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Posts Tagged ‘Walter Sanford’

Most dragonflies are slender and acrobatic, prompting one of my friends recently to call them “dainty.” There is absolutely nothing dainty, however, about Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus)—with their massive upper bodies and powerful legs, they remind me of powerlifters. Dragonhunters, unlike some other large dragonflies, do not fly patrols overhead in their search for food. Instead, they are patient hunters who perch, waiting for passing prey, and then use their powerful back legs to snag their victims, which are often other dragonflies.

One thing that always strikes me when I spot perched Dragonhunters is that they seem uncomfortable. Their back legs are so long and ungainly that Dragonhunters’ poses look awkward, bringing to mind gawky teenage males who have undergone recent growth spurts and have not yet gotten used to their longer limbs.

I was thrilled to spot this Dragonhunter last week while exploring a stream in Fairfax County with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. It was a hot, humid day and we did not have any success in finding Eastern Least Clubtails, our main focus for the day. In fact, during the day we did not see many dragonflies at all. Walter had been at this location repeatedly and at the start of the day had commented to me that he had often seen Dragonhunters perched on branches overhanging the stream. In fact, we spotted Dragonhunters several times during the day, but did not manage to get good shots of them.

As the skies began to darken, signaling an approaching rainstorm, I knew our time was drawing to an end. I decided to return to a fallen tree where we had seen a Dragonhunter earlier in the day and was pleasantly surprised to see a Dragonhunter holding on to the very tip of a branch. I waded into the stream and moved a little closer to the dragonfly, slowly making my way across the slick, uneven rocks. I called out loudly to Walter, who was a good distance downstream from me, and eventually I heard his response.

I became the patient hunter now as I stood in the calf-high waters of the stream, trying to minimize my movements as I struggled to get a decent shot without disturbing the dragonfly, waiting for the arrival of my friend and hoping that the dragonfly would stay in place. Well, Walter arrived and we both managed to get some shots. I then felt free to move a bit more and crouched low to get a better angle for a shot. Lost in the moment, I did not initially notice that my backside was getting wetter and wetter as I squatted lower and lower. Fortunately I had moved my wallet and keys to my backpack which remained dry.

Eventually the Dragonhunter flew away from its initial perch, but the flights were short and relatively direct and we were able to track the dragonfly to its subsequent positions. The Dragonhunter looked a bit more comfortable at its new perches, but I was not. The rocks underfoot were getting bigger and more uneven and navigation through the water was increasingly difficult. At one moment I encountered an unexpected small drop (maybe 6 inches or so) and I slipped and momentarily lost my balance, but somehow managed to stay dry.

I was tired and wet when we began the uphill trudge back to the parking area, but I was feeling happy about our encounter with this Dragonhunter, one of the powerful giants of the dragonfly world. If you would like to see Walter’s photos and commentary on our Dragonhunter adventure, be sure to check out his blog posting today entitled “Dragonhunter dragonfly (male).” While you are there, be sure to poke around on his site—he has lots of cool images and fascinating information on all kinds of dragonflies and other creatures too.

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

Dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I take photographs when I am standing upright, but quite often I am crouching, kneeling, bending, or leaning as I try to compose my images. I occasionally  remark that I am happy that nobody is filming me as I contort my body for the sake of my craft—a kind of photography yoga. Sometimes, though, my friends will take photos of me as I am am taking photos.

Several readers wondered how close I was to the Gray Petaltail dragonfly when I captured some macro images of its eyes that I featured in a posting earlier this week. My friend Walter Sanford, with whom I frequently go on photographic forays for dragonflies, captured the first image below of me in action and graciously agreed to let me use it in this posting. You may need to double-click on the photo to see it, but the Gray Petaltail dragonfly is perched on the left fork of the branch just after the split. The dragonfly was so cooperative that I remained in that crouch for an extended period of time, periodically flexing forward to get a tiny bit closer.

My friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer has also captured me in action. She recently came across the second photo below, which I think dates back to 2013, and posted it in Facebook. I am not sure what I was looking at so intently through my viewfinder, but it seems likely that I had spotted something more interesting than the Canada Geese right in front of me. As I often do, I was crouching in the brush, with all kinds of vegetation threatening to poke me in the ear and eyes.

