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Archive for September, 2019

Warblers are migrating southward through my area at this time of the year. Although I can sometimes hear them, most often they stay hidden behind the foliage. I was happy therefore when I caught site of this Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum), one of our most common warblers, this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

When I initially spotted this little bird, it was feeding in the grass, as shown in the second image. The warbler was part of a small group and all of them appeared to be really skittish and took to the air when I was still a long way off. Fortunately one of them flew into a tree and paused momentarily, allowing me to get a mostly unobstructed shot of it.

Most of the warblers remain in our area for a short period of time, so I am never confident when or if I will see any of them. I guess that the best way to increase my odds is to spend more time outside with my camera at the ready.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) seemed to be grinning at me one morning this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Smiling is contagious, I have found.

I hope that your Sunday brings an equivalent smile to your face.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I do not know where the Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were hiding, but I don’t think that I spotted a single one all summer. All of the sudden they seem to be back and I have seen them repeatedly during my most recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

During most of my encounters, I have spotted them in the distance, pecking away at the side of the trail. Before I can get within camera range, they usually sense my presence and waddle into the undergrowth. I was fortunate, however, to capture a shot of this one turkey who had lingered in the open a bit longer than his compatriots.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I spotted this male Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) while exploring with fellow photographer and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford . This beauty was part of a swarm of dragonflies we observed that was probably preparing for migration.

As I processed these images I was struck by the wonderful range of colors on this dragonfly’s body. As its name suggests, a Common Green Darner has lots of green, but this one also has beautiful shades of blue and violet. I have included two images that may look very similar, but in fact were taken with two different cameras from the same spot.

In the first shot, I zoomed in close with my SX50 super zoom camera to try to capture as much detail as I could. I took the second shot with a fixed-focus lens. The heavy vegetation did not permit me to get any closer, so I tried to compose the image to include more of the environment.

Personally I like the second shot a bit more than the first—I prefer the additional “breathing space” around the subject and I think the second shot is a little sharper. Do you prefer one of them over the other?

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am blessed to live in an area in which Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are present throughout most of the year. During the summer, however, my encounters have been pretty infrequent, so I was excited to spot this one on Monday while visiting Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was looking for dragonflies that day and had a macro lens on my DSLR camera and I realized the eagle was too far away for me to capture a decent image.

It was precisely for situations like this that I also carry my Canon SX50 super-zoom camera. The resolution of this camera is not as good as that of my “big” camera, but it gives me a lot of reach. After I had zoomed in to take the first shot, I zoomed out and realized that there was a second bald eagle perched above the one I had just photographed. The second shot shows the relative positions of the two eagles.

I was hoping for better head positions for the two eagles, but they flew away shortly after I took the second shot. I have discovered that it is usually best to get a shot as early as possible in such encounters and then work to get a better shot. If I had waited for the “perfect” moment, I almost certainly would have come up empty-handed.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I was really happy to spot this male Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most dragonflies have clear wings and it is always special to see one with boldly patterned wings, like the Twelve-spotted Skimmer. This species is not particularly rare, but this is the first one that I have photographed this season.

Those of you who are mathematically inclined may wonder why this species is called “twelve-spotted” when there are clearly more than twelve spots. For the purposes of counting, however, only the dark spots matter and there are three on each wing. The female of the species also has twelve spots, but lacks the distinctive white spots of the male.

 

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although the astronomical calendar indicates that it is now autumn, the summer season continues for many dragonflies. Many of them are showing a lot of wear and tear, like this female Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans) with tattered wings that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

At this time of the year it is not uncommon to see dragonflies and butterflies with damaged wings, but this is one of the most extreme cases that I have ever witnessed. Amazingly, she was still able to fly.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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