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Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

On Monday I spotted this small patch of Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. True to its name, the Butterfly Weed had attracted several butterflies, which I think are Pearl Crescent butterflies (Phyciodes tharos), as well as several metallic green sweat bees (genus Agapostemon). The insects seemed to love the plant’s nectar and the scene provided a visual feast for viewers like me.

butterfly weed

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although I love seeing my old familiar dragonfly friends, it is always exciting to observe new species. Last week while I was exploring in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, I spotted this dragonfly perched on a small tree. I really liked the pose and moved closer for some shots.

I initially thought it was a Needham’s Skimmer, a fairly common species in our area, but the more I looked at my photos afterwards on my computer screen, the more I began to note some differences in the colors and patterns on wings and the body. After consultations with some dragonfly experts on Facebook, I learned that it is a Yellow-sided Skimmer (Libellula flavida).

As far as I know, this is the first time that I have seen a Yellow-sided Skimmer. There is a possibility that I have unwittingly seen one in the past and dismissed it as “only” a common species.  I try not to do that, because this is not the first time that I have photographed something new without realizing until later that it was in fact new.

 

Yellow-sided Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) love to perch and wait for their prey to come by and then use their powerful back legs to snag that prey, which is often another dragonfly. Those legs are so long and ungainly, though, that Dragonhunters’ poses often seem awkward when they are perched—they remind me of teenage males who have undergone a recent growth spurt and haven’t gotten used to their longer limbs.

Last Friday as I was exploring a stream at Prince William Forest Park with fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, he spotted this female Dragonhunter perched at the edge of the water. I was walking toward him when I spotted the Dragonhunter on the rocks that I featured yesterday and was delayed in getting to see this dragonfly. Fortunately, she was relatively tolerant of our presence and remained in place long enough for me to get some shots.

All of the images that I captured show a side view of the Dragonhunter, because she was facing toward the water and I was trying not to get wet. Walter, however, wanted more of a frontal view  and waded into the water to get that shot. Check out today’s posting on his blog and you can compare the results of our different approaches.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonfly on the rocks? It sounds like a summertime beverage, but it accurately describes what I saw last Friday while exploring a stream in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. I think it is a Dragonhunter dragonfly (Hagenius brevistylus), but the unusual angle makes it tough to made a definitive determination of the species, because I am not able to see critical portions of the dragonfly’s anatomy.

In the past when I have spotted Dragonhunters, they have been perched on branches overhanging the water and that is where I expect to find them. This encounter is a good reminder for me to stay alert at all times—my subjects may not have read the identification guides about how they are supposed to behave.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the weather gets hot, some dragonflies will raise their abdomens (the “tail”) in what is believed to be an attempt at thermoregulation. I can’t say for sure if it works, but the theory is that in this position, sometimes referred to as the “obelisk,” dragonflies are able to stay cooler by reducing the amount of their bodies subject to direct sunlight.

Earlier this week I spotted this male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) in a modest obelisk position at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. I characterized the position as “modest,” because sometimes a dragonfly will elevated its abdomen until is almost vertical.Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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When I spotted a small patch of milkweed while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this month, I stopped and waited. I knew that numerous butterflies are attracted to this plant. Before long, several butterflies in fact appeared.

Here are photos of two of them, both swallowtail butterflies. The first one, a Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus), appears to be in perfect condition. Its wings and “tails” are intact and its colors are vibrant. By contrast the second butterfly, a Zebra Swallowtail (Protographium marcellus), is clearly a veteran. There are chunks missing from its wings and its long beautiful swallowtails are gone.

Do you find one of the butterflies to be more inherently beautiful than the other? Here in the United States, we tend to worship beauty and a standard of supposed perfection. We are daily bombarded with advertising messages that tell us we can look young again, that we can cover up our imperfections. The current focus on selfies and dating apps that allow you to judge others with a swipe encourages a kind of narcissism and attention to superficial appearances that I personally find to be unhealthy.

I remember watching a video several years ago about photographing nature. The photographer encouraged viewers to photograph only perfect specimens of flowers and insects, following the lead of those who say that in order to create beautiful photographs, you need beautiful subjects.

The photos here are my response to that kind of thinking. There is an incredible beauty to be discovered in the ordinary, everyday subjects that surround us, full of imperfections and blemishes. Take a moment today to slow down and truly experience that beauty.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times that I have observed a Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) it has been perched directly on the sand, which makes sense, given its name. Last week, however, I spotted this Common Sanddragon perched in some vegetation overhanging the water of a stream in Prince William County, Virginia.

I like the way that the dragonfly almost looks like he is flying, because I managed to take the photograph from almost directly overhead, causing the perch almost to disappear. I also really like the look of rocky portion of the stream that makes up most of the background of this image.

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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