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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

Most of the time frogs hop away as soon as they sense my approaching footsteps. This male Green Frog (Lithobates clamitans), however, stayed in his sunny spot in the shallow waters at the edge of the pond, patiently posing for his portrait on Thursday. With a little encouragement, he even smiled a bit.

When I posted this photo on Facebook, one of my friends commented, “I’ve kissed a few of those.” Her words brought back memories of the role that I played in a theater production of The Frog Prince more than 35 years ago when I was in the military. A cast of adults put on several plays for children, which was a lot of fun, because over-the-top acting was encouraged to keep the kids in the audience engaged—I must admit that I am a bit of a ham when in the spotlight.

Wearing a mask, flippers, green tights, and a leotard, I played the role of the frog, agilely hopping about on the stage. When I was kissed and magically transformed into the handsome prince, a younger, cute blond actor continued in the role—there is only so much you can do with stage make-up.

Be bold today and go out and kiss a friendly frog or at least do something that takes you out of your normal comfort zone.

Green Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do dragonflies decide where to perch? Sometimes I can guess in advance where a dragonfly will choose to perch—many dragonflies like exposed stalks of vegetation at the water’s edge and will often return to the same perch over and over again.

Some dragonflies, though, will choose to perch in unexpected places. I was a little shocked yesterday during a short visit to Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge to spot this juvenile Spangled Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula cyanea) perched on a thorny vine. The sharp thorns seemed to be larger than the dragonfly’s head and the distance between them seemed smaller than the dragonfly’s wingspan.

What was the point of his choice of perches? Is it pointless to talk of safer perches? Perhaps the dragonfly is a young thrill seeker who simply likes to live life on the edge—many of us did some things in our youth that in hindsight were incredibly risky if not outright stupid. Maybe instead he calculated that the risk of damage to his delicate wings was outweighed by the additional protection that the thorns provided him from potential predators.

Rather than ponder these deep questions of intent, I focused on photographing the handsome little dragonfly. I really like the way that I captured him in an environmental portrait.

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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The newspapers in our area are full of apocalyptic stories about Brood X periodical cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) that are starting to emerge in my neighborhood and in other parts of the United States after a seventeen-year stint underground. I have not seen many live cicadas, but there are dozens of discarded exoskeletons on my backyard fence and in my front yard tree, a few of which you can see in the second and third photos. I am not paranoid, but it does feel like they are surrounding me.

On Tuesday I photographed one cicada that was in the process of emerging. If you look closely at the first photo you will note that the cicada’s wings are not yet fully formed. They will eventually lengthen and become transparent. So far the cicadas have remained silent, but before long I expect to hear their deafening chorus, as the males compete to attract females by belting out their mating calls.

Yesterday the Washington Post had a story with the sensationalist title A fungus could turn some cicadas into sex-crazed ‘salt shakers of death.’  According to the authors of this article, “Yellow-white fungus grows inside the cicadas, filling their insides and pushing out against their abdomens. One by one, the rings that compose the back halves of their bodies slough off and fall to the ground. Driven by a chemical compound in the fungus — and now lacking butts and genitals — the bugs try to mate like crazy. Some researchers call these infected cicadas “flying salt shakers of death.” And they’re lurking among Brood X.” There is even a warning in the article, “Despite the amphetamine’s ability to control cicadas, no one should expect to feel a high from eating a fungus-infected insect.”

Yes, things are a little crazy here as we await the full-scale onslaught of the cicadas. I will try do an update posting in the upcoming weeks with more photos of these brooding, red-eyed insect invaders.

 

cicada

cicada

cicada

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The shell of the Eastern Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) must have looked as big as the deck of an aircraft carrier to the Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) that was circling around the pond, looking for a place to land yesterday at Occoquan Regional Park. I am pretty sure that the turtle, who was semi-submerged in the shallow water, basking in the sun, did not notice the temporary additional weight of the dragonfly.

