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Archive for June, 2016

When I was first getting serious about my photography, I remember being told how important it was to isolate my subject in order to prompt the viewer to focus on what I thought was important. At this time of the year I take a lot of photos of insects and it is often a real challenge to isolate them from their backgrounds. As I was going through some images from this past weekend, I noted that I tried a couple of different approaches when photographing male Widow Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula luctuosa) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

In one case, I tried to isolate the dragonfly by shooting at an upwards angle, thereby eliminating the clutter of the vegetation. Of course, it helped that the dragonfly cooperated by perching at the tip of the stem. I really like the way that the colors and shapes of the background almost match those of the dragonfly.

Widow Skimmer

In a second case, the dragonfly was perched in the midst of the vegetation. I moved to a position so that my camera’s sensor was on a parallel plane to the dragonfly’s open wings and opened the aperture pretty wide. Normally I try to keep the aperture stopped down in an effort to get more parts of the dragonfly in focus. This time, however, the dragonfly was relatively flat and I was able to throw the background a bit out of focus without losing the details of the dragonfly. The contrast of the background colors with those of the dragonfly helps it to stand out, while retaining a sense of the environmental setting.

Widow Skimmer

There are lots of other ways to isolate subjects. Sometimes we have the luxury of being able to think about them, but often we are forced to make rapid decisions about shooting angles and camera settings that will have a huge impact on our final images.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Summer is definitely here. In the Washington D.C. area where I live, summer means endless stretches of hot, humid weather. Even the insects seem to move more slowly, like this Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) that I recently photographed as it languidly buzzed around the vegetation at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the juxtaposition of natural and man-made elements in this shot of a Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) perched recently on a piece of rebar sticking out of the water at Mulligan Pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

The colors and shape enhance the visual contrast between the two primary elements in this very graphic and simple composition. Photography doesn’t always have to be complicated to be effective—I need that reminder from time to time.

Slaty Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How much of the environment do you show when your primary subject is a bird? Normally I try to fill as much of the frame as possible with the bird through a combination of zooming and cropping.

Yesterday as I walking along Cameron Run, a suburban waterway that feeds into the Potomac River, I spooked a Great Blue Heron when I took a few steps in its direction. A smaller bird was also spooked and it flew to a rock in the middle of the stream. I was thrilled when I realized that it was a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), a bird species that I don’t see very often.

It would have been easier to get a shot if I had been carrying my long zoom lens, but instead I had my 180mm macro lens on my camera. Fearful that the bird would take flight again, I took some initial shots and then slowly moved forward. As I climbed over large rocks toward the water’s edge, I’d stop and take a few more shots. After I reached the water, I decided to change lenses and put on the 70-300mm lens that was in my camera bag and, of course, the night heron flew off as I was changing lenses.

When I was at the closest point, I was able to capture an image that, with a lot of cropping, shows some of the beautiful details of the heron, including its startlingly red eyes, but as I looked over my images, that was not my favorite one. My eyes kept returning to the landscape shot. in which the heron is only one element of a beautiful composition of rocks and water.

What do you think? I’m posting three different shots of the night heron with varying amounts of background context, so you can see how the scene changed as I zoomed with my feet (and cropped in post processing).

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted my first Banded Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis fasciata) of the season at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. I love the beautiful blue color of its body and its boldly patterned wings. The males of this species seem to like to show off a bit by perching on the very tip of vegetation, which is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because the dragonflies are easier to spot than those that perch low in the vegetation. It is a curse, however, because the slightest breeze causes the dragonflies to oscillate madly, making it tougher to get sharp shots of them.

Banded Pennant

 

Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted a very cool-looking, but unfamiliar dragonfly. I ended up posting an image in several Facebook groups in an effort to get an identification from some of the experts and was a little shocked to learn that it is a male Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox), a primarily southern species that may never before have been spotted in Fairfax County, the county where I live.

It looks like this species is spreading northward. According to a posting on an Ohio natural history blog, this dragonfly species was spotted for the first time in Ohio in 2014 and a photo was posted today of a teneral female Swift Setwing in Champaign County, Ohio.

Why are these dragonflies called “setwings?” According to the blog posting cited above, setwings “spend a lot of time perched, typically on the tip of branches and frequently with their wings angled down and forward and their abdomen slightly raised…(the) English name of “setwings” (came) from this posture, which reminded them of a sprinter at a track meet on the blocks in the “ready, set, go” position.”

