Posts Tagged ‘terminal appendages’

Phanogomphus

April 20, 2017

Two teneral dragonflies were observed near Mulligan Pond during a photowalk at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. I was able to photograph the first one I spotted; the second flew away as soon as I approached it.

This dragonfly is either Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus) or Lancet Clubtail (Phanogomphus exilis). Based upon the short, faded yellow markings on the dorsal side of abdominal segments eight and nine (S8-9), this individual is probably an Ashy Clubtail dragonfly. Less reliably, the 18 April date of the spotting also suggests Ashy Clubtail (for Northern Virginia).

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

Both Ashy- and Lancet Clubtail dragonflies were formerly classified as members of the genus Gomphus. Both species were reclassified recently as Phanogomphus. In the world of taxonomic classification, there are “lumpers” and “splitters.” Score one for the splitters!

Notice the first photo shows the wings folded above the abdomen. I spotted the teneral dragonfly when it flew toward me from the pond shoreline. The dragonfly rested in this location for a few minutes before it flew to a new spot (shown below) where it perched briefly with its wings unfolded. The last time I saw the dragonfly, it was flying toward the forest alongside the pond.

The other teneral dragonfly that I saw — “the one that got away” — was perched on the lawn near the walking path around the lake; it flew toward the forest when I moved closer to take some photographs.

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

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

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

All female dragonflies have two cerci (superior appendages); in contrast all male dragonflies have two cerci and one epiproct (inferior appendage), collectively called “claspers.” Contrast the appearance of the terminal appendages of this female Ashy Clubtail with a male of the same species.

The last photo in the set is a wider view that shows how well-camouflaged the dragonfly was perched on the lawn around the pond.

18 APR 2017 | JMAWR | Ashy Clubtail or Lancet Clubtail (female)

The Backstory

I was surprised to discover a Lancet Clubtail dragonfly near Mulligan Pond during late-June 2016. Knowing that Ashy Clubtails can be found in the same habitats preferred by Lancet Clubtails, I decided to look for Ashy Clubtails at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge beginning in mid-April 2017. Apparently Mulligan Pond is a good place for both species, because I spotted two Ashy Clubtails the first time I went looking for them. Ah, if only odonate hunting were always so easy!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Late-stage emergent baskettail dragonfly

April 18, 2017

Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted at Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk around Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a late-stage emergent teneral female.

I photographed the process of emergence from the first sighting to the time when the teneral dragonfly flew away: I shot 23 photos in approximately 16 minutes; time is compressed by showcasing six (6) select photos taken at major milestones during the event.

The following photo is the first image from a time-series documenting the emergence of the teneral female. Elapsed time is expressed in hh:mm:ss format, e.g., 00:00:00 is the time when I spotted the emergent teneral female, and 00:16:08 is the total elapsed time.

13 APR 2016 | 11:38:41 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:00:00

Notice the drop of fluid at the tip of the abdomen. Emerging dragonflies pump fluid into their wings, causing the wings to expand. Next, the same fluid is withdrawn from the wings and used to expand the abdomen. Excess fluid is expelled afterward.

13 APR 2016 | 11:40:48 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:02:07

The next photo shows the first time the wings opened.

13 APR 2016 | 11:48:55 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:10:14

Then the wings closed again and remained closed for a while.

13 APR 2016 | 11:51:02 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:12:21

The wings reopened a few minutes later. Notice that several wings are malformed slightly.

13 APR 2016 | 11:54:14 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:15:33

Finally, the wings open up, and very soon the teneral adult flies away. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 468). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The teneral female dragonfly flew away immediately after the last photo in the time-series.

13 APR 2016 | 11:54:46 am EDT | Elapsed time: 00:16:08

This individual is a female, as indicated by her cerci (superior appendages) and thick abdomen. Common Baskettail females have shorter cerci and a thicker abdomen than males of the same species.

Exuviae (in situ)

Several dragonfly exuviae were spotted at Painted Turtle Pond; it’s possible they are cast skins from Common Baskettail. More later after the exuviae are identified using a dichotomous key for dragonfly larvae.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (exuvia)

These exuviae are not the one from which the teneral female featured in this post emerged.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (exuvia)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Baskettail dragonfly (male)

April 16, 2017

A Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) was spotted near Painted Turtle Pond during a photowalk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR). Common Baskettail is a member of Family Corduliidae (Emeralds); this species is seen during early spring in mid-Atlantic United States like Virginia.

I thought this might be a Slender Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca costalis) due to narrowing of its abdomen. Turns out that was wishful thinking.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (male)

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. The curved shape of the cerci (superior appendages) is a key field marker for Common Baskettail; in contrast, the cerci for Slender Baskettail tend to be more parallel. Thanks to Mike Boatwright and Paul Guris, members of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group, for reminding me of this pearl of wisdom!

I think baskettail cerci look “rubberized,” like the handles of metal tools made for working with electricity. Whenever I see this distinctive field marker, shown clearly in the following photos, I know the dragonfly is probably a species of baskettail.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (male)

The last photo shows a dorso-lateral view of the male dragonfly. Notice the epiproct (inferior appendage) is visible clearly in this photo.