When I first noticed the motionless snapping turtle in the water, I wondered if it was still alive. I kept a healthy distance from the turtle, because, as their name suggests, snapping turtles may snap with their powerful jaws when they feel threatened. I continued to observe the turtle and noticed the ever-changing pool of bubbles around its mouth that suggested that to me it was alive and breathing.

A number of Common Whitetail dragonflies were patrolling over the pond and I mused to myself that it would be really cool if one of them landed on the turtle. I was shocked when that scene unfolded in front of me just as I had imagined. Fortunately, I was not so shocked that I forgot to capture the moment with my camera.

Common Whitetail

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Can a dragonfly smile? I seemed to detect a cocky little smile when I moved in close for this shot of a handsome male Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa) last Thursday in Prince William County. The macro view also allowed me to appreciate the beauty of his two-toned eyes and to note the curious-looking “chin strap.”

The second shot shows the entire body of the Stream Cruiser, a medium-sized dragonfly that is about 2.2 inches (56 mm) in length. The image also gives you a sense of the environment in which I spotted him—a large expanse of interrupted ferns adjacent to a stream.

Stream Cruiser

Stream Cruiser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I was delighted to spot several more Stream Cruiser dragonflies (Didymops transversa) while wandering about in Prince William County. This handsome male Stream Cruiser  looked like he could have starred in the well-known “got milk?” publicity campaign in the United States that featured photos of celebrities with milk mustaches and was designed to make milk more interesting and to emphasize its wholesomeness.

The print campaign with the the milk mustaches was started by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) as a follow-on to a very popular series of television commercials in which people went to extraordinary lengths to make sure they did not run out of milk, according to this Fast Company article about the history of the Got milk? campaign.

Celebrities almost literally lined up to participate in this campaign and famous photographer Annie Leibovitz photographed more than 180 of the advertisements, according to the aforementioned article. One of the few requirements for participation in the campaign was that the celebrities had be milk-drinkers—I think they might have waived that requirement for Kermit the Frog—which was a problem for Whoopi Goldberg, who is lactose-intolerant. However, she was featured when the campaign ran an advertisement for lactose-free milk.

I don’t drink very much milk these days, but have fond memories of growing up with milk in my cereal bowl each morning. Got milk?

Stream Cruiser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I do not know about the reactions of the lady turkeys, but I was mighty impressed by the display of this male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) early yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A lot of male birds go to great lengths to impress and attract females during the early spring, but this wild turkey’s presentation might take the prize for being so flamboyant and ostentatious. I guess he has truly embraced the motto, “Go big or go home.”

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you remember what it was like to be so totally in love that you wanted to be physically close to the other person every single moment of every single hour? That was the first thought that came to mind when I spotted these two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) close together in a tree last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I tend to think of eagles as being fierce, powerful, and independent, but this image suggests that they also have a tender, vulnerable side as well.

Look into the eyes of the eagle on the right, which I believe is the male. Doesn’t he look like he is totally smitten, wide-eyed and in love? This stage of total infatuation often happens when you are young, though it can strike you at any time in your life. It brings to mind a playground chant of my youth that was designed to embarrass the persons named in the song. Do you remember the song?

Imagine these two eagles were named Chris and Mike. It would go like this:

Chris and Mike
Sitting in a tree
K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then comes baby
In a baby carriage!

Can you imagine an eagle with a baby carriage? Let your creative imagination run wild. If I had skills as a cartoonist, it would be fun to make a drawing with this eagle couple pushing a baby carriage. Alas, I have no such skills, but would encourage any of you who possess those skills to take on the challenge.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this year I joined a mysterious organization known as the Cult of the Spiny Hog, an offshoot of The Hedgehog Poetry Press, a United Kingdom-based poetry publishing company. For over a year I had heard whispers of this mysterious group, with hints and rumors of its Illuminati-like status, so with a certain amount of trepidation I submitted my application and was accepted into the organization.

