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Archive for October, 2014

I’m not big on ghosts and goblins, so to celebrate Halloween I though I’d include a few recent images of spiders that I have not posted previously. Some of my readers may find certain spiders to be creepy and utterly appropriate for Halloween, though I tend to view as beautiful creatures, many of which are capable of creating beautiful web art.

Happy Halloween to all.

NOTE: If you click on any one of the images in the mosaic, you will be taken into slide show mode, where you will see larger versions of the images (when you are viewing the original posting).

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even from a distance it’s hard to miss the bright lapis blue eyes of a male Great Spreadwing damselfly (Archilestes grandis). Unlike many damselflies, which are tiny, this species, as its name suggests, is a big damselfly, about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in length (50-62mm). According to Bugguide.net, though, the bright yellow”racing” stripe, which occurs on both males and females, is the most easily seen distinguishing identification feature for this species.

I had never even heard of this beauty until the 11th of October, when fellow dragonfly hunter Walter Sanford blogged about his discovery of one at Huntley Meadows Park on the 9th of October. I had no idea if this was the only member of the species at the park or how long it would hang around and didn’t hold much hope of seeing one of these damselflies myself.

I was shocked and pleased on the 20th of October when I spotted Walter and this damselfly. Walter graciously ceded to me the prime spot for taking a close-up shot. A week later I returned to the same location and the Great Spreadwing was gone.

In past years I didn’t pay much attention to the timing and location of various dragonflies and damselflies—they were either present or they weren’t. This summer and fall, however, I’ve been learning how important the specific habitat and the time of year are for certain species and the window of opportunity to observe them opens and closes pretty quickly.

Consequently, I consider myself very fortunate that I was able to capture this little portrait of the Great Spreadwing damselfly.

 

Great Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s hard enough to find the stunningly beautiful Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly, but fellow photographer Walter Sanford set the bar higher this season by seeking to capture them against a backdrop of colorful autumn foliage. Check out his amazing results.

walter sanford's photoblog

This is Part 1 in a series of posts featuring photos of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) spotted while photowalking Huntley Meadows Park during Fall 2014. All individuals are males, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

One of my overarching goals this fall is to shoot pictures of my favorite species of dragonfly against a background of autumn foliage. The color and clarity of these photographs is enhanced by using an external flash unit to add “fill” light.

… the real secret of wildlife photography is fill flash. Fill flash is one of the key techniques for easily improving wildlife images. Electronic flash improves the color balance of the image, improves color saturation, fills in dark shadows with detail, adds a catch light to an animal’s eye, and may help increase sharpness.” Source Credit: Wildlife Fill Flash.

Please view full-size versions of the following photos in…

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As the days grow colder, I am trying to capture images of almost any insect that I can find.

I was particularly happy this weekend when I came across this little flower fly (also called a hoverfly or syrphid fly) on a beautiful reddish-purple leaf. The leaf made for a simple backdrop that lets you see some of the details of the fly’s body, including the incredible compound eyes and the antennae.

I was also pleased that the out-of-focus area behind the lead is a orange-red color that seems appropriate for this autumn season.

flower fly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of the other dragonflies are gone for the season, but the Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) will be around for quite some time, possibly even into December. Autumn Meadowhawks like to perch on the ground much of the time, but yesterday I was happy to capture one in what I consider to be its natural environment, perched among the colorful leaves of the autumn foliage.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The calendar indicates that we are well into autumn, but this metallic green sweat bee (genus Agapostemon) that I observed on Friday at Huntley Meadows Park was busily gathering pollen as though it were spring. With eyes that look like a mask, it looks like he decided to dress us as a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for Halloween.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Bee

Teenage Mutant Ninja Bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This re-posting is a bit of shameless self-promotion, but it is hard to describe how honored and thrilled I feel to be featured by Leanne Cole in a blog posting today. Leanne, who lives and works in Australia, is a wonderful photographer who spends a lot of time as a kind of photographic evangelist, sharing her passion for the art and practice of photography. She is constantly encouraging and teaching others, yet somehow seems to find time to explore new areas of her own photography, ranging from photographing the stars at night to investigating the close-up world of macro photography. Be sure to check out her incredible blog.

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The weather may be cooling, but things are still hopping at my local marshland park.

