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Archive for July, 2017

I love to watch bees and spotted this one recently at Green Spring Gardens. I was struck by the way it resembled a mountain climber (albeit with no ropes) as it hung upside-down from this shaggy flower—I have no idea how to effectively gather pollen from a flower like this one, but the bee seemed to be doing ok with its “tongue.”

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) are now in bloom at Huntley Meadows Park. In addition to being beautiful, these vivid red flowers attract butterflies, like this Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus) that I spotted this past weekend at the park.

Spicebush Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) are small and skittish and you probably don’t pay much attention to them—you might even think that they are merely moths. If you look closely, though, you’ll discover that they have beautiful, speckled green eyes.

I love the way that a macro lens reveals amazing details that are there, but that we never see or simply take for granted. I took these photos yesterday during a brief trip to Green Spring Gardens, a wonderful, county-run historic garden not far from where I live.

Cabbage White

 

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) must have been feeling tired or lazy yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park. Rather than going in through the opening in the trumpet vine flower and helping to pollinate it, she opted to drill in through the side of the flower to get to the nectar.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It looks like a massive amount of fluorescent Silly String has exploded onto parts of the marshland at Huntley Meadows Park, but I believe it is in reality a parasitic plant known as dodder. Early yesterday afternoon a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) found it to be so tasty that it was willing to ignore the people passing on the boardwalk less than ten feet away.

In taking this photo, I did something that I rarely do—I used the 150mm setting of my 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens. The deer was so close that I could capture only its head and shoulders, even with the lens at its widest setting.

 

deer and dodder

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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There is not denying that it is exciting to capture unusual moments, like a snake swallowing a catfish, or to photograph a new species, as I have done recently with dragonflies. For me, though, there is something equally satisfying about returning to a familiar location and observing ordinary subjects. It is a different kind of challenge to present the ordinary in an extraordinary way, in a way that makes people stop and realize that natural beauty surrounds them every single day.

Last week, butterflies were really active at Huntley Meadows Park.  When I am in a garden, it is easier for me to guess where a butterfly will fly next, but in the wild, butterfly behavior is a little more unpredictable. When I noticed that a stand of what looks to be some kind of thistle was beginning to open, I hoped that the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that was flying about would be attracted to it. Eventually it flew to the thistle and I was able to capture this image.

Spectacular? No, not really. Beautiful? I’d say so. The image works for me, because it has just enough stopping power to cause views to recall how beautiful ordinary butterflies can be, to rekindle the childhood memories of being excited by butterflies, and to remember how exciting it was abandon caution and simply and joyfully chase after butterflies.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I walked along a trail paralleling the Potomac River one morning last week, I noticed some movement near the water’s edge. Moving closer, I spotted some tiny frogs—they seemed to be only about an inch or so in size (25 mm). Many of them hopped away as I continued my approach, but one of them jumped onto a rock and posed for me.

I was able to capture a lot of details of this frog, but am having trouble identifying its species. I have a lot more experience identifying birds and insects—I am not a frogman. Despite my ineptitude at identification, I really like the photo and the way that the background seems to mirror the colors, patterns, and texture of this tiny frog.

frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Sanddragon on the rocks? No, it’s not a tropical summertime drink—it is simply a description of a dragonfly that I saw earlier this month in a somewhat unusual location.

Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) have been one of my favorite dragonfly species from the moment I first encountered them at Huntley Meadows Park a few years ago as I was exploring a remote area of the park. I almost literally stumbled upon them and didn’t really know what species they were at the time. I sent photos off to my local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford and he was able to identify them for me.

Since that time I have learned a lot more about the species, including the fact that they emerge on the sandy banks of streams. (Many other dragonfly nymphs attach themselves to vegetation growing out of the water and leave their discarded exoskeletons attached to the vegetation when they emerge.) Last year I even had the awesome experience of watching the emergence of a Common Sanddragon and documented it in series of images in a blog posting called Metamorphosis of a Dragonfly.

