Photographs by Frank

26 August 2013

Saturday’s Crop (of Photos)

After I finished “Big Red” on Saturday morning, I spent some time poking around the yard with the camera. There were many darners about and they would infrequently perch in one of our apple trees, usually too high up for a good photograph. These darn darners are always an exercise in photographic frustration. They are, however, fun to watch! I did get one decent darner photo.

There have been small numbers of autumn meadowhawks (of both sexes) in the yard over the past few days. One  female allowed me to make exactly three frames of her  obelisking before she went on her way.

Another unusual sight in the yard was a mating pair of Eastern Forktails. This seems a little late in the season for mating behavior in this species. More unusual was to find them mating in our yard which is a quarter mile from water (the beaver swamp in one direction and the lake in the opposite direction).

In the afternoon on Saturday, I headed over to camp with Joan, Katrina and Joan’s cousins Suzy and Lyle. While they swam and chatted, I cruised, with camera in hand, the lake shore near camp.  The slatey skimmer was very cooperative and posed for me until I decided that I was done. I can not say the same for the clubtail (which allowed me only the one frame) and the orange bluet (two frames) before they flew off. I had never seen an orange bluet on Gregg Lake before.

I ended the day with the vesper bluets under close to ideal conditions (calm and in good light). This species prefers to alight on lily pads and other vegetation in water that is too deep to wade, thus one needs the kayak. They also, as the “vesper” in their name suggests, only come out at the end of the day; as the light starts to wane.

For most of the time I was out, there were no vesper bluets around. However, as the shadows grew longer more and more appeared, seemingly out of “thin air”.  There were mostly males about; I would estimate 10-20 males for every female.  The few females I observed were already paired up and either flying in tandem or in a mating wheel. I saw no ovipositing behavior while I was out… it was probably too early in the evening.

Single male vesper bluets very aggressively attack paired females trying to get them to un-pair from their chosen mate.  This behavior is difficult to photograph but great fun to watch live.

Here are the photographs (the first four from the morning and the second four from the afternoon):

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Darner sp.
Darner sp.
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Eastern Forktail (mating wheel)
Eastern Forktail (mating wheel)
Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Slatey Skimmer (male)
Slatey Skimmer (male)
Clubtail sp.
Clubtail sp.
Orange Bluet ? (male)
Orange Bluet ? (male)
Vesper Bluet (mating wheel)
Vesper Bluet (mating wheel)

4 August 2013

Another New Species for Me

Filed under: Odontates,Summer,The "New" Yard & Environs — Tags: , — Frank @ 11:00 PM

This afternoon I took a stroll up the road to an old log yard I have visited many times before. This was my first visit in the current “ode season”. The old log yard is quite a bit more overgrown that in years past and the blackberries are just starting to ripen… not that I sampled any!

The temperature was in the low 70’s and it was partly cloudy. We had a brief thunderstorm after I got back to the house.

I was surprised by the lack of ode activity this visit. In years past this site was always abuzz with ode activity… but not today.

I saw no damselflies. I did see maybe a dozen female meadowhawks over the 90 or so minutes I spent there. Presumably, these individuals are spending time away from the water feeding and maturing and will head back to the water to mate in due time.

Other than that, I saw only two other individuals: a male black-shouldered spinyleg and a female common whitetail. The black-shouldered spinyleg was a new species for me. That makes two new species in two consecutive days!

The spinyleg came out of nowhere and alit on a leaf near where I was standing. I instantly knew this was not a species I commonly see… it was too big and it had a rather well developed “club” at the end of its abdomen.

I made a few exposures of its dorsal side. It then moved  a few feet away and I was able to get a more lateral view after shifting my position carefully. After three or four more exposures he took off and disappeared into the woods as quickly as he arrived. The total time between first and last exposure… two minutes and three seconds according to the exif data.

When I got back home, I noticed that the purple cone flowers along the wall at the driveway were covered with bees. I spent some minutes making many exposures of the half dozen or so bees present… I’ll only show one photo so as not to bore you!

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Meadowhawk sp? (female)
Meadowhawk sp? (female)
Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)
Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)
Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)
Black-shouldered Spinyleg (male)
Meadowhawk sp? (female)
Meadowhawk sp? (female)
Common White-tail (female)
Common White-tail (female)
Bee on Purple Coneflower
Bee on Purple Coneflower

28 July 2013

One Extraordinary July Afternoon in the Beaver Meadow

Filed under: Odontates,Other Insects,Summer — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 3:25 PM

Yesterday afternoon, I headed down to the wetland behind our house. I had not been down there for a couple of weeks… first it was too hot for me, more recently it has been too cool and gray for much ode activity.

Yesterday the conditions were ideal for both human and ode… the temperature was in the mid-70’s and it was mostly sunny.