As I was walking through one of the back meadows last Friday, grasshoppers were hopping every which way as I approached them. Most of them settled back down into the grass and I couldn’t get a good look at them, much less a photo. Suddenly one grasshopper jumped up onto a plant and posed for a moment. I used my popup flash because I was shooting directly into the sun, and I was able to capture a good deal of detail of the insect’s body.

grass1_oct_blog

Shortly thereafter a katydid did the same, but chose to perch at a titled angle.  I had time for only a single shot and did not use flash, so you can see some of the light shining through from behind (though I did have to lighten the shadows in post-processing). I especially like the way in which the angles of the insect’s long antennae mirror the shapes of the branches of the plant. I am not sure of the specific identification of this insect, but suspect that it’s a katydid vice a grasshopper because of the extremely long antennae.

grass2_oct_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I watched the glorious sunset at my local marsh yesterday, I kept hoping that a V-shaped formation of geese would fly into the frame. I was happy to settle for this solitary Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) and an amazing pink-tinged sky.

sunset1_oct_blogsunset2a_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I recently had a chance to photograph a pair of mating Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflues with fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford. We decided to do separate blog postings to show our individual takes on these photographic subjects. Be sure to check out more of the awesome wildlife images on his blog, especially those of dragonflies and damselflies.

walter sanford's photoblog

I spotted a mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum) during a photowalk with Mike Powell at Huntley Meadows Park on 20 October 2014. I took a step or two toward the pair and they flew away. I followed the dragonflies to a nearby location where they stayed for quite a while.

I positioned myself so my line of sight was perpendicular to the dragonflies, with the pair back-lighted by the late-afternoon Sun; Mike took the other side. I was shooting photos with my superzoom camera and an external flash; Mike was shooting close-up photos with a DSLR and macro lens. The situation reminded of a familiar expression, “There are two sides to every story.” The following photos tell my side of this story.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (mating pair, in wheel)

The mating pair is shown “in wheel.”

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…

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Do you ever shoot the same subject at the same time with another photographer and compare the results afterwards? It is fascinating to see how the choice of equipment, individual shooting styles, and angle of view affect the results.

Recently I was walking at Huntley Meadows Park, the local marshland park where I take a lot of my nature photos, with fellow blogger and photographer Walter Sanford when he spotted a mating pair of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). Eventually they landed on the ground and Walter and I took up our shooting positions. He was seated on his Coleman folding camp stool facing the sun and I was crouching (and eventually sprawling flat on the ground) on the other side of the mating dragonflies, trying desperately not to cast a shadow on the action.

The dragonflies were surprisingly tolerant of us or were so caught up in the moment that they were oblivious to the outside world. We ended up shooting quite a few images during a lengthy session and couldn’t help but note the remarkable endurance of this couple. 

I started out in a position where I could capture both members of the couple (as you can see in the second photo), but then I started inching forward in an effort to see how close I could get to them, focusing my camera and my attention on the female. When I took the first photo below, I was pretty close to the minimum focusing distance of my Tamron 180mm macro lens, which is 1.54 feet (47cm). In case anyone is curious about the settings for that image, I was at ISO 400, f/13, and 1/20 of a second and used my pop-up flash.

There is no way that I can handhold this lens at 1/20 of a second, in part because it has no built-in image stabilization). It’s virtually impossible to use a tripod that close to the ground. So what I have started doing is using my camera bag as a kind of giant beanbag and resting my camera on the bag.

Walter took some shots of me in action and kindly agreed to let me use one of the resulting photos in this posting. He also circled in red the mating dragonflies to give you a better idea of how small our subjects were. In case you are wondering what the black object is that is underneath me, it’s my tripod bag—my photography mentor Cindy Dyer has influenced me to carry a tripod at almost all times.

In a final fashion note, I would like to point out that this is not the way that I usually wear a baseball cap. I turned the cap around in order to look through the viewfinder at this low angle. You will never catch me with my hat like that in public and I shudder every time I see a teenager with his hat tilted to the side or on backwards.

 

Blue-faced MeadowhaekBlue-faced MeadowhawkP1270731_Aperture-BFX_psda

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How can I show the beauty of the autumn foliage? As I was pondering that question, I glanced down into the waters of a small pond at my local marshland park and found my answer.