Last week I received a package with the “holy writings” of fellow members of the cult, the nine books of poetry that you see in the first photo. If you look carefully at each volume, you will spot the shadowy silhouette of a hedgehog, the mark of the cult. So far I have not been asked to have it tattooed on my body, but I do not exclude that being a future requirement. The second image shows the way the bundle was packaged, with a mysterious face looking out through the translucent paper and the seal of the cult. The final photo shows different versions of the cult’s signature mascot.

How did this happen? How did I fall under the sway of this poetry organization? It began quite modestly when I subscribed to the blog of Irish poet, Damien B. Donnelly. A few months later I had the pleasure of meeting Damien in person in Paris in November 2019—you can read all about our encounter in my blog posting entitled Paris Portraits: Damien. If you too want to be throughly enchanted, check out this YouTube video called An Evening of Eating The Storms in which Damien debuted his poetry collection—it is an amazing performance.

Damien is an incredible poet and over time he and his fellow cult members have helped to reawaken in me a part of myself that had been dormant for decades. When I was in college, I immersed myself in French literature, spent my junior year studying in Paris, and made the totally impractical decision to major in French. As I now look back at those years, I hardly recognize that romantic dreamer as me. I am now beginning to dream again.

If you read my blog regularly, you have seen growing indications of poetry’s growing grip on my heart. In October 2020, I did a posting called National Poetry Day 2020 that talked about new poetry collections by Damien B. Donnelly, Gaynor Kane, and Katie Proctor, poets whose works I had read and seen performed at the Zoom poetry readings that I had started to attend regularly.

I knew that I was hooked in late December 2020 when I felt prompted by the pandemic to write a poem myself. I included it in a posting called Pandemic Poetry that also looked at a powerful collection of pandemic poetry by Gaynor Kane and Karen Mooney. One of the benefits of joining the cult is that I can submit poetry for free into the various competitions run by the publish, a step that I do not envision myself taking now, but can envision such a possibility in the future.

Why am I so smitten with poetry? If I reduced my answer to a single statement, I would have to say that it is because poetry speaks to my heart in a way that no other written or spoken words do. Contemporary poets express themselves in so many different ways and across such a wide range of subjects, that there is bound to be one that speaks to your heart—Amanda Gorman’s moving reading at the US inauguration opened the eyes of many Americans to the power of poetry.

I am not recruiting for the cult and I think there is a strict numerical limit on the number of members. However, I do encourage you to consider adding some poetry to your life. One of the easiest ways to to that is to listen to the weekly Eat The Storms podcast, in which the aforementioned Damien B. Donnelly hosts an hour-long show with poets and musicians performing from around the world. (The podcast is named after Damien’s debut poetry collection, which you can order directly from Damien at his website.)The podcast is already in its second season and new episodes come out each Saturday and are available on Anchor, Spotify, Podbean, Google, Apple, and other podcast platforms.

Here is a comment I left on the podcast’s website that gives you a feel for the scope of the poetry presentations in a single podcast—”Each of your podcast episodes, Damien, is an emotional rollercoaster as your poet friends explore a wide variety of themes in an amazing range of voices, both figuratively as well as literally (with accents from around the world). Where else could I letters to letters to Sylvia Plath juxtaposed with contemplations on Chagall; memories of Paris alongside perceptions from the parallel world of Wolf Planet; humankind’s fight with nature followed by personal memories from a Kodachrome image; greying mists of colorful memories with some black-and-white consequences of British archaeological discoveries? Those topics only touch the surface of this mind-expanding episode of this wonderful podcast.”

Let me end this posting with Damien’s signature closing line, “Stay bloody poetic.”

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I couldn’t help but feel that this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was irritated with me when he glared sideways at me as he momentarily ceased his pecking at water’s edge on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On the other hand, he might have simply been trying to pose in a way that minimized his double chin, about which he was very self-conscious. Have I committed a cardinal sin in my initial assessment?

