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As I was walking along a trail last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I heard the cry of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) that sounded like it was really close. I looked up, reacted quickly, and managed to capture this sequence of shots.

In many ways I should not have been able to get these shots. I had the wrong lens on my camera. Instead of a long telephoto lens, I had my 180mm macro lens. My camera settings were more appropriate for a static portrait than for a moving subject. Fortunately I almost always have my camera set for continuous shooting, so I was able to fire off a quick burst and was pretty pleased with the results.

These images remind me of the importance of taking photos whenever and however you can. Conditions may not be optimal and your gear may not be perfectly suited to the task, but I think it is best not to worry about that when you find yourself presented with a photo opportunity—just shoot it with what you have.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Ménage à trois?

What do you think is going on when you see this cluster of Silvery Checkerspot butterflies (Chlosyne nycteis)? Perhaps you think that they all are feeding on something particularly tasty. If you look closely you will noticed that they are facing in different directions and you get the feeling that something else is going on.

I had the benefit of seeing the situation unfold in front of my eyes. A few moments earlier I spotted the mating couple that you see in the second image. I do not see mating butterflies very often so my attention was very much focused on them. Suddenly another butterfly burst on the scene and attempted to turn this into a ménage à trois. In the first image, the interloper is the one on the left.

I suspect that the third butterfly is a male rival and he is trying to steal the female away. He made attempts from several angles to break apart the couple, but was not successful and eventually gave up. I decided that the couple needed some privacy, so I too departed.

Pearl Crescent

Pearl Crescent

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Perching pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis) are voracious predators and I spotted this female pondhawk munching on another insect this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At this time of the year the vegetation has grown high in many of the locations that I visit and I am now seeing more dragonflies perching at eye level or even higher. This heightened perspective allows me to get some cool, uncluttered backgrounds, like the one in this image that reminds me of a watercolor painting.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Busy bee

With all of the hot weather we have been having recently, I have absolutely no desire to be as busy as a bee. I spotted this bee busily at work this past Tuesday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Temperatures in our area are forecast to rise to 100 degrees (38 degrees C) today and the high humidity will make it feel even more intolerable. I will probably spend most of the days indoors, but fortunately I have plenty of recent photos in reserve that I can process and post.

This image is the kind of simple shot that I really like. I remember my sense of wonder the first time I used a macro lens and I still feel excitement when I immerse myself in the details that a macro lens reveals.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Dragonflies perch in a lot of different ways. Some perch at the top of vegetation, some perch in the middle, and some, like this Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) like to perch low to the ground or, in this case, to the surface of the water. I don’t see Unicorn Clubtails very often, so I was excited to see this one on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in a marshy pond filled with lily pads.

I had two cameras with me when I encountered the dragonfly. The second image below shows the view from my DSLR with a 180mm macro lens. I really like the way that the shot gives you a sense of the environment and when I was processing the image I paid as much attention to the surroundings as I did to the dragonfly.

My Canon SX50 let me zoom in a lot closer to the dragonfly, as you can see in the first shot, and captured more details of the dragonfly. I like aspects of both images and think that together they provided complementary views of this wonderful dragonfly. You can’t really see it in these shots, but members of this species have a little protrusion in between their eyes, which prompted someone to name them “unicorns.”

 

Unicorn Clubtail

unicorn clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Eaglets in July

I was thrilled on Tuesday to get a glimpse of several juvenile Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think that they are the eaglets that were born earlier this year and now it looks like they are almost fully grown. It will take a few more years, however, before they acquire the white feathers on their heads that make them look like they are bald.

The first eaglet was hanging out in the nest when I first spotted it, as you can see in the first shot. There is so much vegetation now that it is hard to see the nest, but I know that it is there. I wasn’t quite ready when the eagle took off so my second shot is a little blurry. I decided to included it, because it provides a pretty cool look at the feathers of this already majestic bird.

The final shot is of what I assume is one of the siblings of the eaglet in the first two shots. Based on a conversation that I had with one of the volunteers at the wildlife refuge, there may have been three eaglets at this nest this year (and two in a nest in another part of the refuge).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Yesterday I spotted this Common Wood Nymph butterfly (Cercyonis pegala) at the edge of a wooded area as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although the colors of this butterfly are somewhat muted, I really like the distinctive yellow patch that makes it easy to identify.

When I first saw the butterfly, it was on the ground and initially I was disappointed when it flew up into a tree. Fortunately, it perched on a leaf that was at eye level and I was happy to be able to capture this image.

Common Wood Nymph

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.