Swift Setwing

Swift Setwing

Swift Setwing

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally I like to photograph dragonflies in their natural environment, but when an Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) chose to perch on a curved piece of rebar recently, the juxtaposition of the natural and man-made elements seemed to create a sense of harmony rather than one of dissonance.

I took this photo at a small man-made pond at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. Later in the summer I hope to see water lilies and lotus blossoms at the pond, but it is mostly devoid of vegetation right now, which many be why the dragonfly chose this unusual perch.

I have no idea why this piece of reinforcing steel is sticking out of the water, but its reddish-brown color and curved shape made it a good match for this tiny dragonfly.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the mating is done, damselflies have to decide where to deposit the eggs. Who decides? In many damselfly species, the male remains attached to the female as she deposits the eggs in vegetation or in the water, so I would assume that it is a joint decision of sorts.

When I observed this pair of dragonflies flying around together this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge, I decided to try to track them and see where they chose to land. Would they choose a solitary spot where they could be alone or would they choose to join their friends in a post-mating frenzy at a popular hangout? They chose the former, perhaps because the hangout had reached its maximum capacity.

These may be Slender Bluet damselflies (Enallagma traviatum), although I must confess that I don’t have great confidence in my identification of bluets, which all look pretty much the same to my untrained eye.

damselflies

damselflies

damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“I’m the king of the world.” This Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) is not exactly Leonardo DiCaprio, but it assumed his Titanic pose after it climbed to the tip of a milkweed plant this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia.

I have been fascinated by Red Milkweed Beetles since I first encountered them several years ago when I first started getting into macro photography. They are bright and colorful and relatively easy to find—whenever I spot a milkweed plant I immediately begin to search for these little red bugs.

There is something almost cartoonish about the appearance of the Red Milkweed Beetle, as though an artist started with the shape of a horse’s head, added the horns of a longhorn bull, and then made it a really bold color to make it stand out.

For a fleeting moment, this little beetle is the king of the world.

Red Milkweed Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The light falling on this Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus) yesterday was beautiful and dramatic at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland. I was focusing on the butterfly with my camera set for spot metering and I think that setting was largely responsible for creating the dark, underexposed background.

I was going to crop the image, but decided that I like the composition as it came out of the camera. My normal impulse is to zoom in or crop the shot so that my subject fills a larger part of the frame, but in this case I really like the large amount of negative space.

This shot reminds me a bit of a studio shot, the kind that would have required a number of carefully placed lights to create the same dramatic effect, not to mention a cooperative butterfly. Taking advantage of the natural lighting required a whole lot less effort. “More drama and less effort”—I like the sound of that as an approach to photography, which often seems so complicated.

Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you attracted to dark-eyed beauties? If so, you would have loved this Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) that flew directly toward me and hovered in mid-air while appearing to check me out this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

On his Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, dragonfly expert Kevin Munroe offered two explanations for this kind of behavior by Slaty Skimmer dragonflies. It is possible that these dragonflies are exceptionally curious, if not actually friendly. However, he suggested, it is more likely that this dragonfly was exhibiting territorial aggression toward a perceived intruder.

After a few seconds of staring at me, the dragonfly turned and flew away, ready to fight off other intruders and search for a potential mate.

Slaty Skimmer

Slaty Skimmer

 

Slaty Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you want a really lesson in patience, trying photographing dragonflies in flight. Yesterday I spent several hours trying to capture images of Prince Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca princeps) as they conducted long, low patrols over a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

The Prince Baskettails didn’t always follow the same flight paths and their changes in flight direction often were unpredictable, but they kept coming back, giving me lots of chances to attempt to get shots. With some species you can wait for the flying dragonflies to take a break and perch for a moment or two, but Prince Baskettails have amazing stamina—I have never seen one stationary.

There are a number of different approaches to capturing in-flight images. Some folks like to pre-focus on a zone and wait until the dragonfly comes into that area. I like to acquire my target with my naked eye as it approaches and then track it through the camera’s viewfinder for as long as I can. The biggest problem is acquiring focus.  My preferred lens for shooting dragonflies is my trusty Tamron 180mm macro lens. Its focal length lets me use it as both a telephoto and a macro lens, but it is somewhat slow in focusing, so I ended up with lots of blurry shots.

However, I was able to capture some shots that were in focus, including this image that shows the amazing eyes and beautiful markings of this spectacular dragonfly. It’s probably my imagination, but the dragonfly in the photo almost seemed to be glancing in my direction as it flew by and giving me a little smile.