This year I have had an unusually hard time finding Common Sanddragons, because the creeks where I normally find them have had unusually high water levels, leaving all of the sandy areas underwater. Earlier this month while I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite locations for finding dragonflies, I decided to check out the creek that runs through the refuge. It is actually part of the same creek where I was used to finding sanddragons, but is further downstream.

I noticed that part of a sandbar was exposed, but I didn’t think that it would be suitable for sanddragons, because it was covered with small rocks. I decided to investigate it anyways and my persistence was rewarded when a male Common Sanddragon flew in and perched on one of the rocks.

Sanddragon on the rocks? It was definitely a refreshing experience for me on a hot summer day. Any ideas on the appropriate ingredients for a cocktail with that name?

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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What are Carolina Saddlebags? Luggage for horseback or motorcycle riding? No, Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) are a species of bright red dragonflies with reddish-brown blotches of color on their hindwings. Why aren’t they Carolina Blue in color? Obviously the folks who named the dragonfly were not fans of the University of North Carolina (UNC) basketball team. (According to Wikipedia, the use of the light blue color at UNC dates back to 1795.)

I first became aware of the Carolina Saddlebags yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge when a flash of red caught my eye. A dragonfly was patrolling over a section of the water and the adjacent grassy area. I tracked it visually and eventually realized it was a saddlebags dragonfly—those blotches of color stand out even when the dragonflies are flying. Most of the saddlebags dragonflies that we encounter in our area are Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), but I was pretty confident that my eyes were seeing the red of the relatively rarer Carolina Saddlebags. I tried to capture some in-flight shots, including the first one below, but eventually lost sight of the dragonfly.

Carolina Saddlebag dragonflies, according to the information on the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, are powerful fliers and are one of only a few species that routinely migrate hundreds of miles. Additionally, according to that same website, they rarely perch.  As I continued to walk around the small pond of the wildlife refuge, imagine my surprise when I came upon one that was perching.

I didn’t dare approach too closely initially and may well have been holding my breath when I took some preliminary shots. My caution proved to be justified, because the dragonfly flew away when I tried to move forward, even though I was approaching as slowly and as stealthily as I could. Either the dragonfly was skittish or its short rest break was over.

Carolina Saddlebags was not a species that I had seen before at this location and it was not really on my radar. Fortunately I was able to react quickly enough and was lucky enough to get some shots, including the in-flight one as the dragonfly was zooming past me. As I learned in the Boy Scouts, it is always good to be prepared.

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past week I was excited to see several Eastern Ringtail dragonflies (Erpetogomphus designatus) while exploring Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia. This species is relatively uncommon in our area and I had only encountered one once before at a location in Maryland. Fellow dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Walter Sanford had alerted me to the presence of these dragonflies at the park and their location, so I was fairly confident that I would be able to find some of them. (With wildlife photography there are few guarantees—you can never be sure how long a species will remain at a given location, particularly when it comes to insects like dragonflies that have a limited season.)

Well, I managed to find some Eastern Ringtails and was faced with the challenge of how to photograph them. The bad news was that this species likes to perch on the ground, but the good news was that the ground on which they chose to perch was uncluttered—it was a boat ramp made of some kind of aggregate concrete. The background of these shots is not natural, but it does allow you to see some of the beautiful details of this stunning dragonfly, especially their spectacular blue eyes.

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have known for a while that hummingbirds are attracted to trumpet vines, so I keep my eyes open whenever I pass a stand of them near the observation tower at Huntley Meadows Park. Yesterday morning I finally lucked out and spotted a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) in the midst of the trumpet vines (Campsis radicansand managed to capture these images, including one in which the hummingbird was resting for a few seconds on a branch before resuming her energetic activity.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t feature rabbits very often on this blog because I don’t see them very often. Actually that is not entirely accurate—I have a rabbit named Prime Rib who appears from time to time, but I don’t count him, because he does not live in wild and instead lives in a cage in my living room.