When a crouch will not get me low enough, I am often willing to sprawl on the ground, as in the third photo below that was also taken by Cindy Dyer. You may notice that I was carrying a tripod with me in a case on my back. Cindy is a big fan of using a tripod whenever possible for macro shots and I remember well when she told me that one of the keys to success was for me to get as low as possible and spread my legs. I blushed initially until I realized that she was referring to my tripod.

It is probably not mandatory for all photographers, but I have found that it helps to be fit and flexible. One of my personal challenges will be to maintain that level of fitness and energy as I get older, so that I can continue my “style” of photography.

Gray Petaltail

kingstowne pond

shooting position

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of you know that I love to photograph dragonflies. In a recent posting, I thought I was featuring photos of a Cobra Clubtail dragonfly, but it turns out that it was a Splendid Clubtail dragonfly. Here is Walter Sanford’s behind the scenes account of the initial misidentification of the dragonfly, with photos showing the differences between the two species, and how experts determined that we had made an error. His posting provides some fascinating insights into the complications sometimes associated with making an identification of a species (and why it is important to photograph subjects from multiple angles, if possible).

Be sure to click on the “View original post link” if you are using the WordPress Reader to read Walter’s complete posting on his blog or go directly to his posting by using this link.

walter sanford's photoblog

A Splendid Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphurus lineatifrons) was spotted during a photowalk with Michael Powell at an undisclosed location in Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Easy for me to say now. As it turns out, my initial identification was incorrect.

The first photo I took of the dragonfly — the record shot — is shown below. Notice the pattern of yellow lateral marks/spots on its abdomen. Also notice the yellow blotch on the side of abdominal segment eight (S8) extends onto the club flange, as shown in the full-size version of the image. (Thanks to Michael Boatwright, founder and administrator of the Virginia Odonata Facebook group, for sharing these key field marks for Splendid.)

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

In contrast, the pattern of yellow lateral marks/spots on the abdomen of a female Cobra Clubtail (Gomphurus vastus), shown below, looks…

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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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From a distance I did not notice the large snake coiled up in the grass near the bank of the river—I spotted it only when I was a footstep or two away from stepping on it. My first thought was that it was probably a non-poisonous Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon). After my encounter with an Eastern Copperhead snake last year, though, I have been a little more anxious to get a good look at any snake that I see, especially its head, in order to assess my relative risk—the copperhead has a large angular head and its eyes have a vertical pupil.

So my eyes began to trace the coils of the snake, trying to find its head. This image gives you a pretty good idea of the view that I had as I bent over slightly to look at the snake. In the photo, it is easy to be distracted by the beautiful colors and pattern of its scales and by the sinuous curves of its body. I was a bit relieved when my eyes finally found the round pupils of the eye of this snake which, believe it or not, is visible in this image. Can you find it?

In case you are curious, I took this photo this past Tuesday when I was exploring in the wilds of Fairfax County, Virginia, hunting for dragonflies with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. Although our primary target was dragonflies, my eyes were always scanning surrounding areas for other interesting creatures. (If you still have not found the snake’s eye in the image, here is a clue—look near the extreme left in the photo towards the middle.)

Northern Water Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Tuesday morning I was thrilled to spot this female Umber Shadowdragon dragonfly (Neurocordulia obsoleta) while exploring in Fairfax County, Virginia with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. We were searching for perched dragonflies in a sunlight field with vegetation that was often waist-high and occasionally as tall as I am. One of my aspirational goals is to be able to photograph a dragonfly covered with drops of morning dew.

I was attracted to a stalk of vegetation when I spotted a cicada perched at eye-level. As I was looking into the cicada’s bright red eyes, I noticed that there was an exuvia, the discarded exoskeleton from which a cicada had recently emerged, a bit lower on the plant.  I looked downward and was shocked to see a dragonfly hanging from the underside of the broad leafy stalk of the vegetation, using it like an umbrella to shade itself from the sun.

I did not know what kind of dragonfly it was, but suspecting that it might be something unusual, I stopped dead in my tracks and called out to my friend Walter. I bent a little bit from the knees and captured a few shots, but was afraid to move any more than that for fear of spooking the dragonfly—the wings are clipped in the photo because I was using my macro lens, which does not zoom, which meant I would have had to back up to capture a shot of the entire dragonfly. Unfortunately, as Walter was approaching, the dragonfly took off, spooked perhaps by my efforts to point out its location, and Walter was not able to get a shot of it.

