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Archive for June, 2019

Early Friday morning I spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Although the bird’s facial features were in the shadows, I was happy to be able to capture its distinctive hooked beak in this silhouetted view.

As many of you know, I try to find opportunities to capture nature images even when I am traveling. On Thursday I drove from Virginia to Massachusetts to attend a surprise 60th birthday party on Friday evening for one of my brothers. Although I was somewhat worn out from the drive, which took almost 12 hours thanks to numerous road construction projects and rush hour traffic in Boston, I was out on the trails of Horn Pond by 6:30 in the morning. In many ways immersing myself in nature helps to recharge my batteries as much as sleep does.

A few seconds after I spotted the cormorant, it sensed my presence and flew away. I was anticipating that it might do so and was able to capture this shot just as the bird was starting to take off.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Perhaps there are dragonflies with longer names than the Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus), but none of them immediately come to mind. Sometimes I will complain about the inaccurate names given to various species, but in this case the descriptors are accurate. Alas, when I spotted this dragonfly in a boggy area of Prince William County, Virginia last week, I couldn’t get close enough to capture those details very well.

The vegetation on which the dragonfly is perched is skunk cabbage, a plant that grows in the mucky confines of seeps and swamps. It is said that bruised leaves present a fragrance reminiscent of skunk, so I try to step carefully  whenever I am near any skunk cabbage.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Tuesday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I spotted this handsome male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa). Unlike some species that perch close to the ground and are hard to see, Calico Pennants perch on the uttermost tips of vegetation. Although they are visible, they are often hard to photograph, because their precarious perches start to sway at the slightest hint of a breeze.

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I spotted this small patch of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. True to its name, the Butterfly Weed had attracted several butterflies, which I think are Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos), as well as several metallic green sweat bees (genus Agapostemon). The insects seemed to love the plant’s nectar and the scene provided a visual feast for viewers like me.

butterfly weed

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although I love seeing my old familiar dragonfly friends, it is always exciting to observe new species. Last week while I was exploring in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, I spotted this dragonfly perched on a small tree. I really liked the pose and moved closer for some shots.

I initially thought it was a Needham’s Skimmer, a fairly common species in our area, but the more I looked at my photos afterwards on my computer screen, the more I began to note some differences in the colors and patterns on wings and the body. After consultations with some dragonfly experts on Facebook, I learned that it is a Yellow-sided Skimmer (Libellula flavida).

As far as I know, this is the first time that I have seen a Yellow-sided Skimmer. There is a possibility that I have unwittingly seen one in the past and dismissed it as “only” a common species.  I try not to do that, because this is not the first time that I have photographed something new without realizing until later that it was in fact new.

 

Yellow-sided Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) love to perch and wait for their prey to come by and then use their powerful back legs to snag that prey, which is often another dragonfly. Those legs are so long and ungainly, though, that Dragonhunters’ poses often seem awkward when they are perched—they remind me of teenage males who have undergone a recent growth spurt and haven’t gotten used to their longer limbs.

Last Friday as I was exploring a stream at Prince William Forest Park with fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, he spotted this female Dragonhunter perched at the edge of the water. I was walking toward him when I spotted the Dragonhunter on the rocks that I featured yesterday and was delayed in getting to see this dragonfly. Fortunately, she was relatively tolerant of our presence and remained in place long enough for me to get some shots.

All of the images that I captured show a side view of the Dragonhunter, because she was facing toward the water and I was trying not to get wet. Walter, however, wanted more of a frontal view  and waded into the water to get that shot. Check out today’s posting on his blog and you can compare the results of our different approaches.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonfly on the rocks? It sounds like a summertime beverage, but it accurately describes what I saw last Friday while exploring a stream in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I think it is a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus), but the unusual angle makes it tough to made a definitive determination of the species, because I am not able to see critical portions of the dragonfly’s anatomy.

In the past when I have spotted Dragonhunters, they have been perched on branches overhanging the water and that is where I expect to find them. This encounter is a good reminder for me to stay alert at all times—my subjects may not have read the identification guides about how they are supposed to behave.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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