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Archive for May, 2019

Now that the foliage on the trees  is full, it is hard for me to monitor the status of the baby eagles in several Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On Wednesday, however, I detected some motion as I was peering at one of the nests and realized that it was the flapping of an eaglet’s wings. I managed to find a visual tunnel through which my view was mostly unobstructed and was able to capture this view of two eaglets. I was shocked to see how big they have grown and suspect that they soon will be flying.

The nest is probably too small to hold the adults along with the youngsters—what I would call “full nest” syndrome, i.e. the opposite of the more commonly known “empty-nest” syndrome. The second image shows one of the presumed parents perching on a higher branch of the tree in which the nest is located.

Bald Eagle eaglets

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this week I did a posting that described the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly as “unmistakable.” When it comes to damselflies, that title almost certainly belongs to the very distinctive Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata). There is no other damselfly in our area that has completely dark wings like the Ebony Jewelwing.

I spotted this handsome male Ebony Jewelwing on Monday at Occoquan Regional Park. How do I know it is a male? Well, the female has a conspicuous little white patch on her wings that is technically known as a “pseudostigma,” which this damselfly in lacking. Additionally, the little hoop-like appendage at the end of this damselfly indicates that it is a male.

These little damselflies like to spend a lot of time in the semi-darkness of shaded forest streams, like the location at which I photographed this Ebony Jewelwing.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Before we went out last week to hunt for Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi), fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford reminded me to wear gray-colored clothing, because Gray Petaltails are known to perch on people dressed this way, presumably because they resemble trees. Walter’s words proved to be prophetic and Gray Petaltails perched on me repeatedly that day.  Walter memorialized one such encounter in his posting last week You look like a tree to me! that included shots of one perched on my shoulder and one on my stomach.

It is generally pretty cool to have a dragonfly perch on you. It can be a little disconcerting, however, when a large dragonfly like a Gray Petaltail, which can be over three inches in length (75 mm), buzzes around your head. I couldn’t avoid flinching a couple of times that day when a dragonfly landed on me. Sometimes dragonflies are so incredibly cooperative that I am able to coax them to perch on my finger, as shown in a 2013 blog posting that I called Dragonfly Whisperer.

As the day wore on, Walter seemed disappointed that the dragonflies were not landing on him. As we were making some final checks before our departure, a Gray Petaltail finally made his wish come true and perched on him. Unlike the ones that landed on my front side, this one decided to land on his back side, on the untucked tail of his shirt. I am hoping that nobody was watching, because it would probably have looked a little strange for me to be pointing the long macro lens of my camera at that part of his anatomy.

Walter and I are good enough friends that he will laugh at my puns and attempts at humor, even when he is occasionally the butt of the joke. In fact, this is actually not the most embarrassing photo that I have taken of a dragonfly perching on Walter. In October 2013 I did a posting entitled Dragonflies mating on a calf that featured a dragonfly couple mating on his bare lower leg.

If you are really young, you may not remember Fred Astaire’s version of the song “Cheek to Cheek” that was the number one hit song of 1935, according to Wikipedia. Here is link to a YouTube clip of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers singing and dancing to that song.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Throughout the month of May I have struggled to identify the dragonflies and damselflies that I have photographed. So many of the species seem so similar that I have had to defer to experts for help. Over the years I have learned that the best way to get help on a Facebook forum is to misidentify a subject—some experts, who might not respond to a request for help, feel compelled to correct you and demonstrate their superior knowledge.

This past Friday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, it was nice to spot a familiar dragonfly species that was immediately identifiable—there is simply no other dragonfly in our area the looks like an Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). Even the name is helpful in drawing attention to the key identification feature, the distinctive amber wings.

These dragonflies are among the smallest ones in our area, but they tend to perch on low vegetation overhanging the water (especially males like this one), so they are relatively easy to spot. Although they tend to be a little skittish, if you are patient and persistent you can snag some shots that show the beautiful details of the Eastern Amberwing dragonfly.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was exploring a small creek in Prince William County, Virginia last week with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford when suddenly I spotted a dragonfly hanging almost vertically from a branch not far above the ground. It is always a good sign when a dragonfly is hanging vertically, because many of the uncommon species perch in this way. My initial thought was that it was a clubtail and I informed Walter, who was searching another part of the stream, that it had two yellow stripes on its thorax. He reminded me that most clubtails have two yellow stripes, but was interested enough to move closer to me.

