream we were exploring was getting wider and deeper the farther we walked downstream, and we decided the stream habitat had changed to be less suitable for Sable Clubtail (S. rogersi), our target species.

The place where we stopped is a sunny meadow near the confluence of a tiny side stream with the larger stream we were following. As Mike was testing a few GPS apps for his Android cell phone, I noticed a big dragonfly as it flew down the tiny stream, turned left past us, and landed in the sunny meadow. I found the dragonfly after a few minutes of searching the area where I saw it land. I was hoping for a Tiger Spiketail (Cordulegaster erronea) but nonetheless delighted to see a female Arrowhead Spiketail — our second record of this species for the year at the remote location!

Related Resource: Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

June 12, 2019

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

04 JUN 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Painted Skimmer (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Notice her right hind wing is slightly malformed near the body. It appears the wing failed to inflate completely during emergence. The malformation didn’t impair her ability to fly.

Did you recognize the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) in the background?

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

June 3, 2019

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was observed during a photowalk with my good friend Mike Powell along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Painted Skimmer (female)

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

Habitat

Look for Painted Skimmer near some sort of water body in the forest, such as a vernal pool or small streams and ponds.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (female)

May 27, 2019

An Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) was spotted in a sunny clearing along a small forest stream at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings, terminal appendages, and prominent ovipositor at the tip of her abdomen.

[Females in the Family Cordulegastridae (Spiketails) feature a] …pointed and spikelike (thus the group name) ovipositor, really a “pseudo-ovipositor” formed from the prolonged subgenital plate. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7005-7006). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Although the pattern of arrowhead-shaped markings visible on the dorsal side of her abdomen is unmistakeable, notice that the thorax features two stripes. The latter field mark can be used to differentiate spiketails from cruisers that have one stripe on their thorax.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Mike Powell and I have photowalked together so many times that we are comfortable working cooperatively to shoot a subject. I wanted to get a shot of the face of the Arrowhead Spiketail but was concerned it would spook the dragonfly if I were to get “up in her grill.” So I waited until Mike had taken all of the photographs he wanted before approaching the dragonlfy for her “beauty shot.” As it turns out, the model was extraordinarily tolerant and didn’t fly away until sometime after Mike and I moved on to the next site.

21 MAY 2019 | PNC. William County, VA | Arrowhead Spiketail (female)

Notice the interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) that appears in the background of every photo of the Arrowhead Spiketail.

Location, location, location.

Some species of odonates are habitat generalists, meaning they can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Habitat-specific odonates can be found only in specific habitats — for these species, finding them is all about location, location, location. Arrowhead Spiketail dragonflies are habitat-specialists.

Habitat: Small swift streams and soft-bottomed muddy seeps in forest, also streams reduced to series of small pools during drier weather. As in some other spiketails, skunk cabbage often present. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 7081-7082). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) and interrupted fern (Osmunda claytoniana) were observed growing in a seep located between a dirt trail and the small stream where the Arrowhead Spiketail was spotted — the perfect place for several species of habitat-specific odonates!

The last photo shows the clearing along a small forest stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted, including the Arrowhead Spiketail featured in this blog post. The stream is no more than a few feet wide and only a few inches deep in most places.

The small stream where several species of dragonflies were spotted.

The backstory

Telephoto lenses can cause a type of distortion called “foreshortening,” as seen in the preceding photo. Mike Powell and I were standing at the edge of the stream bank trying to decide whether we wanted to go down the short, steep slope to explore the clearing when we spotted a large UFO, that is, an “Unidentified Flying Odonate.” Mike and I took “record shots” of the dragonfly; looking at the LCD of our cameras, we identified the UFO as a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

Mike and I had seen a Gray Petaltail at another location (near the beginning of our photowalk), but we were unable to photograph it. So down the bank we went! As it turns out, there were at least two Grays in the meadow: a female; and a male. As Mike was photographing one of the Gray Petaltails he noticed another “large dragonfly.” As we slowly moved closer to the new unknown dragonfly, I quickly realized Mike had spotted an Arrowhead Clubtail. Great catch, Mike!

Please see Female Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly for Mike’s take on our shared experience.

Uncommon

Arrowhead Spiketail is classified as an uncommon species of odonate. The following map shows all official records for Arrowhead Clubtail (C. obliqua) in the United States of America.

DSA Distribution Viewer | Arrowhead Spiketail

Source Credit: Abbott, J.C. 2006-2019. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the distribution and identification of Odonata. Available at http://www.odonatacentral.org. (Accessed: May 27, 2019).

Key: blue dots = Dot Map Project; green dots = Accepted records; yellow dots = Pending records.

Our spotting of Arrowhead Spiketail is a new DSA record for Prince William County, Virginia.

Adult flight period

According to records for the Commonwealth of Virginia maintained by Dr. Steve Roble, Staff Zoologist at the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, Division of Natural Heritage, the adult flight period for C. obliqua is 11 May to 17 July. The species is classified as uncommon. Its habitat is “small streams.”

Bear in mind, Dr. Roble’s records are for the entire state, therefore the adult flight period for C. obliqua seems to be longer than it is in reality. The adult flight period for a single site is probably shorter — more likely around one month. For example, according to records for Northern Virginia maintained by Kevin Munroe, former manager of Huntley Meadows Park, the adult flight period for Arrowhead is 28 May to 27 June (peaks in June).

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

 

“Lost” photos, redux

August 1, 2018

Another Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted at the same location in Prince William County, Virginia USA as the one featured in my last blog post.

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

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

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

The mid-size fallen tree on which the male is perched proved to be a good spot to find Gray Petaltail during every visit to the site.

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male).

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male)

July 30, 2018

Two photo sets of Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi), taken on 08 June 2018 at an undisclosed location in Prince William County, Virginia USA, were lost in the excitement of my rediscovery of Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) later the same day in Fairfax County, VA. This gallery is one of two posts featuring some of the “lost” photos.

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

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

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

The Gray Petaltail ambushed several smaller insects that flew near his perch; he always returned to the same tree after each brief excursion.

08 JUN 2018 | Prince William County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Related Resource: “Lost” photos, redux.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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