Posts Tagged ‘wetlands’

Cornflower

March 8, 2019

Cornflower (Centaurea sp., possibly Centaurea cyanus) was spotted during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The flowers were growing in a field along an electric power line easement on one of the park boundaries.

Sincere thanks to members of the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for help in identifying the flowering plant.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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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.

New HMP Weather Station

December 10, 2016

Did you notice the new automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA?

The new automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

13 NOV 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | new automated weather station

The old weather station, installed and maintained by Virginia Tech University, went offline after 23 September 2016.

The [old] Huntley Meadows weather station was installed to help park personnel manage water levels within the wetland. Source Credit: Huntley Meadows Wetlands Research.

The new station is up-and-running; real-time data is supposed to be available online soon.

The new automated weather station located in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

13 NOV 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | new automated weather station

Editor’s Note: The author contacted both the park manager and the natural resource manager; neither person was willing to estimate when the new weather station will go online. Look for a post update when more information is available.

Copyright © 2016 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.

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.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (female)

October 28, 2016

As I was reviewing my photo library in search of candidates for the “Top 10 Photos of 2016” catalog, I stumbled across an unpublished photo of one of my favorite species of odonates.

Turns out there are lots of good photos that weren’t published for one reason or another. Now that ode-hunting season is undeniably winding down, more of these photos will be published during the “off-season.”

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

31 MAY 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Painted Skimmer (female)

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was spotted near a vernal pool in a remote location at Huntley Meadows Park. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Beware of look-alikes!

June 18, 2016

Several Bar-winged Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula axilena) were spotted on 10 June 2016 at a vernal pool located in Huntley Meadows Park (HMP).

The first individual is an immature male. Notice the white “frosting” at the base of his hind wings — one of several key field markers for Bar-winged Skimmer.

A Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature male.

10 JUN 2016 | HMP | Bar-winged Skimmer (immature male)

The last individual is a mature male. His body (thorax and abdomen) is covered completely by blue pruinescence that masks the coloration he displayed as an immature male.

A Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature male.

10 JUN 2016 | HMP | Bar-winged Skimmer (mature male)

Related Resource: Bar-winged Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula axilena) look similar to Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans). Several key field markers can be used to differentiate the two species of dragonflies, as shown in the following blog post by Walter Sanford (featuring several annotated images): Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (mature male).

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (males)

June 10, 2016

During a recent photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park, I was reminded that Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes) is one of my favorite species of dragonflies. C’mon, just look at the color of those eyes — you gotta love that!

I was also reminded Unicorn Clubtails are very skittish. Apparently I’m not the only odonate-hunter who noticed.

It commonly rests on wet pond edges, rock and logs, where it can be extremely difficult to approach. Source Credit: Unicorn Clubtail, Odonata Central.

In my experience, you see more Unicorns by letting them come to you rather than by actively looking for them. Find the right habitat for Unicorn Clubtails, sit down and let the game come to you (to use a sports metaphor). Patience is the key. I shot 16 photos during a two-hour period — far fewer shots than a typical photowalk, but hey, it was a beautiful day to sit under a shade tree and wait for one of my favorite dragonflies to appear!

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

09 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

The preceding Unicorn Clubtail appears to have a slightly malformed wing and abdomen. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their unique terminal appendages: the epiproct is a large “plate” that spans both cerci.

A Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

09 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Unicorn Clubtail (male)

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

Related Resource: Kevin Munroe, former manager at Huntley Meadows Park, provides good guidance regarding the right habitat for Unicorn Clubtails at his excellent Web site, Dragonflies of Northern Virginia.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Painted Skimmer dragonfly (teneral male)

June 2, 2016

A first-of-season Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) was spotted on 26 May 2016 at Huntley Meadows Park.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

This individual is a teneral male, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. Its faint wing spots will darken gradually during the next several days after emergence.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

My usual approach as a wildlife photographer is to “work the shot” from every angle. In this case, I didn’t want to spook the subject so I gradually moved as close as I dared and shot a time series of photos as the dragonfly changed its position slowly on the same stem of vegetation.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

A Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a teneral male.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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