On my way down through the woods, I noticed three or four very small (pinky nail-sized) light brown frogs… probably wood frogs. I did not get any photos, they were very skittish and the ode rig would not have provided enough magnification anyway.

A little further along I noticed another bit of movement on the forest floor… it took me about five minutes of searching, but I finally noticed the critter…a small, well camouflaged moth (see the first photo).

As I reached the beaver meadow, I saw a few early bright red male meadow hawks in the shrubs along the margin and a number of large dragonflies (darners) out over meadow. I did not stop to photograph the meadow hawks (there will be plenty more to come).

Rather headed out to the edges of the open water. As expected, there was much activity here. A number of different species of both dragonflies and damselflies going about their business, mostly feeding, but also mating and ovipositing.

As I was watching and photographing the damselflies among the grasses and sedges along a small spot of open water, I turned to my right and noticed the extraordinary scene shown in the second photograph. I don’t know the details of the story, but visually it is quite a story… the title might be “How Did the Darner Lose Its Abdomen?”! I am unsure if the exuvia in the background is part of the story or not.

When I stood up from photographing this scene, I noticed a bit of movement a few feet away. The source of this movement is shown in the two photos made less than a meter from the half-darner. It took me a while to sort out what was going on in my viewfinder… it is very rare to see one damselfly preying on another. I see dragonflies preying on damsels infrequently but regularly. I do not remember ever seeing one damselfly eating another before.

Along with these unusual events, I made photos of the more typical events… these was much mating and ovipositing going on!

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Wavy-lined Zanclognatha (Zanclognatha jacchusalis)
Wavy-lined Zanclognatha (Zanclognatha jacchusalis)
Half a Darner & Exuvia
Half a Darner & Exuvia
Eastern Forktail (female) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (female) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (female) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (female) with Prey
Sphagnum Sprite
Sphagnum Sprite
Spreadwing Pair Ovipositing
Spreadwing Pair Ovipositing
Spangled Skimmer (male)
Spangled Skimmer (male)
Spangled Skimmer (male)
Spangled Skimmer (male)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Dragonfly Silhouette
Dragonfly Silhouette
Sphagnum Sprite (male)
Sphagnum Sprite (male)
Spreadwing Pair Ovipositing
Spreadwing Pair Ovipositing
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Frosted Whiteface (male)
Spreadwing Pair Ovipositing
Spreadwing Pair Ovipositing
Swamp Spreadwing (male)
Swamp Spreadwing (male)
ID Needed
ID Needed

29 June 2013

One Photo from Today

Filed under: Other Insects,The "New" Yard & Environs — Tags: — Frank @ 11:30 PM

After thee inches of rain beginning on Thursday afternoon and continuing through the early hours of this morning, the weather began to slowly clear.

By mid-afternoon, it was at least partly sunny and I headed out with the camera in hand. With thunder storms possible, I did not want to head too far afield, so I headed down the old log road across from the end of driveway.

There was  lots of life out and about… the mosquitoes were numerous and vicious. When the sun was out, there were the odes about as well (mainly variable dancers of both sexes). I also saw (and photographed) a red eft and a small frog in the water running down the road.

I processed seven photos total but I am only going to show one. It is not that the others are bad. Some times, however, one is just very much better than the rest.

Click for a larger version

20 June 2013

A Fabulous Day for Odes

Yesterday was a spectacular day weather-wise… bright and sunny with the temperature in around 70. A perfect day to be outside!

I headed out late morning with three sites in mind to visit… the Powdermill Pond WMA, the Contoocook River near the paper mill in Bennington and the Lovern’s Mill White Cedar Swamp. I actually stopped at only the first and the last… the river by the paper mill  looked way too high to wade. Even so, I did not get back home until after four.

The first photo (below)  of the calico pennant was made in the yard as I was taking my gear out to the truck. The last four photos were made at the Cedar Swamp. The rest at Powdermill Pond, mostly in the uplands area as the river was too deep to wade safely.

There were surprisingly few odes out and about in general.

At the Powdermill Pond WMA there were decent numbers of Eastern Forktails mainly in the grassy areas back from the river and a few clubtails cruising the river bank.

At the Lovern’s Mill Swamp, I saw exactly three odes… but took good advantage of them! On my way in to the swamp, I saw, but did not get a chance to photograph, a single ebony jewelwing along the trail just before getting to the swamp proper.

While on the boardwalk in the swamp, I saw exactly two Harlequin Darners.

I watched one individual for some time, he kept hovering at about chest height in the vegetation just off the boardwalk and would occasionally land on the trunk of a nearby white cedar. At one point he chased off another dragonfly. (I assume another Harlequin Darner).

Since he was spending long (for a dragonfly) periods hovering in one spot, I tried my hand at capturing him flight. This is not something I try to do regularly as it is a low yield endeavor. The photo shown is the best, by far, of more than a dozen total.

