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Archive for the ‘Macro Photography’ Category

Autumn has officially arrived, but I continue to see damselflies at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, albeit in ever-decreasing numbers. The damselfly in the first photo is a female Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) and the one in the second image is a male Big Bluet (Enallagma durum).

I like the way that I was able to capture hints of the changing season in the images, with the reddish autumn tones in the first shot and the gnawed leaf in the second one.

Familiar Bluet

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Life can be a risky proposition when you are relatively low on the food chain, like a damselfly. Some larger insects may hunt you down while you are flying—see my recent post called Predator that shows an Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly consuming a damselfly. Other creatures may try to trap you and then immobilize you.

Several times this past week during visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I have encountered Black and Yellow Garden Orbweaver spiders (Argiope aurantia) that had captured a damselfly. I did not see the actual capture, but the spider in the first photo was in the process of wrapping up the damselfly when I spotted.

Spiders can produce variety of types of silk. In cases like this, the silk (known as aciniform silk) comes out in sheets that look like a gauze bandage and the spider spins around the prey as it wraps it up. If you want to get a better look at how the spider emits these sheets of silk, check out a 2014 posting called Wrapping up a meal. If you have every wrapped presents at Christmas time, you know how difficult it is to wrap an irregularly shaped object. The spider has done an amazing job in making a compact package of the long skinny body and wings of the hapless damselfly—I encourage you to click on the image to see the details of the trapped damselfly.

In the case of the second photo, the spider was content to do a looser wrap, which lets us see the damselfly a little better. I think this damselfly and the one in the first photo are Big Bluets (Enallagma durum), though it is difficult to be certain of the identification.

spider

Big Bluet damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was excited to stumble across a cluster of Large Milkweed Bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) last Friday as I was exploring at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It had been several years since I had last seen these colorful little bugs that not surprisingly were gathered together on milkweed pods. There are so many cool insects that are associated with milkweeds that I often stop to examine the plants whenever I come upon them.

A little over nine years ago, I studied these bugs  pretty closely and documented their stages of development in a posting that I called Life phases of the large milkweed beetle. Be sure to check it out for more information and fascinating photos of these colorful little bugs.

The short version is that as a “true” bug, milkweed bugs undergo incomplete metamorphosis. They go through a series of nymph stages, known as instars—the large milkweed bug has five instars. At each stage, the bug is covered by an inflexible exoskeleton that constrains its growth. Periodically it bursts out of the exoskeleton and can grow to twice his size as the new exoskeleton develops and hardens.

If you look closely the image, you will see that there are milkweed bugs at various stages of development. The youngest ones are smaller and are completely red. In some of the older ones you can see the development of tiny black wing pads. The orange and black one at the top of the group appears to be an adult.

Every time that I see this combination of bright red and green, my mind immediately thinks of Christmas. However, I doubt that anyone would choose to feature this image on their annual Christmas card.

large milkweed bugs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonflies are really fierce predators and will eat almost any insect that they can catch. Some dragonfly species will consume mosquitoes or other small insects while in flight, while others will hunt larger larger insect prey and, if successful, will perch at ground-level in order to enjoy a more leisurely meal.

Although they are not all that big in size, Eastern Pondhawks (Erythemis simplicicollis) are the species that I most often encounter with a large victim, often another dragonfly or a damselfly. I spotted this female Eastern Pondhawk last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as she was feasting on a hapless Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum).

I apologize if the image is too gruesome for some viewers, but I have grown accustomed to the “circle of life” in nature and recognize that all creatures have to eat. As for today’s predator, the Eastern Pondhawk, she could easily become tomorrow’s prey and be captured by a bird or a larger dragonfly.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The number of dragonflies of certain species seems to be dropping as we approach autumn, but there seem to be plenty of Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) still around at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Their bright blue coloration and relatively large size—about 1.3 – 1.7 inches (34 to 44 mm) in length—makes the Big Bluets easy to spot in the vegetation along a trail that runs parallel to the waters of the bay.

One of the big challenges when photographing dragonflies and damselflies is getting the entire subject in focus—their bodies are long and narrow and are often pointing in a direction that makes it impossible to get sufficient depth of field. This male Big Bluet cooperated by perching in a way that allowed me to photograph him from the side. The damselfly is nicely in focus, while the leafy background is mostly out of focus and does not distract the viewer’s eyes from the primary subject.