Walter has a lot more experience with dragonflies than I do and he grew visibly excited when he looked at the dragonfly though his camera. It was not a clubtail at all, but a relatively uncommon Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua). Not only was it an Arrowhead Spiketail, it was a female and females tend to be harder to find than males. As I got closer, I could see the “spike” protruding from the tip of the abdomen, which showed it was a female, and the telltale arrow shaped markings all the way down the abdomen. We believe that this was the first documented sighting of an Arrowhead Spiketail in Virginia this year.

The dragonfly was unusually cooperative and both Walter and I were able to take lots of shots without disturbing her. In fact, she was still on the same perch when we left, though she was absent when we returned an hour or so later.

In situations like this, Walter and I like to do companion blog postings independently. Our photography styles and personal backgrounds color the way in which we produce our blog postings and they help to give our readers different perspectives on the same subjects and situations.

I have provided an assortment of images that show the female Arrowhead Spiketail from different distances and angles. I decided to do them in a gallery style—if you want to see them in a larger format slide show, which I recommend doing, just click on any one of them and then click the arrows. You probably notice that some of the images are intended to help you to identify the dragonfly and others are more “artsy.”

Be sure to check out Walter’s companion posting. I will include a link to it after I have published this article and have a chance to check out Walter’s posting.

UPDATE: Walter’s posting is wonderful. In addition to some excellent photos of the dragonfly, Walter provides a lot of contextual information about the location at which we found it and additional information about the species. Click here to see his posting.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Survival in the wild is challenging even when you are able-bodied. The difficulties are multiplied when you have a major deformity, like this Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi) that I spotted on Friday at Occoquan Regional Park.

I not sure what caused the sharp bend in the abdominal region of this dragonfly, but I observed that it was able to fly and to perch. Perhaps it is able to capture prey, but mating seems out of the question. I admire that the fact that it appears to be fighting for its survival.

For the sake of contrast, I am including a photo of another Gray Petaltail dragonfly that I observed the same day at the park.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the photos in recent postings have shown that damselflies are incredibly flexible. Normally they demonstrate this flexibility when mating with a partner.

Earlier this week I spotted this damselfly, which I believe is a male Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita), doing a solo gymnastics exhibition. The acrobatic damselfly repeatedly would swing its body backwards (second photo) and them end up with the tip of his abdomen between his legs (first photo). What was he doing?

According to my local dragonfly/damselfly expert Walter Sanford, damselflies are quite fastidious and will often spend time grooming themselves. That is what appears to be happening in these photos.

Who knew? It is not what I would have guessed—sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. 🙂

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled yesterday to see that two of my favorite damselfly species, the Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis) and the Variable Dancer (Argia fumipennis) have reappeared at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. It is definitely worth clicking on the images below in order to get a better look at the beautiful baby-blue color of the Blue-fronted Dancer and the spectacular purple of the Variable Dancer.

Blue-fronted Dancer

Variable Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to photograph dragonflies and damselflies when they are perched, but it is even more exciting to capture them in action. Now you may be wondering what kind of action I can possibly observe  and photograph. Dragonflies and damselflies seem to have two major biological imperatives—eating and mating. This posting focuses on the latter.

I was thrilled this week in Prince William County, Virginia to observe a new species of damselfly—the beautiful Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum). Like many damselflies, the male Aurora Damsel has a black and blue coloration, but as an added bonus the male and female both have a bright yellow patch on the sides of their thoraxes (the “chest” area).

The first image shows the female, on the left, and the male in what is known as the “tandem” position. If you look carefully, you can see the yellow patched on both of their bodies. Often this position is a prelude to mating, and that certainly was the case in this situation. The second image shows the couple in the mating position known as the “wheel,” which often resembles a sideward-facing heart.