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was looking over a whole range of the colorful flowers yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, I gradually realized that I was drawn most to those with simple shapes and relatively subdued colors, like the modest spiderwort (g. Tradescantia). There is a real beauty in its simplicity.

The bees seemed to like the spiderworts too, including one that I photographed with overfilled pollen sacs.

spiderwort

spiderwort

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For a change of pace I decided today to visit Green Spring Gardens, a historical county-run garden that always has lots of beautiful flowers. Some purple poppies were among my favorites. Several of them were in bloom, surrounded by a large number of seed pods. A honey bee and I were attracted to the same flower at the same time—the bee ignored me and busily went about its work.

Purple Poppy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is a Widow Skimmer? It sounds like a con artist who preys on rich older women, but it actually is a beautifully patterned dragonfly, like this juvenile male that I spotted recently at Huntley Meadows Park.
Why is it called a “widow?” According to bugguide.net, the species name of the Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) “means sorrowful or mournful, perhaps because the wings of both male and female seem to be draped in mourning crepe.” Only the male has white patches on its wings, so it’spretty easy to identify the dragonfly in the image as a male. Adult males have blue bodies and juvenile males and females have yellow and brown bodies.
Sometimes I wish that the identification of dragonfly species were this easy all of the time, but real life is generally much more complicated.
Widow Skimmer
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) is in bloom in multiple locations at Huntley Meadows Park and the butterflies are loving it, including this Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus) that I spotted this past Monday.
Generally I have trouble identifying little skipper butterflies and Wikipedia notes that there are more than 3500 species of skippers worldwide.  The Silver-spotted Skipper, though, is pretty easy to identify, given its distinctive colors and markings.
There are several species of milkweed in my favorite marshland park and I have noticed more Purple Milkweed this year than in the past. This is really good news, because Purple Milkweed is considered to S2 (“imperiled”) in the Commonwealth of Virginia, according to the 2016 plant list of the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation.
Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The sunlight shining through from behind helped to highlight the beautiful colors and patterns of this Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) at Huntley Meadows Park this past Monday. Although I usually try to get more even lighting in my shots, I really like the way that this directional lighting has created areas of brightness and shadow, which seems to add a bit of drama to the image.

Painted Skimmer
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first spotted a tiny Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) flying low over the water and flexing yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, I assumed that it was a female depositing eggs into the water. As I continued to watch (and try to get shots) a couple of things became clear—it was a male, not a female, and he was pointing his abdomen up into the air, not down into the water. What was he doing?

Apparently this is courting behavior and he was trying to impress a lady that he had spotted. There is a fascinating description of this process in a blog posting by the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Field station that I highly recommend. Here is an extract from that posting.

“A male flies low over the water, patrolling a territory about 20 feet wide of choice egg-laying turf (weedy aquatic sites) and defending it vigorously – darting out at intruders and displaying with those spectacular wings. When a female approaches, he follows and courts her, swaying back and forth, abdomen raised. If she’s agreeable, she follows him home. He hovers over his territory while she evaluates it, and if she likes it, she gets him along with it.”

As the third photo shows, his courting behavior was successful. After they mated, she deposited the eggs into the water and he returned to his perch, ready to chase off rivals and attract more female dragonflies. (In case you are not familiar with this dragonfly species, the Eastern Amberwing is one of the smallest dragonflies in the United States, with a body length of just under one inch (25 mm).

Eastern Amberwing

 

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Females are a real mystery to me, especially when it comes to dragonflies. At this time of the year I see a lot of different dragonflies and I have featured a number of the colorful males over the past few weeks. They are relatively easy to identify when they are mature—immature males, however, often have the same coloration as females.

The challenge with females, particularly a number of the members of the Skimmer family, is that they all look pretty much the same.  This past Friday I photographed this beautiful female dragonfly and I love the two-toned coloration of her eyes. After consulting with my local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford, I have concluded that she is probably a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), though she doesn’t have a spot of blue on her

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you want a real photography challenge, try to get shots of dragonflies while they are in flight. Dragonflies are so small and generally move so quickly that it’s tough for the camera’s focusing system to lock onto them. On some occasions, dragonflies will hover for a few second or will follow the same route repeatedly and it’s slightly easier in those situations to capture images of the dragonfly.