At Huntley Meadows Park,  where I do a lot of my wildlife photography, I rarely see rabbits. Perhaps the marshy and wooded habitat is less than ideal for the rabbits or perhaps the hawks are brutally efficient at keeping their numbers low. During some recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which has more open grassy areas, I’ve spotted numerous rabbits and decided to feature a couple of them today.

In a recent posting, I expressed my concern about possibly oversaturating my readers with dragonfly photos. In an exchange of comments, a faithful reader, Dan Antion, shared similar concerns about his photos of rabbits and squirrels and I warned him that I was going venture into his niche and post some rabbit photos. Dan is one of my favorite bloggers and I encourage everyone to check out his blog No Facilities for his humorous and insightful looks at the joys and frustrations of everyday life as well as some great photos, including images of the aforementioned squirrels and rabbits and his faithful dog Maddie.

This one is for you, Dan.

rabbit

rabbit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) that I was chasing at Riverbend Park flew into some vegetation, I thought that I had lost it. Suddenly and almost magically the butterfly’s shadow was revealed on a large leaf as it moved about. I was thrilled to be able to capture the swallowtail shadow as well as a small portion of the butterfly itself.

It’s usually best to shoot with the sun at your back, but it worked out well in this case for me to violate that “rule.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

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It may appear to be the Loch Ness monster, but I am pretty sure that it is “only” a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). I stumbled upon it yesterday while exploring Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Virginia just after it had caught a pretty good-sized catfish. It took a while to subdue the fish, but the snake eventually was able to swallow it.

I have seen snakes like this catch small fish before, but I was shocked to see the size of its catch this time. How does a snake subdue and immobilize a fish that big? Northern Water Snakes are not poisonous, though I have been told that their bite can be quite painful and that the snake injects an anti-coagulant into your system, so that you will bleed a lot. The snake swam around with the fish for quite some time, periodically rearing its head and part of its body out of the water. The snake’s mouth seemed to have a literal death grip on the fish.

I watched the action with a mixture of horror and fascination, frozen in place to avoid spooking the snake. The snake seemed to be adjusting the position of the fish, as I had seen herons do, and I wondered how it could possibly swallow the fish. Suddenly there was a lot of movement in the water, the snake’s body started to writhe, and the fish simply disappeared, except for a small piece of the tail still sticking out of the fish’s mouth.

I still don’t know exactly how the snake ingested the fish—one minute it was then and then in a blink of an eye it wasn’t. It seemed like some kind of magical legerdemain (which is probably the wrong term for a limbless creature), though I suspect that the snake has powerful muscles that enabled it to pull in the fish all at once.

There are signs in Riverbend Park warning folks not to swim in the Potomac River, probably because of the current. I think that I have found another reason to stay out of the water.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Green Herons (Butorides virescens) have so much personality packed into their small bodies. This one almost seemed to be smiling as it flew by me last weekend  at Huntley Meadows Park. Perhaps it was just my imagination running away with me.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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For wildlife photographers, I would argue, a successful image is most often the result of some combination of luck, skill, and equipment. We inhabit a world of tremendous uncertainty and have to be hypervigilant, never knowing when “the moment” will arrive when we will be forced to make a series of split-second decisions.

One of those moments arrived for me yesterday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. Although I was quite aware that there were bald eagles in the area, because some of the trails in the refuge near eagle nesting sites were closed, I was primarily chasing dragonflies and butterflies, so I had my 180mm macro lens mounted on my camera. I knew that I would be doing a lot of walking, so in order to minimize weight, I was not carrying my trusty (and heavy) 150-600mm zoom lens.

I was following a trail that ran parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay and was a little frustrated that the view was frequently obstructed by heavy vegetation. When I reached an opening in the vegetation I looked out at the water and suddenly a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) burst into view out of nowhere. The eagle was almost at eye level and seemed to be struggling a little to gain altitude. As I later was able to ascertain, it had just caught a fish.