Impressionist autumn

The combination of the light, the reflections, and the ripples enveloped me in an impressionist world, where the forms were blurred, but recognizable. I love the art of Monet, and somehow the autumn reflections brought his works to mind.

Impressionist autumn

As i moved about, the scene would change, as different elements were reflected in the water.

Impressionist autumn

I’m often at a loss when trying to photograph landscapes—I am so used to focusing on the details of a subject that I have trouble seeing the big picture. Somehow it seemed easier when I concentrated my attention on the limited expanse of the water in the pond.

Impressionist autumn

Here in Northern Virginia, we usually don’t have the really vivid colors that I remember from my childhood days in New England, but the subdued colors are beautiful nonetheless. I find in these more restrained shades a kind of melancholic reminder that the days are gradually fading into winter.

Impressionist autumn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Fall foliage is great at this time of the year, but I am also finding beautiful colors as I walk deeper into the woods. I can’t identify these different fungi, but that doesn’t keep me from enjoying their beauty. I especially enjoy the rainbow shapes in the shades of autumn, with such a wide range of oranges and browns.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) lives at a small lake not far from where I live and periodically I try to photograph, but she continues to remain elusive.

Generally I try to photograph the kingfisher at one of her normal perches in a grove of trees across a narrow portion of the lake from where I am standing. It’s tough to isolate her against the backdrop of the trees, especially at this time of the year when the leaves are still on the trees, and often I only catch sight of her when she starts to fly.

Most of the shots in this posting are my attempts to capture her in flight. I am getting better at tracking the bird in the air and keeping her in focus, but it’s not easy to do as she flies in and out of the shadows and against varying backgrounds and she is somewhat hidden in these shots.

This past weekend, I decided to try to approach the grove of trees from the other side of the lake, where there is often a group of fishermen. I was fortunate that I was alone and I was able to make it relatively close to the grove of trees.  I was surprised to see that the kingfisher was on a low perch rather than high in the trees where I usually find her and I managed to squeeze off a few shots before she flew away. The first shot in this posting was from this new shooting position.

I plan to try this new approach again in the future and with a bit of luck, I may finally be able to get the kind of shot of this bird that I have been visualizing in my mind.

 

Belted Kingfisher

Belted KingfisherBelted KingfisherBelted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I slowly made my way through the tall grass on the lake shore, my eyes were focused on the low-hanging branches where I had seen a Belted Kingfisher earlier in the day. Suddenly the water exploded at my feet.

I was startled and so was the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) that scrambled into action and started moving across the surface of the water. The cormorant had apparently been resting or feeding at the water’s edge and had not heard me approach. It was interesting to see the cormorant move—it rose up a bit and seemed to walk across the water and then settled back into the water once it was a good distance away from me.

The action happened so quickly and in an unexpected location that I initially had trouble framing my shots. This is my favorite of the ones in which I managed to get the entire cormorant in the frame. I especially like the details that you can see on the wings. As I was working on the image, it was interesting to note that there are almost no colors in the shot, except for the bird’s bill. When I adjusted the hue and saturation, for example, almost nothing changed.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Friday I spotted one of my favorite spiders, the Bold Jumping Spider (Phidippus audax), in the reeds adjacent to the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. The spider was pretty active and jumped a couple of times, but I managed to get a shot that highlights its multiple eyes and colorful “fangs.”

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

 

Bold Jumping Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As their name suggests, Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear later in the year than most other dragonflies. This past weekend I spotted quite a number of mating pairs, including this couple that I captured in an acrobatic position worthy of the Cirque du Soleil. The dramatic lighting and colorful background added to the theatrical feel of the image, as all the elements worked together to focus our attention on the performance.

Autumn Meadowawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It has often been said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. I’m not sure what I can say about the soul of this Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon), but I recently had a chance to take a long, close look into one of its eyes.

As I was walking in my local marshland park last week, one of my fellow photographers pointed out the snake to me in the low vegetation. Most of the time that I see this species, it is in the water, where it is almost impossible for me to get a close-up shot. The snake started to move several times as I got closer and closer to it, but then it would stop, thinking perhaps that it would be invisible if it remained motionless.