Yesterday I spotted a dragonfly flying low over a slow-moving stream with its legs dangling. I have previously seen Common Sanddragons (Progomphus obscurus) on the sandy banks of this stream, but I had never seen a sanddragon act this way before. Most of the times that I have managed to get shots of dragonflies in flight, they have their legs tucked in, presumably to make themselves more aerodynamic. Initially I thought the dragonfly was coming in for a landing, but it flew around for a little while with the dangling legs.

What was this dragonfly doing? I don’t know for sure, but I wonder if perhaps this is a female dragonfly who was looking for a place in the water to deposit her eggs. Some dragonfly species deposit their eggs in vegetation and others will do so in the water.

I took these shots with my 180mm macro lens using auto focus.  I am happy that they are more or less in focus and show some of the details of the dragonfly. I like too the way that I was able to capture the dragonfly’s shadow as it was cast onto the water.

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the speckled blue eyes of the male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans), like this spectacular specimen I spotted Monday at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love it when there are unique characteristics that help in identifying species. In the case of dragonflies, the Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea) is the only dragonfly in our area that has both black and white stigma on the leading edge of its wings. It was therefore relatively easy to identify this beautiful female dragonfly when I spotted it this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park and she cooperated by perching for a moment so that I could capture this image.

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I noted in a recent posting called Transformation, that I had not yet witnessed the remarkable metamorphosis of a dragonfly, I never suspected that only a few day later I would somehow manage to observe such a transformation of a Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) from start to finish at relatively close range.

Nymphs of this species of dragonfly crawl out of the water onto a sandy beach to begin the process and I knew of the bank of a stream where this had been taking place over the past week or so, having observed there newly emerged teneral dragonflies and the discarded exoskeletons known as exuviae. However, what were the chances that I would be able to be at the right location at precisely the right time? I figured the odds were about the same as winning the lottery.

Last Friday around noon I spotted several exuviae in the sand as I was walking along that section of the stream. I bent down, picked them up, and placed them in the palm of my hand in order to get a good look at them. Having spotted Unicorn Clubtails in this location along with Common Sanddragons, I wondered if these was a way to tell which species of dragonfly had emerged from a given exuvia. As I continued to walk, I suddenly became aware that something was crawling around in my hand—one of my presumed exuviae was in fact a live nymph.

I experienced an initial moment of shock, but realized pretty quickly that I needed to get the nymph back onto the sand. If I had been thinking a little more clearly, I might have chosen a spot that optimized my chances for capturing good images, but instead I selected a location where I could see another exuvia and gently placed the nymph there.

I placed my eye to the viewfinder of my camera and began to wait and to watch. Within a very short period of time I began to see signs of movement in the thorax area of the nymph, just behind the eyes, and before long the head of the dragonfly appeared as it began to pull its body out of the soon-to-be-discarded shell. It took about eight minutes for the body to be entirely free of the exoskeleton.

The dragonfly changed positions so that it could extend its abdomen and begin the process of extending its wings, which at this stage were merely nubs. Over the next twenty minutes or so, the wings and the abdomen grew larger and larger. My original shooting position was no longer optimal, so I ended up standing in the stream to get a view of what was happening. The water was about six to eight inches deep (15 to 20 cm) and my non-waterproof boots were quickly soaked. As I crouched to get as close as I could to the eye level of the dragonfly, I suddenly realized that the seat of my pants was getting wetter.

Twenty seven minutes after the process had started, the wings of the newly emerged dragonfly snapped open to the familiar position of dragonfly wings. At this moment they were very clear and obviously very fragile and I experienced a moment of concern for the vulnerable dragonfly when a slight wind kicked up. Fortunately, though, I had chosen a somewhat sheltered position and the dragonfly was safe. The wings continued to harden and six minutes later the dragonfly flew off to some nearby vegetation to begin its new life.

I took a lot of photos of the process of metamorphosis and it was hard to choose which ones to post. In the caption area of each of them,I have indicated the time at which the photo was taken. The transformation began at 12:19 and the dragonfly flew away at 12:52.

Fellow dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Walter Sanford witnessed the emergence of a Common Sanddragon at a nearby, but different location on 1 June and did a blog posting on it today. Be sure to check out his posting for some great photos and a detailed explanation of what is happening within the dragonfly’s body as it undergoes this dramatic metamorphosis.

