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Archive for July, 2019

Last Thursday I spotted this beautiful Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) perched on a very photogenic plant at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love the curlicue curves of the plant that remind me of ornamental wrought iron.

The perch in the second and third images is not as interesting, but I thought that I would share those images because of the way that I was able to capture the sky and the clouds in the background. As you can probably tell, the vegetation was really high and I was shooting at an upwards angle.

 

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this pretty Viceroy butterfly (Limenitis archippus) last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The Viceroy has the same coloration as the Monarch, but has a line across its hind wings that is not present on the Monarchs. As I have learned more  about insects, I have been amazed to find how often insects have adapted to mimic other species that predators may find bad-tasting or even toxic.

Viceroy

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This seems to be the prime season for butterflies and I have been seeing lots of them this past week. I spotted this spectacular Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) as I was exploring Occoquan Regional Park last Thursday. It was attracted to a pink flowering plant that I think is some kind of milkweed—I am a whole lot more confident in identifying butterflies than plants.

I am happy with both shots, but must that I particularly like the background in the first image.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Birds seem to spend a lot of time grooming themselves and this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was no exception. I spotted it yesterday on a small island in the Potomac River, midway between Riverbend Park and Great Falls Park. I knew that Great Blue Herons had flexible necks, but I must admit that I had never before seen one contort itself into the position shown in the first photo below.

After it had adjusted its feathers, the heron stood for a while with its wings partially opened. The position looks really strange and I have been told that it is a way for herons to dissipate heat when the weather gets hot by allowing greater air circulation. In case you are curious, I took the second and third photos from exactly the same spot—for one of them I was standing and for the other I was crouching.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Calico Pennants (Celithemis elisa) have really distinctive markings and are among the prettiest dragonflies in our area. I spotted this female Calico Pennant on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is usually the case for pennant dragonflies, she was perched on the very tip of the vegetation. As a slight breeze began to blow, she seemed to be holding on tightly with her tiny feet.

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are one of the smallest dragonfly species where I live—less than one inch (25 mm) in length. I often see the amber-colored males buzzing around at the ponds that I visit, but it is rare for me to find a female.

According to the wonderful website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, female Eastern Amberwing dragonflies are often found far from the water in meadows where they share perches with hornet and other wasps. When they are threatened, these dragonflies will rhythmically move their wings up and down while pulsing their abdomens in imitation of a wasp in order. Their goal is to scare off potential predators that believe they are about to be stung.

I spotted this tiny beauty yesterday while I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was, in fact, far from the water when I photographed her.  She posed briefly, it seemed, when I raised my camera and seemed to smile a little.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of us associate butterflies with flowers, but they sometimes can be found on the sandy banks of creeks, like this cluster of male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted earlier this month in Prince William County, Virginia.

I went looking for information about this behavior and learned the following on the thoughtco.com website:

“Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. For those, butterflies visit puddles. By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That’s because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm. When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the spermatophore. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female’s eggs, increasing the couple’s chances of passing on their genes to another generation.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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