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Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

Last Wednesday, 2 November, I took a walk along the Columbia River in Bastrop, Texas, not far from where I am staying, and was delighted to spot a number of different dragonflies. As I have found in the past, it is difficult to identify dragonflies (and birds) when I am outside of my home area. Sometimes the species are the same, but there may be regional variations. At other times, though, I have found species that are not present at all where I live.

The dragonfly in the first image looks like a female Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus), but I must admit that I am not very confident about that call. In the second, the dragonfly looks a bit like a female Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus). When it comes to the third dragonfly, I am not sure that I can even make a guess, other than the fact that it looks like some kind of skimmer.

It was really nice to extend my dragonfly season by traveling briefly to a warmer southern location. By early November, there will only a few dragonflies left in Northern Virginia when I return home next week.

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted on Tuesday to spot some damselflies along the edge of the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas. I believe that they are American Rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina americana), with a female in the first photo and males in the other two photos.

Normally I prefer natural perches vice manmade ones when photographing wildlife, but I really like the texture and color of the rusty corrugated drainage pipe on which the damselfly chose to perch for the final photo.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled yesterday afternoon to spot this Barred Owl (Strix varia) as I was walking on a trail along the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas, within walking distance of my friends’ house where I am staying. The owl  appeared to be busy eating something when I first spotted it, as you can see in the second photo below, and may have been a little distracted.

I am not at all certain what was in owl’s mouth. Any ideas?

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have arrived safely in Bastrop, Texas (just outside of Austin) for a family wedding after a long drive from Virginia that turned out to be 1560 miles (2510 km).

I don’t have any new photos to post, but thought I would feature an image of a female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I photographed a little over a week ago. I spotted this beautiful dragonfly at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was delighted to capture the shadow that the little dragonfly was casting on a colorful fallen leaf.

Thanks to all of you who responded to my recent request to subscribe to the YouTube channel of young UK-based wildlife photographer Toby Wood. He has now surpassed the required level of one thousand subscribers and his channel is now presumably eligible for monetization on YouTube.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Thursday I visited Shenandoah National Park with a friend and we drove a section of Skyline Drive to see the colorful fall foliage. I love the patchwork pattern of colors that we observed on the slopes of the  mountains. The predominant color seemed to be a bright rusty orange, with only small patches of bright yellow and red. In some directions, the sky was hazy, so the successive layers of mountains gradually faded out, as you can see in the final photo.

My blog posting schedule will be a little erratic during the next two to three weeks. I will be driving from Virginia to Texas for a wedding and don’t expect that I will be doing any posting on the days when I will be traveling. I hope that I will be able to do a few postings while I am in Texas—I will be just outside of Austin for about a week or maybe a little longer.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have been pretty lucky recently in capturing images of birds in settings that include colorful fall foliage. On Tuesday I photographed a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Steophaga coronata) perched in a tree in full of persimmons at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I am not sure if the warbler was interested in the persimmons or if it was more interested in the poison ivy berries that you can see in the upper left portion of the image.

I do not know much about persimmons and can’t tell if the ones in the photo are ripe. I have been told that persimmons can be very tasty when ripe, but are very bitter when not yet ripe. To the best of my recollection I have never tasted one, but I know that the raccoons in another local park love to feed on these fruits.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I saw lots of Eastern Cottontail Rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Usually I see the rabbits during the early and late hours of the day, but these ones were active at midday. There is something really gentle about these creatures that really calms and soothes me.

In the first photo, one of the rabbit lifted its head to check me out and stared right at me. Deciding that I was not a threat, it returned to contentedly nibbling on the grass. I love the way that the rabbit’s ears look like mini-antlers, making it look like a cross between a rabbit and a deer.

