Posts Tagged ‘Springtime Darner dragonfly’

Springtime Darner (male claspers)

May 19, 2018

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and “indented” hind wings.

23 APR 2017 | HORP | Springtime Darner (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

All 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”).

23 APR 2017 | HORP | Springtime Darner (male)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Editor’s Notes

The preceding photos are new, that is, previously unpublished. Both photos are full-frame (uncropped). Springtime Darners can be quite skittish. In this case, I was very close to an unusually cooperative model.

The last photo was shot using Aperture Priority. I prefer shooting in Shutter Priority, but I like to shoot a few shots using Aperture Priority whenever I can use either a monopod or tripod. In this situation, I improvised.

In addition to my photography gear, I usually carry a Coleman camp stool when I go photowalking. The small, lightweight folding chair is good for resting while waiting for “the game to come to me.” The camp stool also enables me to get closer to subjects either on- or near the ground, such as the Springtime Darner featured in this blog post. I think it’s easier to hold my camera rock-steady when I’m sitting on the chair with my elbows resting on my knees.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Good luck charm

April 27, 2018

I noticed a golden/yellow horseshoe painted on both sides of a tree and thought, “This might be my lucky day.” Turns out the good luck symbol proved to be prophetic.

23 APR 2018 | Hemlock Overlook Regional Park | Horseshoe Trail

A yellow horseshoe is the trail marker for Horseshoe Trail at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park. Part of Horseshoe Trail is co-located with Union Mill Trail (marked in red); the latter leads to Popes Head Creek.

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted along Popes Head Creek, just downstream from what appears to be either a natural dam or beaver dam.

Habitat: Woodland streams and rivers with some current; also at beaver ponds along stream course… Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 4063-4064). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

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

The preceding photo is full-frame, that is uncropped. Springtime Darners can be quite skittish. In this case, I was very close to the unusually cooperative model. A follow-up blog post will be published after I edit a large set of photos of this individual.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Springtime Darner (terminal appendages)

September 11, 2017

Male and female Springtime Darner dragonflies (Basiaeschna janata) are colored similarly sometimes. Terminal appendages can be used to identify gender.

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 male Springtime Darner was spotted along a mid-size rocky stream located at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Female

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

Female Springtime Darners are polymorphic: the spots on their abdomen are either blue (andromorphic) or green (heteromorphic); this female — spotted at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) — is a blue andromorph.

15 APR 2016 | HMP | Springtime Darner (female, blue andromorph)

(See a full-size version of the original photo, without annotation.)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Springtime Darner dragonfly (male)

May 6, 2017

(✔︎) Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata).

Well, now that I’ve seen a Springtime Darner, I can stop hunting for the species this year. Huh? I saw one Springtime Darner in 2015 (my first) and another one in 2016, both females. Apparently, Mother Nature allows me to see one and only one Springtime Darner per year. So check-off Springtime Darner from my target list of species for 2017 and move along, nothing more to see here folks. But seriously, hope springs eternal so I’ll keep looking for this somewhat elusive species.

03 MAY 2017 | Fairfax County, VA | Springtime Darner (male)

This Springtime Darner is a handsome male, as indicated by his terminal appendages and indented hind wings. (The former field marker is shown more clearly than the latter.) The blue coloration along its abdomen also indicates this individual is a male, although less reliably than other field markers since female Springtime Darners are polymorphic including blue and green morphs.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo — there’s some wild stuff going on in his eyes!

The Backstory

During the dragonfly-hunting “off season,” I had a hunch that a new location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA might be a good place to find some of the more uncommon species of odonates. On 03 May 2017, I visited the spot for the first time. I hiked in and began exploring a mid-size stream. After approximately 30-45 minutes of intensive searching, I hadn’t seen any dragonflies or damselflies and was thinking about moving on to another tried-and-true ode-hunting location.

