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Archive for July, 2019

I was thrilled on Tuesday to get a glimpse of several juvenile Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think that they are the eaglets that were born earlier this year and now it looks like they are almost fully grown. It will take a few more years, however, before they acquire the white feathers on their heads that make them look like they are bald.

The first eaglet was hanging out in the nest when I first spotted it, as you can see in the first shot. There is so much vegetation now that it is hard to see the nest, but I know that it is there. I wasn’t quite ready when the eagle took off so my second shot is a little blurry. I decided to included it, because it provides a pretty cool look at the feathers of this already majestic bird.

The final shot is of what I assume is one of the siblings of the eaglet in the first two shots. Based on a conversation that I had with one of the volunteers at the wildlife refuge, there may have been three eaglets at this nest this year (and two in a nest in another part of the refuge).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I spotted this Common Wood Nymph butterfly (Cercyonis pegala) at the edge of a wooded area as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although the colors of this butterfly are somewhat muted, I really like the distinctive yellow patch that makes it easy to identify.

When I first saw the butterfly, it was on the ground and initially I was disappointed when it flew up into a tree. Fortunately, it perched on a leaf that was at eye level and I was happy to be able to capture this image.

Common Wood Nymph

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Life can be tough and can wear you down if you are a prince, at least if you are a Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps). Last Saturday I spent a pretty good amount of time observing Prince Baskettails patrolling a pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

As I am wont to do, I tried to photograph them in flight and managed to get a few shots in focus. As I reviewed the images, I couldn’t help but notice that the wings of all of the dragonflies were worn down and/or damaged. I am used to seeing such damage with dragonflies that fly through thickets and heavy vegetation, but I was a little surprised to see it with dragonflies that seem to spend most of the time flying over open water.

As we move deeper into summer, I am certain to encounter more and more dragonflies with damaged wings. I am always amazed to see that such dragonflies are still capable of amazing aerial acrobatics despite their physical limitations—somehow they manage.

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Saturday I spotted this Pearl Crescent butterfly (Phyciodes tharos) on what looks to be a Black-eyed Susan flower (Rudbeckia hirta) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Initially the butterfly’s wings were open, which made for an ok shot. When the butterfly partially closed its wings, however, the light coming from the back helped to illuminate one wing like a stained glass window.

It is amazing how a slight change in the position of a subject can radically change the feel of an image—that is one of the reason why I like to shoot in short bursts, hoping to capture a variety of poses in a short period of time.

Pearl Crescent

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Normally a dragonfly’s abdomen is straight. Occasionally, though, I encounter one with an abdomen that has a noticeable curve, like this male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) that I spotted yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. (For those of you not familiar with dragonfly anatomy, the upper portion of the body is the thorax and the lower two-thirds is the abdomen.)

I suspect that the curvature was the result of a problem that occurred when the dragonfly was first emerging. It does not seem to have any effect on his ability to fly or to catch prey, but it might pose a problem when he attempts to mate.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Should I present a subject in landscape mode or portrait mode? That is a question I face frequently when I am composing photos initially and later when I am processing the images. Some subjects or scenes lend themselves naturally to one of the modes, but often it is not clear which one will be more effective. I remember reading somewhere that it is best to take shots from multiple angles, at varying distances, and using multiple modes and I try to follow that advice whenever I can.

This past week I encountered a large dragonfly as I was exploring a small creek in Prince William County, Virginia. The creek was mostly in the shadows and I was unable to identify the species of the dragonfly until it perched on a sun-lit tree. Then it was easy to determine that it was a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

The dragonfly was pretty cooperative and I was able to take multiple shots, two of which I have included in this posting. From an artistic perspective I particularly like the first image, which gives equal weight to the dragonfly and to the environmental elements. The second image draws your attention more to the details of the dragonfly and give greater emphasis to the texture of the tree.

Are you drawn more to one of the two images? If so, why? I know how I react to my own images and am always curious to hear what you think and/or feel about them.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) that prompted one of my readers, Molly Lin Dutina of Treasures in Plain Sight, to comment, “Spinyleg —sounds like something a child would be afraid of!” That photo, alas, did not give a very good view of the spiny legs.

This week, however, as I was exploring a creek in Prince William County, Virginia, I was fortunate to capture some images of a Black-shouldered Spinyleg that show off those fearsome spines. If you click on the image below and focus your attention on the back legs, you will see the long pointed spines that help the dragonfly hold on to prey.

Ouch! 

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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