Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for April, 2019

On Monday I traveled to Patuxent Research Refuge in Laurel, Maryland with fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford to search for dragonflies. One of the highlights of the visit for me was spotting this female Swamp Darner dragonfly (Epiaeschna heros) as she was laying her eggs. As you can see from these two photos Swamp Darners lay their eggs directly into wet wood with their blade-like ovipositor, unlike many other dragonflies that lay their eggs onto the water.

Swamp Darners are among the largest dragonflies in our area, about 3.4 inches in length (86 mm) and it was impressive to watch this one flying about over a swampy area of the refuge.

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

What is your first thought when you see these three turtles together? Are they just friends or more than friends? The turtles seem to be pretty comfortable sharing a confined space and there is plenty of space in our minds for varied interpretations on the nature of their relationship. According to the old saying, “two’s a couple and three’s a crowd”—is that always true?

Whatever the case, the turtles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge have been definitely been enjoying our recent sunny days. My turtle identification skills are not very good, but I think these all may be Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta), though there is a chance that they might be Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans).

I love images like this one that allow viewers to use their creativity to interpret what they see and to generate in their minds their own mini-narrative of what is going on. Ménage à trois or just friends—you make the call.

red-eared sliders

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was a wonderful day for searching for dragonflies at Occoquan Regional Park and among my finds was this beautiful female Painted Skimmer (Libellula semifasciata). This is the first one of the season for this species, which is relatively common compared to most of the early spring species. The patterns on the wing make this species stand out and definitely help in identifying.

I love the way that the different colors on this dragonfly work so well together and give this dragonfly a refined and rather sophisticated look. It is an additional bonus that those colors are mirrored by the background colors in this image.

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When it comes to choosing a nesting site, Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seem to be opportunistic. Some lucky couples are able to snag pre-existing nesting sites that require only minor improvements, while others are forced to build entirely new nests.

This past Thursday I photographed a nest that is annually built on top of one of the duck hunting blinds in the waters off of the wildlife refuge. Earlier in the season, the ospreys would fly away as I walked by on a trail, but now that the trees are leafing out, the ospreys have a bit more privacy.

The nest in the second image is a new nest, built in the last couple of weeks and probably still under construction. It is adjacent to the location where the nest in the third shot used to be. For reasons that are not clear to me, that nesting platform has disappeared and only a part of the post remains. I believe that the new nest may have been built by  the couple that occupied that nesting platform earlier in the season.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When presented with a downward-facing flower, this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) was forced to choose an unusual angle of attack. Seeming defying gravity, this acrobatic butterfly hung upside down as it probed upwards earlier this week at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia.

If this were an Olympic competition, I would give him a 10 for both his technical skills and overall artistic impression.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Yesterday while I was exploring a stream in Northern Virginia looking for dragonflies, I came across an interesting little bird perched in a tree at the edge of the stream. I could not identify it on the spot and when I returned home and looked at my identification guide, I was still uncertain. Some experienced birders in a Facebook forum identified it as a Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla).

I think I bypassed that entry in my guide, assuming incorrectly that I was in the wrong geographic area. Strangely enough, the Louisiana Waterthrush is not even in the thrush section of the guide, where you find birds like American Robins—it is a warbler.

Louisiana Waterthrush

Louisiana Waterthrush

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I sometimes complain about the names given to species and how little they correspond to what I actually see in the field. That certainly was not the case yesterday when I spotted a Twin-spotted Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster maculata) along a creek in Northern Virginia. If you look closely at the image, ideally by double-clicking it, you will see the double row of spots on the dragonfly’s abdomen (the “tail”) and the long pointed ovipositor extending well beyond the end of the abdomen, the “spiketail.”

As I post photos of dragonflies, I realize that it is hard for readers to get a feel of the relative size of these beautiful creatures. The Uhler’s Sundragons that I have featured recently are about 1.7 inches in length (44 mm). A Twin-spotted Spiketail, by contrast, is much larger, about 2.8 inches in length (69 mm).

Both of these species are uncommon to rare in our area, primarily because of their specific habitat requirements—they require clean forest streams, which are not common in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and they have an early and short flight season of only a few weeks.

Twin-spotted Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »