Posts Tagged ‘Skimmer Family’

Painted Skimmer dragonflies (males)

December 4, 2016

Several Painted Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula semifasciata) were spotted at a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park. All of these individuals are males, as indicated by their terminal appendages.

Sometimes you need to stop and smell the “soft rush” (Juncus effusus), the common name for the shoreline/emergent plant with a light green round stem and brownish-green flowers shown in the following photo. Soft rush is common in wetland areas.

You may be wondering, “Do dragonflies have a sense of smell?” The surprising answer can be found in an interesting article from Science magazine: Dragonflies Lack ‘Smell Center,’ but Can Still Smell.

The second and third photos in this gallery show the same male. Regular readers of my photoblog know I love a good head-tilt, shown below.

The following male must be a member of the Democratic Party, based upon his viewpoint to the left. Hah! I couldn’t resist a little good-natured jab at my friends from the opposition party who are still suffering over the outcome of the recent USA presidential election.

The last one’s for you, Michael Powell. Turns out it’s a rare photo (well, rare for me) shot in Aperture priority mode — looking along the barrel of the body, thought I’d need more depth of field.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Post update

November 15, 2016

The first official record of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge was observed at Mulligan Pond on 15 September 2016. 10 days later, another Blue-faced Meadowhawk was spotted near the same location.

A female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an heteromorph.

25 SEP 2016 | JMAWR | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (female heteromorph)

This individual is a female heteromorph, as indicated by her tan coloration and terminal appendages.

As it turns out, the female spotted on the 15th and this one spotted on the 25th were the only Blue-faced Meadowhawks seen during many photowalks around Mulligan Pond during Fall 2016.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time to mate

November 13, 2016

In a recent blog post, I wrote…

Both Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are classified as fall species of odonates. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are arboreal species of dragonflies that return to the ground/water when it’s time to mateSource Credit: More previews of coming attractions.

Fall is the time to mate for Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), as you can see in the following photo.

A mating pair of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel."

06 NOV 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel“)

This mating pair is “in wheel.” All dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back: male dragonfly secondary genitalia, called hamules, are located in segments two and three (S2 and S3); female genitalia in segment eight (S8). Dragonflies form the mating wheel in order for their genitalia to connect during copulation.

Odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) are aquatic insects. Most of their life is spent underwater as a nymph. The life span of a nymph depends upon the species: it’s a few months for some species; a few years for other species. Individual adult odonates — like the ones we see flying around Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) — usually live one- to two months, although many different individuals from the same species may be seen for longer periods of time. Adult odonates have one goal: mate in order to reproduce. When fertilized eggs are laid in water, the circle of life comes full circle: eggs; prolarvae; larvae; emergence/adult males and females; mating pairs; males guide females to egg-laying sites (some species, such as Autumn Meadowhawk) or solo females lay eggs (all other species).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New late-date for Blue-faced Meadowhawk

November 11, 2016
A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

06 NOV 2016 | 10:37 AM | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

06 NOV 2016 | 10:58 AM | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Notice the 21-minute time difference between the two photos. I thought I’d spotted two males until I saw identical damage to the right hindwing (facing forward) when I was editing the photos.

27 October was my previous late-date for Blue-faced Meadowhawk, tied with the record late-date for the Commonwealth of Virginia. 06 November is both a new personal late-date as well as a record-setting late-date for the state.

Editor’s Note: If you check the EXIF for both photos, then you will see the time stamp is one hour later than the times shown above. 06 November was the first time I used my camera since the end of Daylight Saving Time (at 2:00 a.m. the same day) — I forgot to reset the time in-camera!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Now playing at a theater near you…

November 7, 2016

The first two adult Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) of 2016 were spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

Male 1

The first male was perching on aquatic vegetation growing in a small water retention pond at the park.

Male 2

The second male was spotted perching on grasses growing on a knoll overlooking the pond.

Related Resources: The first teneral Autumn Meadowhawks were observed beginning in mid-June 2016; see More previews of coming attractions for details. Every year, meadowhawk dragonflies — including Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks — mysteriously disappear for several months until they reappear sometime during fall.

Autumn Meadowhawks are one of the more common fall species of odonates. The species is well-adapted for survival in cooler temperatures and has been spotted as late as January 3rd in Northern Virginia!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

More previews of coming attractions

November 5, 2016

Several Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted during photowalks at two wildlife watching parks located in Northern Virginia (suburban Washington, D.C.). All specimens are teneral, as indicated by their coloration and the tenuous appearance of their wings.

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

During mid-June 2016, a single Autumn Meadowhawk was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by its terminal appendages.

Female abdomens are slightly thicker than those of males and noticeably flared toward both the thorax and tip of the abdomen. The “subgenital plate,” located under the ninth abdominal segment (S9), is a large scoop-like structure used for laying eggs (exophytic oviposition).

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral female)

The dragonfly is perching on “soft rush” (Juncus effusus), the common name for the shoreline/emergent plant with a light green round stem and brownish flowers shown in the preceding photo. Soft rush is common in wetland areas. Thanks to Christopher Wicker and Bonne Clark, naturalists at OBNWR, for identifying the plant.

Huntley Meadows Park

About one week later, many teneral Autumn Meadowhawks were spotted at a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The first individual is a teneral female, perching on soft rush.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral female)

The next specimen is also a teneral female.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral female.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral female)

The following individual is a teneral male, as indicated by his terminal appendages.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral male)

The last specimen is another teneral male.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral male)

Editor’s Notes: This post is a belated companion piece for Previews of coming attractions, published on 04 June 2016, that documented teneral Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) observed during late-May 2016. About two weeks later, the first teneral Autumn Meadowhawks were observed.

Both Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are classified as fall species of odonates. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Blue-faced Meadowhawks and Autumn Meadowhawks are arboreal species of dragonflies that return to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

October 28, 2016

As I was reviewing my photo library in search of candidates for the “Top 10 Photos of 2016” catalog, I stumbled across an unpublished photo of one of my favorite species of odonates.

Turns out there are lots of good photos that weren’t published for one reason or another. Now that ode-hunting season is undeniably winding down, more of these photos will be published during the “off-season.”

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

31 MAY 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Painted Skimmer (female)

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was spotted near a vernal pool in a remote location at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (mating pair)

October 26, 2016
A mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area. Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in wheel." The female is infested with water mites.

21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Eastern Pondhawk (mating pair, “in wheel”)

A mating pair of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted along the earthen dam at Hidden PondMeadowood Recreation Area. This pair is “in wheel“: the male is on the upper-right; the female is on the lower-left.

Eastern Pondhawks mate quickly.

Copulation brief (averages 20 sec) and aerial, may be followed by resting period. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Location 10228). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The mating pair was in wheel when they landed. I was able to shoot one photo before they finished copulating!

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the female is infested with parasitic water mites on the underside of her abdomen.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Perchers like perching on Coleman

October 6, 2016

Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Members of the Family Libellulidae (Skimmers) are perchers. Further, males of many species of Skimmers perch near prime egg-laying habitat — like a small vernal pool located in Huntley Meadows Park — in order to attract mates.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was photographed as it perched on my Coleman camp stool.  This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

If I were going to post only my best shots, then I would choose the first photo (shown above) and the last. I included the next photo because it provides a closer look at the head and body of the dragonfly; the trade-off is the terminal appendages are in soft focus.

Common Whitetail dragonfly

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted at the same location as the Blue-faced Meadowhawk. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

I love the head-tilt shown in the following photo!

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (male)

Notice the scratches along his abdomen, an indication he has mated many times.

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 midabdomen 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.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (male)

I like to rest during long photowalks by sitting my Coleman camp stool for a few minutes, and as you can see, some species of my favorite insects like to rest on the camp stool too!

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on a Coleman camp stool.

15 SEP 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (male)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wandering Glider (terminal appendages)

October 2, 2016

Wandering Glider is one of at least five major species of dragonflies known to be migratory in North America. One field marker most migratory dragonflies have in common: broad hindwings.

The very broad hindwings represent an important adaptation for gliding, … Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 11276-11277). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Dragonflies are classified as either “fliers” or “perchers,” based upon their feeding habits. Wandering Gliders are fliers; it is uncommon to see fliers perching.

The following gallery of annotated photographs shows two Wandering Glider dragonflies (Pantala flavescens) spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA: one is a female; the other a male. Wandering Gliders do not display sexual dimorphism; terminal appendages may be used to differentiate females and males.

Female

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

A Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

27 SEP 2016 | Mason Neck West Park | Wandering Glider (female)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation. Aesthetically speaking, I prefer the subtle difference in composition of a similar photo that doesn’t show the cerci as well as the featured image.)

Male

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”).

A Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) spotted at Mason Neck West Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

27 SEP 2016 | Mason Neck West Park | Wandering Glider (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation. A similar photo with an obstructed view of the dragonfly’s wings provides a slightly closer look at the body.)

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

  • Genus Pantala | Pantala flavescens | Wandering Glider | female | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala flavescens | Wandering Glider | female | side view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala flavescens | Wandering Glider | male | top view
  • Genus Pantala | Pantala flavescens | Wandering Glider | male | side view

See interactive three-dimensional (3-D) virtual imagery of the five migratory dragonflies, including Wandering Glider, provided by the Migratory Dragonfly Partnership.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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