Posts Tagged ‘Sympetrum vicinum’

Autumn Meadowhawk (mature female)

April 4, 2017

25 OCT 2016 | OBNWR | Autumn Meadowhawk (mature female)

The preceding photograph shows an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on fall foliage at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female, as indicated by her terminal appendages, coloration, and tattered wings.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pairs)

January 30, 2017

While we’re doing that mating pairs of insects thing, let’s continue the theme with photos of two mating pairs of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). Both pairs are “in wheel.”

Couple No. 1

The male is on the upper-right; the female on the lower-left. Notice the male dragonfly is using his front legs to groom his eyes and face, while mating. Hey, you want to look good when hooking up!

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

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

The photo is cropped slightly in order to remove a few distracting elements near the edges of the photo. In my opinion, nothing says “Autumn Meadowhawk” quite like a photo showing the dragonflies perching on autumn-colored vegetation.

Couple No. 2

The male is on top; the female on the bottom.

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

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

The preceding photo is full-frame (4,000 x 3,000 pixels), giving the viewer a sense of how close I was to the dragonflies. This image — showing the dragonflies perching on tree bark — complements the coloration of the Autumn Meadowhawks but doesn’t convey the same sense of the season as the first photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wildlife watching “Wildlife Watching” sign

November 24, 2016

There is a “Wildlife Watching” sign located along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, near the observation tower overlooking the central wetland area.

Notice the Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on the signage. This individual is a male, as indicated by the bright red coloration of his abdomen and by his terminal appendages.

Regular readers of my photoblog know I love a good head-tilt! Doesn’t this guy look jaunty?

Autumn Meadowhawks like to rest on sunlit surfaces like the sign (and boardwalk) in order to absorb thermal energy.

Hey folks, you’re looking the wrong way — there’s a big dragonfly behind you!

The hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park is a good habitat for many species of odonates, including Autumn Meadowhawk.

I spent about 30 minutes watching the sign, waiting for the dragonfly to land at different places on the sign. During that time, several people passed the sign but no one noticed the dragonfly. As the sign says, “Take time to look carefully” when you visit a wildlife watching park.

Editor’s Note: On the traditional day when we give thanks for our many blessings, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a frequent and careful observer of the natural beauty of the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park, and for many good friends with whom I share the experience. Happy Thanksgiving!

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.

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.

Headfirst

October 22, 2016

Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) landed a few feet to my left as I was looking for Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies during a photowalk around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR).

Almost immediately, I realized the Common Green Darner was eating a smaller female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum).

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum).

16 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Common Green Darner (male, eating prey)

Notice the Common Green Darner is eating the Autumn Meadowhawk headfirst, the fastest way for the predator to immobilize its prey.

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum).

16 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Common Green Darner (male, eating prey)

The Common Green Darner is an immature- to young male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages. As a mature male, his abdomen will be partially covered by blue pruinescence.

A Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, eating a female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum).

16 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Common Green Darner (male, eating prey)

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

What’s yours is mine

January 8, 2016

Dragonflies, especially the “friendly species,” have no understanding of either personal space or property rights. Of course that’s only part of their appeal!

The following individual is a male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), perching on the leg of my Columbia convertible pants. I spotted this guy at the “accidental vernal pool,” my nickname for a vernal pool located near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park that was created accidentally during construction of the new water control system.

The last three photos show another male, perching on my Coleman camp stool, near the small observation platform above the water control system.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New state record late-date for dragonflies

January 6, 2016

A single Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), jokingly referred to as a “Winter Meadowhawk dragonfly” in a recent post, was observed on 03 January 2016 near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. This sighting sets a new late-date for this species for both Huntley Meadows Park (formerly 27 December) and the Commonwealth of Virginia (formerly 01 January).

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

03 JAN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration, shape of the abdomen, and terminal appendages.

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

03 JAN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

The following graphic image shows the current air temperature in the central wetland area around the time when I spotted the record-setting dragonfly. 51°F is nearly 20 degrees less than 70°F, widely believed to be the minimum body temperature necessary for dragonfly flight!

The Backstory

After several hours of fruitless searching for Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies, I had almost given up all hope of finding one. In fact, I was humming “The End” by The Doors while walking out of the park. I paused to look at an unknown bird foraging near a vernal pool. That’s when I decided to take one last look around the pool — a spot where I’d seen one male Autumn Meadowhawk on 27 December 2015.

Backlight can make it challenging to shoot a good photograph; in this case, backlight made the preceding photos possible. At one point I was staring almost directly at the setting winter Sun while scanning the vegetation around the vernal pool for signs of life. The bright light was blinding. Much to my surprise and delight, I saw the silhouette of a fluttering dragonfly rise from the vernal pool and fly toward some nearby vegetation. I tend to think of dragonflies as strong fliers, but this individual was struggling noticeably.

Although I didn’t see exactly where the dragonfly landed, I knew it had to be somewhere in a dense thicket of dead grasses. Fortunately, I was able to find the dragonfly and shoot a few photos before I spooked it by trying to position myself for a better viewpoint. Like I always say, “Get a shot, any shot; refine the shot.” I lost sight of her when I looked down briefly to free my foot from a thorny vine. You wouldn’t imagine a weak flier could disappear so quickly, but she did. I searched for another 20-30 minutes without finding her again.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Updates, two recent posts

December 31, 2015

Top 10 Photos of 2015

Voting for my “Top 10 Photos of 2015” will close at 12 midnight EST on 01 January 2016.

Winter Meadowhawk dragonfly

A few Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), jokingly referred to as “Winter Meadowhawk dragonflies” in a recent post, were observed near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. This sighting sets a new late-date for this species at Huntley Meadows Park. 01 January is the “official” late-date for the Commonwealth of Virginia.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his coloration and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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