Posts Tagged ‘wildlife photography’

Camouflage

January 16, 2017

Some moths are so well camouflaged they’re easy to overlook — a good survival strategy that protects them from predators.

Tulip-tree Beauty moth

A Tulip-tree Beauty moth (Epimecis hortaria) was spotted near Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Bill Yule, a member of the BugGuide Facebook group, for identifying this specimen. Alonso Abugattas — Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia — added the following comment to the thread: “It’s the largest of our local geometrid (inchworm) moths.”

Underwing moth

An unknown species of Underwing moth (Catocala sp.) was spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park.

The forest was so dark where this moth was perching that I had to set my external flash unit for high power in order to expose the subject properly, resulting in the underexposed background.

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Teá Kesting-Handly, a member of the BugGuide Facebook group, for identifying this specimen. Ms. Kesting-Handly cautioned that the species is challenging to identify without seeing the hindwings. Quoting a follow-up comment on Facebook, “I looked over my collection of Catocala again, and compared to your photos, and I can say with a high degree of certainty it is Catocala ilia.” Thanks for the extra effort on my behalf, Teá!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Anax junius exuvia

January 14, 2017

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners) was collected on 21 June 2016 at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This specimen is an exuvia from a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius).

A two-step process was used to identify the genus and species of the specimen.

  1. Determine the family.
  2. Determine the genus and species.

Step 1. Family

First, determine the family of the specimen. For reference, watch the excellent Vimeo video, Identifying dragonfly larva to family (8:06). Here’s the decision tree I used to identify the exuvia as a member of the Family Aeshnidae (Darners).

  • The specimen has a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face (not mask-like), as shown in Photo No. 1-4.
  • Antennae are thin and thread-like (not club-like, as in Gomphidae larvae), as shown in Photo No. 4.
  • Eyes are large relative to the size of the head, as shown in Photo No. 5.

Step 2. Genus and species

As shown in Photo No. 1, lateral spines along abdominal segments seven, eight, and nine (S7-9) indicate the genus is Anax.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 1 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (dorsal-lateral)

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

At this point, you know the species could be either anax (Common Green Darner dragonfly) or longipes (Comet Darner dragonfly). The species is determined by the shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3) and the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 2).

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 2 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (lateral)

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

The labium, also known as the mentum, is a two-segment hinged “jaw” that is used to grab food: the prementum is the segment of the labium closer to the mouth; the postmentum is the segment closer to the base of the head.

The specimen is ~4.7 cm (~1.9 in) in length, not counting the bend in the body.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 3 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (labium, ventral)

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

The rounded shape of the palpal lobes (see Photo No. 3, above) plus the length of the specimen (see Photo No. 2) indicate the species is juniusAnax junius is one of the more common species of Aeshnidae found in Northern Virginia.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 4 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (face-head)

Notice the antennae are thin and thread-like, as shown in the preceding photo. If you are an aquatic animal, this is a face you don’t want to see up-close and personally!

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 5 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (head, dorsal)

The eyes are large relative to the size of the head.

Tech Tips:

The following equipment was used to shoot all of the preceding photographs: Canon EOS 5D Mark II digital camera, in manual mode; Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens (set for manual focus); Canon 580EX II external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; Canon 580EX external flash, off-camera, in manual mode; and a Yongnuo YN-622C-TX E-TTL II Wireless Flash Controller for Canon plus a two-pack of Yongnuo YN-622C II E-TTL Wireless Flash Transceivers for Canon. A Raynox DCR-250 close-up filter was used for Photo No. 3-5.

Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 was used to annotate selected images.

The first test shot for this exuvia was photographed using my Canon EF100mm f/2.8L Macro lens plus a Kenko 20mm macro automatic extension tube. As you can see in the following photo, the subject barely fit within the frame. Although the composition isn’t ideal, the resulting photo is dramatic nonetheless! The 20mm extension tube wasn’t used for the rest of the photo set.

A dragonfly exuvia from the Family Aeshnidae (Darners), collected at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is Anax junius.

No. 6 | Common Green Darner (Anax junius) | exuvia (lateral)

The following photograph of the exuvia was taken in-situ along the shoreline of Hidden Pond using a Panasonic DMC-FZ150 superzoom bridge camera and Canon 580EX Speedlite, my go-to kit for photowalking.

A dragonfly exuvia spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a member of Family Aeshnidae.