When mating is completed, the couple remains attached and they fly together to the water in order for the female to deposit her eggs in a process known as “ovipositing.” In the final image, you see the female ovipositing in some vegetation floating on the surface of the water. You don’t see it here, but sometimes the male will push down so hard that the female ends up partially submerged in the water.

Aurora Damsel

Aurora Damsel

Aurora Damsel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was so shocked yesterday morning at Prince William Forest Park to spot a bright white squirrel that my brain froze for a moment—it simply could not process the information transmitted by my eyes. We have black squirrels in the Washington DC area, but I never realized that an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) could be white.

My first thought was that it might be an albino squirrel, but when I zoomed in, I could see that its eyes are dark. I did a little poking about on the internet and learned that there are white morphs of the gray squirrel that have a rare gene that causes them to be white.

In response to a photo I posted on Facebook, Sue, a retired biology professor who authors the wonderful Backyard Biology blog, reminded me of a post she had written in 2013 entitled “A white shade of tail” that includes a lot of great information on white squirrels.  Who knew, for example, that there are locations in the United States where white squirrels are relatively common? Be sure to check out that posting and other awesome postings on Sue’s site, where she freely shares her accumulated knowledge, current observations, and beautiful images. (She is special to me too because she was one of the first subscribers to this blog almost seven years ago.)

I suspected that the white squirrel would be skittish, so I took a series of shots from a distance. As I anticipated, when I took a step forward, the squirrel scampered away.

At first glance, I thought all my photos were the same, but when I looked more closely, I saw that they captured different facial expressions. I try to look at my subjects as individuals and not merely as representatives of their species. The cute little expressions in these images remind me of the individual personality of this unusual little creature.

white squirrel

white squirrel

white squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I like dragonflies a lot, as most of you know, so it is only natural that they like me too. Two Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) showed their affection yesterday by perching on me.

Thanks to my good friend Walter Sanford for taking these shots. Check out his blog for lots of photos and information on dragonflies and other nature topics.

walter sanford's photoblog

Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi) have a well-known preference for perching on gray or tan colored surfaces, including gray or tan colored clothing. Dressed appropriately, Mike Powell and I visited a hotspot for Gray Petaltail where we hoped to shoot some photographs of T. thoreyi perched on each other.

The first individual is a female, perched on the front of Mike Powell’s gray sweatshirt.

21 MAY 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (female)

The last individual is a male, perched on Mike Powell’s left shoulder.

21 MAY 2018 | Northern Virginia | Gray Petaltail (male)

I’m guessing the dragonflies were thinking, “Hey Mike, you look like a tree to me!” No offense intended, buddy. In fact, I think you should be flattered that these spectacular specimens befriended you!

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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This time of the year is always exciting for me as my favorite dragonfly species begin to emerge—it is like renewing a relationship with old friends after an extended absence. On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to spot my first Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) dragonflies of the season.

As dragonflies go, Calico Pennants are small, a little over an inch (25 mm) in length and very colorful. In addition to their bright red (male) and yellow (female) bodies, they have beautifully patterned wings. Like other pennant dragonflies, Calico Pennants like to perch at the very tip of flimsy grasses and other vegetation. That makes them fairly easy to spot, but tough to photograph as they flap in the slightest breeze like a pennant.

I spotted a number of male Calico Pennants during my visit, but only a single female, the one that is mating with a male in the final photo. For those of you with curiosity or prurient interest, the couple are hooked up in what is often referred to as the “wheel position.” Anatomically speaking, it is a bit confusing, but you have to admire the couple’s acrobatic flexibility. The first two photos show perched males, with the initial photo a back-lit image that shows wing details and the second one a more traditional pose that highlights the body coloration.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I was thrilled to get a glimpse of this impressive-looking Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I have seen Wild Turkeys at this refuge on numerous occasions, but this is one of the first images that I have been able to capture this spring.

I am always amazed when I come upon a male turkey displaying his feathers. I grew up in the suburbs of Boston and the only turkeys that I ever saw were those in the freezer at the supermarket, which did not look anything like this bird, and the cutout figures that we would pin to the wall to celebrate Thanksgiving. Somehow I always thought those cutouts were cartoonish caricatures—little did I know that wild turkeys actually look like those colorful figures.

