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Posts Tagged ‘Sable Clubtail’

Last week in a posting entitled Sable Clubtail in June, I expressed my concern about the survivability of this uncommon dragonfly due to the degradation of its habitat at the one location in my area where they can be found.  One of my fellow dragonfly followers has seen them several times recently, including at least one female, and I was thrilled to have several encounters with Sable Clubtail dragonflies (Stenogomphurus rogersi) last Sunday along a small forest stream in Fairfax County, Virginia.

I am presenting the images in reverse chronological order, because I wanted the close-up shot to be the one that shows up in the Word Press reader (and because it is my favorite of the three images). Let me discuss them, though, in the order in which I took took the shots.

The third shot shows a male Sable Clubtail perched low on some vegetation overhanging the stream. In my experience, this is the most common place to spot this dragonfly species and, in fact, this was quite close to the places where I have seen a Sable Clubtail in previous years.

This year I decided to expand my search area and on a different part of the stream I spotted the dragonfly in the second image. It was perched on a dead branch that extended horizontally about six inches (15 cm) above the surface of the stream. My initial shots were from quite a distance away, but slowly and stealthily I moved forward and captured this image as I looked down at the dragonfly and the shining stream bed.

Some readers know that I really enjoy close encounters with dragonflies and will not be surprised to learn that I decided to move in and try to get a head-on shot of this handsome male Sable Clubtail. As you can see in the first photo, my subject was quite accommodating and I was able to get a wonderful shot of his stunning green eyes that look like they were carved out of solid chunks of malachite. He even seemed to be smiling for me.

I feel like I can breathe a little more easily now that I have some evidence that this species is still around. The populations of many of the dragonflies that I have photographed this spring tend be low density in our area, often limited to a small number of dragonflies in a few specific habitats with a short flight season. Each season I begin with hopeful expectations of seeing new species at new locations, but those hopes are tempered by the reality that a species could also disappear from a location for ecological or other reasons.

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the rarest dragonflies in our area are quite muted in their appearance, like this male Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) that I spotted on Tuesday while exploring a park in Fairfax County in Virginia, the county in which I live. Sable Clubtails are generally found only in very small numbers, have a short flight period, and require very specific habitats. My good friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford did an extensive amount of research and re-discovered the Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) at this location in 2018.

When a dragonfly population is so small and localized, there is always a fear that they could be wiped out by extreme weather conditions or by a change in their habitat. At this specific location, the stream habitat has been compromised somewhat by increased silt and higher levels of vegetation as a result of some imprudent dumping of dirt and the resulting runoff. (For additional information about the damage to the stream and some of the back story of Walter’s re-discovery of the species, check out his June 2020 posting entitled Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Male, No. 1).)

Each year since Walter’s rediscovery I have returned to the same stream with a certain degree of trepidation, unsure if I will be able to find any members of this relatively rare species. This year I spotted them further upstream than previously, suggesting the possibility that the small Sable Clubtail population has relocated. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, Sable Clubtails appear “to prefer small, relatively clean, shallow and stable forest streams, with plenty of low vegetation and a gentle flow.”

Over the next few weeks, I will probably return to this stream multiple times to see if I can gain a better understanding of the state of this population. I am hopeful that there will be signs that the population has rebounded and it would be really cool to spot a female Sable Clubtail too.

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the dragonflies that I feature in my postings are uncommon species in my area. They are found in very small numbers, have a short flight period, and require very specific habitats. My good friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford did an extensive amount of research two years ago and re-discovered the Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi), a species that is considered to be rare in Northern Virginia. Several of us were able to capture numerous images of this beautiful species during the 2018 dragonfly season.

Since that time, however, the habitat at that location has deteriorated significantly. As a result of some imprudent dumping of dirt and the resulting runoff, the stream habitat has been compromised by increased silt and higher levels of vegetation. Last year, as far as we know, there was only a single sighting of Sable Clubtails at this spot.

Had the population of Sable Clubtails been wiped out? During May and June this year, I made repeated trips to this location and on 12 June I captured the second shot below. When I took the shot, I was not sure if it was a Sable Clubtail, so my excitement was somewhat muted while I was in the field.  However, when Walter confirmed that it was in fact a male Sable Clubtail, I was really happy. In many ways, though, my excitement was no match for Walter’s the next day, when we returned to that location and, after much searching, had several encounters with Sable Clubtails, including the one shown in the first image.

For more background on the saga of the Sable Clubtails, be sure to check out Walter’s posting from last Friday entitled “Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Male No. 1).” The posting includes Walter’s photos, range maps for the species, and fascinating details on the backstory. Walter has a background in science and his systematic and analytical approach allows him to view things from a different perspective than I do with my background in languages, literature, and political science. Our approaches are quite different, but are definitely complementary.

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A week ago I did a retrospective posting on some of my favorite photos from the first half of 2019 and alerted readers that a second posting would appear “in the next few days.” Here at last is part two—click here if you missed the first installment. As was the case in the initial posting, I went through my postings month by month and selected two photos for each month. I have provided a link to the individual postings in the captions of the photos to make it easier for interested readers to see the images in the context of the original postings, which often include additional photos and explanatory information.