Eventually the darner flew off and I headed back up the trail towards the car.

Maybe fifty feet back up the trail from the boardwalk, I encountered another (maybe the same individual as before; it was the same general area) ebony jewelwing. This time he was most accommodating in terms of photography. He was actively feeding on the insects along the trail. He spent most of his time perched on the trail-side  vegetation either waiting to pounce or eating. He was quite successful at hunting, returning to a perch with prey every second or third foray.

I may have contributed a bit to his success as a large cloud of mosquitoes quickly enveloped me when I stopped to photograph him. I believe that this was a symbiotic relationship… beneficial to at least two of the parties involved. I got photos, the damselfly got fed and the mosquitoes… well they got eaten!

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Calico Pennant (female)
Calico Pennant (female)
Lacewing
Lacewing
Eastern Forktail (immature male) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (immature male) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (male) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (male) with Prey
Eastern Forktail (male)
Eastern Forktail (male)
Variable Dancer (female)
Variable Dancer (female)
Variable Dancer (female)
Variable Dancer (female)
Lancet Clubtail (male)
Lancet Clubtail (male)
ID Needed
ID Needed
Damselfly (teneral) ID needed
Damselfly (teneral) ID needed
Eastern Forktail (immature male)
Eastern Forktail (immature male)
Harlequin Darner (male)
Harlequin Darner (male)
Harlequin Darner (male)
Harlequin Darner (male)
Ebony Jewlwing (male) with Prey
Ebony Jewlwing (male) with Prey
Ebony Jewlwing (male) with Prey
Ebony Jewlwing (male) with Prey

10 September 2012

Opportunity Caught!

Filed under: Landscapes,Odontates,Other Insects — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 6:00 AM

Today was a beautiful early fall day and I could not resist the urge to wander down to “our” beaver swamp late this afternoon.

Noticing all of the nice clouds, I tossed my wide angle lens and polarizing filter in my pocket as I headed out the door. Thus, I can actually show those who have not (yet) been here a photo of the place where I have whiled away many enjoyable hours in pursuit of odes over  the past two summers.

The ode season is definitely winding down here. There were a dozen or so large odes (darners, most likely) aloft out over the meadow and I watched a couple of female darners ovipositing at the edge of the pond.  I noted two or three spreadwings along the edge of the woods and that was about it… except for one rare opportunity that I caught!

Darners are large, spectacular dragonflies that are frustrating to photograph… they rarely perch! However, every once in a great awhile one finds them perched and you get an opportunity!

I was wandering slowly along the edge of the meadow when I flushed a darner mating wheel  out of the grass. This is a fairly rare, maybe two or three times a summer, event in itself. Usually the pair flies off and that’s it. You loose track of them, they land high up in a tree or you flush them a second time trying to get a good angle photographically, et cetera, et cetera. Or as Joan would say… “excuses, excuses”!

This time the mating pair landed about ten feet up on the trunk of a nearby tree; a little high to be ideal but one takes what nature provides. I took the extension tube off the 70-300 mm lens and was able photograph them for twenty-five minutes (according to the meta-data). The show ended when the couple parted ways; presumably she headed to the pond to begin ovipositing. They are either Canada Darners or Green-striped Darners… I can’t decide. [UPDATE: Thanks to my friend Kevin and the helpful folks on the Northeast Odonates mailing list (who all agree), we can say that these are Canada Darners.]

I wandered for another hour or so before the sun dipped below the ridge and I headed home. In that interval, I saw a couple more spreadwings ,always at the edge of the woods, and a few grasshoppers among the marsh grasses.

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"Our" Beaver Swamp
Darner Mating Wheel #1
Darner Mating Wheel #1
Darner Mating Wheel #2
Darner Mating Wheel #2
Spreadwing sp? (female)
Spreadwing sp? (female)
Grasshopper
Grasshopper

30 August 2012

A Quick Visit to the Beaver Swamp

Filed under: Odontates,Other Insects,wildflowers — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 12:00 PM

Yesterday, I spent about 90 minutes in the late afternoon down in the swamp at the back of our property. I went specifically to look for the male spreadwings that would “match” the females which have been common in the woods for the past few weeks.

Often, the males of a species will head back to the water (where mating and ovipositing will take place) earlier than the females. Thus, having seen only females in the woods, I thought that maybe the males would be at the pond in the swamp. I  thought incorrectly since there were no spreadwings at all and essentially no damsels of any kind. I photographed one male damsel and caught a glimpse of a second; that was it.

There were small numbers of large dragonflies (darners of some sort) cruising their territories above the pond and the meadow. However, as usual, I saw none perched.

Along the margins of the swamp (where meadow meets woods) I found a number (may a dozen total) of  autumn meadowhawks of both sexes.

