Archive for the ‘Insects’ Category

It will be a few more months until dragonflies reappear in our area, so for now I have to content myself with this one in my front yard that I photographed yesterday as the snow was gently falling. This metal dragonfly is part of a raised sprinkler that stands about three feet tall (about a meter).

I really like the way that the dragonfly has weathered and acquired various colors. I suppose I could talk of rust and tarnish, but I prefer to think of it as “patina.”


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of you know that I love dragonflies. I actively search for them not only in Northern Virginia, where I live, but also on work trips to Belgium and Austria. Liz, a fellow blogger from New Zealand, knows that I suffer from dragonfly withdrawal during the winter and posted this image to help me deal with my symptoms. Be sure to check out the other cool postings on her blog, Exploring Colour and also The Wandering Moa, a blog on hiking in New Zealand that was the source of this image of a really cool dragonfly.

Exploring Colour

dsc03279Click on the photo to enlarge (you may need to click again for full-size). Photo used with permission from The Wandering Moa

Apparently spelt “humongous” for Americans. I admit I’ve got some particular readers in mind as I post this: Mike Powell who photographs dragonflies in Virginia USA and young Benjamin who follows Mike’s blog and with the help of his Gram enthusiastically inspects all the detail of Mike’s photos.

Just two days ago I found a New Zealand blog newly started in early January – The Wandering Moa. Lili published a post about her first alpine tramp (serious hike) and her story included the encounter with this fabulous dragonfly as she was walking through an area of native beech forest. She kindly granted me permission to share the photo. The orange triangle is the standard plastic symbol used to mark walking tracks here. This is one massive dragonfly!

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Thanks to all of you for your overwhelming positive responses to a recent posting Some favorite photos of 2018 that showcased some of last year’s photos that I really like. Check out that posting if you have not seen it yet.

Interesting enough, not a single one of them was from my most-viewed posts of the year. How many views do you regularly get for one of your blog postings? One of my average postings tends to get about 60-80 hits. It is a rare and happy occasion for me to get as many as 100 views for any posting.

Here are links to my five most-viewed postings of 2018 and an indication of how many views they received in 2018 and since they were originally published. You’ll probably notice that four of them were taken in 2013 or earlier. Somehow these postings apparently appear in searches in Google and other search engines and that is how viewers find their way to my blog.

The photos below are ok, but they are certainly not among my favorite or best photos. A review of these statistics reinforces in me the notion that “views” are not a very accurate measuring tool for deciding if a posting or a photo is “good.”

Here is one fun fact about my blog—Red-footed Cannibalfly has been my most-viewed posting for the fourth year in a row. Who knew that so many people were fascinated by this fearsome insect?

Take a look at that posting (or any the others below) by clicking on the highlighted title. Maybe you will be able to discover for me the secret behind their relative popularity.

Red-footed Cannibalfly (31 August 2013) 366 views in 2018 (2457 views since published)

red-footed cannibalfly

Fuzzy white caterpillar (3 August 2013) 341 views in 2018 (1209 views since published)

fuzzy white caterpillar

Blue-eyed garter snake (9 May 2016) 218 views in 2018 (503 views since published)

garter snake

Yellow Garden Orbweaver with a Grasshopper (29 August 2012) 166 views in 2018 (214 views since published)

Insects gone wild (29 May 2013) 125 views in 2018 (901 views since published)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A butterfly in December? I was shocked and thrilled to see this tattered Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) flying around yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I photographed this little butterfly with my telephoto zoom lens fully extended to 600mm. I contemplated cropping the image, but decided that I really like the look and feel of all of the fallen leaves and left it uncropped. I also like the way that the veining in the leaves seems to mirror the veining in the butterfly’s white wings.

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday we were blessed with a sunny, warm day. The temperatures rose to over 60 degrees (16 degrees C) and my hopes that I might see some dragonflies increased correspondingly.

This autumn season we have already had some sub-freezing temperatures and even a couple of inches of snow. However, my past experience has shown that Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are unusually hardy.

Autumn Meadowhawks are small, about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length and tend to perch on the ground, which is now covered with fallen leaves and other debris. As a result, it is pretty hard to spot these little dragonflies, despite their bright red coloration.

I searched and searched and eventually found a few of them at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was able to capture a number of images and decided to feature this one, because it gives you a good look at the dragonfly’s beautiful two-toned eyes.

Today we are back to cooler temperatures and there is snow in the forecast for this weekend. Will this be my last dragonfly of the season? I will continue to search for dragonflies for another month or so, though I know that my chances of finding one of these beautiful aerial acrobats will continue to drop.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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Because of our recent snow and cold weather, I was a little shocked on Wednesday to spot an Eastern Comma butterfly (Polygonia comma) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This butterfly is a real beauty, but I fear that is may well be my last butterfly of the season.

Earlier in the autumn, this butterflies were a perfect match for the foliage.  Now, however, most of the leaves have fallen and are dried up, which makes this butterfly’s muted tones stand out as bright and vibrant.

Eastern Comma butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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It’s fun to remember the carefree days earlier this year that I spent hunting for dragonflies. Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford recently did a posting about a location where I photographed a Sable Clubtail dragonfly, one of the rarest species in our area, a place that he christened “Powell’s Place” after he too visited it and found a Sable Clubtail.

Be sure to check out his posting and I encourage you also to explore his blog for some amazing photos and information about dragonflies and other wild creatures.

walter sanford's photoblog

A single Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) was spotted perched alongside a small stream located in Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I nicknamed a segment of the stream “Powell’s Place” in honor of Mike Powell, my good friend and photowalking buddy, who spotted the first Sable observed at this part of the stream. “Powell’s Place” is located downstream from Hotspot No. 1, where the stream re-emerges from an underground concrete pipe.

This individual is a male, as indicated by his indented hind wings and terminal appendages. Some dragonflies tend to be creatures of habit, returning to the same spot day-after-day. Perhaps this is the same individual spotted by Mike. Who knows?

I like the juxtaposition of complementary colors in the first photo.

12 JUN 2018 | Fairfax County, VA | Sable Clubtail (male)

The next photo shows the dragonfly perched deep within a shaded hidey-hole.

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