Most of the time, my view to the snake was obscured by the vegetation, so I waited and tried to anticipate where it would move next, hoping that it would move to a more open area. Finally, I was able to get a relatively clear shot of its eye in a head-and-shoulders portrait, though, of course, snakes don’t really have shoulders.

Northern Watersnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I am trying to take a close-up shot of a dragonfly, I know that I have succeeded when I manage to capture some of the details of the ommatidia. What are ommatidia? Ommatidia are the up to 30,000 hexagonal facets that make up the incredible compound eyes of a dragonfly. For more information and a more scientific explanation, check out a posting entitled “Super-predators” that Sue did in June 2013 in her Backyard Biology blog.

Rather than think about science, today I would prefer to simply bask in the beauty of the blue-eyed Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I photographed yesterday as it perched on a fallen leaf at my favorite marshland park. The color of the dragonfly’s eyes completely captivate me.

As for the ommatidia, I’ve cropped a portion of the image and added it to the posting as a second image to make it even clearer what they look like. I chuckled a little when I examined the cropped image, because this dragonfly, like some others that I have photographed, has the sparsely distributed mustache and chin hairs that never fail to remind me of human teenagers who refuse to shave in a vain attempt to look older.

Blue-faced MeadowhawkBlue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this month, I was really happy to spot this Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus) on the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marshland park. These snakes spend most of the time in the trees and in heavy brush, so I rarely get to see one, despite their very distinctive color and overall appearance. The Virginia Herpetological Society claims that this is a docile species that will not bite, but just to be safe, I took the close-up shot from a good distance away, shooting at 300mm on my telephoto zoom lens.

Generally I like to photograph my wildlife subjects in a natural environment and the “wood” on this boardwalk isn’t even natural—it’s some kind of synthetic material. In this case, however, the neutral color of the background helps to focus viewers’ attention on the colors and textures and shape of the snake. In the final two images, in particular, I really like the contrast between the sinuous curves of the snake’s body and the hard, straight lines of the man-made objects.

Rough GreensnakeRough GreensnakeRough Greensnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you post photos of only one particular genre or type of subject? Do you feel that you have to be specialized as a photographer? Are you afraid to post a photo that might be viewed as a cliché or hackneyed image?

This past weekend I was catsitting for a photographer friend, Cindy Dyer, who has two male cats named Pixel and Lobo. As she tells the story, she wanted to name them Pixel and JPEG, but her husband refused to let her name the cat JPEG, so she settled on Lobo.

Since I was going to be spending some quality time with the cats, I decided to take along my camera and see if I could capture a few shots of them. I quickly learned that cats are not very cooperative subjects—you can’t get them to pose when and where and how you want. I suspect that most of the best shots of cats are taken when someone catches them doing something they were doing anyways.

It was gray and overcast the day that I tried to photograph the cats, so natural light was pretty limited in the townhouse where they live. The pop-up flash was not really an option, because it produced the animal equivalent of red-eye in the one shot I attempted. I cranked up the ISO to 1600 and shot almost wide open, but even so the shutter speeds were below 1/30 of a second and many shots were blurred. In retrospect, I probably should have chosen a different lens for the task. I used my 180mm macro lens and often couldn’t get enough distance to capture even the entire head. Needless to say, I had no trouble filling the frame with my subjects.

Eventually I got some images I liked of Pixel, the striped cat, and Lobo, the gray one. I posted these images to Facebook so that Cindy and her husband could view them from Texas, where they were attending a photo workshop. In doing so, I added to the deluge of cat photos on the internet.

One of my fellow nature photographers, Walter Sanford, responded to the images with the comment, “If you persist in posting cat photos, then I’ll have to recommend the Society of Amateur Wildlife Photographers revoke your membership and ban you for life!” I’m pretty sure he was kidding, but it prompted me to think about the questions with which I opened this posting.

For me, I am on a journey into photography and I want to be free to explore and to share the results of my exploration. I don’t want to overspecialize and I don’t want to feel constrained to posting only “perfect’ images. I have no fear in posting imperfect images and have to come to appreciate the creative power of what others might view as inferior images.

So here, at last, are my shots of Lobo and Pixel—embrace the cliché and feel free to post pictures of your cats.