In the second image, I captured a view of two rabbits contentedly chewing on the grass in an area adjacent to the parking lot. Perhaps they were used to the presence of people or perhaps they were less alert because they were eating. Whatever the reason, I was able to get my shots without disturbing them. The two rabbits were too far apart to get them both in focus, so I chose to focus on the nearest one and like the effect that I achieved.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbits

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was amazed on Tuesday when I saw a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) snag a really large fish in the shallow waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron carefully made its way to a secluded area of the shore where it was hidden from view to enjoy its big catch. It might have been a bit of a struggle for the heron to swallow a fish that large, but I have seen Great Blue Herons swallow fish almost that big in the past.

I had been observing the heron for quite a while and had seen it catch numerous tiny fish as it waded about in the shallow water. Gradually the heron moved to slightly deeper water and continued to look for fish. All of the sudden the heron extended its neck and plunged its head forcefully into the water, extending its wings as it did so. The third image shows how committed the heron was as it submerged its entire upper body.

Once it had grabbed the fish underwater, the heron flapped its mighty wings, as you can see in the final photo, to generate enough force to pull the large fish out of the water. The first image shows the moment when the fish first came out of the water. The second image shows the heron as it slowly and gingerly walked to the shore—it apparently did not want to take the chance of losing its catch.

Tuesday was overcast and cool and up to that point in the day I had not had much success in finding subjects to photograph—this encounter priduced the catch of the day for me and probably for the heron too.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I thought that the ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) in our area had already headed south, so I was pleasantly surprised to spot one last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was thrilled to be able to capture this image as it zoomed by me. During the summer there are multiple pairs of mating ospreys throughout the refuge and the ospreys are vocal and visible, but it had been at least a month since I had last seen an osprey.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I haven’t seen an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) for quite some time, so I was happy when I spotted this one last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The vegetation was mostly dried-out, but the goldfinch had no problem finding lots of little seeds. I love the way that the dull colors of the goldfinch were a match for those of the seed heads that surrounded the little bird.

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move to colder temperatures, I am taking fewer photos of insects and more of birds, like this cool-looking House Finch that I spotted last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. From a distance, I though that this perched bird might be a sparrow, judging from its basic coloration. When I got a little closer, I could see the conical-shaped bill and reddish tinge on the bird’s head and breast, so I immediately was able to tell that it was definitely not a sparrow.

At first glance, the two photos may look identical, but if you look closely, you’ll see that the bird’s head is in a different position in each image. Although the second image is a better profile shot, the birds’s face is in the shadows. In the first image, the bird had turned its head a little bit and the light was shining more directly on its face and produced a nice catchlight in its eye.

When I am taking photos of birds, I usually shoot in short bursts, because even perched birds around a lot and each movement may result in a different expression and pose.

House Finch

House Finch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I captured this fun little image of a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) in mid-air as it hopped to a new position on a tree with colorful fall foliage. I am pretty sure that the warbler was stationary when I clicked off a short burst of shots and luck played a big role in me being able to capture this moment. Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) love to perch on the ground and at this time of the year the ground is covered with fallen leaves in many places. Most of those leaves are brown, which makes for pretty good shots, but I am always hoping that an Autumn Meadowhawk will choose to perch on a more colorful red or yellow leaf. Last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was fortunate when one of these colorful little dragonflies landed on a yellow leaf and I captured the first image.

Although the second and third images feature brown leaves, I love the textures and shapes of those leaves. I also like the way that the drabness of the leaves helps the bright red of the dragonfly’s body really stand out.

At this time of the year, most of my photographic subjects are likely to be birds, so I tend to walk around with my Tamron 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens on my camera. Although a long telephoto lens my not be my first choice for photographing such a small subject—an Autumn Meadowhawk is about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length—I can get pretty good results if I am really careful in steadying the lens and paying attention to the focus point. All three of these images, for example, were shot with the lens fully extended to 600mm.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I almost never get an unobstructed view of a warbler. Most of the time I see them flitting about in the foliage, making it difficult to get a clear shot of one. If I am lucky, I manage to capture an image, like the final one, when the warbler pokes its head out of the brush for a moment.

Last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was shocked and delighted when I was able to take a series of unobstructed shots of a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) as it was feeding on some poison ivy berries. The first three images shows some moments from that encounter.