The logical part of my brain might have told me that a 180mm lens is not long enough to capture an image of an eagle in flight, but think I was acting on an instinctive level at that moment and I was able to snap off some shots before the eagle disappeared out of sight. It took a while for the adrenaline to wear off and I didn’t know for sure if I had been able to capture the moment. It was only when I reviewed the images on my computer that I realized that I had gotten my best eagle shots ever.

As is the case with most of my bird images, I cropped the first image to bring the subject in a bit closer. However, I am also including an uncropped version of the same image. It boggles my mind to think that I filled up that much of the frame with an eagle in flight with a 180mm lens.

Luck was hugely important; skill played a role, though it was my quick reaction time that was critical; and equipment turned out to be less important that I would have anticipated.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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What in the world is that? That was my initial reaction when I spotted a mass of black, orange, and white fibers sitting atop a milkweed plant leaf. As I moved closer, I changed my mind and decided it was probably a cocoon. I was shocked when it started moving and I realized that it was a strange-looking caterpillar.

When it comes to finding insects, milkweed plants are one of my favorite locations. There are all kinds of bugs and butterflies that make their homes on these plants and I make a point to explore them whenever I find them growing. These particular milkweeds were growing in a wooded area of Wickford Park, a small park adjacent to Huntley Meadows Park, the marshland location where I shoot many of the photos featured in this blog.

After photographing the single caterpillar, I stumbled across a whole family of them devouring a leaf on a another milkweed plant. I didn’t know the species of the caterpillar, but it was easy to do a search on the internet, because I could identify the host plant. I learned that this is a Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar (Euchaetes egle), also known as a Milkweed Tussock Moth caterpillar.

 

Milkweed Tiger Moth caterpillar

Milkweed TIger Moth caterpillar

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Is it possible that I am sharing too many dragonfly images, that I am oversaturating the market and taxing the patience and tolerance of my readers? I realize that not everyone is as drawn as I am to these amazing little creatures and that some folks are repelled by insects of any variety or are simply not interested in them.

An old adage asserts that beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and to a certain extent I agree with that statement. However, I would counterargue that beauty is not entirely subjective, that there are cases in which the majority of people would agree that something is beautiful.

I somehow think that this might be the case for an image I captured this past Friday of a spectacular female Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) at Huntley Meadows Park. Most of the Halloween Pennants that I have photographed this year have been males, which tend to be more visible, since they are trying to attract females, so it was a treat to spot a female. In the dragonfly world, females usually are the ones that choose the partner for mating and they frequently remain in the treeline or in open fields until they are ready.

I had my 150-600mm lens mounted on my camera, because I was hoping that I might see a bald eagle or a hawk, so I was able to shoot this dragonfly from a distance without disturbing her. I focused manually and was able to capture some beautiful details of the dragonfly, such as the two-toned eyes and the long, two-toned legs. I love the organic shape and feel of the cool-looking perch that the dragonfly had chosen. The background dropped out of focus so much that it almost looks like a studio shot and draws the eyes of viewers to the subject.

When you first read the title, you might have scratched your head in puzzlement, because the color palette is more subdued than oversaturated. By now, it should be clear that I was not referring to the colors, but to the question of whether or not I am posting too many images of dragonflies. Fear not, not all of my postings will be about dragonflies, but we are in the prime period for dragonflies, so stay tuned for more images of these amazing aerial acrobats. When it comes to the quantity of my dragonfly images, I feel like some Southerners do about sugar in their sweet tea—you can never have too much of a good thing.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Painted Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula semifasciata) have distinctive patterns on their wings that make them fairly easy to identify. Unlike the pennant dragonflies that I have featured recently, Painted Skimmers have chunkier bodies and tend to perch lower down on the stems of the vegetation. I spotted this slightly damaged female Painted Skimmer yesterday as I was exploring some of the back areas of Huntley Meadows Park. There were a lot of blackberry bushes nearby with plenty of sharp thorns, so I wonder if they were responsible for the damage to the dragonfly’s wings—I drew blood a few times when I got too close to the thorns, but fortunately I am not missing a chunk of me.