When I got home, I was able to identify the dragonfly as an Umber Shadowdragon, a species that I had never seen before and about which I knew very little. Kevin Munroe, who created the wonderful website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, described this species in almost poetic language: “The name alone creates images of a shadowy creature, mysterious and unique. It also sent me to a dictionary to look up “umber”. It turns out to be a clay pigment containing iron oxides that have an attractive red to golden brown coloring, originally found in the hills of Umbria, Italy. Even better, “umber” comes from the Latin word umbra, which means shadow. So the name means, Shadow Shadowdragon. This species certainly lives up to its enigmatic name – it does in fact only show itself among shadows, waiting to leave its high, leafy haunts until after 8:00 PM (2000 hours) on summer evenings. It can even be as late as 8:30 before they start their river patrols. Listen for that brief period when the day-singing cicada and nighttime katydids are both calling; the changing of the guard between light and dark. That’s when shadowdragons make their appearance and will often fly into early night, cruising fast and low, just above the river’s surface.”

I feel like I was really, really lucky to spot this dragonfly in broad daylight. The nocturnal habits of this species are such that most sources indicate that it is not even known if this species is rare or if it is common. If you are interested in learning more fascinating information about this species, be sure to check out this page of the website referenced above. I also highly recommend that you double click on the image to get a better look at the amazing details of this beautiful dragonfly, including the rows of little golden dots on the leading edges of its wings.

Umber Shadowdragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During a recent dragonfly hunting trip with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, I was thrilled when we stumbled upon several Springtime Darner dragonflies (Basiaeschna janata). As their name suggests, they are in flight early in the dragonfly season and are gone well before many of the summer dragonfly species arrive.

I first spotted one flying low over the vegetation in an overgrown field. It dropped down into the vegetation, but I was fortunately to be able to find where it was perched. As you can see in the first photo, Springtime Darners perch vertically, making it hard to see them amid all of the nearby stalks and stems. The female in the first photo was relatively cooperative and I was able to position myself well enough to have most of her body in focus. I encourage you to click on the image to see all of the wonderful details and colors of this beautiful dragonfly.

Although we had several more encounters with Springtimes Darners, all of those individuals were very skittish and it was tough to get any good shots. I included the second shot below because it shows really well the body of a male Springtime Darner, although the head is a bit out of focus because of the way he was perched.

Walter also did a blog posting on our encounter with these beautiful dragonflies. Be sure to check it out at this link and you will find more information about this dragonfly species and his photos and “take” on our dragonfly adventure.

 

Springtime Darner

Springtime Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How close can you get to a dragonfly when trying to photograph it? As with most things in life, the vexing answer is that  “it depends.” In my experience, some dragonfly species tend to be more skittish than others and will fly away for good at the first indication of your presence. Other species will fly away, but return to the same perch a short time later. Occasionally I will encounter a dragonfly that remains in place and permits me to get as close as I want, although I still have to pay close attention to where I place my feet, so that I do not disturb its perch, and to the location of the sun, so that I do not cast my shadow on the dragonfly.

Last Saturday I went hunting for dragonflies with my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford at a remote location in Fairfax County, Virginia, the county in which we live. Under normal circumstances, we probably would have made multiple excursions together by this time of the year, but this was our first trip of the season.

The first dragonfly that we encountered was a female Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividus) and she proved to be remarkably cooperative. Why? I think that the dragonfly was a little distracted because she was in the process of consuming a cranefly. In some of my photos I could see remnants of the legs, wings, and other body parts of the victim.

The three photos show in inverse chronological order how I started out photographing the entire body of the dragonfly and them moved in closer and closer. Each of shows some pretty remarkable details of the dragonfly’s anatomy and it is definitely worth clicking on them to get a better look. For example, the third photo shows the beautiful coloration of the body; the second shot shows the spines on the legs and the hook-like tips of the feet; and the first image draws your attention to the dragonfly’s amazing compound eyes.

I took all of the photos below handheld with my Canon 50D DSLR and Tamron 180mm macro lens. My partner in this adventure used totally different gear and his approach to capturing images was definitely not the same as mine. In the past Walter and I have done companion postings on our respective blogs when we have taken photos together and we decided to continue the tradition.

Walter and I have different backgrounds, writing styles, and shooting styles and it has always been fascinating to contrast our “takes.” Even though we were shooting the same subject under the same conditions, I can almost guarantee that the images we post will be quite different. Be sure to check out Walter’s blog at waltersanford.wordpress.com for all kinds of wonderful postings, mostly about dragonflies.