Yes, the dragonflies and damselflies are still hanging on in my area. I think I will continue to see and photograph them for at least another month or two before I gradually begin to shift my focus towards birds, which will again become my main focus during the colder months of the year.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I glanced down at the dark waters of the pond last Thursday at Huntley Meadows Park, a damselfly couple (Orange Bluets (Enallagma signatum), I think) flew by in tandem and I snapped this shot. I love how it looks like we are peering into a night sky, watching the damselflies fly past the celestial bodies of the Milky Way.

I couldn’t help but think about the opening title sequence from the Star Wars movies that begins with the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

Orange Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Compared to the brightly-colored male damselflies, females damselflies often seem dull-colored and less striking in appearance. This female Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta) that I spotted in early August alongside a stream in Prince William County is a notable exception to that general rule.

If you click on the photo, you will note the elegant shades of brown on her body that glisten in the sunlight. Her beautiful two-toned eyes are amazing and seem to draw in the viewer. It is hard to be sure, but she almost seems to be smiling or maybe even winking at me.

It takes some effort to see and to photograph such tiny insects, but it is definitely worth it for me to be able to share the beauty of nature with all of you.

Powdered Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Within the bird and insect kingdoms, species tend to be named on the basis of the appearance of the male and not of the female. This can be incredibly confusing, especially for a neophyte who is trying to identify an individual.

I remember be utterly baffled years ago when someone explained to me that the sparrow-looking bird in front of me was a female Red-winged Blackbird. What? How could that be? The “blackbird” was not black at all, and as for the “red wings,” there were none.

Over time I have become more familiar with the birds and the bees and some of the intricacies of sexual differentiation within species. I do not give too much thought that this pretty little female Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) that I spotted last week at Green Spring Gardens has wings that are not completely amber-colored like those of her male counterpart.

Eastern Amberwings are the smallest dragonflies in our area at less than an inch (20-25 mm) in length. It is hard to miss the males as they buzz about low over the waters of ponds, but females tend to be much more elusive and often hunt far from the water. In the case of the one in the photo, she was perched on some vegetation in a bed of flowers a long way from the pond.

According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, “Amberwings are reported to have the most intricate courtship of any dragonfly. After the male selects several possible egg-laying sites for a mate, he flies off to find a female and leads her back to his potential nursery. To attract her, he sways back and forth, and hovers with his abdomen raised. Mating only occurs if the females approves—making this one of the few dragonflies where females choose the males.”

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was hoping to find a Monarch butterfly when I checked out some patches of milkweed last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, but ended up instead with some action shots of an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica). The bee was quite distracted while feeding, so I was able to get really close to it for these shots.

I like the way that I was able to capture some wonderful details of the bee as well as those of the beautiful pink milkweed.

carpenter bee

carpenter bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At first glance you might think that the insect in this photo is a dragonfly, especially if you know how much I like dragonflies. If you look a little more closely, you will see that the wings are completely different from those of a dragonfly. This is actually a Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes), one of the coolest and creepiest insects that you can encounter in the wild.

Red-footed Cannibalflies, a type of robber fly, usually feed on other insects, but they reportedly are capable of taking down a hummingbird. Thankfully I have never seen that happen, since I really like hummingbirds, but several years ago I did photograph a Red-footed Cannibalfly with a large Hummingbird Moth that it had captured (see my 2017 posting Demise of a hummingbird moth).

I have a special relationship with this insect with the macabre moniker. In August 2013 I did a posting with the fairly basic title of Red-footed Cannibalfly. The posting was a modest success and had 61 views in 2013. Since that time, though, the posting has generated a lot of interest, primarily as a result of internet searches,  and the total number of views has risen to 2,842, which makes it the second most viewed posting of my more than four thousand postings to date. Yikes!

I spotted this Red-footed Cannibalfly last Thursday as I was exploring a small pond in Prince William County, Virginia. I am always amazed at the relative bulkiness of this insect compared to the average dragonfly and thought that it might have captured a prey. A closer examination of the Red-footed Cannibalfly showed that it was empty-handed or maybe I should more properly say empty-footed.