As I look at these four images, I am strangely drawn most to the final one. Despite the clutter of the branches in that shot, the warbler stand out—the branches serve as a kind of frame for the central subject. Now I really do like the way that the first two images capture the action of the bird and the way the third shot provides the best view of the perching warbler, but someone the environmental shot appeals to me most this morning as I am composing this posting. What do you think?

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I chased this orange butterfly for quite some time on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was delighted when it chose to land on top of a fallen leaf. The warm oranges and browns of the butterfly are a wonderful match for the autumn season and the fallen down leaves that now litter the landscape.

I could not immediately identify the butterfly, but when I got home I was able to determine that it is a Variegated Fritillary butterfly (Euptoieta claudia). My car windshield was covered with frost yesterday morning—autumn is definitely here and I suspect that my insect sightings will be decreasing sharply soon.

Variegated Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I couldn’t get very close to this Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last week, but I was happy to get a few long-distance shots before it flew away. Kingfishers are incredibly skittish and often my first indication of the presence of one is when I see or hear it flying away from me.

Generally I prefer to photograph birds that are perched on natural objects, but in this case I really like the geometric shape of the wooden structure that was sticking out of the water. Considering that I took these shots from a long way off, I was happy to be able to capture some of the grain of the wood and the bolt that held the boards to the post. I think this might have been part of a former duck blind, though it is hard to know for sure where it came from.

I am hoping to see this kingfisher again and perhaps will manage to get some closer shots the next time. Like most wildlife photographers, I am always thinking of my next shots, confident that I can capture better images on future outings.

Belted Kingfisher

 

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was concentrating so intently on photographing the large eagle nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last Wednesday that I almost missed the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that was sitting in the nest. This nest is really deep and during nesting season it is hard to tell if one or more of the eagles are inside of it. The nesting season ended quite some time ago, so I definitely did not expect to see the nest occupied at this time of the year.

The second shot is the one that I was intending to capture. I liked the way that the red leaves were creeping up the side of the trees holding the nest and that was what I was I was photographing. If you look really carefully, you can just see a bit of the yellow beak of the eagle stick out from behind the leftmost tree, but I did not notice it at the time I took the shot.

After I had taken a few shots, I continued on the trail a half dozen steps, seeking to photograph the nest from a different angle. It was only then that I spotted a bit of bright white that turned out to be the eagle’s head. The eagle was hidden really well, but appeared have positioned itself so as to be able to keep an eye on what was happening around it.

I captured a series of images, but the eagle’s head was blocked by the nest and/or the leaves in most of them. Fortunately, the eagle was moving its head from side to side and eventually I managed to capture a shot in which we can see the eagle’s eye pretty clearly.

Quite often in my wildlife photography, I detect the subject only because of its movement, but in this case, the subject was stationary and it was the difference in color of the eagle’s head that allowed me to spot it. As you can probably guess, my eyes are moving constantly when I am out with my camera, searching high and low, near and far, and left to right for potential subjects to photograph.

eagle nest

eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last Wednesday I spotted this beautiful little Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It struck me that the butterfly’s colors are a perfect match for this autumn season.

I really like this image. When I posted in on my Facebook page, the word “contrast” keep coming up in the comments of my viewers. Some noted the contrast in colors, while others commented on the contrast in textures. I think that the downward-facing pose of the butterfly and the rather unusual shape of its wings also causes people to pause for a moment as their brains try to process what they are seeing.

Years ago I remember reading a post by a fellow blogger, Lyle Krahn, who used the term “stopping power.” Although he was referring to subjects that you found interesting enough that you would stop to take a photo, I think that it applies equally well to viewers. What makes a photo compelling enough that a viewer will stop and examine it, rather than simply scrolling on to the next posting?

We are constantly inundated with visual images that compete for our attention, but so often they affect us only superficially. It is my challenge as a photographer to capture and/or create images that help you to see the world in a different, deeper way, that prompt you to slow down and experience the beauty that surrounds you.