Common Sanddragon

12:19 indications of first movement

Common Sanddragon

12:21 head starts to become visible

 

Common Sanddragon

12:22 dragonfly starts to pull out of shell

Common Sanddragon

12:22 body of dragonfly starts to be visible

Common Sanddragon

12:23 body significantly out of shell

Common Sanddragon

12:24 side view of dragonfly pulling body out of shell

Common Sanddragon

12:25 struggling to get abdomen out of shell

Common Sanddragon

12:27 body completely freed

Common Sanddragon

12:27 straightening the abdomen

Common Sanddragon

12:28 starting to extend wings

Common Sanddragon

12:29 continuing to extend wings

Common Sanddragon

12:31 wings extended

Common Sanddragon

12:40 wings reach final length

Common Sanddragon

12:48 wings fully opened

Common Sanddragon

12:52 close-up of newly emerged dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Spring is a time for chasing butterflies. This past week there seems to have been an explosion of Great Spangled Fritillary (Speyeria cybele) butterflies and I saw them at multiple locations yesterday as I trekked about in Huntley Meadows Park. The butterflies were very active, stopping for only short periods of time at flowers before moving on to the next one. My chasing behavior was impeded somewhat by the tall vegetation that has grown up in the fields, thanks to the large amount of rain that we had in May.

One of my favorite approaches with butterflies is to try to get at eye level with then and a few times yesterday I was able to get the kind of shot that I really like.

Great Spangled Fritillary

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Where do you go to find sanddragons? Although it sounds like a trick question, the correct response is the obvious one—you generally find Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) perched on the sandy bank of a stream. Sometimes Common Sanddragons will perch almost flat on the sand, but often they will raise their abdomens up, sometimes assuming the obelisk position, in which the tip of the abdomen is pointing almost straight up. Why do they do this? The most frequent explanation for this behavior that I have seen is that it is a method of thermoregulation. The dragonfly keeps from overheating by reducing the amount of its body that is directly exposed to the sun.

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There were lots of Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) foraging Friday at Huntley Meadows Park and I was thrilled when one of the stood still for a moment and I was able to snap off this shot. At times grackles appear to be almost pure black, but when the light is right, they shimmer with shades of green and pink.

Common Grackle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While exploring Meadowood Recreation Area in Lorton, VA last month with fellow photographer Walter Sanford, I observed this Giant Water Bug (Lethocerus americanus) perched in the vegetation at the edge of a small pond. The bug’s size and its pose remind me of a tree frog—it’s over 2 inches (5 cm) long.
I have since learned that these bugs are nicknamed “toe-biters” and am happy that I didn’t get too close to it.
Giant Water Bug
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you have a favorite dragonfly? One of my favorites is the Unicorn Clubtail (Arigomphus villosipes)—I love both its appearance and its name. Earlier this week, on the last day of May, I spent some time chasing an elusive unicorn at Huntley Meadows Park and captured a few photos of it. The second shot gives you a glimpse of the “horn” between the dragonfly’s eyes that is responsible for the first part of its name.

Unicorn Clubtail

Unicorn Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies spend most of their lives as nymphs in the water.  When the time is right, they crawl out of the water, break out of their exoskeletons, and turn into the colorful aerial acrobats that I love to watch and to photograph.

Although I have seen photos and videos of this amazing transformation, I have not yet witnessed the entire process in person. However, this past weekend I did spot some newly emerged Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) at Huntley Meadows Park. Nymphs of many dragonfly species attach themselves to vegetation as they undergo their metamorphosis, but Common Sanddragon nymphs merely crawl out of the water onto a sandy area at the edge of a stream.

After I had spotted the dragonflies, I scoured the sandy stream bank and managed to find some cast-off skins (exuviae). Looking at the exuvia in the photo, you can see how the nymph has broken through the shell just behind the eyes and crawled out. The stringy white things on the top of the exuvia are breathing tubes used by the nymphs.

My last image is a visual reminder of how complicated and delicate this transformation can be be. The dragonfly obviously had some kind of a problem in expanding its wings and it is doubtful that it was able to survive for very long.

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon exuvia

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Many damselfly species look so much alike that they are visually indistinguishable for me. I never have that problem, however, with the Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata)—its dark wings and emerald body set it apart from all other damselflies in my area.

I spotted this distinctive little beauty yesterday, the last day of May, at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia alongside one of the creeks in a remote area of the park. As I went through my photos I was drawn to this one, because of the wing positions.

When I showed a similar shot to my local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford, he immediately noticed the curve in the abdomen, something that I hadn’t even seen. I initially dismissed it as some kind of flexing by the damselfly, but when I noted the same curve in all of my images, I realized that it may be a deformity, as Walter initially suggested. Fortunately, the damselfly appeared to be able to fly normally despite the curved abdomen.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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