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was practicing its yoga on Saturday while perched on the railing of a small bridge at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. In the first image you see the rarely observed giraffe pose—don’t try this at home or you many end up in traction. The second shot shows the green heron with its neck in a more relaxed position.

I am amazed by the amount of neck extension the green heron was able to achieve—I am willing to stick my neck out for others at times, but not to that extent.

Green Heron

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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During a visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was reminded of my favorite artist—Claude Monet. During the last thirty years of his life, water lilies (Nymphéas in French) were the main focus of his artistic production. One of the museums that I most love visiting is the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, because it houses eight massive water lily murals by Monet in two specially-built oval rooms. It is incredibly peaceful to just sit in one of those rooms, surrounded by those amazing paintings.

I was delighted and a little surprised yesterday to see that some water lilies were already in bloom. There was a lot of vegetation surrounding the pond in which the beautiful flowers were floating, so there were some limits to my ability to compose my shots. Still, I am pretty happy with the images that I was able to capture.

Perhaps you will find yourself as captivated by the water lilies as I was.

Water lily

Water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I first started getting serious about photography almost seven years ago, I often went shooting with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy is accomplished in many areas of photography, but she is particularly passionate about capturing the beauty of flowers with her trusty macro lens. I learned a lot about the art of photography by shooting flowers side by side with her and reviewing my images with her.

Yesterday she and I made a short visit to Green Spring Gardens, a historical, county-run garden not far from our neighborhood, and it was wonderful to see how many flowers were in bloom. I was especially attracted by the poppies that I saw growing in several areas of the gardens—the star-like centers of the poppies seemed to beckon me.

Here are a few photos of those wonderful poppies, which came in a surprising variety of colors.

purple poppy

white poppy

purple poppy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Did you know that not all spiders build webs? Some, like jumping spiders, rely on stealth and speed to capture unsuspecting prey. One of my favorite spiders, the Six-spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton), sits at the edge of the water with some of its long legs fully extended. When it senses vibrations of a potential prey on the surface of the water, a fishing spider can walk on the water to seize insects, vertebrates, tadpoles and occasionally small fish or even dive underwater up to 7.1 inches (18 cm), according to Wikipedia.

Here are a couple of images of a Six-spotted Fishing Spider that I spotted earlier this week at Prince William Forest Park. I really like the way that you can see most of the spiders eight eyes in these images and the way that the environment looks almost alien and other-worldly.

Past experience has shown me that viewers will be split in their reactions to these images—some will find them to be really cool and fascinating, while others will find them to be completely creepy. As you might suspect, I am in the former group.

Six-spotted Fishing spider

Six-spotted Fishing spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever folks of my generation catch sight of a spotted fawn, we invariably think of the animated Disney movie Bambi, a movie that is an integral part of  our collective memory of childhood. Perhaps we remember the friendship of Bambi, Thumper,  and Flower or the love of Bambi and Faline  or the shocking death of Bambi’s mother. Our memories of the movie may vary, but I think we all feel a soft spot in our hearts if we are lucky enough to catch sight of a fawn.

I spotted this little deer on Tuesday at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. It was down in a small valley at the edge of some heavy vegetation. I watched from a distance from my higher vantage point as the fawn poked about in the vegetation. At some point, the fawn became aware of my presence and looked straight at me through its soft brown eyes. The deer held its gaze for what seemed like a long time and it faded into the underbrush and the spell was broken.

Thanks, Bambi, for sharing those magical moments with me.

Bambi

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was quite startling to see the bright orange color on the head of this Broad-headed Skink (Plestiodon laticeps) yesterday at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. We do not have many lizards in our area and they all tend to blend in much better with their surroundings than this one did.

According to information from the Virginia Herpetological Society, adult males of this species are uniformly brown most of the year. However, during mating season in the spring the head of the males becomes enlarged and turns bright orange. The color of their heads gradually fade and the head is reduced in size the rest of the year.

