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Archive for September, 2019

I was looking into the bright sun when I spotted this Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) feeding on a nearby flower. Normally that is not an ideal situation for photography and often renders the subject as a silhouette. However, I adjusted my camera settings and was able to capture the translucency of the butterfly’s wings and the shape and color of the vegetation showing through from behind the wings.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From  a distance I noticed a flash of yellow moving from a tree to a patch of flowers. The flight was too fast for a butterfly, and when I moved a bit closer I spotted, as I had suspected, an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Judging from its coloration, I think it may be a juvenile, though I must admit that after a summer of chasing insects, my bird identification skills are a little rusty. The goldfinch was somewhat skittish and uncooperative, but I was able to capture these two images that I decided to share them with you all.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have not seen as many Green Herons (Butorides virescens) this year as in previous years, so I was happy to spot one this past Tuesday during a quick trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia.

Green Herons are smaller and squatter than the more commonly seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Normally I see Green Herons at water’s edge, because their shorter legs do not allow them to wade into deeper water, and they are often partially hidden from view by vegetation. This Green Heron, though, had placed itself at the edge of a drainage system in the middle of a small pond, which is why I was able to get an unobstructed shot of this handsome bird.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I thought it was too late in the season for lotuses, so I was thrilled to see them at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens earlier this week in bloom, as seed pods. and most surprisingly as buds.

I am fascinated by lotuses in all of their stages. I love the three-dimensional quality of the flowers and the way that you can look into the center of them. Lotus seed pods are a little creepy—from certain angles they look like a cluster of eyeballs that follow you around. By contrast, I always feel a sense of calm when I am enjoying the simple beauty of the lotus buds.

lotus

lotus seed pods

lotus buds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes), a kind of robber fly has just about the coolest (and creepiest) name of any insect. I spotted this female Red-footed Cannibalfly last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you look very closely at the image, you can actually see some of its tiny red feet. However, this insect is not known for being cute—it is a particularly fierce predator that can take down much larger prey, reportedly including hummingbirds.

On a personal basis, I have a particular fondness for the Red-footed Cannibalfly. On 31 August 2013, I did a posting called simply Red-footed Cannibalfly. The posting had some decent photos and and some interesting information and had a modest degree of success, with a total of 44 likes.

Amazingly, though, the posting has been viewed 2530 times to date. Apparently when folks go searching with Google, Bing, or some other search engine, they come across my posting and are intrigued enough to view it. I know that search engine algorithms are closely-guarded secrets, but for this one particular topic, I seem to have broken the code. If you do a search for “red-footed cannibalfly,” you might see my name pop up on the first page of results—it’s a weird claim to fame, but life on the internet is often a mystery.

 

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was excited to spot this Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) during a short visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens with some friends. The hummingbird was feeding on some distant orange jewelweed flowers (Impatiens capensis) and I was using a macro lens at that moment, so I was especially thrilled when I managed to capture this image.

I do not see hummingbirds very often, so it really is a treat for me to see one in action. It is absolutely mesmerizing to watch these little birds frenetically flying among the flowers, stopping from time to time to sip the nectar from one of them. Tracking the moving hummingbird was definitely a challenge with my 180mm macro lens. Strangely enough, though, I probably had an easier time in doing so with this lens than if I had been using my much longer telephoto zoom lens—it can be tough trying to track, focus, and zoom simultaneously when handholding a long lens.

This image is a significant crop of the original image, but the detail holds up fairly well, all things considered. Does equipment matter? It matters to some extent, but you can often get decent results by simply taking the shots with whatever camera and lens that you have at hand.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you have a favorite insect? Although I like dragonflies a lot, my favorite insect is probably the rainbow-colored Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum). I was thrilled to spot this beauty on some colorful vegetation last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I remember well the sense of incredulity that I felt when I saw one of these insects for the very first time—I simply could not believe that the bright colors were real. The beautiful curling leaves hide the details of the katydid’s body a little, but add a wonderful artistic element to this image. If want to see the brilliant colors of a Handsome Meadow Katydid on full display, check out this link to a 2013 posting that I entitled Rainbow Grasshopper—it is one of my most popular posts to date with over 315 views.

The vivid colors of this katydid are sure to grab your attention, but you should also be sure to check out its eyes. I am still blown away every time that I see those amazing eyes that seem to be looking deeply into me.  Here’s looking at you, kid.

Handsome Meadow Katydid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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