What do you think? Have a wonderful weekend.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you have trouble getting your ducks in a row? Following a snow storm earlier this month, my photography mentor and neighbor Cindy Dyer and I played around in the snow with a device that makes snowballs in the shape of little ducks and arranged them atop her fence.

Cindy, her husband Michael, and I have made up our own little pod during this pandemic.  Cindy, Michael, and their three cats (Lobo, Queso, and Pixel) have helped keep me from going completely bonkers during our time of isolation. Zoom and other virtual communications means are good, but they can never completely replace physical contact with other humans or pets.

Humor helps too. When I walked through my neighborhood the day after the storm, I looked for subjects that were whimsical or simply made me smile, like the snowman with its leafy earrings and the butterfly in the snow. If you look at its nose, it is not hard to tell that the snowman is a celeried employee.

Many of you know that I have been attending a short virtual church service, called Compline in the Episcopal church, each weekday night at eight o’clock in the evening. It is a short service that, among other things, allows us to share our moments of thanksgiving and our personal prayer requests out loud or by typing them in the chat feature. After the service, we talk for a bit to see how everyone is doing and it has become traditional for me to share a daily Dad joke. If I forget, someone will usually remind me. What?

For Christmas, some dear friends sent me a daily calendar of bad Dad jokes, the kind of jokes that always elicit a combination of laughs and groans. It is a curious juxtaposition to tell jokes in the context of a church meeting, but it is a sign of how close we have become with each other—we can cry together and we can laugh together, sharing our unfiltered feelings.

How bad are the jokes? Here is a recent favorite, “I just bought a thesaurus and when I got home I discovered that all of the pages were blank. I have no words to describe how angry I am.” Sorry.

Happy Mardi Gras.

ducks in a row

snowman

butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I spotted this handsome Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and surprisingly he was willing to pose for me—normally bluebirds fly off as soon as I move close to them with my camera.

We started off with a formal pose against a solid backdrop and then moved on to a more casual pose. We were both really happy with the final images—he plans to use them on his social media, especially Twitter.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Thanks to Tchaikovsky, swans seem to have cornered the market for bird ballet, so some local Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) decided to organize themselves for synchronized yoga competitions instead. At a recent practice that I observed at a small suburban pond, they were having some issues in coordinating their left single-legged pose—one of them had trouble remembering which leg was the left one. What a silly goose. 🙂

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The alien-looking plant in the first photo is a seedpod of ‘Love in a mist’ (Nigella damascena), one of my favorite flowers, that I spotted during a short visit last Monday to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. It was a little late in the season, but I managed to spot a few flowers still in bloom, as shown in the second image. This flower is typically blue, but love-in-a-mist also comes in shades of white, pink, and lavender.

When I did a little research on-line, I learned that the striped, balloon-shaped object that I call a seedpod, is actually an inflated capsule composed of five fused true seedpods, according to an article by Wisconsin Horticulture. I also learned that the thorny-looking spikes that make up the “mist,” which are not sharp, despite their appearance, are technically bracts, a specialized kind of leaves.

This is one of the few local places where I know I can find this exotically beautiful flower. If you want to see love-in-a-mist yourself, you should probably go to a large garden. Otherwise you could waste a lot of your time looking for love in all the wrong places.

 

love in a mist

Love in a mist

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Can dragonflies smile? It sure looked like this male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was flashing me a toothy grin when I spotted him last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps it was just my imagination, running away with me.

smiling dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Sometimes I take photographs when I am standing upright, but quite often I am crouching, kneeling, bending, or leaning as I try to compose my images. I occasionally  remark that I am happy that nobody is filming me as I contort my body for the sake of my craft—a kind of photography yoga. Sometimes, though, my friends will take photos of me as I am am taking photos.

Several readers wondered how close I was to the Gray Petaltail dragonfly when I captured some macro images of its eyes that I featured in a posting earlier this week. My friend Walter Sanford, with whom I frequently go on photographic forays for dragonflies, captured the first image below of me in action and graciously agreed to let me use it in this posting. You may need to double-click on the photo to see it, but the Gray Petaltail dragonfly is perched on the left fork of the branch just after the split. The dragonfly was so cooperative that I remained in that crouch for an extended period of time, periodically flexing forward to get a tiny bit closer.

My friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer has also captured me in action. She recently came across the second photo below, which I think dates back to 2013, and posted it in Facebook. I am not sure what I was looking at so intently through my viewfinder, but it seems likely that I had spotted something more interesting than the Canada Geese right in front of me. As I often do, I was crouching in the brush, with all kinds of vegetation threatening to poke me in the ear and eyes.

When a crouch will not get me low enough, I am often willing to sprawl on the ground, as in the third photo below that was also taken by Cindy Dyer. You may notice that I was carrying a tripod with me in a case on my back. Cindy is a big fan of using a tripod whenever possible for macro shots and I remember well when she told me that one of the keys to success was for me to get as low as possible and spread my legs. I blushed initially until I realized that she was referring to my tripod.

It is probably not mandatory for all photographers, but I have found that it helps to be fit and flexible. One of my personal challenges will be to maintain that level of fitness and energy as I get older, so that I can continue my “style” of photography.

Gray Petaltail

kingstowne pond

shooting position

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you an extrovert? If so, the current situation is almost certainly tough for you. This morning I came across a delightful posting by fellow photographer, Scott St. Amand. Here is an excerpt, but I encourage you to click through to his original posting. “I have a lot of extroverted friends. It’s not my fault. I am like a magnet for social people. I have tried valiantly to wear my scorn and antipathy on my sleeve, but they all brush it off as bluster and introverted bravado and then want to talk about how funny it is that I pretend that I am a hermit. An hour later, when they are done talking at me, I have already crawled into my mental hole, and they tell me what a good listener I am…a vicious cycle, indeed.”

ST. AMAND PHOTOGRAPHY

Backgrounds-37

I saw a funny Facebook post the other day about how self-quarantining and social distancing was, for introverts, the culmination of their life’s work.  I saw one today that said, “Check on your extrovert friends; we are not OK.”

For a self-described hermit, who has been practicing social distancing since at least the age of twelve, I have a lot of extroverted friends.  It’s not my fault.  I am like a magnet for social people.  I have tried valiantly to wear my scorn and antipathy on my sleeve, but they all brush it of as bluster and introverted bravado and then want to talk about how funny it is that I pretend that I am a hermit.  An hour later, when they are done talking at me, I have already crawled into my mental hole, and they tell me what a good listener I am…a vicious cycle, indeed.

I even…

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Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I captured some images of a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), providing a pretext for me to repeat a joke I recently came across—A vulture boards a plane carrying two dead raccoons. The flight attendant says, “I am sorry, sir, but we only allow each passenger one carrion.” I confess that I am addicted to bad jokes, especially puns and word plays, and I have been dying to photograph a vulture ever since I read that joke.

I initially spotted the vulture while it was flying and captured several shots, shown below, as it was landing in a tree. Generally I prefer action shots like those ones and I do like the dynamic quality of those poses. In this case, however, I really like the formal, portrait-like pose the vulture assumed as I was taking the first shot below. Somehow, at least in my mind, it lends a kind of dignity and beauty to this bird that most people do not see because they cannot get past the fact that vultures feed on carrion.

Turkey Vulture

 

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of you know that I struggle to find ways to use the camera on my new iPhone 11. Yesterday when I was visiting the large greenhouse complex at Le Jardin des Serres d’Auteuil in Paris, however, I captured these shots with that camera. (FYI, “serre” is the French word for a greenhouse.) I think the issue is that I am used to shooting mostly dynamic moving subjects and I don’t find myself able to track action the way that I would like with a camera phone or make quick adjustment to my settings on the fly. The greenhouse complex was not going anywhere, so it was easy to remember I could use my phone.