Broad-headed Skink

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you like to hang out in the swamp? Swamps may not be the most hospitable place for humans, but they provide a wonderful environment for all kinds of photogenic creatures. For example, the bright yellow Prothontary Warbler that I featured yesterday likes to hang out in a wooded swamp, unlike most warblers that prefer trees in a drier environment.

As I was photographing that bird two weeks ago at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed some very large dragonflies flying around in the same area.  I recognized them as Swamp Darner dragonflies (Epiaeschna heros) and I was thrilled when one of the females decided to deposit some eggs in a fallen log not far from where I was standing observing the warbler. I had to bend down a bit, but essentially my feet stayed in the same spot.

It is definitely cool to be able to photograph two such colorful species from the same spot. The experience is a good reminder not to get so focused on your primary subject that you lose sight of what is happening around you. You never know when an equally good or even better subject may be at your feet, above your head, or to your right or left.

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A couple of weeks ago I spotted a colorful Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) building a nest in a nesting box at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The warbler made multiple trips to the nest carrying a variety of materials in its bill. Each time that it got ready to leave the box, the warbler would stick its head out and look around. Although I tried repeatedly to capture the bird in flight as it left the box, the last image was the only one that was partially successful.

I am finally catching up on a backlog of photos—normally I post my photos within a few days of shooting them.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s always wonderful to see large colorful butterflies, like this Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax) that I spotted last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I don’t know about you, but I find the spots to be a bit more orange than red and the body looks more grayish-blue than purple. Maybe the people responsible for naming the species say it in a different light. 🙂

Red-spotted Purple

Red-spotted Purple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was thrilled to get a shot of this pretty Red-banded Hairstreak butterfly (Calycopis cecrops) at Occoquan Regional Park. These tiny butterflies are only about an inch (25mm) in length, so you really need a macro lens to get a close-enough shot that reveals all of the butterfly’s wonderful colors and patterns. It is also nice to be able to see the little “tails” protruding from the hind wings that I believe are responsible for the name “hairstreak.”

 

Red-banded Hairstreak

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you remember the first blog post that you ever wrote? In my first blog posting on July 7, 2012, I featured a photo of a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). Every year since then whenever I see my first Blue Dashers of the season, I recall my excitement I experienced in being able to photograph that first dragonfly. I did not realize at that time how “addicted” I would get to photographing these beautiful little creatures.

I spotted this handsome male Blue Dasher this past Tuesday at the edge of a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Earlier this week I spotted this male Zabulon Skipper butterfly (Poanes zabulon) while I was exploring Occoquan Regional Park. I am not one hundred percent sure of my identification, given that there are hundreds of different species of skipper butterflies, but I am hoping that I am correct for the simple reason that I find the name “Zabulon” to be exceptionally cool. As some of you may know from the URL for my site, my middle initial is Q, which stands for Quentin, and I am irresistibly drawn to names that begin with infrequently used letters like Q, X, and Z.

In terms of the image itself, I really like the way that the warm orange tones of the butterfly stand out amidst the cooler shades of green in the foreground and in the background.

Zabulon Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you so used to the common beauty that surrounds you every day that you no longer see it? What does it take for you to stop and take notice and maybe even pull out a camera to photograph a subject?

Almost six years ago I read a blog posting by fellow photographer Lyle Krahn that talked of a concept called “stopping power” and that posting has stuck with me to this day. Here’s a portion of that posting that describes the concept, “I think every beautiful scene has stopping power. That’s my term for the ability of a scene to make a person stop hiking or driving in order to pull out a camera and make images. Did you ever wonder what makes you stop? Do you ever hear the music?”

I try to pay attention to even the most common subjects and when it comes to dragonflies, that means the aptly named Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Common Whitetails are among the first dragonflies to appear in the spring and among the last to disappear in the autumn. You can find lots of Common Whitetails almost everywhere it seems.

On Tuesday at Occoquan Bay Regional Park I stopped and photographed some Common Whitetail dragonflies as I was searching for some more exotic dragonfly species. This early in the season the Common Whitetails seem to be hanging out at a distance from the water—later in the summer I tend to find them buzzing around ponds and swamps.