In the back of my mind I hear the words of the Wikipedia description of a robber fly attack that I included in the 2013 posting, “The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis  injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.” It is enough to give a person nightmares.

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am fond of challenging myself by photographing difficult subjects like tiny spiders and dragonflies in flight. However, I find equal joy in capturing the beauty of more common subjects in simple portraits, like this image of a male Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) that I spotted on a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Beauty is everywhere.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Sometimes I manage to take capture shots of wild creatures in really unusual locations. I spotted this jumping spider yesterday on the roof of my car when I was reaching inside the car to grab my camera and begin a search for dragonflies. This was a case when I happened to have the right tool in my hand at the right moment—my macro lens helped me to capture some wonderful close-up shots.

The spider was tiny—I’d estimate that it was less than half in inch (12 mm) as I faced it. My body position was awkward as I stood in the door opening and tried to balance my elbows on the roof of the car and look through the viewfinder. Fortunately I was able to place the lens on the roof, which helped me to keep it stable.

The spider did not appear to be at all frightened by my presence and in fact seemed quite curious. These three shots show some of the spider’s poses as we conducted an impromptu portrait session that highlighted the spider’s engaging personality. If you click on the images, you can see reflections of the sky in many of the spider’s eyes and the reflection of the entire spider on the car was a nice bonus.

The spiky tufts on the spider’s head helped me in trying to identify the spider and I am relatively sure that it is a Putnam’s Jumping Spider (Phidippus putnami). However, there are a huge number of species of jumping spiders, so I defer to others who have more expertise with spiders.

Jumping spiders are amazing. They do not use webs but instead rely on their speed and agility—they can reportedly jump over 50 times their own body length. A number of years ago I shot a series of photos of a Bold Jumping Spider that had captured a much larger dragonfly. I encourage you to check out that 2014 posting called Spider captures dragonfly—the story to see some images that are both startling and fascinating and to learn more details of that encounter.

In case you are curious, I drive a coppery-colored KIA Soul that is technically “Ignition Orange.” This distinctive color made a wonderful background for this beautiful spider. Apparently, spiders like my car. As I researched my own blog, I came across a posting from March 2014 entitled Spider on my car that also featured a jumping spider and one from September 2017 entitled Tiny Hitchhiker that featured a small crab spider.

Putnam's Jumping Spider

Putnam's Jumping Spider

Putnam's Jumping Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Our weather recently has been hazy, hot, and humid and we have even had some smog that prompted an air quality alert yesterday as a result of fires in the western part of the United States. From a dragonfly perspective, we are in a kind of summer doldrums period, where the summer dragonflies have been buzzing around for quite some time, and it is too early for the autumn species to appear.

On Tuesday I went exploring in Prince William County and was delighted to spot this handsome Dusky Dancer damselfly (Argia translata) alongside a small stream. I think that this is only the second time that I have managed to photograph this species. Although many damselflies have touches of blue, the dark body and the distinctive markings near the tip of the abdomen (the “tail”) make this pretty easy to identify as a Dusky Dancer.

The rock on which the damselfly was perching is not a great background, but at least it draws the viewer’s eyes to the damselfly and is not at all distracting. Be sure to click on the image to see the wonderful details of the damselfly, including the blue markings on its body and its entrancing eyes.

Dusky Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this large spider last Thursday at Occoquan Regional Park perched atop some leafy vegetation and watched as it captured a small moth that made the mistake of landing on the same leaf. The spider assumed a defiant pose when I started to photograph it—obviously it did not want to share its lunch with me—and I captured the first photo as I stared straight into its multiple eyes.

I initially thought that this was a fishing spider because of its large size and overall shape, but I am beginning to wonder if it might actually be a wolf spider. Most of the fishing spiders that I have seen have been in the water and this one was a foot (30 cm) in the air, although it was overhanging the edge of a small stream. I included a shot of its body that shows its markings, in case any of you are expert enough to identify its species.

I know that people have mixed reactions to spiders, but I encourage those of you who do not find them to be totally creepy to click on the first photo. Doing so will allow you so see some wonderful details of the spider, especially its eyes, and the remains of the hapless moth.

spider

spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I was feeling a little “artsy” on Saturday morning when I composed this close-up image of one of day lilies now growing in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Over the last nine years of so Cindy has served as my photographic mentor and muse.  I remember how liberated I felt when she first told me it was ok to photograph parts of a flower and not just the whole thing—it opened my eyes to all kinds of new creative possibilities that went way beyond merely documenting “reality.”

