Posts Tagged ‘terminal appendages’

“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

November 2, 2020

“It ain’t over till it’s over” is a phrase commonly associated with baseball player/coach/manager Yogi Berra. In this case, “it” refers to odonate season and it’s not over in Northern Virginia till Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) disappear. Clearly, it ain’t over although “the end is near.”

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

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings” is a similar saying that is often attributed to Yogi Berra mistakenly. “The fat lady” refers to the fact that many female dragonflies, such as Autumn Meadowhawk, have a wider body than males of the same species.

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice what appears to be an egg mass located on the underside of her body, near the tip of the abdomen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn colors

October 30, 2020

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was perched near the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (male)

October 21, 2020

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) was perched along the boardwalk that goes through the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

The boardwalk deck and railings are a composite material made from recycled plastic milk bottles. In my opinion, those surfaces provide a “cleaner background” that enables the viewer to focus on the subject easier than if it were posed against a more natural setting. So if the goal is to teach people how to identify common odonates, then the boardwalk is an ideal “studio” for photographing dragonflies.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)

October 16, 2020

Michael Powell spotted a Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) perched on greenbriar vine in a wetland area alongside the gravel trail we were following out of Huntley Meadows Park, located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages. Notice the tip of her abdomen is enlarged because of her reproductive anatomy, including an ovipositor.

Female Slender Spreadwing can be confused with female Southern Spreadwing damselflies. Several key field marks are used to differentiate the two species.

Blue shoulder stripes, slender abdomen, the ratio of abdominal segments seven and nine (S7 and S9), and whitish wing tips all point to Slender Spreadwing. S7 is more than twice the length of S9 in Slender, covered in Ed Lam’s book. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore, a professor (retired) in the Department of Biological Sciences at University of Delaware and odonate expert extraordinaire. Dr. Moore’s new Web site is a treasure trove of helpful resources.

Related Resource: Damselflies of the Northeast, by Ed Lam (author and illustrator).

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

When flat isn’t.

October 5, 2020

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted along Delta Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her green coloration and white terminal appendages.

15 SEP 2020 | OBNWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

The preceding photo was shot at an aperture of f/6.3 — notice the depth of field is a little too shallow at that f/stop to show the entire length of the dragonfly’s body in focus because she is perched on a small rock with her head/thorax a little higher above the ground than the tip of her abdomen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Big Bluet damselfly (male)

September 25, 2020

A Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual — one of hundreds, if not thousands we saw while hunting for a rare to uncommon species of dragonfly — is a male, as indicated by his blue and black coloration and terminal appendages.

15 SEP 2020 | OBNWR | Big Bluet (male)

Ideal habitat for Big Bluet is as follows.

Habitat Large sandy lakes and lower reaches of rivers, even extending into brackish estuaries. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 2156-2157). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Think large, tidal rivers and bays. I have observed E. durum at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, and Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Related Resources: Excellent digital scans created by Gayle and Jeanelle Strickland. Click on the button labeled “Download file” in order to view/save a full-size version of the graphics.

Sidebar: Scientific Classification of Damselflies

The following concise explanation of the scientific classification of damselflies is provided to help the reader understand where the genus Enallagma (American Bluets) fits into the bigger picture of the Order OdonataSuborder Zygoptera (Damselflies).

There are four families of damselflies in the United States of America (USA), although only three families occur in the mid-Atlantic USA: Broad-winged damselflies; Narrow-winged damselflies (a.k.a., Pond Damselflies); and Spreadwing damselflies.

  1. Family Calopterygidae – Broad-winged Damselflies
  2. Family Coenagrionidae – Narrow-winged Damselflies
  3. Family Lestidae – Spreadwings

Note: Family Platystictidae (Shadowdamsels) is the fourth family of damselflies in the USA. Desert Shadowdamsel (Palaemnema domina) is the only member of this family. P. domina is rare, known to occur only in Arizona in the southwestern United States.

1. Family Calopterygidae is comprised of two genera.

2. Family Coenagrionidae is comprised of 14 genera. Three genera are common in Northern Virginia: Argia (Dancers); Enallagma (American Bluets); and Ischnura (Forktails).

3. Family Lestidae is comprised of two genera.

  • Archilestes (e.g., Great Spreadwing)
  • Lestes (e.g., Slender Spreadwing, Southern Spreadwing, Swamp Spreadwing)

There are relatively few genera of Broad-winged Damselflies and Spreadwing Damselflies. In contrast, there are many more genera and species of Narrow-winged Damselflies — more species, including many that look similar, makes this family the most challenging to learn!

Related Resource: “The Odonata of North America” is a complete list of both scientific names and common names for damselflies and dragonflies, maintained by the Dragonfly Society of the Americas.

An interactive version of the same species list is available from the Odonata Central Web site. The master list can be filtered in many ways. Location is perhaps the most useful filter.

For example, my good friend Mike Boatwright lives in Amherst County, Virginia USA. Click on the blue button labeled “Filter Results.” Then click the down arrow in the Location field, enter “Amherst” and select the complete location name that appears in a list of available options; click the “Apply Filtering” button. You should see a list of 97 species of odonates reported to occur in Amherst County, including 10 species in the genus Enallagma. Notice that Big Bluet isn’t on the list, although there are several species of Enallagma that aren’t found where I live in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The old gray mare

September 23, 2020

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA.

This individual is an old female, as indicated by her coloration and terminal appendages.

Oh the old gray mare
She ain’t what she used to be

Like a fine wine, she’s aged to perfection!

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (female)

September 18, 2020

An Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR).

This individual is a female, as indicated by her green coloration and white terminal appendages.

15 SEP 2020 | OBNWR | Eastern Pondhawk (female)

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice the subgenital plate, a black upside-down “shark fin” located beneath abdominal segment eight.

Underneath Segment 8 there is either an ovipositor or a subgenital plate, depending upon the species [of dragonfly]. Both structures are for laying eggs and extend over Segment 9 and possibly beyond. Source Credit: Dragonflies of the North Woods, by Kurt Mead.

Remember that “Segment 8 and 9” refers to abdominal segments eight and nine (of 10), numbered from front-to-back.

Related Resource: Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies, a photo-illustrated guide to the identification of male- and female terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Tattered

September 16, 2020

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Slaty Skimmer (male)

The preceding photo shows a Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) that was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell near Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Whitetail dragonfly (mature male)

September 11, 2020

A Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell around Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR) in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

18 AUG 2020 | JMAWR | Common Whitetail (mature male)

Common Whitetail” is one of a few common names for odonates that makes perfect sense, at least for males. This species is found commonly in lentic habitats. It’s one of the first species to emerge during spring and one of the last to disappear in fall.

Although Common Whitetail is easy to find, it can be challenging to photograph mature males without blowing out the highlights in their bright white abdomen.

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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