Dramatic damselfly

I will often shoot the same subjects over and over again. Each photo opportunity offers the possibility of a difference setting, a different pose, and different lighting conditions. I guess that is why I like the excitement and unpredictability of nature photography versus the more controlled environment of studio photography.

Last week I captured this image of a female Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The single leaf on which the damselfly is perched makes for a simple composition that helps the subject to stand out, which is really important when the subject is so small. The sunlight helped to create a cool elongated shadow on the leaf that add additional visual interest to the shot. The minimal color palette works well too, I think.

Sometimes it is nice to have a little extra drama in our lives, even if it is only a dramatic damselfly.


Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Ready for migration

On Monday I spotted this freshly emerged female Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  It won’t be long before it will be time for her to migrate southward. Yes, some dragonflies actually migrate.

When I first started getting into dragonflies, it never struck me that dragonflies could travel long distances. I figured that they lived and died in a relatively confined geographic area. Although that may be true for some dragonfly species, that is not the case for the Common Green Darner. One of my favorite websites, Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, describes the amazing saga of this species in these words:

“They emerge in the Southeast and fly north, arriving here late March thru May. After their long flight, they mate, lay eggs and die. Their young emerge in July and August. Congregating in large swarms, this 2nd generation begins flying south in September. They lay eggs that fall, after arriving in their southern destinations, and die. When their young hatch in March, they fly back to Northern Virginia and it starts again – a two generation migration.”

Many of us have gotten used to using Global Positioning System (GPS) devices to help us navigate or use Google Maps. How do these dragonflies know where to go? How do they find a destination that they have never visited before? It boggles my mind and fills me with awe and wonder when I contemplate questions like these.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Eagles on a log

When I first spotted two small dark shapes in the the waters of Occoquan Bay, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. As I zoomed in and saw that it was two birds, I assumed that they were cormorants or some similar bird. When the birds changed position and the sun reflected off their white heads, I was shocked to realize that it was two adult Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a floating log.

The photo is a little deceptive because it makes it look like the foreground is a beach. The tide was fairly low when I took this shot and the shallower water was covered with some kind of floating debris—it was definitely not solid ground.

Why were the eagles on the log? I thought that maybe they were feeding, but when I scanned the log, I could not see any evidence of a fish. It looks to me like this is a couple, with the larger female on the left, that is involved in some kind of marital dispute. She seems to be telling her mate something and he seems to be a bit cowed and defensive.

What do you the conversation is about between these two eagles?

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Translucent swallowtail

I was looking into the bright sun when I spotted this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) feeding on a nearby flower. Normally that is not an ideal situation for photography and often renders the subject as a silhouette. However, I adjusted my camera settings and was able to capture the translucency of the butterfly’s wings and the shape and color of the vegetation showing through from behind the wings.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Goldfinch in September

From  a distance I noticed a flash of yellow moving from a tree to a patch of flowers. The flight was too fast for a butterfly, and when I moved a bit closer I spotted, as I had suspected, an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Judging from its coloration, I think it may be a juvenile, though I must admit that after a summer of chasing insects, my bird identification skills are a little rusty. The goldfinch was somewhat skittish and uncooperative, but I was able to capture these two images that I decided to share them with you all.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Green Heron in September

I have not seen as many Green Herons (Butorides virescens) this year as in previous years, so I was happy to spot one this past Tuesday during a quick trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia.

Green Herons are smaller and squatter than the more commonly seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Normally I see Green Herons at water’s edge, because their shorter legs do not allow them to wade into deeper water, and they are often partially hidden from view by vegetation. This Green Heron, though, had placed itself at the edge of a drainage system in the middle of a small pond, which is why I was able to get an unobstructed shot of this handsome bird.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Late season lotuses

I thought it was too late in the season for lotuses, so I was thrilled to see them at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens earlier this week in bloom, as seed pods. and most surprisingly as buds.

I am fascinated by lotuses in all of their stages. I love the three-dimensional quality of the flowers and the way that you can look into the center of them. Lotus seed pods are a little creepy—from certain angles they look like a cluster of eyeballs that follow you around. By contrast, I always feel a sense of calm when I am enjoying the simple beauty of the lotus buds.


lotus seed pods

lotus buds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.