No. 7 | 21 JUN 2016 | MRA | Anax junius exuvia (in-situ)

Related Resources:

dichotomous key: a key for the identification of organisms based on a series of choices between alternative characters. Source Credit: Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

In long form, the decision tree is as follows (assuming the convention of labeling the two branches of each dichotomy as “a” and “b”, e.g. 1a, 1b, etc.):

p. 21, Key to the genera of the Family Aeshnidae
1b – Hind angles of head rounded … . (5)
5a – Lateral spines on abdominal segments 7 to 9 only. (6)
6b – Antenna about half as long as this distance [from the base of the antennae to the rear of head]. (Anax)

p. 22, Key to the species of the genus Anax
1a – Lateral lobes of labium tapering to a hooked point; total length about 40 mm. (junius) [Note: The total length of longipes is about 55 mm.]

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Zebra Swallowtail butterfly

January 12, 2017

A late-season Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Eurytides marcellus) was spotted during a photowalk along Deephole Point Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

The left hindwing looks like it might be malformed.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Eastern Shieldbacks

January 10, 2017

Two Eastern Shieldbacks (Atlanticus sp.) were spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail as I was walking out of Huntley Meadows Park. Eastern Shieldbacks are a type of Katydid (Family Tettigoniidae).

Male

This individual is a male. Notice the pair of cerci (sing. cercus) at the tip of his abdomen. Cerci are anatomical structures that are familiar to experienced odonate hunters like me.

Female

The following individual is a female, as indicated by the long ovipositor that extends from the tip of her abdomen.

An Eastern Shieldback (Atlanticus sp.) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

24 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Eastern Shieldback (female)

Notice the female has two cerci and an ovipositor.

An Eastern Shieldback (Atlanticus sp.) spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

24 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Eastern Shieldback (female)

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Arthur V. Evans, a member of the BugGuide Facebook group, for identifying these specimens. Mr. Evans speculates the species of Eastern Shieldback featured in this post could be Protean Shieldback (Atlanticus testaceus).

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Luna Moth

January 8, 2017

A Luna Moth (Actias luna) was spotted during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park.

The adults have a life span of only about one week. Adult Luna Moths do not eat; their only object[ive] is to reproduce. Source Credit: Species Actias luna – Luna Moth, BugGuide.com.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Taming of the Shrew

January 4, 2017

A short-tailed shrew carcass was spotted during a photowalk along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. According to Alonso Abugattas — Natural Resources Manager, Arlington County Parks, Virginia — this individual is probably a Kirtland’s Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi).

A short-tailed shrew carcass spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland's Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi). The flies are probably Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).

01 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | short-tailed shrew carcass

The colorful flies are probably Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).

A short-tailed shrew carcass spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland's Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi). The flies are probably Common Green Bottle Fly (Lucilia sericata).

01 JUN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | short-tailed shrew carcass

Another short-tailed shrew carcass was spotted at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland’s Short-tailed Shrew too.

A short-tailed shrew carcass spotted at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a Kirtland's Short-tailed Shrew (Blarina brevicauda kirtlandi).

07 AUG 2016 | Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge | short-tailed shrew carcass

Look closely at the full-size version of the preceding photo. Notice several small insects feeding on the fresh carcass.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Peter Cottontail

January 2, 2017

Here comes Peter Cottontail, hoppin’ down the bunny trail. Except he (or she, I’m not sure) didn’t hippity-hop away, alarmed by my approach. He just sat there munching on a mid-morning snack, allowing me to move in slowly for several close-up shots.

The photos in this gallery show one of two Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) rabbits spotted along the same trail at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

You can see the red-eye effect, caused by my camera flash, in the preceding photos. Red-eye is easy to correct using photo-editing software. In this case, I chose to post the photos “as is” in order to show the size of the rabbit’s pupils.

Notice the piece of grass/twig extending from the rabbit’s mouth. In my sometimes overactive imagination, I think the twig is a toothpick and the rabbit is giving me his best tough guy defiant stare. “You lookin’ at me?” OK, back to reality!

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Top 10 Photos of 2016

December 30, 2016

The following gallery shows 33 finalists for my “Top 10 Photos of 2016.” The photos are presented in reverse-chronological order beginning in December 2016 and ending in May 2016.

The Top 10 photos will be selected using reader feedback. Please enter a comment at the end of this post listing the number for each of your 10 favorite photos. If listing 10 photos is asking too much, then please list at least five photos, e.g., No. 5, 8, 14, 17, 21, etc. Thanks for sharing your selections, and thanks for following my photoblog!

No. 1

The following specimen was collected on 16 May 2016 (with permission from park staff) along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. (This studio photograph, taken on 25 December 2016, hasn’t been published in a post.)

No. 2

The next specimen was collected on 07 July 2016 along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. (This studio photograph was taken on 02 December 2016.)

An Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) exuvia collected from the Potomac River, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

07 JUL 2016 | Potomac River | Eastern Amberwing (exuvia, head-on)

No. 3

No. 4

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

No. 5

No. 6

No. 7

No. 8

No. 9

No. 10

No. 11

No. 12

No. 13

No. 14

No. 15

No. 16

No. 17

No. 18

No. 19

No. 20

No. 21

No. 22

No. 23

No. 24

No. 25

No. 26

No. 27

A mating pair of Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

24 JUN 2016 | HMP | Slender Spreadwing (mating pair, “in heart“)

No. 28

No. 29

No. 30

No. 31

No. 32

No. 33

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Life-list additions in 2016

December 28, 2016

2016 was the “Year of the Clubtail dragonfly.” Unofficially, that is. Or maybe it only seems like I saw a lot more clubtail dragonflies than in past years, including four new species for my life-list of odonates. Not that I actually maintain a list — it’s more like a memory file in my brain.

There were three other non-odonate “firsts” this year, one of which was a long time coming! My life-list additions in 2016 are presented in reverse-chronological order.

Shadow Darner dragonfly

Shadow Darner dragonfly (female), posted on 18 October 2016.

Although I’ve seen many male Shadow Darners, this is the first female I photographed.

A Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female heteromorph.

14 OCT 2016 | JMAWR | Shadow Darner (female heteromorph)

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly

Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (male), posted on 26 September 2016.

I spent a lot of time unsuccessfully looking for Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. Soon after I surrendered in defeat, a Russet-tipped Clubtail found me. Imagine my surprise and delight when I spotted one at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge (JMAWR). Whoa, didn’t see that one coming!

Clearwing Moths

Clearwing Moths (Genus Hemaris), published on 04 October 2016.

Dusky Dancer damselfly

Dusky Dancer damselflies (mating pair), published on 12 September 2016.

A mating pair of Dusky Dancer damselflies (Argia translata) spotted along Pope's Head Creek at Chapel Road Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in tandem."

29 AUG 2016 | Chapel Road Park | Dusky Dancer (mating pair)

Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly

Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male), published on 11 August 2016.

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly

Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (males), published on 13 August 2016.

Powdered Dancer damselfly

Powdered Dancer (males, female), published on 23 August 2016.

A Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) spotted along the Potomac River at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

04 AUG 2016 | Riverbend Park | Powdered Dancer (male)

Swift Setwing dragonfly

Making new friends, published on 10 July 2016.

A Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

26 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Swift Setwing (male)

Dragonhunter dragonfly

Dragonhunter dragonfly (female), published on 24 June 2016.

This is the first female Dragonhunter I photographed.

A Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus) spotted at Hidden Pond, Meadowood Recreation Area, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

21 June 2016 | Dragonhunter dragonfly (female)

Calico Pennant dragonfly

Calico Pennant dragonflies (males), published on 20 June 2016.

A Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) spotted at Painted Turtle Pond, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

18 JUN 2016 | OBNWR | Calico Pennant (male)

Prince Baskettail dragonfly

Changing of the guard, published on 16 June 2016.

Although I’ve seen many Prince Baskettail dragonflies, this one is the first I photographed. Prince Baskettails are fliers, not perchers.

A Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, shown in flight.

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Prince Baskettail (male, in flight)

Slender Bluet damselfly

Slender Bluet damselflies (mating pair), published on 24 October 2016.

A mating pair of Slender Bluet damselflies (Enallagma traviatum) spotted at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This pair is "in heart."

14 JUN 2016 | JMAWR | Slender Bluet (mating pair, “in heart”)

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (emergent male), published on 08 June 2016.

Although this was the second emergent dragonfly I saw during 2016, this was the first time I was able to observe the entire metamorphosis from beginning to end.

A Common Sanddragon nymph/dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) spotted along Dogue Creek at Wickford Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an emergent male.

01 JUN 2016 | WP/DC | Common Sanddragon nymph/dragonfly

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly

Cobra Clubtail claspers, published on 19 May 2016.

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus vastus) spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

16 MAY 2016 | Riverbend Park | Cobra Clubtail (male)

Polyphemus Silkmoth

Polyphemus Silkmoth, published on 21 April 2016.

A Polyphemus Silkmoth (Antheraea polyphemus) was spotted along the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park.

Spring Peeper frog

Spring Peeper, published on 01 May 2016.

Although I’ve heard Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) every spring for many years, this is the first one I saw.

Editor’s Note: The following location codes are used in some photo captions, shown above.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

CSI: Dyke Marsh

December 22, 2016

You are looking at the scene of a brutal crime committed on 20 July 2016 at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. Look closely at the full-size version of the following photo. Do you see any forensic evidence that indicates what probably happened just before the photo was taken?

The preceding photo shows a Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) that was spotted along the Potomac River at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, as indicated by his blue and black coloration and by his terminal appendages. Big Bluets prefer tidal bays and big rivers.

Related Resource: More Big Bluet damselflies is a blog post by Walter Sanford that features more photos of Big Bluet males as well as a mating pair.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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