Posts Tagged ‘wetlands’

Detente

October 30, 2019

Two Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were spotted perched side-by-side on the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

15 NOV 2013 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (males)

Male dragonflies of the same species are natural rivals, competing for the attention of females that are willing to mate. Like many, if not most other species of dragonflies, male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies stake out a “territory” near prime spots for females to lay eggs (oviposition); unlike many, if not most other species, male Autumn Meadowhawks don’t seem to defend their territory aggressively.

15 NOV 2013 | HMP | Autumn Meadowhawk (males)

Notice the male shown on the upper-left is using his front legs like windshield wipers to clean his eyes and face. Hey, he wants to look well-groomed for the ladies!

Related Resources

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.

Related Resources

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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.

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.


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