13 APR 2017 | OBNWR | Common Baskettail (male)

Also notice the light-colored spots on the hairs covering the body of the dragonfly. The following article by John Abbott suggests the spots may be some type of pollen.

Related Resource: Identification of Male Epitheca (Tetragoneuria) in Texas, by John C. Abbott.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stream Cruiser dragonfly (male)

April 14, 2017

Another Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) was spotted during a photowalk along Beaver Pond Loop Trail at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

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

Stream Cruiser dragonflies typically perch at a 45° angle because of their extremely long legs, especially noticeable in the last photo.

For another perspective on the same male, both literally and figuratively, see Stream Cruiser dragonfly by fellow photoblogger Michael Powell.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Stream Cruiser dragonfly (female)

April 12, 2017

A Stream Cruiser dragonfly (Didymops transversa) was spotted during a photowalk along Beaver Pond Loop Trail at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a female, as indicated by her rounded hind wings and terminal appendages. Look closely at the face and head of the dragonfly. Can you see why “ice cream sandwich face” is my nickname for Stream Cruiser?

The female landed long enough for me to shoot four photos before she flew away — not enough time for me to point her out to Michael Powell, a fellow amateur wildlife photographer and blogger who joined me in search of his first Stream Cruiser. Fortunately, Mike and I were able to photograph a male Stream Cruiser later the same afternoon. Look for photos of the male in my next blog post.

Addendum

I cropped the photo into a square format in order to remove a distracting element. Can you tell what I dislike about the original version? I prefer the square format. Which version do you prefer?

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (male)

March 29, 2017

As you might expect, Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) commonly perch on the sandy banks of small woodland streams. Not this one!

A Common Sanddragon was spotted perching on the vegetation growing alongside a manmade concrete drainage ditch that flows into Dogue Creek, Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. Like all male clubtail dragonflies, the hindwings of male Common Sanddragons are “indented” near the body. This distinctive field marker is shown well by the last photo in this gallery.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (teneral female)

March 19, 2017

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was spotted at a vernal pool in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a teneral female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and the tenuous appearance of her wings.

No. 1 | 31 MAY 2016 | HMP | Painted Skimmer (teneral female)

Shine on you crazy diamond!

No. 2 | 31 MAY 2016 | HMP | Painted Skimmer (teneral female)

Although Photo No. 1 and 3 look similar, I posted both pictures. Photo No. 1 shows the tenuous appearance of the wings best of all four photos, but I prefer the composition of Photo No. 3. Which one of the two photos do you prefer?

No. 3 | 31 MAY 2016 | HMP | Painted Skimmer (teneral female)

Teneral dragonflies are skittish and prefer to perch in “hidey-holes” that offer protection from predators like paparazzi wildlife photographers. The dragonfly is perching on “soft rush” (Juncus effusus), the common name for the shoreline/emergent plant with light green round stems and brownish flowers that appears in the entire photo set. Soft rush is common in wetland areas.

No. 4 | 31 MAY 2016 | HMP | Painted Skimmer (teneral female)

Painted Skimmer dragonflies do not display sexual dimorphism, that is, adult females and males look similar except for their terminal appendages. Female dragonflies have a pair of cerci (superior appendages) that have little or no function; male dragonflies have three terminal appendages, collectively called “claspers.” The cerci are easy to see in the full-size version of the preceding photo.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Widow Skimmers at Riverbend Park

February 25, 2017

A couple of Widow Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula luctuosa) were spotted while hunting for clubtail dragonflies along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Riverbend Park is a “big river” habitat, so I was surprised to see Widow Skimmers.

Habitat Lakes, ponds, and pools in slow streams of all kinds with mud bottoms and usually much vegetation, in open and wooded habitats. Common at farm ponds and other created habitats. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 9061-9063). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Male

The first photo features a mature male, as indicated by his coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages. This individual has mated many times, as shown by scratches on the white pruinescence covering his abdomen.

Female

A female is shown in the last two photos, as indicated by her coloration, pattern of wing spots, and terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Acceptable uncertainty

February 23, 2017

An unknown species of damselfly from the Family Coenagrionidae (Narrow-winged Damselflies) was spotted at the stormwater management pond located at Mason Neck West Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

I thought the damselfly might be a mature female Rambur’s Forktail damselfly (Ischnura ramburii), based upon the fact that I’d seen an immature female Rambur’s Forktail on 03 October 2016 at the same location. I consulted the experts of the Northeast Odonata Facebook group for verification of my tentative identification.

It’s a female bluet, probably Familiar [Bluet] but it has a hint of a carina, so it might be Big [Bluet], but the eyespots look more like Familiar. Female Rambur’s does not have shoulder stripes. Source Credit: Dr. Michael Moore. Michael is an active contributor to the Dragonfly and Damselfly Field Guide and ID App.

Difficult though it may be for me to accept, sometimes it’s impossible to identify odonates with certainty based upon a single photograph. This is especially true for many species of female damselflies.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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