Lobopixel_oct_web

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s migration time for Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) and last week one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, reported a small swarm of Green Darners at my local marshland park.

I was walking in an entirely different area of the park from Walter and was surprised to see Green Darners, which are easily recognized thanks to their coloration and distinctive bullseye on their heads, flying up from the ground as I approached them. Rather than fly off into the distance, which is most often the case when I happen to disturb a dragonfly, these dragonflies moved only a short distance and came to rest again on the ground.

I don’t yet have the ability to interpret the movements of dragonflies, but it seemed to me that these Green Darners were conserving energy, as though they were resting in the midst of a long journey. I tried to be as quiet and stealthy as I could and moved closer and closer to one Green Darner perched near some green moss that was almost a perfect match for the color of the forward portion of her body. Judging from her overall coloration, I think this is probably a female.

My subject was amazingly cooperative and I was able to get shots of this beautiful dragonfly from a number of different angles. Although I normally try to have backgrounds that are must less cluttered than those in these images, I don’t find them to be too distracting here and they do help to show how well this colorful dragonfly blended in with her environment.

Common Green DarnerCommon Green DarnerCommon Green DarnerCommon Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In between rain showers yesterday, I spotted this Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marshland. Unlike this photographer, most of the wildlife seemed to be taking shelter from the rain, so I was particularly excited when I caught sight of this caterpillar as I was trudging through the wet, calf-high vegetation.

Folklore says that the width of the brown band is an indicator of the severity of the upcoming winter. I can never remember whether a narrow band means a severe winter or the opposite, but Google came to the rescue again and indicated sources that say a narrow band means a colder winter. If that’s right, we may be in for a mild winter, given the size of the broad brown area on this caterpillar. Of course, there is no real scientific basis for this folklore, but it’s probably about as reliable as the weather forecasters in this area, who are notoriously bad in predicting the weather. They claim that we live in a complicated meteorological area.

When I was photographing this caterpillar, I noticed that it had a number of water drops on its “fur” and I was happy to see that I was able to capture them. There is something magical about those little globes of water and light.

Banded Woolly Bear caterpillar

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday was a beautiful day to cheer on the rowers of the DC Strokes Rowing Club as they competed at the 3.1 mile Occoquan Chase. The weather was pleasant and the leaves were starting to change colors, adding to the natural beauty of the Occoquan River, a tributary of the Potomac River just south of the District of Columbia.

The river was pretty wide and unfamiliar to me, so I hadn’t figured out a good vantage point for capturing the action. Eventually I ended up perching on a rock outcropping near the water’s edge. I was probably about six feet above the level of the river and I had to be careful not to lean too far forward, given that it was a straight drop down into the water.

One of my main goals was to capture some action shots in which each of DC Strokes rowers was recognizable. I am happy that I was able to accomplish that goal and got some shots of the four 8+ boats in action (eight rowers and a coxswain in each boat), although I was not able to capture the action of the boats with four rowers.

Occoquan Chase

DC Strokes Mens Novice 8+

Occoquan Chase

DC Strokes Womens 8+

Occoquan Chase

DC Strokes Mens 8+, Boat #349 (Pride)

DC Strokes Mens 8+, Boat #350

DC Strokes Mens 8+, Boat #350 (Oscar)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I think of mushrooms, I usually imagine tiny, pale specimens growing in dark places close to the ground. I was startled, therefore, when I encountered this big, bold bright orange mushroom in plain view. The color was so vivid that I spotted it from a long way off and couldn’t help thinking at first that it looked like a smashed pumpkin.

It didn’t take too much searching on the internet to find this mushroom—its scientific name is Laetiporus sulphureus, but it is commonly known as the Chicken of the Woods mushroom. There are lots of recipes available for this edible mushroom, which can be sautéed, deep fried, baked, and may be used in soups.

I’m a chicken, though; when it comes to eating questionable things and don’t think I’d ever eat a mushroom that I encountered in the wild. The beautiful colors of this mushroom include the shades that I associate with autumn, which lets me enjoy it with my eyes, even if I won’t be putting it in my mouth.

chicken2_blogchicken1_blogchicken3_blogchicken4_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Flowers and bees have a mutualistic relationship—the flower provides the nectar and the bee assists in pollination. Sometimes, though, bees will circumvent the process by drilling a hole in the side of the flower and gaining access to the nectar without touching the reproductive parts of the flower, a process sometimes called “nectar robbing.”