Fortunately, I noticed something out of the corner of my eye that made me stop: a dragonfly that was perching near the ground made a quick, low flight to a new perch. I didn’t see the exact spot where it landed, but I had an idea of the area where it might be. Turns out it was a male Stream Cruiser dragonfly. The male Springtime Darner (featured in this post) was the next dragonfly I spotted soon afterward. Then it’s like the flood gates opened and I saw lots of other odonates including a new species of dragonfly for my life list.

So what’s the take-away from this experience? It’s a cliche, but persistence pays dividends — don’t give up too soon! Oh, and follow your hunches, otherwise you’ll never know whether you are right. Speaking of hunches, I have a good hunch I’ll revisit the new site soon.

Springtime Darner dragonfly (female)

April 17, 2016

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) was spotted on 15 April 2016 at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Thanks to Michael Moore, member of the “Southeastern Odes” Facebook group, for verifying my tentative identification of the gender.

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, blue morph.

Female Springtime Darners are polymorphic: the spots on their abdomen are either blue (andromorphic) or green (heteromorphic); this female is a blue morph.

A Springtime Darner dragonfly (Basiaeschna janata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, blue morph.

I thought of an analogy to explain the size of the Springtime Darner population at Huntley Meadows Park: Springtime Darners are more like Shadow Darners than Common Green Darners; you see Shadow Darners sometimes but not all the time, like the appropriately named Common Green Darners. Although Springtime Darners are rare at the park, it’s worth the effort to find these beauties!

Interesting factoid: Basiaeschna is a monotypic genus; Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata) is the only member of the genus in the world. Uncommon and unique. How cool is that?

Related Resource: Teamwork, and some take-aways (my photoblog post describing the exciting discovery of another new species of odonate at Huntley Meadows Park)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2015

December 27, 2015

As the story is told, a reporter asked Willie Sutton “Why do you rob banks?” “Because that’s where the money is,” Willie answered. So when people ask me why I go to the remote locations in Huntley Meadows Park, I answer “Because that’s where the undiscovered species of odonates are.”

There are undiscovered species of odonates at the remote places in the park, in part, because fewer people go to the more difficult to reach locations. Also, the remote locations are often where the “habitat specialists” are found, in contrast with the “habitat generalists” that inhabit the central wetland area.

Springtime Darner dragonfly

Teamwork, and some take-aways

Springtime Darner dragonfly (female)

18 April 2015 | Photograph used with permission from Michael Powell.

Southern Spreadwing damselfly

A Southern Fortnight, Part 1 – Year-long mystery solved!

A mating pair of Southern Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes australis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is in tandem.

03 MAY 2015 | HMP | Southern Spreadwing (mating pair, in tandem)

Roseate Skimmer dragonfly

Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (male)

A Roseate Skimmer dragonfly (Orthemis ferruginea) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

23 SEP 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Roseate Skimmer (male)

Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly

Another new species of spreadwing damselfly?

A Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

15 OCT 2015 | HMP | Sweetflag Spreadwing (male)

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The first and last dragonflies of 2015

December 1, 2015

Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) are like the type of party guests who are always among the first to arrive and last to leave. They are one of the first dragonfly species to appear in spring, and one of the last to disappear in fall.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Libellula lydia, Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

24 APR 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

This post features photos of the first and last Common Whitetail dragonflies spotted during photowalks in two remote locations at Huntley Meadows Park. Both individuals are female, as indicated by their coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

15 OCT 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Whitetail (female)

As its common name suggests Common Whitetail dragonflies are seen commonly, seemingly everywhere, including places far from water. Some dragonflies are habitat specialists; Common Whitetails are habitat generalists. It’s easy to look at something so common and overlook their subtle beauty, that is, until they disappear at the end of dragonfly season.

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. Source Credit: Big Yellow Taxi, by Joni Mitchell.