The first two shots below are of male Common Whitetails. Although mature males are white, when they are young they have brown bodies similar to those of females. However, males have different patterns on their wings and the second and third images show those differences and may help you to distinguish immature males from females.

So, what has “stopping power” for you? I encourage you to think about that question, to make an effort to lower your threshold, and to look for the uncommon beauty in common subjects.

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this male Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) while exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a relatively small park not far from where I live. The dragonfly was perched on some leafy vegetation overhanging the water and I almost fell into the pond while trying to frame the shot. Fortunately I achieved my desired result by hanging over the edge of the steep bank.

If you look at the end of the “tail,” which technically is called the “abdomen,” you can see the enlarged section that gives rise to the term “clubtail.” Compared to the family of skimmers, which include most of the dragonflies that you probably see, like Blue Dashers and Common Whitetails, clubtails are relatively uncommon and it is always exciting for me to spot one.

I was particularly struck by this dragonfly’s brilliant blue eyes. For some reason I find blue eyes to be especially beautiful, irrespective of the species.

Lancet Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During my church retreat in Orkney Springs, Virginia this past weekend, I played hide-and-seek with a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). It repeatedly flew teasingly close to me, trying to entice me to chase it.  I took the bait and pursued the big dragonfly for quite some time as it flew in and out of the reeds.

It tried to hide by hanging from some vegetation by the tips of its tiny toes—the second photo shows my initial view of the hidden dragonfly. By moving to the side and crouching low, I was able to peer through the vegetation and eventually spot the dragonfly. Realizing that it was found, the dragonfly tilted its head toward me and smiled, as you can see in the first image shown below.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What does the world look like when viewed through the eyes of a young child? I imagine that it is just as magical as the colorful soap bubbles that six year old Isaac had me chasing this past weekend at a church retreat at Shrine Mont in Orkney Springs, VA. For a few carefree moments, I felt like a child again and was able to experience an sense of joy and freedom.

Sometimes I think we make our lives too complicated and buy into the notion that happiness comes through the acquisition of more “stuff.” This experience reminded me of the value of simple, childlike pleasures.

magical bubble

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I try to do a blog posting almost every day, but I spent this weekend unplugged from the internet at a church retreat in the mountains of Virginia, so I missed a couple of days. When I first started blogging, I was a bit compulsive about it and worried that I would lose all of my followers if I did not post every single day. Now I have a more balanced approach and realize that it is not the end of the world if the clock strikes midnight and I have not posted something new.

Today I am featuring some Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) that I spotted last week while exploring Occoquan Regional Park with my fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford. He and I returned to a location where we had spotted this species last year and were delighted to see that members of this species had emerged on schedule. Like many other species that emerge in the early spring, Brown Spiketails have a limited flight period and are found in small numbers at a limited number of locations.

Walter and I discovered that it is helpful to search for these dragonflies together. Often one of us will flush the dragonfly and the other person can observe the direction and the spot to which the dragonfly has relocated. This is really important because, as you can see from the photos, Brown Spiketails perch at an angle or hang vertically from vegetation that is often low to the ground, which makes it difficult to spot them when they are stationary.

Be sure to check out Walter’s posting today of our encounter with the Brown Spiketails. Although he and I were shooting together, we use different camera gear and approaches and our respective images give you different perspective on the same subjects. We also craft our blog postings independently and the style and content of our individual postings tends to reflect our personalities and backgrounds—I have a liberal arts background and Walter has a background in science.

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Shorebirds are always tough for me to identify—so many of them are similar in appearance. When I spotted this little bird on Wednesday at Occoquan Regional Park, I noticed that it was all alone. Half-jokingly, I thought to myself that maybe it is a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria). When I later checked my bird identification guide I was shocked to discover that it actually is a Solitary Sandpiper.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, however, the name of the Solitary Sandpiper is not completely accurate—”While not truly solitary, it does not migrate in large flocks the way other shorebirds do.” On the same website I also learned the interesting fact of the world’s 85 sandpiper species, only the Solitary Sandpiper and the Green Sandpiper of Eurasia routinely lay eggs in tree nests instead of on the ground.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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