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Posts Tagged ‘Gomphurus vastus’

UPDATE: Some experts have looked at the photos that Walter took of and it appears that the dragonfly in the first photo (and possibly all of the ones in this posting) is a Splendid Clubtail (Gomphurus lineatifrons), a new species for me. The differences between the two species are subtle enough that I am definitely relying on the expertise of others in making this identification.

I spent most of this past Tuesday exploring wild areas in Fairfax County, Virginia, hunting for dragonflies with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. It is still a little early for many species, so we had to work really hard for each one that we were able to find.  I was really excited when we spotted several Cobra Clubtail dragonflies (Gomphorus vastus) during the day, all of which turned out to be females.

As you can see from these photos, the Cobra Clubtails were hanging vertically with their abdomens pointing downwards, which made them hard to spot when they landed in the abundant green vegetation. In one nearby location, there is an annual mass emergence of Cobra Clubtails, with dozens emerging at the same time. We made a brief stop there, hoping to see more Cobra Clubtails, but learned from employees there that the Cobra Clubtails have not yet arrived this year—we may make another try sometime fairly soon.

If you would like to see Walter’s posting on our adventures with the Cobra Clubtails, click on this link to his blog.

Cobra Clubtail

Cobra Clubtail

Cobra Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is easy to be so dazzled by the beauty and the aerial skills of dragonflies that you forget that they are also fearsome predators. I had a stark reminder of this grim reality on Friday when I encountered a Cobra Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus vastus) that had captured a Hackberry Emperor butterfly (Asterocampa celtis) at Riverbend Park. The dragonfly was starting to consume the butterfly and in the photo below almost appears to be suspended in mid-air.

In the past I have observed dragonflies with small butterflies, but this was the first time to see one with a larger butterfly. I really like butterflies and so I felt a mixture of horror and fascination when I stumbled upon this scene. Life in the wild can be brutal and today’s predators can become tomorrow’s prey—a fellow photographer posted a photo yesterday of a bird that had captured a dragonfly.

All in all, this moment served as a sober reminder to me of the fragility of life and of beauty. Somehow it brings to mind a country music song that I really like by Tim McGraw, a song that recommends that you live like you were dying. If you have not familiar with the song or simply want to hear it again, check out the official music video here on YouTube.

Cobra Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Friday I kept encountering dragonflies that were clearly different from any I had seen before. There is a family of dragonflies known as “clubtails” in which the ends of their abdomens (the “tail”) are enlarged. I have seen a number of different members of this family, but none of them had as large a “club” as the ones that I spotted repeatedly as I explored Riverbend Park along the Potomac River.

I suspected and eventually was able to confirm that these are Cobra Clubtails (Gomphurus vastus). Isn’t that a cool name for a dragonfly—someone obviously thought that the “clubtail” looked like a cobra’s hood.

The Cobra Clubtails perched on the rocks and in the vegetation along the water’s edge and I was able to capture images of several of them. I am leading with a photo that provides a good look at the “clubtail,” though I tend to be drawn more to photos like final one in which you get to look into the eyes of the dragonfly.

This is probably the closest I want to be to staring into the eyes of a cobra.

 

Cobra Clubtail

Cobra Clubtail

Cobra Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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