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Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

As I was going through my photos again from last week I came upon this image of an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I had spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I already posted another shot of this dragonfly species from that day, but I like this shot even more, because it shows some of the details of the leaves on which the little red dragonfly was perched. I think the leaves help to give a better sense of the environment and emphasize the “autumn” in the name of the species.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled yesterday to spot almost a dozen Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) dragonflies at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. These hardy little red dragonflies are always the last ones of the season and they often hang on until December. In some years they have even been spotted in early January.

When I explored the exact same area on Wednesday, I did not see a single one of these dragonflies. Why? Wednesday was heavily overcase, but yesterday the sun was shining brightly. Every single Autumn Meadowhawk that I saw was basking in the sun, perched on fallen leaves or logs. The sun seems to warm them up enough so that they can fly a bit, though I wonder if they manage to find anything to eat, given that there are almost no other insects flying.

So this year’s dragonfly season continues for at least a little while longer. As I search in the trees for birds, I will continue to look down as well, hopeful of spotting one of these beautiful aerial acrobats.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Those of you who know me well are probably surprised that I have not yet posted an insect photo from Paris. I have chased after a few hornets and flies, but came up pretty much empty-handed. Yesterday, however, I came upon this cool little ladybug on top of a pole blocking off a pedestrian zone and finally captured an urban insect photo worth posting.

All things considered, the ladybug was quite cooperative. She—the ladybug might be a male, but the name causes me to assume it is a female—crawled around the spherical surface on the top of the pole, giving me a number of different views. I do not have a true macro lens with me, but I do have a 24mm lens that is sharp and lets me get pretty close.

I initially tried shooting downward at the ladybug, but the results were not very exciting. When I bent down so I was at eye-level or maybe slightly lower, I got a cool, out of focus street background that I really like.

I do not know enough about ladybugs in France to know if this is a domestic one or is a foreign visitor—there are certainly plenty of those in Paris, present company included.

 

ladybug in Paris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many people associate the color red with autumn because of the brilliant foliage that the season brings forth in places like New England. For me, though, red is an autumn color because of the bright red dragonflies that remain active in October and November (and sometimes even later in the year).

Yes, I continue to chase dragonflies as we move deeper and deeper into autumn. I spotted this handsome male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly(Sympetrum vicinum) last Wednesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in nearby Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Many of the Autumn Meadowhawks that I saw earlier this fall were females, which have a much more subdued coloration. There is nothing subdued about this male, which made it pretty easy to spot him, especially when he perched on a small stump at knee-level. You do have to pay attention to find them, however, because Autumn Meadowhawks are only about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was wandering about Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week, I was struck by the large number of Common Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) that I observed. Not only were there a lot of them, many of them appeared to be in almost pristine condition, unlike the tattered survivors of other butterfly species that are hanging on this late in the season.

I decided to do a little research and learned from bugguide.net that Common Buckeyes have two to three broods throughout the year from May to October. I had suspected that was the case and that helps to explain the “fresh” condition of the butterflies that I observed. What was a little more surprising to learn was that, “Adults from the south’s first brood migrate north in late spring and summer to temporarily colonize most of the United States and parts of southern Canada.”

I don’t know if the Common Buckeye butterflies in my area will migrate south to avoid the freezing temperatures that will soon be upon us or if they will remain with us. In either case, I love to see these little butterflies and marvel at the way that their colors fit in with nature’s autumn color palette.

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When they keep their wings closed, some butterflies match their surroundings so well that they are almost invisible. Question Mark butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis) look like dead leaves and at this time of the year there are plenty of fallen leaves littering the landscape.

It was impossible for me to me the distinctive autumn colors of this Question Mark when I spotted it earlier this month at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I had to back up a bit in order to focus on the butterfly with my telephoto zoom lens and I actually had trouble seeing it when it decided to close its wings. Fortunately it spread its wings a little bit and I was able to capture the second image below.

A month or so ago it seemed like there were more dragonflies than butterflies, but now the ratio seems to have shifted. Butterflies, especially Common Buckeyes, are still flying in good numbers, while the quantity of dragonflies continues to drop.

Question Mark

Question Mark

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Most of my dragonflies have disappeared for the season. I will still occasionally spot a few survivors of the summer species, but their numbers are dwindling in the cooler autumn weather. One notable exception is the aptly named Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum). On Tuesday I spotted a good number of Autumn Meadowhawks while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and captured these images with my long telephoto zoom lens—it is a bit of a challenge to focus on such a small subject with a lens zoomed out to 600mm.

In the area in which I live, Autumn Meadowhawks remain with us throughout October and November. I have personally spotted some in December and have heard of other sightings in early January.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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