Posts Tagged ‘terminal appendages’

Spotlight on Slaty Skimmer

July 22, 2020

Michael Powell spotted a Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) during a photowalk with me along a mid-size stream in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Slaty Skimmer (male)

After a long day of searching for Eastern Least Clubtails (Stylogomphus albistylus) unsuccessfully — an uncommon species of dragonfly — it was good to see any type of dragonfly, including a common species like Slaty Skimmer!

Slaty Skimmer is a habitat generalist that can be found almost anywhere there is water.

Post Update

You know, sometimes I look at a full-frame photo and think it would look better cropped slightly. This is one of those times. So I cropped the photo and think it looks much better than the full-frame version. What do you think?

15 JUL 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Slaty Skimmer (male)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 5)

July 20, 2020

Sometimes I think I need an editor to select my best photos. Case in point, the following photos look similar but they are subtly different.

In the first photo, the terminal appendages seem to be more in focus than in the second photo.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The second photo shows a better view of the face while the terminal appendages are slightly softer.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

Decisions, decisions. I decided not to decide, opting to publish both photos. Which photo do you prefer?

The Backstory

At least 11 Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including 10 females and one male. This blog post features two photos of female No. 5.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 6)

July 13, 2020

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The preceding photo is “full frame,” that is uncropped (3,000 x 4,000 pixels).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Sable Clubtail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

July 10, 2020

A Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted by Michael Powell during a photowalk at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

Look at the blade of grass on which the Sable is perched. Notice the “leftovers” from an afternoon snack eaten by the dragonfly before the photo was taken.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (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”). The epiproct for Sable Clubtail is essentially a wide plate with two prongs.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The spiky green grass shown below is probably shallow sedge (Carex lurida) according to Drew Chaney, a.k.a., “Plant Man Drew.”

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

Field Observations

All of the photos in the preceding gallery show male No. 2 perched on vegetation overhanging a small stream, enabling him to both hunt/feed and wait for an opportunity to mate with a female.

Natural History: Males perch on sunlit vegetation overhanging stream or on flat rocks in shade at head of riffle, fly up into trees when disturbed. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 6102-6103). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

In my experience, Sable Clubtails — both male and female — also perch on ground cover vegetation in sunny clearings near small streams. For example, see my recent blog post featuring male No. 1.

Sable does in fact fly up into trees when their “flight” response is triggered by overzealous photographers; they have been observed perched in trees as high as 20 feet above the ground. Be patient — usually they return to the ground soon afterward.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue Dasher dragonfly (female)

July 8, 2020

Behold the humble Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). So common, yet so uncommonly attractive in its own way.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue Dasher (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages. Initially I thought she might be another species of dragonfly, due to her somewhat atypical coloration.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Blue Dasher (female)

The Backstory

During a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, we were men on a mission to find three rare to uncommon species of dragonflies: Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua); Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi); and Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi).

Albeit common, and not one of our target species, sometimes you need to stop and smell the Blue Dashers, figuratively speaking.

As for our list of target species, let’s just say two out of three ain’t bad.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male, No. 3)

July 6, 2020

Several Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) were spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This one is No. 3 of 4.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

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

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

After shooting a “record shot,” I like to “work the shot,” that is shoot the subject from all viewpoints. In this case the range of possible shots was somewhat limited so after I felt like I’d taken all the shots I could, I challenged Mike to see how close he could get to the dragonfly.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

As you can see in the photo featured in The Backstory, it turns out Mike was able to get astoundingly close to this very cooperative Gray Petaltail!

The Backstory

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 is one of two superzoom bridge cameras that I use as my “go to” rigs for photowalking. The minimum focusing distance in AF Macro mode is 1 m (3.3 feet) at maximum telephoto (600 mm, 35mm equivalent). My usual practice is to set the camera for maximum telephoto and move as close as possible to the minimum focusing distance, resulting in maximum magnification of the subject. That’s how I shot the three photos shown above.

The following photo is shown for scale. The Gray Petaltail is perched on a fallen tree limb approximately six inches (6″) in front of Mike Powell’s 180mm macro lens. Shooting macro is one way to increase magnification; shooting at maximum telephoto is another. I prefer the flexibility afforded by a zoom lens versus a prime lens like Mike is using.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Michael Powell

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail eyes, a companion blog post by Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 8)

July 1, 2020

Insects can be beautiful. And some insects, such as dragonflies and damselflies, are more beautiful than others. That’s right, I said it!

I am fortunate to be able to photograph some of the more beautiful odonates that can be found, with a little time and effort, throughout Northern Virginia. Such as the following Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus), spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Both photos in this post are “full frame,” that is uncropped (3,000 x 4,000 pixels). When the subject fills the frame as it does in the first photo, you know I was fairly close to the dragonfly.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male, No. 2)

June 29, 2020

Another Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) was spotted during a recent photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his “indented” hind wings, and terminal appendages.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” It’s literally the first shot I took as soon as I spotted the Gray.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

I moved slowly to a slightly closer position; almost had a squared-up dorsal view of the subject before he flew away.

13 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Gray Petaltail (male)

Related Resource: Gray Petaltail dragonfly (male) [No. 1]

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

American Rubyspot damselfly (male)

June 24, 2020

During a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, Mike spotted an American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) perched facing the Potomac River. This individual is a male, as indicated by his red coloration, hamules, and terminal appendages.

All of the photos in the following gallery look similar, although there are subtle differences.

The first photo is the “record shot” for this individual, that is, “get a shot, any shot.” Actually, this one turned out to be a good photo! The camera was set for an aperture of f/5.6 for all shots in the gallery. This viewing angle provided the clearest look at his terminal appendages given the relatively shallow depth-of-field.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

The next photo shows a better look at the damselfly’s metallic ruby red face. Handsome!

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Finally, I just like the look of the “light” in the last photo. Dark and moody.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | American Rubyspot (male)

Related Resource: American Rubyspot – a blog post by Michael Powell

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (female, No. 4)

June 22, 2020

At least 11 Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphurus vastus) were spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including 10 females and one male. This blog post features several photos of female No. 4.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The last two photos are my favorite in the set. Isn’t she a beauty?

08 JUN 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

Related Resource: Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (females) [No. 1a and 1b]

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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