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I spotted several young Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) this morning at Huntley Meadows Park, including these two who playfully posed for me. Actually, there were three young Wood Ducks grooming themselves on a long and one decided to jump into the water. After swimming around for a while, the duck in the water decided to dry its wings and I was able to capture the extended wings in this shot. In case you are curious, the third duck was just out of the frame to the right. Although it was well past the “golden hour,” the light was beautiful and I was happy to be able to capture a partial reflection of the duck with outstretched wings.

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Why do we like certain photos more than others? What makes a good image? These questions churn away in my brain every time that I have my camera in my hand and often even when my hands are empty. Sure, there are rules and guidelines and generally accepted norms, but often it comes down to personal, unexplainable preferences—I like what I like.

Last weekend I spent a lot of time observing Green Herons (Butorides virescens) at Huntley Meadows Park. I kept trying to capture action shots of the herons catching fish or flying through the air, but I pretty much came up empty-handed. Oh, I took a lot of shots and once I wade through them all there may be some decent images of the herons that I will choose to post, but none of those images really spoke to me during my initial review of the photos from that day.

I was drawn instead to some images from early in the day when a fellow photographer and I spotted a Green Heron in the trees in the distance. We were standing on a boardwalk, so there was only a limited freedom of movement to frame our shots. There was a lot of vegetation that partially obstructed our view of the heron. I searched in vain for a visual tunnel that afforded a clear view of the entire body of the heron. Still, the light was beautiful, so I kept shooting—when it comes to birds, expressions are so fleeting that it is best to shoot a lot of images.

I decided to post this shot and attempt to explain why. There are so many things that I like about this image that I am not really bothered by the leaves that blocked my view. What do I like? I love the tilted head as the heron looks to the sky and basks in the sun; I like the little head feathers that look like a cowlick; I really like the shapes and colors in the background; and I am happy that I was able to capture some details in the wing feathers.

Is it one of my best shots? No, it is not, but I choose to post images that I like and especially the ones that make me happy, like his image of a pensive, relaxed Green Heron in a tree.

green heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Like many guys, I have trouble remembering anniversaries, so it came as a surprise a few days ago when WordPress reminded me that it was the fifth anniversary of the launching of my blog. Five years old probably qualifies as middle age or maybe even old age for a blog.

I remember well how my photography mentor Cindy Dyer sat me down and virtually insisted that I start a blog to showcase and share the results of my growing interest in photography. I’ve captured thousands and thousand of images since that time and made close to 2400 postings on this blog. My confidence, awareness, and skills as a photographer have grown significantly. More importantly, though, this blog has helped me to gain a new voice as I have learned to use my words and photographs to express a creative part of myself that has been dormant most of my life.

I am very appreciative of the support, encouragement, and suggestions that so many readers have provided these last five years. Thanks to all of you—you have helped to sustain me during times when my energy and enthusiasm have waned.

My very first posting was an image of a perching dragonfly and was simply titled Blue Dasher dragonfly. If you look at that posting, you can see that my fascination with dragonflies is not a new phenomenon. It is altogether appropriate, therefore, that I “celebrate” with another dragonfly image.

Halloween Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis eponina) generally perch facing away from me. Although it gives me a good view of their spectacular wings, I like it better when I get a frontal view and can look straight into the dragonfly’s eyes. This weekend I found a cooperative subject while exploring Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, and was able to capture this image.

Halloween Pennant

Like this dragonfly, I am ready to spread my wings and fly, resting briefly before taking off again.  It’s a bit of a cliche, but from the blog’s inauguration the sub-title has always been, “My journey through photography.” Where will I go next? I honestly don’t know, but I definitely welcome fellow travelers to accompany me on my continuing journey of exploration.