I will include a link to his posting on our encounter with this Ashy Clubtail dragonfly after I publish this posting—I have not yet seen how he described our adventures.

UPDATE: Here, as promised, is a link to Walter’s posting about our encounter with this female Ashy Clubtail dragonfly.

Ashy Clubtail

Ashy Clubtail

Ashy Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The only other time that I can remember a butterfly perching on me was when I was in an indoor enclosed butterfly garden. This time, though, it was out in the wild and I was a bit shocked when Walter told me that there was a butterfly on my head. Thanks to Walter Sanford, my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast, for capturing this encounter. Be sure to check out his blog for lots of wonderful images of dragonflies and other cool creatures.

walter sanford's photoblog

There’s a butterfly on your hat. A Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Red-spotted Purple butterfly

This comical butterfly-man union was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Painted Turtle PondOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Red-spotted Purple butterfly

The weather was extremely hot and humid. (Notice the Cumulus congestus clouds building in the background.) Both Mike and I were soaked with sweat as soon as we started our photowalk earlier the same day at another site. The butterfly was feeding upon mineral salts on Mike’s “Duck Dynasty” hat.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Before we went out last week to hunt for Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi), fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford reminded me to wear gray-colored clothing, because Gray Petaltails are known to perch on people dressed this way, presumably because they resemble trees. Walter’s words proved to be prophetic and Gray Petaltails perched on me repeatedly that day.  Walter memorialized one such encounter in his posting last week You look like a tree to me! that included shots of one perched on my shoulder and one on my stomach.

It is generally pretty cool to have a dragonfly perch on you. It can be a little disconcerting, however, when a large dragonfly like a Gray Petaltail, which can be over three inches in length (75 mm), buzzes around your head. I couldn’t avoid flinching a couple of times that day when a dragonfly landed on me. Sometimes dragonflies are so incredibly cooperative that I am able to coax them to perch on my finger, as shown in a 2013 blog posting that I called Dragonfly Whisperer.

As the day wore on, Walter seemed disappointed that the dragonflies were not landing on him. As we were making some final checks before our departure, a Gray Petaltail finally made his wish come true and perched on him. Unlike the ones that landed on my front side, this one decided to land on his back side, on the untucked tail of his shirt. I am hoping that nobody was watching, because it would probably have looked a little strange for me to be pointing the long macro lens of my camera at that part of his anatomy.

Walter and I are good enough friends that he will laugh at my puns and attempts at humor, even when he is occasionally the butt of the joke. In fact, this is actually not the most embarrassing photo that I have taken of a dragonfly perching on Walter. In October 2013 I did a posting entitled Dragonflies mating on a calf that featured a dragonfly couple mating on his bare lower leg.

If you are really young, you may not remember Fred Astaire’s version of the song “Cheek to Cheek” that was the number one hit song of 1935, according to Wikipedia. Here is link to a YouTube clip of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers singing and dancing to that song.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail

© 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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I love dragonflies, but it will probably be a month or two before they reappear in my area. I bide my time and photograph birds during the winter, but one of my fellow dragonfly enthusiasts, Walter Sanford, has been spending his time studying exuviae, the exoskeletons that are discarded when nymphs almost magically undergo a metamorphosis and emerge as dragonflies. Check out Walter’s most recent posting in which he determined the species of an exuvia I collected last year and be sure to explore the rest of the fantastic photos and info in his blog.

walter sanford's photoblog

Michael Powell collected several odonate exuviae during a photowalk along the Potomac River in Fairfax County, Virginia USA, including two damselflies and two dragonflies. The exact date is uncertain, although Mike thinks the exuviae were collected sometime between 19-23 July 2017.

Both dragonfly exuviae are from the Family Gomphidae (Clubtails), as indicated by a flat labium that doesn’t cover the face as well as club-like antennae. Notice that abdominal segment nine (S9) is elongated, strongly suggesting this individual is a member of the genus Stylurus.

The dichotomous key for Stylurus larvae that appears on pp. 310-312 in Dragonflies of North America, Third Edition by Needham et al. was used to identify the species of the exuvia. The ninth couplet [9, 9′] is as follows.

9(7’). Length of abdominal segment 9 at least equal to its basal width; lateral spines of abdominal segment 9 at least…

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Be sure to check out Walter Sanford’s narrative and photos of our adventures together this past Monday trying to photograph snakes. Our photographic and writing styles are different and our posts are intended to complement each other by providing alternative points of view.

walter sanford's photoblog

Michael Powell and I met for a long photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 11 April 2016. We spotted (and photographed) a Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor) during the morning and an Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) in the early afternoon.