Last weekend, I encountered this bee, which looks to be a honeybee, repeatedly taking nectar from the side of a Salvia flower. In an earlier posting, I showed that it was a tight fit for a bumblebee to enter the flower from the front, but it nonetheless did its part in pollination. The honeybee apparently decided it was easier to take a shortcut and go directly to the nectar.

honey2_bloghoney1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It’s a gray and gloomy day with intermittent rain—I feed the need for some color. This little skipper butterfly was busily at work last week on some very colorful flowers and I was able to catch him in action with his proboscis extended.

I am not sure what kind of skipper this is (there are more than 3500 species of skippers worldwide), but it looks a little like one that a reader identified for me as a Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius). I must confess, though, that many skippers look very similar to me, so my identification is very tentative.

Capturing the butterfly with my macro lens was not too much of a problem, but I had a real problem in processing these shots because of some super bright highlights coming of the yellow flowers. I ended up darkening the highlights and desaturating the color in order to restore some detail to those flowers. I am not sure if I am happy with the results and might choose to process them differently another time. (The RAW images are still intact.)

skipper2_oct_blogskipper1_oct_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) may look ordinary, but it has extraordinary flying abilities that fully justify its name. It is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet and is found on all continents except for Europe and Antarctica and one was even recorded at over 20 thousand feet (6200 meters) in the Himalayas, according to Wikipedia. It is also the only dragonfly to be found on Easter Island in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

These dragonflies are in almost constant motion, so I was thrilled when I stumbled across a male Wandering Glider perched on a plant at my local marshland last weekend. There were a lot of Green Darners buzzing around too and this Wandering Glider may have been part of a migrating group that had stopped for a rest. According to an article at Odonata Central, Wandering Gliders drift with the wind for long distances (even over water) and are often encountered by ocean freighters. They mate in flight and feed on aerial plankton when flying long distances. (I never knew that there was such a thing as ‘aerial plankton.”)

I wondered why there are no Wondering Gliders in Europe and found one answer in Wikipedia. These dragonflies like to fly in moist winds and the extremely dry winds coming off of the Sahara Desert may have a barrier effect.

wandering_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After I have set my camera bag down to take some wildlife shots, I’ve learned from experience that I need to check it carefully for “hitchhikers,” like this little spider that climbed aboard last week while I was focusing on dragonflies.

spider1_bag_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The more I watch spiders, the more I am fascinated by them. I used to think that spiders extruded only a single kind of silk, but I have learned that many spiders have multiple spinneret glands that are used for producing different kinds of silk.

One of the most amazing kinds of silk is known as aciniform silk, according to Wikipedia, which is used to wrap up and immobilize prey. This silk looks like a long gauze bandage as it is extruded by the spider.

Last month, I watched as a large Black and Yellow Garden Orbweaver spider(Argiope aurantia) wrapped up a recently captured bee. I was amazed at how quickly it accomplished the mission, spinning the prey as it wound multiple layers of silk around it. Here are a couple of shot I took that show the spinnerets in action.

I loved the reaction of one of my friend to the first photo. He imagined the bee protesting being wrapped in bandages saying, “Hey, you’re not my doctor!”

Argiope aurantiaArgiope aurantia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s always great to spot a little Green Treefrog (Hyla cinera) in the reeds at my local marshland park, though they are often obscured by the vegetation and are tough to photograph.

I initially spotted this one on a large leaf, as shown in the second shot, shortly after I had mentioned to a fellow photographer how much I wanted to see one on one of these leaves. My wish came true.

As I was taking some shots, someone walked toward me on the boardwalk. I had to stop shooting, because of the vibrations of the approaching footsteps. As I anticipated, the passerby wanted to know what I was photographing and my efforts to point out the frog caused it to move.

Although I was initially a little irritated that the frog had jumped away, I quickly realized that it had not moved far and was in a more precarious and photogenic position. I had to work to shoot through the reeds, but ended up with a nice shot of this really cute frog.

Green Treefrog Green Treefrog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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