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Archive for August, 2019

Really, an image of a horsefly? That sentence fragment was part of an internal dialogue that I had with myself when considering whether to post this image. I know that most people find flies to be fairly disgusting.  However, I was really taken with the details that I managed to capture when this enormous horsefly—it looked to be about 2 inches (50 mm) in length—perched in front of me earlier this week as I was resting alongside a rocky creek.

The fly’s eyes seem to have multiple colors and its body has several wonderful patterns. It is not all beauty, though, and I find those sharp points protruding from the face to be menacing, an impression enhanced by the enlarged shadow that cast by the fly.

I have to admit that I was fascinated by this giant horsefly and that fascination prompted me to post the photo despite my initial inhibitions. What do you think?

horsefly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was thrilled to spot this spectacular female American Rubyspot damselfly (Hetaerina americana) while exploring a creek in Fairfax County, Virginia with my good friend and fellow  dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford.  This species is found along streams and rivers and this in only the second time that I have ever seen American Rubyspots. The green and brown colors on the thorax (the “chest”) of this damselfly are incredible and I highly recommend you click on the images to get an even better look at the amazing details.

Signs are starting to appear that we are approaching the end of summer. Already I have noted that the number of dragonflies is dropping, though there still seem to be plenty of butterflies. It was therefore particularly gratifying to see this unfamiliar damselfly yesterday. The dragonfly season, though is far from over—there are some autumn dragonfly species that I have not yet seen.  Birds are starting to migrate through this area, so some may appear in this blog soon, but there should still be dragonfly photos for the next few months at least.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The only other time that I can remember a butterfly perching on me was when I was in an indoor enclosed butterfly garden. This time, though, it was out in the wild and I was a bit shocked when Walter told me that there was a butterfly on my head. Thanks to Walter Sanford, my friend and fellow dragonfly enthusiast, for capturing this encounter. Be sure to check out his blog for lots of wonderful images of dragonflies and other cool creatures.

walter sanford's photoblog

There’s a butterfly on your hat. A Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis astyanax).

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Red-spotted Purple butterfly

This comical butterfly-man union was observed during a photowalk with Michael Powell at Painted Turtle PondOccoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

16 AUG 2019 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Red-spotted Purple butterfly

The weather was extremely hot and humid. (Notice the Cumulus congestus clouds building in the background.) Both Mike and I were soaked with sweat as soon as we started our photowalk earlier the same day at another site. The butterfly was feeding upon mineral salts on Mike’s “Duck Dynasty” hat.

Copyright © 2019 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) are really common, but I enjoy photographing them anyways, like this grizzled male that I spotted earlier this week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The curling vines of the plant on which this dragonfly chose to perch add some additional visual interest to these photos.

I must confess that ordinary blue dragonflies have a special place in my heart, because my very first blog posting on July 7, 2012 featured a photo of a Blue Dasher, another common species. My photography skills and my knowledge about dragonflies have increased significantly since that time, though I am still quite proud of that initial photo that started me on this long journey into photography.

 

blue dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do spiders decide where to place their webs? Is there some special secret that is passed on from generation to generation about optimal web placement for capturing prey? I know that human fisherman and trappers look for specific conditions and wonder if it is the same with spiders.

Whatever the case, this Black and Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia) appears to have mastered her trapping skills and looks to have caught both a female Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) and what I think is some kind of female grasshopper. I am not really sure about the latter victim, but that is what I believe the green-colored object is in the image.

Often I see the webs of this kind of spider in fairly thick vegetation, but this web was hanging in mid-air about six feet high at the edge of a small pond last weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The murky grayness in the upper right portion of the image is the water of the pond. In the left hand side you can see some of the web strands that tenuously connected the web to some nearby vegetation. This spider would not have one any contests for the beauty of its web, but there is no arguing with its success in capturing prey.

argiope aurantia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this amazing looking caterpillar alongside a pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I have not yet been able to identify it, but I was really struck by the stunning blue dots and the prickly spikes that run the length of the caterpillar’s body. Often these types of spikes are an indication of a venomous stinging caterpillar, so I kept my distance as I was taking this shot. Click on the image if you want to get a closer look at the wonderful details of the caterpillar.

UPDATE: Several helpful folks have weighed in and have identified this as a Common Buckeye caterpillar (Junonia coenia). Thanks for the help.

caterpillar

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae) are small, plain, and common, yet I find a real beauty in their elegant simplicity, especially when I get a view of their speckled green eyes. I spotted this Cabbage White last weekend when I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As always, my biggest challenge was getting into a shooting position in which the butterfly’s body was on a single plane in order to get most of it in focus—in this case I more or less succeeded in doing so.

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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