Mike’s viewpoint

The following photo shows Michael Powell shooting the snake, up close and personal, using a field-tested technique I refer to as “Sandbagging the Grinder.” Sometimes Mike uses his camera bag for support and stability in order to shoot tack-sharp photos with a Tamron 180mm macro lens. “The Grinder” is my nickname for Mike’s macro lens because you can hear the internal gears grinding when it’s autofocusing — it’s loud, but hey, it works well in the hands of a skilled photographer!

Michael Powell photographing an Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

My viewpoint

An Eastern Gartersnake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

The preceding photo is the next shot I took after taking the photo of Mike. I was shooting with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ150 superzoom digital…

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Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford managed to spot a dragonfly in January in Northern Virginia. Wow!

Be sure to check out his blog for more facts and photos about dragonflies, damselflies, and other little creatures.

walter sanford's photoblog

A single Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), jokingly referred to as a “Winter Meadowhawk dragonfly” in a recent post, was observed on 03 January 2016 near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. This sighting sets a new late-date for this species for both Huntley Meadows Park (formerly 27 December) and the Commonwealth of Virginia (formerly 01 January).

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. 03 JAN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration, shape of the abdomen, and terminal appendages.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. 03 JAN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

The following graphic image shows the current air temperature in the central wetland area around the time when I spotted the record-setting dragonfly. 51°F is nearly 20 degrees less than 70°F, widely believed to be the minimum body temperature necessary for dragonfly flight!

HMP_wx-station 03 JAN 2016…

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I am not particularly fond of mosquitoes and flies landing on me, but I love it when a colorful dragonfly chooses to do so. Autumn Meadowhawks are especially friendly in this regard and my friend Walter Sanford captured some fun images of these little red beauties that had landed on different parts of his body (and even included a few photos I took of him with his little friends). Check out his posting!

walter sanford's photoblog

The Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were especially “friendly” during a recent visit to Huntley Meadows Park, landing on me frequently as Michael Powell and I were searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis).

My Photos

The following individual is a male, perching on the leg of my Columbia convertible pants. Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m especially fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality. Like this guy, who I imagine is thinking “What are you looking at? That’s right pal, I’m perching on your pants!”

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on my leg (Columbia pants). 11 NOV 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The next photo shows two individuals perching on my pants, both females, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

Two Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. These individuals are females, perching on my leg (Columbia pants). 11 NOV 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The last individual is another female. I shot this photo…

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Check out today’s posting by my good friend and fellow photographer Walter Sanford for a compelling narrative and wonderful photos of our newest adventures searching for the Great Spreadwing damselfly.

walter sanford's photoblog

It was my honor to spend Veterans Day with my good friend and photowalking buddy Major Michael Powell, U.S. Army, Retired. We were men on a mission: Searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis), in the hope of extending the “official” late-date for this species in Virginia. Mission accomplished, but it wasn’t easy — the operation was unsuccessful until we called in an “air strike!”

Since 06 October 2015, Mike and I have been frequently monitoring the Great Spreadwing damselflies that inhabit a small permanent pond and surrounding fields at a remote location in Huntley Meadows Park.

On 11 November, Mike and I spent several hours intensively searching for our quarry; no luck. A little after 1:00 p.m., we were standing near the pond watching a lone Shadow Darner dragonfly (Aeshna umbrosa) aggressively hawking smaller odonates perching around the perimeter of the pond: the darner dipped into…

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In vain I have searched this month for Common Sanddragon dragonflies at the places where I spotted them earlier this season. My good friend and fellow photographer and blogger, Walter Sanford, captured some beautiful shots of the last ones that we spotted. Be sure to check out the other wonderful photos and fascinating information in his blog.

walter sanford's photoblog

Common Sanddragon (Progomphus obscurus) is a member of the Clubtail Family of dragonflies that is spotted during June and July in mid-Atlantic United States like Virginia. Common Sanddragons are habitat specialists that prefer sandy woodland streams, so don’t look for them in wetland areas like the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park.

This post features two male Common Sanddragon dragonflies, as indicated by their terminal appendages. As fate would have it, they are the last Sanddragons spotted during Summer 2015.