If you look carefully at the dates, you may notice that I did not include any photos from November in this posting. As many of you may recall, I was in Paris for three weeks in November. After my first posting, one reader suggested that I do a separate posting for Paris, rather than be forced to select two photos from the many that I posted of my adventures in Paris. I decided to follow that recommendation, so hopefully there will be  a third and final posting of my look back at 2019 sometime “soon.”

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly, July 6, 2019 Sable Clubtail

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant dragonfly July 31, 2019 Perching Halloween Pennant

Osprey

Osprey, August 3, 2019, No sushi for me

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly, August 5, 2019 Getting down with an Eastern Ringtail

 

crab spider

Crab spider, September 7, 2019, White-banded Crab Spider

Handsome Meadow Katydid

Handsome Meadow Katydid September 10, 2019 My favorite insect?

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly, October 2, 2019 Blue-faced Meadowhawk in October

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle October 16, 2019 Bald Eagle Takeoff

Hooded Merganser duck December 7, 2019 Hoodie Season

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe December 24, 2019 Portrait of a Pied-billed Grebe

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you suffer from recency bias? Recency bias is a type of cognitive bias that causes you to give greater weight in decision-making to things that have happened recently than to those that happened in the past, even the recent past. It is the only explanation I can come up with for not having already posted these shots of a Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) that I observed on 12 June.  Essentially, I got so caught up in excitement over newer photos that that I pushed this dragonfly out of my mind or at least off of my “To-do” list.

Sable Clubtails are rare in our area. Although I have searched for them repeatedly this season, including in a location where I saw some last year, this is the only one that I have seen in 2019. According to the website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, “Sables appears to prefer small, relatively clean, shallow and stable forest streams, with plenty of low vegetation and a gentle flow.” That is a pretty good description of the stream in Prince William County, Virginia where I spotted this Sable Clubtail, but it also means that I am unlikely to stumble upon a member of this species at the ponds and marshes that I often visit.

In addition to being found only in a very specific type of habitat, Sable Clubtails have a very limited flight season—only a few weeks in length. That window of opportunity has almost certainly closed for the year. If you would like to see some additional photos of Sable Clubtails or read of my thoughts about chasing after rare dragonflies, check out this posting from a year ago.

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s fun to remember the carefree days earlier this year that I spent hunting for dragonflies. Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford recently did a posting about a location where I photographed a Sable Clubtail dragonfly, one of the rarest species in our area, a place that he christened “Powell’s Place” after he too visited it and found a Sable Clubtail.

Be sure to check out his posting and I encourage you also to explore his blog for some amazing photos and information about dragonflies and other wild creatures.

walter sanford's photoblog

A single Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched alongside a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I nicknamed a segment of the stream “Powell’s Place” in honor of Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, who spotted the first Sable observed at this part of the stream. “Powell’s Place” is located downstream from Hotspot No. 1, where the stream re-emerges from an underground concrete pipe.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages. Some dragonflies tend to be creatures of habit, returning to the same spot day-after-day. Perhaps this is the same individual spotted by Mike. Who knows?

I like the juxtaposition of complementary colors in the first photo.

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The next photo shows the dragonfly perched deep within a shaded hidey-hole.

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Do you like to go off in pursuit of rare and exotic species to photograph? Most of the time I am content to travel again and again to familiar places, searching for both old and new species to photograph.

Yet I guess that I have a bit of an adventurous streak too, for my interest sparked when fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford informed me that he had spotted one of the rarest dragonfly species in our area, the Sable Clubtail (Stenogomphurus rogersi). What makes this dragonfly so rare is that it is found only in a very specific type of habitat and it only for a very short period of time each year.

I was still a bit jet-lagged this past Saturday morning, having returned the previous afternoon from my week-long trip to Brussels, but decided to see if I could find this elusive dragonfly. Walter and I had searched for dragonflies in this area before, so I more or less understood where he had seen the Sable Clubtail dragonflies when he described the location to me.

In retrospect, though, I probably should have done a little more homework, because I suddenly realized as I began my search that I didn’t know very well the distinguishing characteristics of a Sable Clubtail. I knew that the tip of its “tail” (actually its abdomen) was somewhat enlarged, because it was part of the “clubtail” family and I remembered from a photo that extreme end of the “tail” was curved. Beyond that, I was somewhat clueless and I was a little disappointed later in the day when I thought that I had not seen a Sable Clubtail dragonfly, but only some Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies.

I am happy to say that I was wrong in my identification of the species that I had photographed—in my ignorance, I had missed some diagnostic clues that should have told me immediately that I was shooting a Sable Clubtail. Of course, if you never have seen a species before, it’s easy to categorize it as something that you have seen.

Here are a few images from my encounter with a Sable Clubtail. The different angles any varying perches help to highlight the beautiful markings of this dragonfly and its very striking eyes.

I am not quite ready to quit my job and travel the world in search for rare dragonflies, but it was exciting to play the role of an adventurer for a day—a tiny bit of Indiana Jones—and gratifying that I was able to find the treasure that I was seeking, the Sable Clubtail dragonfly.

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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