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Posts Tagged ‘Unicorn Clubtail’

Unicorns in Northern Virginia? One of the coolest dragonflies at Huntley Meadows Park is the Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes), like this one that I spotted along a stream in a remote area of the park on Saturday morning. The U-shaped tip of the abdomen is quite distinctive and makes this dragonfly fairly easy to identify.

 

Unicorn Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The time drew near for our departure and I had pretty much given up hope of getting any good shots of dragonflies during a visit with some friends last Saturday to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia. There were several streams and ponds and I would occasionally see dragonflies flying around, but the planted areas of the garden prevented me from getting close to the water and the spots where the dragonflies were perching.

As I was crossing a small bridge that connected the boardwalk to the “shore,” a dragonfly suddenly flew up from the level of the water into a tree and perched on some relatively low-hanging leaves, about eight feet (243 cm) from the ground. I was able to track the dragonfly to its location and approached it slowly and cautiously.

The dragonfly was perching vertically and the first thing I noticed was that its wings were bright and shiny, suggesting that it had only recently emerged. My initial thought was that it was a Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes), because of the distinctive curved tip of the abdomen. When I got home, I looked at photos of Unicorn Clubtails and doubts began to creep into my mind about the identity of this dragonfly, because the colors seemed different from the ones depicted, which were more yellow than green. I posted a photo into a Facebook group and some experts confirmed that my initial instincts had been correct.

I took shots from several different angles, wishing that I was about a foot taller so that I would not have been shooting upwards at an angle. It turned out, though, that there was an advantage to shooting upwards, for I was able to get a pretty good view in the final image of the distinctive yellow “horn” between the dragonfly’s eyes that caused it to be named “unicorn.”

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn CLubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you have a favorite dragonfly? One of my favorites is the Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes)—I love both its appearance and its name. Earlier this week, on the last day of May, I spent some time chasing an elusive unicorn at Huntley Meadows Park and captured a few photos of it. The second shot gives you a glimpse of the “horn” between the dragonfly’s eyes that is responsible for the first part of its name.

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Unicorn Clubtail dragonflies (Arigomphus villosipes) have quickly become my favorite dragonflies this season. Their gorgeous turquoise eyes never fail to draw me in and their unusual clubtail and distinctive terminal appendages help to maintain my interest.

Unicorn Clubtails are a challenge to find and they are usually pretty skittish when you try to approach them. I have been fortunate enough to find a stream in my local marshland park where at least a couple of them can sometimes be found and patient enough to slowly search for them along the banks of the stream.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from this past Monday. I especially like the first one, in which the dragonfly seems to be cocking his head to the side and smiling at me. The second shot was taken from one side of the stream looking directly across at a Unicorn Clubtail that has assumed a defiant stance and looks to be ready to defend his territory. The final shot shows the dragonfly on a little sandy area at the edge of the stream, an area that he was sharing that day with a Common Sanddragon, a species that I will be featuring this blog sometime in the near future.

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you believe in unicorns? I spent part of yesterday chasing a flying unicorn, although in this case it was the Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes), not the one that looks like a horse.

Unicorn Clubtail

The Unicorn Clubtail is not a mythical creature, but I rarely see one—I am lucky if I manage to see a couple during an entire season of dragonfly watching. The u-shaped terminal appendage in the male Unicorn Clubtail is pretty distinctive and as soon as I saw this image on my computer screen, I knew that I had captured a unicorn.

When I first spotted this dragonfly, it was perched on a sandy area of the bank of a small stream. I mistakenly assumed that it was a Common Sanddragon, a somewhat similar species which is also part of the clubtail family (the members of this family have slim abdomens that end in an enlarged tip, i.e. the “clubtail”). When the dragonfly flew up into some vegetation that hung over the pond, I snapped off some photos as quickly as I could, because it is rare to get shots of these dragonflies with an unobstructed background.

One of my friends, Walter Sanford, a fellow photographer and blogger suggested to me earlier this spring that I use my Tamron 150-600mm lens, one that I use primarily for birds, to photograph dragonflies. I protested a bit, suggesting that I would not be able to capture the fine details of the dragonflies with the lens, which is reported to be a little soft at the long end.

There are some challenges, including the minimum focusing distance of 107.3 inches (2.7 m), which means I have to be a pretty good distance from my subject. However, shots like this one make me realize his advice was good—the extra reach helps me get shots that I might not be able to get otherwise, especially if I tried to move closer to take a shot with a shorter telephoto lens and risked spooking the dragonfly.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On a beautiful sunny day this past Monday I searched diligently for the first dragonflies of the spring at my local marshland park. I knew that it was probably too early for dragonflies, but somehow I hoped that the 65 degree temperatures (18 degrees C) would magically cause them to appear.

I traipsed through the mud and along the banks of several streams; I examined vernal pools where the frogs were already active; and I walked though fields where the dried-up vegetation was neck high. I looked and looked for half a day, but came up empty-handed.

Later in the week I was going over some photos from last June and came across this image of a Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes). There was something about the image that really appealed to me.

So here is a memory of the past, with hopes for an equally successful dragonfly hunting season as we move into spring.

Unicorn Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you believe in unicorns? I spent part of yesterday chasing a flying unicorn, although it was the Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes), not the one that looks like a horse.

Normally Unicorn Clubtails like to perch on flat surfaces, but this one chose to perch on a dead branch overlooking the muddy stream, allowing me to get a good look at it and a decent photograph.

Many people seem to like unicorns and rainbows. Now that I have captured a unicorn, I’m on the lookout for a rainbow–and it looks like it may rain later today.

unicorn1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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