The water level was near the top of the stream banks after near record-setting rainfall for the month of June. (Notice the discoloration of the vegetation from siltation during a recent flood.)

A Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) spotted at Dogue Creek, Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male. 29 JUN 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Common Sanddragon (male)

The conditions for hunting Sanddragons were less than ideal. Male Common Sanddragons prefer perching on a sandy beach, facing the water; there weren’t any beaches, so Sanddragons were…

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Fellow blogger and photographer, Walter Sanford, has an infectious passion for dragonflies and damselflies and has encouraged and inspired me to search for them in remote areas of my favorite marshland park. In today’s blog posting, he chronicles the new species that he has discovered and photographed in the park during the past two years. Individually and sometimes together, we are seeking to discover even more new species.

I encourage all of you to check out his blog to learn more about odonates and see some amazing images of these little beauties.

walter sanford's photoblog

My interest in odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies, began during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park. Toward the end of Summer 2012 and continuing in 2013, my goal was to explore new venues for hunting odonates. Along the way, I spotted several species of odonates that are either uncommon or unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows, including Blue Corporal dragonfly, Stream Cruiser dragonfly, and Rambur’s Forktail damselfly, to name a few.

During 2014, continuing in 2015, I have been a man on a mission to explore the relatively unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park in search of habitat-specific odonates unlikely to be found in the central wetland area of the park. In retrospect, 2014-2015 has been a good run: five new species of odonates were discovered and added to the list of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) 20 June 2014

Mike Powell

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Like my friend, Walter Sanford, I am thankful to have such a wonderful suburban oasis that serves as a refuge and an inspiration for so much of my outdoor photography. Walter has had a powerful influence on me as I have gotten more serious in my pursuit of dragonflies this past year. He has always been willing to share his time and extensive knowledge with so many of us, serving as an ambassador for Huntley Meadows Park. Thanks, Walter! Be sure to check out his blog for some amazing photos and fascinating information.

walter sanford's photoblog

It’s the traditional time of year 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. And thanks to WordPress.com for the blog that enables me to share my sightings with others!

Last year I noticed a single male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on the signage along the boardwalk, located near the observation tower. I wondered how many visitors wandered past the sign without noticing the dragonfly watching the “Wildlife Watching” sign.

On Veteran’s Day, 11 November 2014, I noticed two male Autumn Meadowhawks perching on the same sign so I stopped to take a few photos (shown above). Nearly a dozen people passed me and not one person stopped to see what…

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I spend a lot of time chasing dragonflies and damselflies, but my efforts pale in comparison with those of fellow blogger and photographer Walter Sanford. He has so much experience with them that he focuses much of his attention on photographing females and mating pairs. This posting contains some amazing shots of mating damselflies in a mating position that looks like a heart, a position that I doubt exists in the Kama Sutra.

walter sanford's photoblog

I was looking for mating pairs of Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) during a photowalk at Huntley Meadows Park on 10 August 2014. Meanwhile my friend Mark Jette spotted a mating pair of damselflies.

The Orange Bluet damselflies (Enallagma signatum) shown in the following photographs are “in wheel,” in which the male uses “claspers” (terminal appendages) at the end of his abdomen to hold the female by her neck/thorax while they are joined at their abdomens. The male, orange and black in color, is on top; the female, green and black in color, is on the bottom.

The copulatory, or wheel, position is unique to the Odonata, as is the distant separation of the male’s genital opening and copulatory organs. Source Credit: Paulson, Dennis (2011-12-19). Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East (Princeton Field Guides) (Kindle Locations 377-378). Princeton University Press. Kindle Edition.

The wheel position is…

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Turnabout is fair play. In one of my earlier posts entitled “Dragonflies mating on a calf” I featured Walter Sanford, a fellow photographer and blogger. Today, in a posting called “The natives are friendly.” he featured my arm and finger as I tried to charm a couple of different dragonflies to perch on my index finger.

walter sanford's photoblog

Most dragonflies are skittish. Some dragonflies are “friendly,” such as Blue Corporal dragonflies (Ladona deplanata). Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are friendly; sometimes very friendly!

Mike Powell and I visited Huntley Meadows Park recently. We stopped to “charm” dragonflies a couple of times during our photowalk. The following gallery shows two different male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies perching on Mike: Photos 1-2 show Mike coaxing a dragonfly onto his finger; Photos 3-4 show another dragonfly perching on Mike’s arm.

Tech Tip: Either mouse-over or tap photos to see captions.

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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