The wide angle capabilities of the iPhone, bordering on fisheye, allowed me to take some cool shots as I wandered through multiple greenhouses. The tropical greenhouse, though, fogged the lens on my DSLR because of the extreme warmth and humidity, so I didn’t even bother to try with my iPhone.

The garden is located on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne in the city’s 16th arrondissement, in the extreme southwest corner. It is in an interesting area, because while I was wandering about I walked past Roland Garros Stadium, where the French Open tennis championships are held and Longchamp Racecourse, where a series of well-known horse races are run.

I could not help but smile at all of the signs that I passed for the horse track, because the French word of it is “hippodrome.” Now I realize that this French word is based on some perfectly good ancient Greek words, but I can’t help but imagine a group of racing hippopotamuses, or should I say “hippopotami” if I want to be classical. After all, maybe “river horses” like to compete against each other too.

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

Entrance gate to Jardin des Serres d'Auteuil

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Age is a relative thing. I chuckled a little yesterday when I read a sign next to this spectacular Gingko tree (Gingko biloba) that characterized it as a “young man,” despite the fact that it was planted in 1895. Putting aside the fact that there are male gingko trees and female gingko trees, a concept that blows my mind, gingko trees, which originated in China, can live to be 1200 years old and are “potentially immortal.”

I spotted this tree while visiting the Jardin des Serres d’Auteil. This botanical garden, located near the Bois de Boulogne on the edge of Paris, dates back to 1761 and has an immense complex of different greenhouses, some with groupings based on botanical species and some geographically based. I was particularly struck by the ones ones focused on the Sahara desert and one focused on tropical South America. In the latter case, I had to keep wiping off the lens of my camera, because it was fogging up in the steaming heat of the greenhouse. Unfortunately, some of the greenhouses with the most spectacular plants were only open when gardeners were physically present, so I was not able, for example, to see their collection of orchids.

The leaves of the gingko tree were mostly faded and fallen this late in the year, but I still  marveled at the size of the tree and the golden carpet that surrounded it. A sign noted that in 2011 this tree was 82 feet (25 meters) in height and its trunk had a circumference of 13 feet (395 cm).

I think that this gingko tree was the only one of its species at the garden. Somehow I felt like a personal ad, “Young male gingko tree in Paris seeks companion.” I wonder if there is a special category for its type on dating apps.Gingko tree in Paris

Gingko tree in Paris

Gingko tree in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It seems like people are using cellphones more and more often when they are behind the wheel. Earlier during this trip to Paris I noticed this operator of an excavator along the banks of the Seine checking out his cell phone.

Was he watching a YouTube video on how to operate the machine? Was he stuck in the mud and searching in Google for a solution? Perhaps he was just taking a break. Whatever the case, I kept my distance just in case he started moving in my direction while distracted by his cellphone.

As I struggle to be “artistic” in my photography, I try not to lose sight of the fact that photography is about capturing the moment. Sometimes it is about art, but sometimes it is about simply capturing something that makes me smile.

Have a wonderful day.

excavator in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I think the spiky protrusions were intended to keep birds from perching on this post along the Seine River, but somehow this gull did not get the point.

gull on the Seine

© 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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Before we went out last week to hunt for Gray Petaltail dragonflies (Tachopteryx thoreyi), fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford reminded me to wear gray-colored clothing, because Gray Petaltails are known to perch on people dressed this way, presumably because they resemble trees. Walter’s words proved to be prophetic and Gray Petaltails perched on me repeatedly that day.  Walter memorialized one such encounter in his posting last week You look like a tree to me! that included shots of one perched on my shoulder and one on my stomach.

It is generally pretty cool to have a dragonfly perch on you. It can be a little disconcerting, however, when a large dragonfly like a Gray Petaltail, which can be over three inches in length (75 mm), buzzes around your head. I couldn’t avoid flinching a couple of times that day when a dragonfly landed on me. Sometimes dragonflies are so incredibly cooperative that I am able to coax them to perch on my finger, as shown in a 2013 blog posting that I called Dragonfly Whisperer.