In between odes, I discovered (and photographed) two different types of grasshoppers.

Lastly, I found two groups of asters in bloom… a sure sign that fall is on the way.

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Damselfly (ID needed)
Damselfly (ID needed)
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Autumn Meadowhawk (female)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Autumn Meadowhawk (male)
Grasshopper #1
Grasshopper #1
Grasshopper #2
Grasshopper #2
Aster
Aster

28 August 2012

Around the Garden Over the Weekend

Filed under: Amphibians,Odontates,Other Insects,Wildlife — Tags: , , , — Frank @ 8:34 AM

Both kids were here for a visit over the weekend; a rare treat for us. Thus, I did not get  time for any photographic “expeditions”. There were, however,  a number of interesting visitors to Joan’s garden and its immediate surroundings which I did manage to photograph.

The black swallowtail caterpillars (there are three or four of them) have been hanging around the garden for a week or more. They have more-or-less wiped out the dill (apparently well known as a favorite of theirs) and have moved on to the parsley.

The painted ladies were abundant on Saturday; sometimes I could see five or six from a single vantage point. They were actively nectaring on the flowers that encircle the garden.

The gray tree frog, which was sitting on the Swiss chard,  is a rare visitor; neither Joan nor I had ever seen one before. Apparently they are not particularly rare; see: http://www.wildlife.state.nh.us/Wildlife/Nongame/frogs/frog_graytreefrog.htm.

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Monarch
Monarch
Painted Lady #1
Painted Lady #1
Spreadwing sp? (female)
Spreadwing sp? (female)
Spreadwing sp? (female)
Spreadwing sp? (female)
Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Painted Lady #2
Painted Lady #2
Painted Lady #3
Painted Lady #3
Gray Tree Frog #1
Gray Tree Frog #1
Gray Tree Frog #2
Gray Tree Frog #2

Note the new method of displaying photographs in this post. Any opinions on this “style” compared to the usual one?


21 August 2012

Odes and Other Insects

Filed under: Odontates,Other Insects — Tags: , , — Frank @ 8:00 AM

On the weekend, I grabbed a bit of time to photograph; both around the yard and by the lake at camp. The number and variety of odes seemed small but they were around.

Yesterday morning the neighborhood kids arrived carrying a small stick bearing an interesting story… I guess that we have developed a reputation!!

While I was photographing (see the first image below), Joan was Googling and discovered that what the kids had discovered was a hornworm bearing cocoons of a braconid wasp. We all learned something!

Later in the day, I spent a couple of hours down at the beaver swamp at the back of our property; I had not been down there for more than a month.

Again, it seemed that the number and variety of odes were small. There were a few large darners cruising the meadow and small numbers of female spreadwings at the edge of the pond. The most common odes were meadowhawks at the margins of the swamp.

However, there were still  some interesting stories to capture and I came home wet and happy!


21 August 2011

Fox State Forest / Spoonwood Pond

Filed under: Amphibians,Odontates — Tags: , , , , — Frank @ 12:00 PM

Last Thursday we took a hike in Fox State Forest over in Hillsborough. Our goal was a black gum swamp which is a rare habitat. There was amazing little ode activity there, just a few meadowhawks. I’m not sure if it was the time (of day or year) or what!

When we got back to the parking area we decided that we still had a few miles left in us and we headed off to find the parking area nearest Mud Pond, a very scenic kettle pond despite its name. We had an adventure getting there (the parking area) in a embarrassingly roundabout way… the map was broken… well, out of date. anyway.. really!!!

The trail to Mud Pond passes through a meadow that had large numbers of odes and there were a number of very small toads along the trail in the woods.

Here are the photos:

On Friday, we decided to exercise the upper body. We tossed the kayaks on the truck and headed for Nubanusit Lake in Hancock. Our goal was not actually Nubanusit (a large windy, motorboat-ridden) body of water, but Spoonwood Pond, a smaller (but still good-sized) body of water which is very short portage upstream.

The boat traffic on Nubanusit was actually not bad and there is a ten mph speed limit. We also saw out first bald eagle as we headed for the dam and portage. Spoonwood Pond is delightful, it is surrounded by conservation land and only one house way up on a hillside in Nelson is visible from the water. We saw a few other kayaks and one canoe (loaded with a father, young boy and camping gear) headed back from one of four Harris Center‘s campsites around the lake.

It was a windy day so odes were mainly found in sheltered areas along the shore, but they were fairly abundant. The photography was not so good… sitting in a wave-bounced, wind-blown kayak does not make photographing small critters a high yield proposition!

We also saw a second adult bald eagle, a juvenile bald eagle and an osprey. Alas, all were too far off to photograph.

The clouds were nice though as thunderstorms moved in during the latter part of the afternoon. The storms were mostly to the east so we were able to end our trip with only a few sprinkles.


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