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Archive for June, 2018

As I was exploring Riverbend Park yesterday, I looked out into the Potomac River and spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing on a small, rocky island in the middle of the river. Although I see Great Blue Herons pretty regularly, I invariably stop to observe them. This heron seemed to be particularly cheerful and appeared to have a smile of its face or maybe it was singing to greet the new day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Monday I was thrilled to get a shot of one of my favorite damselflies at Occoquan Regional Park, the beautifully colored Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea), a subspecies of the Variable Dancer damselfly (Argia fumipennis). I love the color combination of this tiny beauty, a spectacular shade of violet on its body and the wonderful blue accents. Sharp-eyed viewers may have noted that a photo of this same type of damselfly has been my banner image for quite some time.

Violet Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Biblical book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” and that is certainly the case with dragonflies. Some dragonfly species are with us for the entire summer, but other species can be seen for only days or weeks and then their season is over. Short flight seasons and specific habitat requirements combine to make some dragonfly species uncommon or even rare.

This past Monday I was happy to capture some more photos of one of those uncommon species, the Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi). Earlier this month I observed several of these gray and black beauties for the first time and I was thrilled to be able to take photos to document my sighting. That was the start of a familiar cycle for me—my momentary joy at documenting a new species was replaced by a desire to capture better images, ones that appeal to me artistically.

This may well be my last Gray Petaltail dragonfly sighting of the season, and that makes me a little sad, but other dragonflies will soon be coming onto the scene. So I’ll keep moving forward in search of my next subject, content to photograph familiar ones, but with eyes wide open as I scan my surroundings for new ones too—to everything there is a season.

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This shot from Monday is for Cindy Dyer, my photography mentor, who used to refer to me as her “grasshopper” and taught me some important lessons when I was just starting to get serious about my photography six years ago.

Folks of a certain age may recall that “grasshopper” was the nickname used by Master Po for his young student Kwai Chang Caine in the western martial arts television series Kung Fu in the 1970’s. The name is a reference to a wonderful scene in the pilot episode for the series in which the blind teacher helps to teach his new student that “seeing” requires more than the simple use of your eyes.

Here, from Wikipedia, is a snippet of dialogue with some of the wisdom of Master Po:

Master Po: Close your eyes. What do you hear?
Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.
Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?
Caine: No.
Po: Do you hear the grasshopper which is at your feet?
Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?
Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

In case you have never heard of the Kung Fu television series or want to relive a moment from your past, here is a link to a short YouTube video of the above-referenced scene.

As a nature photographer, I think a lot about “seeing” as I seek a closer connection with the natural world and so many of its inhabitants. My observations have caused me to conclude that the pace of the natural world is different from that of my everyday life and that I consequently have to slow down in order to be in synch with it.

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Carolina Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea carolina) bounce about as they fly, which makes them look a bit like butterflies as they move through the air. It is easy to spot their bright red bodies and prominent rear wing patches, but it is a challenge to photograph them, because they don’t perch very often.

I was fortunate on Monday to see one land high in a nearby tree and was able to capture this view of the underside of its wings. The vegetation was far enough away that it blurred out nicely, drawing the eye of viewers to this modest portrait of a beautiful little dragonfly.

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even from a distance it is easy to see that the eaglets in one of nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge are no longer babies. When I saw them this past weekend, one of them was still hanging around in the nest, but the other had ventured out to a higher limb. I am posting an image of each of the two eaglets as well as a shot that shows their relative positions. As you can see, there are now a lot of leaves on the trees and I suspect that most folks walking by on the trail are not even aware of the presence of the nest.

The little eagles are still mostly brown in color—it will take almost five years for them to acquire the white feathers on their heads and on their tails that we associate with adult Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We have been having so much rain this month that I have taken to carrying an umbrella with me much of the time, including when I am going out with my camera. It’s a challenge to take photos in the rain, because of the juggling required to hold a camera steady while holding an umbrella and also because there are fewer subjects to photograph—most creatures have the common sense to seek shelter when it is raining.

Here are a few photos from a walk I took this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. They are a different style than most of the photos that I post on this blog, but I really like the way they turned out.

In the first image an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) had a different way for handling the rain than the umbrella I was carrying—it simply pulled its legs and head inside of its shell. In the second image a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) decided to brave the rain to get a breath of fresh air while perched atop a nesting box. The final photo shows a hummingbird view of a trumpet vine flower, one of its favorites. Alas, no hummingbirds were flying in the rain.

Eastern Box Turtle

Tree Swallow

trumpet vine

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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