Beauty is everywhere!

day lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of you may remember my excitement from my blog posting a week ago when I photographed an Eastern Least Clubtail dragonfly (Stylogomphus albistylus) for the first time in my life. Yesterday I returned to the same location in Fairfax County and explored several branches of the stream in which I had previously seen the Eastern Clubtail perched on a rock.

I mostly paid attention to the sunny spots in the stream and to the stones in the middle of them, which they are supposed to prefer, but came up empty-handed. Eastern Least Clubtails are only 1.2 to 1.4 inches (31-36 mm) in length, so it was a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. I returned several times to the exact location where I previously photographed the dragonfly—I can actually identify the precise rock on which he perched—and on one of those occasions I visually tracked a dragonfly as it landed in some nearby vegetation.

Imagine my shock when I realized that the dragonfly perched only a few feet away was a male Eastern Least Clubtail—the shapes and brightness of the appendages at the tip of the abdomen (the “tail”) are unmistakeable. I captured a few images before the dragonfly flew off again and I was able to resume my breathing. I am not sure what kind of vegetation this is, but it made for a cool-looking landing pad for this handsome dragonfly.

According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, this species should be around until almost the end of July, so I will probably return a few more time to this spot to see if I can spot this tiny dragonfly again and, with some luck, will manage to spot a female—both of the Eastern Least Clubtails that I have photographed have been males.

Eastern Least Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It was pretty early this morning when I walked over to the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, but a bee was already busy on one of her lavender plants. A shot like this is easy to get with my 180mm macro lens, which lets me stand back farther from my subject. However, I happened to have a much shorter 60mm macro lens on my camera, which meant that I had to be almost on top of the bee. The bee was focused on the flower and did not seem to be bothered by my presence.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you even examined dragonfly wings really closely? I tend to think of dragonfly wings as being made up lots of individual “cells” that are uniform in size and shape, like the squares on piece of graph paper. The reality, however, is that the wings are incredibly complex and are full of intricate designs and shapes that presumably help the dragonfly to maneuver its way so masterfully through the air.

Last week I captured this image of an immature male Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) while I was exploring in Occoquan Regional Park. I managed to position my camera so that I was almost perfectly parallel to the plane of the wings that are consequently in sharp focus. I highly encourage you to click on the image to see the breathtaking wing details that form such complex mosaic-like patterns. Wow!

It is no wonder that it is so hard for me to draw or paint dragonfly wings that look realistic.

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was happy to spot these handsome Powdered Dancer damselflies (Argia moesta) in mid-June as I was exploring a rocky stream in Prince William County. Most of time when I see a damselfly it is at a pond or marshy area, but this large, distinctive damselfly seems to prefer rivers and streams. Although I occasionally spot them perched in vegetation, as in the second photo, Powdered Dancers quite often perch on bare ground or on flat stones.

 

Powdered Dancer

Powdered Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Six-spotted Fishing Spiders (Dolomedes triton) sense their prey through vibrations in the water, so generally when I see them they have several legs lighting touching the surface of the water. When I spotted this one yesterday at a small pond in Fairfax County, however, it was perched on top of some vegetation several inches above the water.

I have no idea why it was there, though there were plenty of dragonflies buzzing around that would occasionally perch on the same type of vegetation. Could it possibly be hoping to catch a dragonfly? I have included a photo of a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) from a previous day that was perched in the same area to give you an idea of the spider’s potential prey. I would think that a dragonfly’s excellent vision would allow it to spot the spider and avoid it—I can’t imagine that a dragonfly would deliberately choose to land on top of the spider, but who knows?

If you look closely at the first photo, you may also notice what appear to be several spider legs poking out from underneath the edge of the vegetation. Was there another spider there and if so, why? Nature is full of mysteries and intrigue, with lots of unanswered questions.