As the day wore on, Walter seemed disappointed that the dragonflies were not landing on him. As we were making some final checks before our departure, a Gray Petaltail finally made his wish come true and perched on him. Unlike the ones that landed on my front side, this one decided to land on his back side, on the untucked tail of his shirt. I am hoping that nobody was watching, because it would probably have looked a little strange for me to be pointing the long macro lens of my camera at that part of his anatomy.

Walter and I are good enough friends that he will laugh at my puns and attempts at humor, even when he is occasionally the butt of the joke. In fact, this is actually not the most embarrassing photo that I have taken of a dragonfly perching on Walter. In October 2013 I did a posting entitled Dragonflies mating on a calf that featured a dragonfly couple mating on his bare lower leg.

If you are really young, you may not remember Fred Astaire’s version of the song “Cheek to Cheek” that was the number one hit song of 1935, according to Wikipedia. Here is link to a YouTube clip of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers singing and dancing to that song.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) in my area have been building nests in all kinds of places, including on some channel markers in the Potomac River off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I personally don’t really think that there is enough space there for a nest, but the ospreys seem to think otherwise.

I am amused by the “No wake” sign that they have chosen. During busy periods, I would think that “No sleep” would be more appropriate.

Have a wonderful weekend. 🙂

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you ever feel the need to scream at the top of your lungs like this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted on Saturday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge? I think that most of us have moments in our lives when our emotions overwhelm us and we feel a need to vent. Why not scream? 

As the old children’s rhyme tells us, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” 🙂

screaming eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It’s sometimes said that the camera adds pounds to a subject, so maybe these Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) that I saw last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge are not quite as chubby as they appear at first glance.

I was trying to be funny, but it actually is true that the focal length of a lens can affect the features of a subject. Most of you have probably seen how a fish-eye lens can make a face look bloated in the middle and stretched out on the edges. Other lenses can produce less dramatic effects. Generally it is believed that you get the most flattering portrait of a human subject with a lens of 85mm to 135mm. Here’s a link to an interesting article at businessinsider.com that shows a series of images of a face that were shot with lenses from 20mm to 200mm.

In this case, I think the birds are taking advantage of the abundant food sources while they are still around. Some of these warblers may be continuing their journeys southward, but others may choose to spend part of the winter with us.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this little Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) all by itself on Wednesday morning at the far end of Painted Turtle Pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He must have been feeling a little lonely, however, and tried to strike up a conversation with the mallard decoy that is a permanent feature at this pond. The mallard remained silent.

I was trying to capture a shot of the Ruddy Duck by itself, as in the second image, but I like the eye contact in the first image so much that I decided to make it my lead photo for the posting. The shot simply makes me smile.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

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Have you ever gotten into a staring contest with a dragonfly? Dragonfly eyes can have an almost hypnotic effect on you when you look directly into them..

I went eye-to-eye with this Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. She was the one to break eye contact first as she cocked her head, smiled at me, and decided the contest was over.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Some birds are stealthy and fly silently through the skies. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) would not fit into that category. They like to announce their presence for all to hear, like this pair that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they were coming in for a landing.

Unlike at the airport, there was no need for a loudspeaker to announce this landing.

Canada Geese

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You have to be really careful scratching an itch if you have big talons like this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

At least one of the eagle couples has recently been observed building a nest, so already a number of paths in the wildlife refuge are now blocked. As I wandered around the refuge, I did spot several eagle couples and some possible nests—it is hard for me to tell if a possible nest is an eagle nest or an osprey nest. Unlike the nest in the closed area, these nests are far enough away from the paths that the human presence is less likely to disturb the eagles. It is at times like this that I am thankful that my telephoto zoom lens extends out to 600mm.

Bald Eagle

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