Editor’s Notes: For the record, the first dragonfly of 2015 was spotted on 18 April, when Mike Powell and I co-discovered the first Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata) ever seen/photographed at Huntley Meadows ParkAutumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) is the last dragonfly species spotted in 2015: 11 November is my personal late-date for this species in 2015; several other odonate enthusiasts have seen Autumn Meadowhawks at Huntley Meadows long afterward.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2014-2015

April 21, 2015

My interest in odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies, began during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park. Toward the end of Summer 2012 and continuing in 2013, my goal was to explore new venues for hunting odonates. Along the way, I spotted several species of odonates that are either uncommon or unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows, including Blue Corporal dragonfly, Stream Cruiser dragonfly, and Rambur’s Forktail damselfly, to name a few.

During 2014, continuing in 2015, I have been a man on a mission to explore the relatively unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park in search of habitat-specific odonates unlikely to be found in the central wetland area of the park. In retrospect, 2014-2015 has been a good run: five new species of odonates were discovered and added to the list of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus)

20 June 2014

Mike Powell and I collaborated to identify a clubtail dragonfly that Mike spotted on 17 June 2014. As it turns out, Mike had discovered a Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus), a new species of dragonfly for Huntley Meadows Park. Mike guided me to the same spot on 20 June, where we photographed several sanddragons (like the male shown above), including two mating pairs!

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly

Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (male)

07 July 2014

I feel fortunate to have discovered an Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua) — many experienced odonate hunters go years without seeing one of these handsome dragonflies!

Great Spreadwing damselfly

Great Spreadwing damselfly (male)

09 October 2014

Although I may not be the first ode-hunter to spot a Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis) at Huntley Meadows Park, I am the first person to notify the park manager of its occurrence. As a result, Great Spreadwing was added to the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Odonata species list.

Southern Spreadwing damselfly/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly

Southern/Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (male)

23 May 2014

Time will tell which new species of spreadwing damselfly I discovered at Huntley Meadows Park. Either way, both Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis) and Sweetflag Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes forcipatus) were formerly unknown to occur at the park.

Springtime Darner dragonfly

Springtime Darner dragonfly (female)

18 April 2015 | Photograph used with permission from Michael Powell.

Mike Powell and I co-discovered the first Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata) ever seen/photographed at Huntley Meadows Park! This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Teamwork, and some take-aways

April 19, 2015

Mike Powell and I spent two consecutive Saturdays in April searching for a species of dragonfly that Kevin Munroe, Manager, Huntley Meadows Park, was reasonably certain should be at the park, although nobody had ever seen one. Turns out Kevin was right!

As we were walking through a remote part of the park, Mike spooked a winged insect as he walked past it: Mike didn’t see it; luckily I did. (Sometimes it’s good to be the tractor; sometimes it’s better to be the trailer.) At first I thought it might be another one of many crane flies we’d seen during our long walk, but as I moved closer to the insect’s new perch I realized we’d spotted our first “home-grown” dragonfly of the year! Like a dope, I didn’t bring a camera with me (more about that later) so I directed Mike to the place where the dragonfly was perching vertically a couple of feet above the ground. Mike was able to get a few shots at that spot, and a few more at its next perch. We lost sight of the dragonfly the last time it was spooked.

When we looked at one of the better photos on the LCD of Mike’s camera, the dragonfly looked a little like a Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) on the small screen display. I asked Mike to scroll down so we could see a magnified view of the dragonfly’s terminal appendages. One look and I knew we’d found our quarry: the first Springtime Darner (Basiaeschna janata) ever seen/photographed at Huntley Meadows Park! This individual is a female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages (see “Related Resources, below).

Springtime Darner dragonfly (female)

18 April 2015 | Photograph used with permission from Michael Powell.

So what are the take-aways I mentioned in the title of this post?

  • Always carry a camera when you go into the field. I decided to travel light for a long, difficult walk on a hot and humid day: good thought; bad idea!
  • Set a goal or goals for your photowalks and do your homework so you know what the subject looks like and what its habits are. One important field marker: Springtime Darners are smaller than other members of the Darner Family; they appear to be the same size as an average-size member of the Skimmer Family.
  • Teamwork works! Mike is very familiar with the places we walked; I am familiar with the dragonfly for which we were searching. Working together, Mike and I achieved our goal and co-discovered another new species of odonate at Huntley Meadows Park.

Related Resources:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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