As noted American photographer Dorothea Lange stated, ““The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Eastern Comma

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Usually when I am taking a photograph, I have a specific subject. Sometimes, though, I try to capture something that is harder to describe, like the effects of light or of an atmospheric condition.

Last Monday I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in the early morning and was fascinated by the mist hanging over the water that was gradually starting to dissipate as the sun rose higher in the sky. I really like the way that the first image turned out when I pointed my camera towards the water and the land forms in the distance.

Looking in another direction, I saw some Canada Geese, most of which appear to be sleeping and were partially shrouded by the mist. In the distance I could see a bit of fall color, which was reflected in the water.

Turning to the land, I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful rays of early morning light that were piercing through the foliage and the mist. It was tough to capture the effect, but hopefully the final photo gives you a sense of what I was seeing and feeling.

These are definitely not the typical kinds of photos that I take, but I was inspired by the conditions of the moment to try some different approaches and am content with the results.

misty morning

misty morning

misty morning

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled to spot this Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum), one of my favorite species, this past Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The dragonfly was cooperative and let me get pretty close with my Tamron 180mm macro lens and capture some of the amazing details of this colorful dragonfly, like its tiny feet and the little hairs on its legs.

I personally find the combination of the bright red body and the blue eyes to be stunningly irresistible and I look forward to spotting this species each autumn. If you click on either of the two images, you will be able to see some of the individual facets that make up the compound eyes. I have always wondered what it would be like to see the world through the eyes of a dragonfly.

I really like the description of a dragonfly’s sight that I found in a fascinating article by a writer called GrrlScientist that I encourage you to read. She wrote,

“Each compound eye is comprised of several thousand elements known as facets or ommatidia. These ommatidia contain light sensitive opsin proteins, thereby functioning as the visual sensing element in the compound eye. But unlike humans, day-flying dragonfly species have four or five different opsins, allowing them to see colors that are beyond human visual capabilities, such as ultraviolet (UV) light. Together, these thousands of ommatidia produce a mosaic of “pictures” but how this visual mosaic is integrated in the insect brain is still not known.”

I had to search hard to find this dragonfly and it was the only one of its species that I saw that day. At this time of the year few dragonflies are still flying. However, I am not ready to call it quits for the dragonfly season, though the end is drawing near.

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It looks like all of the summer dragonflies are gone. During three treks with my camera this week, I have not spotted any of the species that were common during the summer.

Fortunately, there are a few autumn species that hang on long after the summer species are gone. This week I was pleased to see some Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), which in the past have been present as late as December.

The dragonfly in the first photo is a male Autumn Meadowhawk that I photographed yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Each year when I see them I are struck by their small size—they are only about 1.3 inches (33mm) in length. Mature males are a bright reddish-orange in color and have beautiful brown eyes, a perfect color combination for the season.

Female Autumn Meadowhawks are less conspicuous and have a two-toned tan and red coloration. I spotted the female in the second photo on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Generally I see a lot more male Autumn Meadowhawks than females, so I was happy to be able to photograph this one, which also happened to be my first Autumn Meadowhawk of the season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Warblers have tiny feet, though I usually can’t see them in my photos, because they are perched high in the trees. On Monday I was fortunate to capture a series of images of a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that was perched relatively low in the vegetation and you can actually see its feet.

The warbler was in almost constant motion and gave me a whole variety of poses in a very short period of time. Here are some of my favorites from my mini portrait session with this beautiful little Yellow-rumped Warbler.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Warblers in the fall tend to be pretty drab, compared to those that pass through in the spring in their bright breeding plumage. However, the colorful fall foliage more than makes up for the birds’ lack of color when I am lucky enough to get clear shots of these little beauties.

On Monday I spotted quite a few Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge . Unlike most other warblers that are in our area for only a short period of time as they migrate, Yellow-rumped Warblers overwinter with us, according to a conversation I had in the past with a birder. I have photographed them, for example, in mid-January.

These three images show different types of autumn color. The first photo is full of bright pops of cheerful colors. The second one isolates a single color of the foliage and features a warbler feeding on what I believe are poison ivy berries. The final photo provides a more somber take on the autumn colors, evoking in me a wistful sense of the passing of the summer season.

