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Archive for October, 2015

I never quite know what I will stumble upon when I wander about in remote areas of the woods, fields, and marshes of Huntley Meadows Park. This past weekend I spotted this skull, which I guess is that of a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus), a common species where I live. How did this deer meet its demise? Was it old age, disease, starvation, or a predator?

Somehow this simple image of a skull seems appropriate for Halloween Week. Happy Halloween in advance.

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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WARNING: This encounter did not turn out well for the frog. This past Saturday I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in the shallow water at the edge of a beaver pond at my favorite marshland. I watched and waited, knowing full well that a heron’s patience when fishing generally exceeds my own.

Suddenly the heron thrust its bill into the water with such force that it had to extend its wings for stability. Surely, I thought, the heron had just caught a massive fish.  When I caught a glimpse of the catch, however, I realized that it was not a fish—it was a frog. The heron’s grip on the frog looked to be a little problematic, for the heron had snagged the frog by its legs.

Now I realize that in some cultures, frog legs are considered to be a delicacy, but I was pretty confident that the heron was not going to settle for just the legs. The challenge for the heron was to reposition the frog without losing it. One added complication was that the frog appeared to be struggling, trying desperately to extricate itself from the heron’s tight grip.

Moving to the edge of the pond, the heron bent down and pinned the frog against the ground as it grasped the frog around its upper torso. Only then did the heron return to its original upright position, knowing that the frog’s fate was now sealed. With small movements of its head, the heron slowly repositioned the frog until it was in a heads-first position.

All of the sudden, the heron tilted its head back  and swallowed and the frog was gone so quickly that I was unable to capture its last moment.

Apparently the frog was just an appetizer, for I saw the heron catch a fish a short time later, but that may be the subject of a future post.

Great Blue Heron

The initial strike

Great Blue Heron

Hanging by the legs

Great Blue Heron

Grabbing the torso

Great Blue Heron

The beginning of the end

Great Blue Heron

Almost in position

Great Blue Heron

Ready for a big gulp

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cool and cloudy yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, but my spirits were brightened considerably when I saw three Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) soaring briefly over the park. It looked to be two adults and one juvenile, perhaps a family on a Saturday outing.

The eagles were pretty far away and I had my telephoto zoom lens extended as far as it could go as I attempted to track the flying eagles. Occasionally two of them or even all three would come into the frame for a split second, but then they would be soaring off into different parts of the sky.

I’m including an assortment of shots to give you a sense of the experience. I consider any day that I spot a Bald Eagle and get recognizable shots of it to be a wonderful day.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the damselfly species that I pursue are present in such limited numbers and in so well-defined areas that it is sometimes possible after time to recognize individual damselflies by their distinctive physical characteristics.

Earlier this month I was really excited when I spotted some Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis) after a tip from fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I visited the location where he had seen them a few times and was able to get some good photos, which I included in several blog postings.

My efforts, though, pale in comparison with Walter’s—he virtually staked out that location and came to know some of  the damselflies there so well that he gave them nicknames. In messages to me, Walter noted he had named two of his favorites “Mr. Magoo” and “Bendy Straw.”  Check out Walter’s blog posting today for some wonderful images of these two damselfly celebrities.

As I reviewed my images of Great Spreadwings, I noticed that one of them had a peculiar bend near the end of his abdomen. Could this possibly be “Bendy Straw?” Walter and I were never at that location at the same time, so it seemed unlikely that I had seen one of “his” damselflies. After I sent him a copy of the image, he confirmed that I had in fact photographed “Bendy Straw.”

Great Spreadwing damselfly

As I continued examining my images, another damselfly stood out, because he had only five legs. It looked like one of his back legs had been completely severed, leaving a small stump. How could something like this have happened? I am used to seeing dragonflies with tattered wings, but an injury like this seems to be of a completely different nature.

Great Spreadwing damselfly

I usually try to identify the species of my subjects, but both of these damselflies help to remind me that I am not photographing species—I am photographing individuals. Each of those individuals has distinctive characteristics and has its own life story.

Somehow that seems to be a useful reminder and gives me a sense of perspective about what I am doing as a nature photographer.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The large butterflies seem to be gone, but I continue to occasionally see smaller sulphur butterflies nectaring on late blooming flowers.

There are several different varieties of sulphur butterflies that look a bit alike, so I am not certain in identifying this butterfly. At first I thought that this might be a Pink-edged Sulphur (Colias interior), but the range maps suggest that we may not be in the correct geographic region for that species.

I think it is more likely that this is a Clouded Sulphur butterfly (Colias philodice). As for the flower, it looks to me to be some variety of aster.

The weather is definitely getting colder—I had to scrape frost off my car’s windshield earlier this week—so I don’t know how much longer I’ll be seeing these little beauties. Beauty so often is transitory; all we can do is enjoy it and appreciate it until it is gone.

Clouded Sulphur

Clouded Sulphur

Clouded Sulphur

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I arrived at the marsh in the early morning hours, it looked like the spiders had been busy all night preparing decorations for Halloween—there were spider webs everywhere.

The webs seemed to have been more hastily constructed than those of the orbweavers that I have observed recently and there did not appear to be any spiders in the center of these webs. What is the purpose of these webs if the spiders are not there to secure any prey that is caught in the web?

I can’t help but admire the amazing artistry of these fascinating little creatures as I examine the interlocking lines and curves of their incredible creations.

I’ve place these images in a mosaic collage—if you want to see larger versions of the images, just click on any one of them and you’ll move into a slide show mode that lets you scroll through them quickly.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A small flock of Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus) was active in the cattails at Huntley Meadows Park on Monday morning. I was happy to be able to capture some action shots of one of the females, which, as you can readily see, are not black and don’t have red wings.

It was a real treat for me to be able to get some shots of the female blackbirds at the top of the cattails. Most of the time, the females peck about at the base of the cattails and only the male blackbirds are visible at the tops. For whatever reason, the majority of the members of this small flock appeared to be females.

I didn’t think that this female blackbird was aware of my presence as she diligently searched for insects, but the stare that I captured in the final photo seemed to be conveying a message that she did not want me there. I backed off and left a short time later.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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