Posts Tagged ‘vernal pool’

Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

November 8, 2019

A Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

This individual is a young male, as indicated by the red pruinescence that partially covers his yellow-orange and black abdomen, plus his terminal appendages.

20 SEP 2013 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality, especially when the individual is looking at me (below).

20 SEP 2013 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

Left, right, left. I followed this guy from perch to perch for several minutes.

20 SEP 2013 | HMP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (young male)

The Backstory

My collection of field notes includes two text files that list lots of photos of both Blue-faced Meadowhawk and Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (S. vicinum) that were never published in my photoblog. Most of the photos were taken during Fall 2013 when one of many vernal pools at Huntley Meadows Park was near peak diversity for odonate species that inhabited the pool. Sadly, those days are long gone!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Are adult Autumn Meadowhawks arboreal?

October 25, 2019

Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) is classified as a fall species of odonate. In the mid-Atlantic United States, meadowhawks seem to disappear for several months after they emerge during early to mid-summer and reappear during fall. Where do they go? No one knows for sure. I speculate Autumn Meadowhawk is an arboreal species of dragonfly that returns to the ground/water when it’s time to mate.

Emergence

The first individual — photographed soon after emergence — is a/an teneral/immature male, as indicated by the tenuous appearance of his wings, coloration, and terminal appendages.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral/immature male)

The next individual is a/an teneral/immature female, as indicated by the tenuous appearance of her wings, coloration, and terminal appendages.

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (teneral/immature female)

Time to mate

Fall is the time to mate for mature adult Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (S. vicinum), as you can see in the following photo.

15 NOV 2013 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (mating pair, “in wheel”)

This mating pair is “in wheel”: the male is on the upper-left; the female is on the lower-right. 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.

Forest Canopy Walk at Vermont Institute of Natural Science

Observing dragonflies at the Earth’s surface is fairly easy; observing dragonflies at the treetops, not so much. The new Forest Canopy Walk at the Vermont Institute of Natural Science (VINS) should facilitate the latter.

During 2020, I hope to collaborate with Kelly Stettner, Black River Action Team (BRAT), and Anna Morris, Lead Environmental Educator, VINS, to gather evidence that supports my speculation that adult meadowhawk dragonflies are arboreal. Field observations will be collected on the ground and along the Forest Canopy Walk.

Hosted by Anna Morris, Kelly Stettner and her family scouted the VINS site on 05 October 2019, including the new Forest Canopy Walk and nearby water bodies that provide suitable habitat for Autumn Meadowhawk. Special thanks to Anna for providing a behind the scenes tour a week before the official opening of the Forest Canopy Walk.

Gallery photos used with permission from Kelly Stettner, BRAT.

A week later, Autumn Meadowhawk was observed along the Forest Canopy Walk for the first time. The following photos provide circumstantial evidence that we might be on the right track. I love it when a plan comes together!

Gallery photos used with permission from Anna Morris, VINS.

I’m happy to share that during our public Forest Canopy Walk opening today [12 October 2019], I was stationed at the Eagle platform and got to see two (2) meadowhawks zooming around, then perched on the railing (pictures attached)! This is about 60 feet up, near a Sugar Maple and a Red Oak. [More meadowhawks were seen] the next day at nearly 90 feet up! At this height and as it was so sunny there were at least four individuals zooming around, landing on visitors, etc. Source Credit: Anna Morris, Lead Environmental Educator, VINS.

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Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Common Green Darner dragonfly (young male)

September 27, 2019

A mini-swarm of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) was spotted at a dry vernal pool, Old Colchester Park and Preserve (OCPP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. A few Black Saddlebags dragonflies were mixed in with the swarm of A. junius.

Some of the dragonflies were hawking smaller insects; others were resting on vegetation. It’s probable members of the swarm had stopped to rest and refuel before continuing their southward migration.

The following Common Green Darner dragonfly was perched in a bed of dried cattails.

18 SEP 2019 | OCPP | Common Green Darner (young male)

This individual is a young male, as indicated by his terminal appendages. Notice there are points on the tips of his cerci, as shown in the full-size version of the preceding photo. Female cerci are pointless, both literally and figuratively.

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Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Left on the cutting room floor

April 15, 2019

Close readers of my blog may have noticed I’ve posted a lot of photos recently that were taken years ago. Why were the photos passed over for publication closer to the time the shots were taken?

Sometimes there are better shots from the same photowalk that I’m eager to share, and sometimes they just don’t make the grade. The former requires no explanation; the following photos help to illustrate the latter.

