Posts Tagged ‘young female’

Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (young female)

June 1, 2020

A Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell at a location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female, as indicated by her terminal appendages and rounded hind wings.

Regular readers of my photoblog are familiar with my No. 1 mantra for wildlife photography: Get a shot, any shot (including a partially obstructed view, as shown below); refine the shot.

26 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

I moved slowly to a better position to see/photograph the dragonfly. Not as close as I’d like to be, but hey, at least I had a clear view of the entire dragonfly. The first two photos show the Cobra’s wings are spread in the typical resting position for dragonflies.

26 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

The last photo shows the dragonfly had turned around to check me out. Notice the Cobra’s wings are folded up over its body — an indication that she probably emerged sometime earlier the same day.

26 MAY 2020 | Fairfax County, VA | Cobra Clubtail (female)

Copyright © 2020 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Bronze Age, revisited

September 10, 2015

The same species of dragonfly may be different in appearance depending upon gender, age, and natural variation.

For example, the first two dragonflies featured in this post are female Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans), although they look so different from each other that a beginner odonate-hunter could be fooled into thinking they’re two different species! In this case, the difference in appearance of the females is due to age: one is old; the other is young. Contrast the appearance of the two females with the mature male shown in the last photo.

The first individual is an old female, as indicated by its bronze coloration, tattered wings, and terminal appendages.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a mature female.

06 SEP 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (old female)

The next specimen is a young female, as indicated by its “fresher” coloration, pristine wings, and terminal appendages.

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

05 JUL 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

All Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies, including both males and females, show several field marks that can be used to identify the species, including blue eyes, white to mostly-white faces, and mostly tan femora (sing. femur).

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

31 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (mature male)

Related Resource: The Bronze Age.

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (young female)

June 12, 2015

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was spotted on 20 May 2015 during a photowalk alongside the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP). This individual is a young female, as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

The young female was sheltering in vegetation close to the ground.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

She was quite skittish, flying to a new location whenever I violated her comfort zone.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

Look closely at the full-size version of the following annotated image. Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment (S8) that are used to scoop water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

A Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is an immature female.

20 MAY 2015 | HMP | Great Blue Skimmer (young female)

Immature Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies and immature Slaty Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula incesta) — including both females and males — look very similar. In my opinion, the best field mark for differentiating the two species is femur coloration: Great Blue Skimmer femora are mostly tan; Slaty Skimmer femora are mostly black.

The following female Slaty Skimmer was spotted along the “Hike-Bike Trail” at Huntley Meadows Park. Contrast the difference in coloration of the Slaty Skimmer femurs (below) with the Great Blue Skimmer femurs (above).

A Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) spotted along the "Hike-Bike Trail" at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female.

04 JUN 2012 | HMP | Slaty Skimmer (young female)

Related Resources:

  • Great Blue Skimmers – “The femora are pale over their basal half with the remaining length, tibiae and tarsi black.”
  • Slaty Skimmer – “The legs are black with brown only at their extreme bases.”

Digital Dragonflies: presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula vibrans | Great Blue Skimmer | female | side view

Digital scans by G & J Strickland:

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (young female)

June 8, 2015

Imagine my excitement when a flash of bright yellow flew past me as I was standing in a small meadow near a vernal pool at Huntley Meadows Park (HMP) — I thought I’d spotted the elusive Yellow-sided Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula flavida)! I say “elusive” because no one I know has ever seen a Yellow-sided Skimmer at the park, although it appears on the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park Odonata species list.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Now imagine my disappointment when I looked closely at full-size versions of the photos I took — turns out I had seen a young female Needham’s Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami), as indicated by its coloration and terminal appendages. A beautiful specimen nonetheless, but one I have seen many times at several locations.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Notice the female’s cerci (terminal appendages) are flared in the following photo. I don’t know what the opposite of a “butt crunch” is called, but this is the pictionary definition for the word.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

The last two images in this set are used to illustrate the field marks that enabled me to identify the species for this specimen.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Wings with veins fairly dark, [ptero]stigma and anteriormost veins yellow except basal part of costa dark before nodus. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 9291-9292). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The leading edge of a dragonfly wing is called the “costa”; the midpoint of the costa is called the “nodus.” Notice the pterostigmata are yellow and the costa is dark between the thorax and nodus, light between the nodus and wing tip — these are key field marks for Needham’s Skimmer, not Yellow-sided Skimmer.

A Needham's Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula needhami) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a young female.

22 MAY 2015 | HMP | Needham’s Skimmer (young female)

Related Resources: Digital Dragonflies, presenting high-resolution digital scans of living dragonflies.

  • Genus Libellula | Libellula needhami | Needham’s Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula needhami | Needham’s Skimmer | female | side view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula flavida | Yellow-sided Skimmer | female | top view
  • Genus Libellula | Libellula flavida | Yellow-sided Skimmer | female | side view

Copyright © 2015 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

The Bronze Age

September 15, 2014

The following photograph shows a Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) spotted during a photowalk along the boardwalk in the central wetland area at Huntley Meadows Park on 12 September 2014. This individual is an old female, as indicated by its coloration, terminal appendages, and tattered wings.

Female Great Blue Skimmers have a pair of flanges beneath their eighth abdominal segment that are used to scoop and hold a few drops of water when laying eggs (oviposition), hence the family name “Skimmer.” Remember that all dragonflies and damselflies have a 10-segmented abdomen, numbered from front to back.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (mature adult female)

Contrast the coloration of the old female (above) with a young female (below), shown in flight as she is laying eggs (oviposition) in a vernal pool in the forest. The photo was taken on 17 July 2014.

Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (female, oviposition)

No wonder the first step in “Five steps to the next level of dragonfly spotting” says …

Step 1. Be aware the same species of dragonfly may appear differently depending upon gender, age, and natural variation. Some species display sexual dimorphism; in contrast, both genders look virtually identical for some species. Source Credit: Walter Sanford. Educator, Naturalist, and Photographer.

Copyright © 2014 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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