Six-spotted Fishing Spider

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When it comes to insects, I devote the majority of my attention to dragonflies and butterflies. However, there are other insects that periodically capture my attention, like this mating pair of bee-like robber flies (Laphria index/Laphria ithypyga) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Regional Park. I had no idea what species they might be, but was able to get some help when I posted the photo in a robber fly Facebook group. Yes, there actually is such a group in Facebook.

My favorite robber fly, though, is the Red-footed Cannibalfly—there is something about its creepy name that has always fascinated me. Apparently I am not alone, because a posting I did in 2013 that was simply titled Red-footed Cannibalfly has had 2,798 views to date, including 228 views last year, making it my second most viewed posting ever. Most people appear to find the posting by doing a search in Google for “Red-footed Cannibalfly.” My posting used to show up on the first page of results for that Google search, but has now slipped lower, though it was still the third entry when I did the same search in Bing this morning.

I definitely do not understand insect mating practices, so I will leave it to your imagination to figure out what is going on in this photo. As for me, I can’t help but think of one of Dr. Dolittle’s fantastic animals, the pushmi-pullyu.

Have a wonderful Monday.

 

robber flies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It’s amazing the things that show up in my photos that I did not notice when taking the shot, like this little beetle in the center of a striking lily that I photographed recently in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Cindy likes to call them “bonus bugs.” According to our rules, any bugs that you see when capturing a shot don’t “count” towards a bonus.

I do not have enough information to identify the insect. At first I thought it might be a cucumber beetle, but the pattern does not quite match the ones I have seen before. Cindy suggested that it might possibly be a carpet beetle. I also checked out a lot of different types of scarab beetles, but eventually decided that I was ok with not knowing the identity of the bonus bug.

I have included the second photo as a bonus. My original purpose in photographing the lily was to capture its beauty and unusual coloration and the second shot accomplished that goal. I carefully focused on the stamens (and particularly the anthers) and allowed the rest of the flower to fall out of focus. If I had not looked at the first photos, I might not have noticed the fuzzy shape of the bonus bug in the second image, but it is definitely there.

lily

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I had a really close encounter with this male Bar-winged Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula axilena) last Thursday while exploring a small pond in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford. It is a challenge to handhold a macro shot when I am that close to a live subject, but the dragonfly was pretty cooperative and stayed put while I composed the shot. The colorful vegetation on which he was perched added some additional visual interest to the image without drawing attention away from the primary subject.

Bar-winged Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How do you draw attention to the main subject in your photograph? One effective way is to choose a camera setting that will give you a shallow depth of field, so that only the subject is in sharp focus and the rest of the image is blurred. Another way is to ensure that the colors and texture of the background contrast with those of the subject.

I used both of these techniques yesterday morning when I spotted this metallic green sweat bee (g. Agapostemon) on one of the Shasta daisies growing in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. I love these little bees with their large speckled eyes and shiny green bodies and got as close to this one as I dared with my Canon 60mm macro lens.

I opened the aperture of the lens all the way to f/2.8 to let in lots of light and to achieve the narrowest possible depth of field. That is why the center of the daisy falls so quickly out of focus. As I was composing the shot, the flower reminded me of an egg that had been fried “sunny-side up” and I chose an angle that emphasized that look. (In case you are curious about the other camera settings, the ISO was 800 and the shutter speed was 1/800 sec.)

There is nothing super special about this image, but it is a fun little photo taken close to home that reminds me that beauty is everywhere. A series of creative choices in camera settings and composition by the photographer can often help to draw a viewer’s attention to that beauty. (I encourage you to click on the image to get a better view of the beautiful details of the little green bee.)

green sweat bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was happy yesterday to spot several Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) while exploring a creek that runs through a small suburban park in Fairfax County, only a few miles from where I live. Unlike many other dragonflies that like areas with vegetation, this species prefers sunny, shallow creeks with sandy or gravelly banks.

Quite often Common Sanddragons will perch flat on the sand or with their abdomens raised a little or even a lot, as shown in the third image. The third image is quite unusual, because it shows a Common Sanddragon perched off of the ground and away from the water. When I first spotted the dragonfly perched on that dead branch, I had to look really closely to convince myself that it was in fact a Common Sanddragon. Fortunately, male Common Sanddragons have bright terminal appendages, known as cerci, at the tip of their abdomens that make them easy to identify.