I was quite happy with these shots of the warblers, especially considering my relative lack of success in the past, when I have often heard warblers singing, but have rarely been able to capture images of them.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I stumbled upon a pair of Eastern Garter Snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis). Their bodies were intertwined and were undulating. Now I do not know much about the mating practices of snakes, but I assume that was what they were doing.

I got down really low to take the first shot, which gives a close-up view of the head of one of the snakes that appears to be smiling—I believe that this one, which is clearly the smaller of the two, is the male snake.

According to an article by Sue Pike, “Garter snakes bear live young instead of laying eggs. In fact, in most live-bearing snakes, the females are considerably larger than the males. Since a larger female can carry more babies, and larger litter size mean a greater chance of survival for some of the offspring; natural selection will favor larger females. Females also tend to be more bulky and less active than males since they need to conserve their energy for reproduction. Males tend to be skinnier, more active and smaller than the females because, in the wild, their excess energy is used to chase females.”

The second shot shows the bodies of the two snakes when I came upon them—they look almost like they were braided together. I encourage you to click on the image to get a closer look at the beautiful patterns on the bodies of these snakes.

As I was making a little video of the two snakes, they were joined by a third garter snake. This snake, which I think is another male, slithered along the entire length of the intertwined bodies, looking for an opening. Somehow I thought the new snake would be more aggressive, but he was actually quite gentle. He ended up with his body stretched out as part of the intricate braid.

I have embedded the one-minute-long YouTube video at the end of this posting. In the video you can see the undulating bodies of the two snakes and the arrival and subsequent actions of the third snake. If you cannot see the embedded video, you can use this link  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgKIKLVeOVg) to access it directly on YouTube.

mating garter snakes

mating garter snakes

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I love to watch Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Most of the time when I see them, they are standing motionless in the water, watching and waiting for prey to come within range. We both stand there, waiting for a decisive moment when the heron will strike.

When I spotted this heron last Friday, he was in shallow water, water that was much to shallow for it to be able to catch a large fish. The heron was hunched over and was making multiple strikes, but I could not tell if they were successful. From the angle at which I was shooting, the heron’s bill looked cartoonishly long and its body seemed much more compact and squat than normal.

Finally, as you can see in the second photo, the heron caught something big enough for me to see. The heron flipped the little fish into the air and I managed to capture the moment when the fish was in mid-air, just before the heron gulped it down. The positioning of the heron and the direction of the light made the heron’s mouth look a bit like that of a mini-pelican.

Later that same day I spotted a Great Blue Heron standing in some colorful vegetation that hid its lower body. Unlike the first heron that seemed to be having fun, this second heron seemed to be stern and intense as it surveyed the marshland. I really like the way that the vegetation in both the foreground and the background was blurred, which draws the viewer’s attention directly to the heron.

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Perspective and timing really matter. In the first photo, the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) is immediately recognizable as a butterfly. When the butterfly opened its wings wider and I took the second shot, however, I captured an image that forces viewers to pause for a second to process what their eyes are seeing. We are so used to seeing butterflies with wings fully visible that we may not immediately recognize a butterfly when the angle of the shot causes the wings to virtually disappear. The final image is a more “normal” view of the butterfly on a different perch.

I spotted this Black Swallowtail butterfly last Friday as I was wandering about at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Dragonflies were pretty scarce that day, so it was nice to see so many butterflies still flying. That day was nice and warm, but since then our temperatures have been lower than average—it is currently 40 degrees (4 degrees C) as I write this posting at 5:30 in the morning and today’s high is forecast to be about 65 degrees (18 degrees C). Autumn has definitely arrived.

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Friday I was delighted to spot this Question Mark butterfly (Polygonia interrogationis) during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although these butterflies are with us the entire year—they overwinter as adults—I do not see them all that often. Question Mark butterflies (and their “cousins,” the Eastern Comma butterflies) hang out mostly in the woods, where their drab coloration helps them to blend in with the bark and the dried leaves of the trees, as you can see in the second photo.