The following female Slender Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes rectangularis) was spotted during a photowalk around a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park. The damselfly was perched in a hidey-hole in the vegetation at angle that made it impossible to get the entire subject in focus from head-to-tail.

The first photo shows the head and thorax in focus, but the tip of the abdomen and terminal appendages are out of focus.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing (female)

The last photo shows the tip of the abdomen and terminal appendages in focus, but the head and thorax are in soft focus. Look closely at a full-size version of the photo and you can see both styli (sing. stylus), structures that serve as sensors (like “curb feelers“) in egg positioning during oviposition.

15 SEP 2016 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing (female)

The odd thing is the focus point is nearly the same in both photos, and the aperture is identical. Go figure! Anyway, less than ideal focus is something that will cause me to reject photos every time. And then there’s that “too hot” blade of grass in the lower-right corner — talk about distracting!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature male)

April 12, 2019

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted near a vernal pool in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male, as indicated by his terminal appendages, discolored abdomen, and tattered wings.

This male has mated many times, as indicated by the scratches on his abdomen.

Males that have mated often have marks on their abdomen where the female legs have scratched them. This is especially obvious in species in which males develop pruinosity, as the pruinosity on the mid-abdomen is scratched off, and the signs are visible at some distance. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 390-392). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (males)

April 5, 2019

Two Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) were spotted at Old Colchester Park and Preserve (OCPP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. There is a true vernal pool at the park where Blue-faced Meadowhawks are relatively abundant.

03 OCT 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Both individuals are male, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

03 OCT 2016 | OCPP | Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male)

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Parts 3, 4)

March 18, 2019

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flowers were photographed on 06 and 10 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Kevin Munroe, former park manager at Huntley Meadows, designated Purple Milkweed as a “plant of interest” due to the fact that it is officially a rare plant species in the state of Virginia (S2).

Part 3

These plants are covered with ants, lots of ants!

Later, a single Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) was feeding on the same milkweed plant, along with lots of ants.

Part 4

Lots of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) were observed feeding on the milkweed. The next two photos show the same individual in two poses.

The proboscis, a specialized structure that enables butterflies to siphon liquids from flowers, is shown clearly in the next two photos.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was feeding on another cluster of milkweed flowers. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail is the State Insect of Virginia. Really, who knew there are official state insects?

The last photo is my favorite in both galleries.

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Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Part 2)

March 15, 2019

The following Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) flower was photographed on 01 June 2016 near a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The milkweed is covered by a cornucopia of insects including ants (one ant can be seen in the full-size version of the first photo), what I think is some type of weevil (the darker insects featuring a curved proboscis that reminds me of an elephant trunk), a cool looking metallic gold-green bee, and what I think is a species of Crane Fly.

As it turns out, my tentative identification of the Crane Fly is incorrect.

The crane fly is actually a [species of] Stilt Bug [from the Family Berytidae]. I can tell by the clubbed antennae and distally enlarged femora. Source Credit: Natalie Hernandez, member of the BugGuide Facebook group.

The gold-green bee is shown more clearly in the full-size version of the following photo. Masumi Palhof, another member of the BugGuide Facebook group, thinks the bee might be a Silky Striped-Sweat bee (Agapostemon sericeus).

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Post Update

The weevil is in the subfamily Baridinae (commonly known as “flower weevils”), maybe Odontocorynus umbellae or O. salebrosus. Source Credit: Ted C. MacRae, Senior Entomologist & Science Fellow. Beetles In The Bush [blog].

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Time series: Purple Milkweed (Part 1)

March 13, 2019

During a two-week period in late-May/early-June 2016, I followed a cohort of Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) that emerged from a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) plants were growing in the fields near the same vernal pool. This blog post is the first of a four-part time series featuring photos of the milkweed, taken during some of my visits to the site in search of Slender Spreadwing.

Related Resources

Post Update

Look closely at the full-size version of the first photo. Notice the small black insects on the milkweed flowers.

Ants are notorious for stealing nectar and love all kinds of Milkweeds… Source Credit: Alonso Abugattas Jr, Natural Resources Manager for Arlington County Parks, Virginia USA. Alonso is also the creator and administrator of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group, where I requested help with identification of the unknown insects on the milkweed.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Beardtongue

March 4, 2019

Beardtongue (Penstemon sp., possibly Penstemon digitalis), an odd-looking flowering plant, was spotted growing along the margin of a large vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

One look at the full-size version of the following photo and it’s easy to see the origin of one of the common names for this plant.

Sincere thanks to Karla Jamir for help in identifying the flowering plant. Karla is a plant expert extraordinaire who volunteers at Huntley Meadows Park.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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