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to damselflies, I love the sidewards heart that their bodies create when they are in this mating position. I have been told that the process is somewhat brutal, but I like to think of it as romantic, two hearts joined as one.

I spotted these Ebony Jewelwing damselflies (Calopteryx maculata) last Sunday in Fairfax County. At this time of the year Ebony Jewelwings are quite common, especially in the shaded forest streams that I like to explore.

In addition to the sidewards heart, I really like the interplay of the light and the shadows in the background that adds a lot of visual interest without detracting from the primary subjects. You can get a really feel for the dappled sunlight that kept the scene from being in complete shade.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some say that the secret to capturing an effective image is to eliminate all of the non-essential elements. This image is about as minimalistic as I can get. The raindrops on the vegetation provide a sense of what has been and the shadows a hint that the sun was shining again when I spotted this stunning female Ebony Jewelwing damselfly (Calopteryx maculata) at Occoquan Regional Park on Friday.

The image itself is simple, but I am amazed at the details that I was able to capture of this tiny creature and encourage you to click on the image. If you do, you may be as shocked as I was, for example, at the length of the “hairs” on the damselfly’s legs—clearly leg shaving is not practiced among the ladies of this species.

Ebony Jewelwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I see all kinds of flies when I am out in the wild with my camera, but I don’t think that I have ever seen one like this brightly-colored one that I spotted on Tuesday at Occoquan Regional Park. Some internet research suggests that it is a Golden-backed Snipe Fly (Chrysopilus thoracicus). It was hard to find detailed information about the life cycle of this species, but I did come across an amusing and informative article by Joe Boggs at The Ohio State University entitled Snipe Hunting, if you are interested in learning a little more about this unusual-looking fly.

Golden-backed Snipe Fly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this beautiful female Turquoise Bluet damselfly (Enallagma divagans) on 27 May as I was exploring the edge of the woods adjacent to a small pond in Prince William County, Virginia. While I was out in the field, I recognized that it was a bluet, but could not determine its species. Even when I returned home and consulted resources in print and on-line, I quick became confused as I assesed the relative size of the eyespots on the the top of the damselfly’s head, the width of the occipital bars (the band that joins the eyespots), and the placement and size of the blue areas on the abdomen (the “tail”).

Fortunately I am a member of several Facebook groups focused on dragonflies and damselflies and the experts in those groups came to my rescue and identified this as a female Turquoise Bluet, a species that I had never before encountered. I was happy that I was able to capture a lot of detail in my photo and encourage you to click on it to see those details. For reference, Turquoise Bluets are 1-1.4 inches (25-36 mm) in length.

Turquoise Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Whenever I go out searching for dragonflies in the early morning or after a rainstorm, I am hoping to photograph a dragonfly covered with drops of water. It has not happened yet, but it remains as one of my aspirational goals.

There were plenty of raindrops on the vegetation on Thursday morning when I began my adventures in Prince William County. I was happy to spot this tiny male Fragile Forktail damselfly (Ischnura posita) peering over the edge of the water-spattered leaf on which he was perched. I really like the simplicity of the image that I captured, with its limited number of shapes, colors, and patterns.

Photography does not have to be complicated to be effective—minimalistic images are often the most powerful.

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I have always been fascinated by the intricate patterns of spider webs and I love to attempt to photograph them. Of course, the first challenge is to spot them. In the past I have had some success in early morning hours when the webs were covered in dew—see, for example, my posting from September 2012 called More spider art. In more recent years, though, I have most frequently encountered spider webs when I have run into them stretched head-high across trails.

I was pretty excited therefore when I spotted this backlit spider in its web last Thursday as I was exploring a forested area in Prince William County. I loved the way that the light was shining through the body of what I recognized to be an Orchard Orbweaver spider (Leucauge venusta). I toyed around with ideas on how to compose the image and decided to include only the upper half of the web—I wanted to make sure that the viewer’s eyes would be drawn to the spider.

Orchard Orbweaver spiders are quite common in my area and I encountered another one later that same day and captured the close-up image below that shows some of the spider’s beautiful coloration. I know that some people find spiders to be creepy and threatening, but hopefully these spider shots can help to convince at least a few of those viewers that spiders can also be quite beautiful.

Orchard Orbweaver

Orchard Orbweaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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