I was particularly happy with the first shot, because it lets you see both the drab outer wing and the gorgeous orange and black of the inner wing. I was shooting with my Tamron 150-600mm, which is sometimes a little soft at the long end of the zoom, but managed to capture a good amount of detail nonetheless.

The butterfly’s warm orange coloration seems to be a perfect match for the season, as displays of pumpkins have start to appear.

Question Mark

Question Mark

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The colors of the fall foliage in my area of Northern Virginia are not very impressive. Generally we fade gradually from green to brown and then the leaves fall off of the trees. Fortunately, though, pops of bright color periodically remind me of the colors that I would see when I was growing up in New England.

It is still a bit early for those colors to appear, but I did notice a few traces of autumn color when I was out with my camera this week. Mostly it was individual colorful leaves, but I did notice a few trees as I gazed across the pond at Huntley Meadows Park that had jumped ahead of their compatriots and were already showing their blazing red autumn color.

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, especially the early days of autumn.

autumn color

autumn color

autumn color

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I went out with my camera on Wednesday, it was cool and cloudy, but fortunately the rain had stopped falling. I was not optimistic that I would see a lot of wildlife, but it felt good to get out of the house and to spend some time in nature.

Most dragonflies prefer warm weather and become inactive when it is cool, so I did not expect to see many during my walk. I was thrilled therefore when I spotted this male Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia). I watched as he was flying and saw him land low in the vegetation, just off of the ground.

The background in this shot is really busy, but somehow the dragonfly really stands out. It’s kind of a fun little photo of one of the few remaining dragonflies as we move through October.

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the time when I am lucky enough to spot a Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), the frog appears to be sleeping. Why is that the case? Many frogs spend their time in the water and have an easy way to regulate their body temperatures. Tree Frogs probably need to avoid direct sunlight and I suspect they are more active earlier and later during the day.

Yesterday afternoon the rain finally stopped and the skies were gradually clearing, so I decided to go out with my camera. I spotted this tree frog when I was walking along one of the trails at Huntley Meadows Park, a nearby marshland park that I have avoided the last few years because it tends to be overcrowded. The frog was perched in the crotch of a small tree just off of the trail.

When I first saw the tree frog, it had its front feet tucked under its head and appeared to be dozing, as you can see in the first two photos. I experimented with slightly different angles and formats and can’t decide if I like the landscape format of the first photo or the portrait format of the second one.

Later in the day I passed the frog again and it seemed to be a little more alert. The frog had pulled one of its feet out from under its head and appeared to be daydreaming.

When I returned home from my outing, I decided to take a cue from the frog and took a short nap.

 

Green Tree Frog

Green Tree Frog

Green Tree Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year, I sometimes complain that the leaves that are still on the trees prevent me from spotting birds. While that is definitely true for small birds like warblers, Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) are so big that it is hard to miss them when they are perched in a tree, even when they are partially hidden by the foliage.

Last week I was walking down one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I heard the unmistakable squawk of a Great Blue Heron. It is hard to describe this distinctive sound, but the Farmer’s Almanac website did so with these words, “The Great Blue Herons “squawk” or croak has an almost prehistoric sound. If you surprise this bird as it is hunting on the water, it will squawk as it leaves, almost as if it’s annoyed by your disturbance.”

After hearing the squawk, I watched as the Great Blue Heron landed in a nearby tree. There was a good deal of foliage between me and the heron, which helped to conceal my presence, but it made it tough for me to get a clear shot of this big bird. Eventually I managed to capture some shots of the heron in a number of different poses. The background is pretty cluttered, but it helps to give you a good sense of the environment in which I found this Great Blue Heron.

Unlike Great Egrets, which migrate south for the winter, Great Blue Herons remain with us throughout the year. Do not be surprised if you see a few more heron shots in the upcoming months. As the leaves fall from the trees and many other birds depart, I suspect that I will be spending more time observing Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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