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Archive for November, 2015

Some folks might be surprised to learn that I continue to spot dragonflies, despite the cooler weather of late November. Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) are a particularly hardy species and in past years I have observed these tiny red beauties into December.

One of the challenges for the Autumn Meadowhawks is to warm up and I have noticed that they sometimes like to perch on one particular sign at Huntley Meadows Park, the county-run marshland park where I take many of my photos. The sign is angled to make it easier for viewers to read, making it perfect for a basking dragonfly.

In this image I was able to capture a favorite portion of the text on that sign and a cooperative Autumn Meadowhawk added a useful accent to the message. The last sentence sums up pretty well my view of nature and my aspiration during my visits to walk lightly.

walk lightly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’m still making my way through my photos from my recent encounter with a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes), trying to decide which ones I like most. What an unexpected pleasure it is to have so many shots from which to choose.

I am so thankful and feel blessed that I had the chance to observe the fox in the wild for a relatively extended period of time. For more info on the encounter, check out my initial posting Fox at water’s edge.

Here are a couple more of my initial favorite images from the shoot. Stay tuned for another possible posting if I decide that I simply have to share a few more images.

Red Fox

Red Fox

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I spotted a very small flock of what I think are Rusty Blackbirds at Huntley Meadows Park. Unlike the much more common Red-winged Blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus), Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus) like to forage in shallow pools of water at the edge of the woods, so they are often in the shadows

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species of birds. “The population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and scientists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause.”

At this non-breeding time of the year, the male and the female have similar coloration, with the male having a darker head and breast. I may have captured a male in the first photo and a female in the second or they may both be females, with the differences caused by changed lighting in the two images.

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am not particularly fond of mosquitoes and flies landing on me, but I love it when a colorful dragonfly chooses to do so. Autumn Meadowhawks are especially friendly in this regard and my friend Walter Sanford captured some fun images of these little red beauties that had landed on different parts of his body (and even included a few photos I took of him with his little friends). Check out his posting!

walter sanford's photoblog

The Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were especially “friendly” during a recent visit to Huntley Meadows Park, landing on me frequently as Michael Powell and I were searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis).

My Photos

The following individual is a male, perching on the leg of my Columbia convertible pants. Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m especially fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality. Like this guy, who I imagine is thinking “What are you looking at? That’s right pal, I’m perching on your pants!”

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on my leg (Columbia pants). 11 NOV 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The next photo shows two individuals perching on my pants, both females, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

Two Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. These individuals are females, perching on my leg (Columbia pants). 11 NOV 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The last individual is another female. I shot this photo…

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A couple of days ago I began a posting with the words “Redheads tend to be stunning, rare, and elusive” and I could easily have used those words to describe the Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) that I encountered yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

The fox appeared to be hunting at the edge of the water of one of the ponds in a remote part of the park. I was standing at the edge of the water on the other side of a beaver pond from the fox when it emerged from the vegetation and walked to the water. I don’t think the fox was ever aware of my presence. I tried to stay composed and motionless as I snapped away with my camera.

Initially I thought the fox was simply getting a drink of water, but it walked along the shore for a few minutes as though it were seeking prey. Eventually it faded back into the brush and the magical moments came to an end,

I’m still going through my photos, but here’s an initial favorite. I suspect there will be a follow-up posting or two, but I can’t contain my excitement about the encounter and the fact that I was able to capture some images.

fox

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I’ve never really paid that much attention to grasshoppers, but I am starting to discover that there is an amazing variety of them in my local area in a wide range of sizes, shapes, and colors.

It’s hard to know where to start in trying to identify them, so for now I am content with trying to photograph their beauty, which is a pretty big challenge by itself. Not surprisingly, grasshoppers tend to hang out in the grass and heavy vegetation where they are hard to spot and almost impossible to isolate. Sometimes, though, they’ll hop out of the cluttered area to a more exposed perch and that gives me a change to photograph them.

The two photos here give you an idea of the kind of shots towards which I am aiming. In the first image, I was determined to focus on the eye and it ended up as one of the few areas in focus. I like the effect, however, because there is something special about eye-to-eye contact. In the second shot, I positioned myself to get more of the body in focus. As is the case with so many of my macro shots, depth of field was a real challenge.

I suspect that grasshoppers will never quite rise to the level of dragonflies on my personal list of favorite subjects, but they are on my list now and I will probably stop more often in the future to photograph them.

grasshopper

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Redheads tend to be stunning, rare, and elusive and the Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at Huntley Meadows Park are no exception to that general rule. These relatively uncommon woodpeckers tend to spend their time high up in tall trees and it’s tough to even spot them. I was therefore thrilled on Monday when I caught a glimpse from a distance of this beautiful woodpecker and managed to capture a photo of it.

Red-headed Woodpecker

The photo shows the distinctive colors and pattern of the Red-headed Woodpecker pretty well. From a technical perspective, I’m happy that I was able to document the presence of this bird. From an artistic perspective, I’m a bit less satisfied with the shot. I hope that the Red-headed Woodpeckers hang around for the winter and that I can get some better shots.

The shots of the Red-headed Woodpecker were my final shots of the day. Interestingly enough, my first shots of the day were also of a woodpecker, a Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), a common species in my area. The woods were dark and full of shadows, but the sunlight was falling on one tree, illuminating an energetic little Downy Woodpecker.

Downy Woodpecker

I was able to get a sharper shot of this woodpecker and to manage the background better, producing an image that I actually like more than my shot of the Red-headed Woodpecker. I love the way that the areas of darkness and light provide a kind of natural vignette that draws the viewers’ eyes to the subject.

I realize that it often is tough for me to evaluate my own photos objectively, in part because I have trouble separating the emotions of the experience of shooting from the actual images themselves. It is exciting to see new or uncommon species and to get any kind of shot that I can use to help share those emotions with others.

In most cases, I have to use words to explain why a particular shot is meaningful to me. As I move forward in photography, I’d like to be able to eventually produce images more often that stand on their own artistically and technically, without any need for explanations.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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