Perhaps I will set my sights really high and point my camera, to use the famous words of Buzz Lightyear, “to infinity and beyond.” Come fly with me.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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I haven’t seen many hummingbirds this year, so I am always excited to spot one of their insect counterparts in action. Hummingbird Clearwing Moths (Hemaris thysbe) act a lot like hummingbirds, with the notable difference of gathering nectar with their long proboscises rather than with needle-like bills.

I photographed this moth yesterday  at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. As you can probably imagine, I had to take a lot of shots to get one in which the moth was in focus and had its wings in a relatively good position. These moths are really fast, keep moving in and out of the flowers, and are pretty small—about a wingspan of about an inch and a half  (4 cm).

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Brightly-colored flowers and butterflies—-what a wonderful combination for a summer’s day. I spotted these beauties this past weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia.

The first shot features a little skipper butterfly on a spectacular, orange-red coneflower. The other two shots highlight the beauty of an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in a patch of the more frequently observed purple coneflowers.

skipper on a coneflower

Eastern Tiger SwallowtailEastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As the breeze kicked up yesterday at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, this male Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) hung on tightly to his perch. From the angle at which I was shooting, though, it looked like he was participating in a pole vault competition.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As we move deeper into summer, I have been seeing fewer and fewer duck families at Huntley Meadows Park—maybe the ducklings have grown up or have succumbed to predators. Whatever the case, I was thrilled early yesterday morning to spot a Mama  Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) with five ducklings, relaxing and grooming themselves on a log in the water in one of the more remote areas of the park.

When they are first born, all of the ducklings seem to look the same to me, but gradually they seem to take on some of their adult markings. The duckling alone in the center, for example, seems to be acquiring some of the head markings of the adult Wood Duck, though he still lacks the spectacular colors of the adult male Wood Duck. (In case you don’t know what a male Wood Duck looks like, I am reprising below a photo from earlier this year of one sitting on a nesting box.)

wood duck

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Several folks have recently posted photos in Facebook of a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (Nyctanassa violacea) that they spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite marshland for photography, so I kept my eyes open today as I explored the park. I came up empty-handed for this particular bird, a species that I had never seen before, but as I was getting ready to leave, a helpful photographer led me to a spot where he had seen the bird earlier in the day.

Amazingly the bird was in the same general location and I was able to get several long-distance shots of the gangly little bird, which seems to be bigger than the Green Herons in the park, but smaller than the Great Blue Herons. As far as I know, nobody has seen an adult Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the park, so we don’t really know how this juvenile happens to be in this location.

Yellow-crowned Nigh-Heron

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) seemed alert but unafraid when they first sensed my presence early one recent morning at Huntley Meadows Park. I watched them graze for a while before they silently faded back into the tree line.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In the early morning hours at Huntley Meadows Park this past weekend, a tiny muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) silently swam to the shore and began to forage for food in the vegetation at the water’s edge. It was a peaceful moment, a perfect start to a beautiful day.

muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday as I was exploring at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge I came across one of my favorite insects, a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe). These spectacular insects act like a cross between a bee and a hummingbird, although they look more like a flying crayfish. They move really quickly, so I was thrilled to capture this image that gives a clear view of the moth’s transparent wings.

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

 

 

 

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Eastern Amberwing dragonflies (Perithemis tenera)  are tiny, less than an inch (20-25mm) in length, but they are distinctive and stunningly beautiful. According to information on the wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, Eastern Amberwings are the smallest dragonflies in our area and the second smallest in the United States—only Elfin Skimmers are smaller.

I spotted this perching male this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in the vegetation surrounding a small pond. I was happy to be close enough that I was able to capture so many of the details of the dragonfly, including its captivating eyes and segmented body.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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