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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

I am back now in the USA, but thought I’d post one last image from my recent trip to Brussels. I spotted this young Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) swimming around in the small pond at the botanical garden. There were several other moorhens, but they all stayed in the reeds and I was not able to get a good shot of them. I really like the spiky feathers of young moorhens. When they become adults, their feathers appear to be much smoother in appearance.

Common Moorhen

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Later today I will board an airplane and fly across the Atlantic Ocean with the assistance of a significant amount of sophisticated machinery. I can’t help but marvel at the way that dragonflies and damselflies, by contrast, maneuver through the air so skillfully and effortlessly. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to fly like that?

This past weekend I spent a good amount of time in one of my favorite photographic pursuits—trying to capture images of a dragonfly in flight. When I am traveling I usually don’t have my best camera gear with me and opt instead to use a Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot camera. It gives me a lot of reach, but is sometimes slow to focus and has a low frame rate. What that means is that I have to be even more careful than usual, because I can’t capture a lot of shots in an extended burst.

Mostly I was trying to photograph Migrant Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna mixta) at the botanical garden in Brussels. The good news is that Migrant Hawkers are relatively large in size and will sometimes hover a bit over the water. That increases slightly my chances of getting a shot, though many of my attempts resulted in cut-off or out-of-focus shots of the dragonflies.

This was probably my best shot of the session. I like the way that I captured a pretty clear view of the body, including the legs that are tucked in during the flight and managed to get the eyes in relatively sharp focus. One of my Facebook friends commented that it would make a handsome piece of jewelry made with gold, turquoise and onyx—I totally agree with her.

Migrant Hawker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I can’t help but wonder what was going through the minds of these two insects as they perched on the same stalk of vegetation this past weekend at the botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. Their postures suggest to me a heightened sense of alertness and a kind of wariness. The much smaller damselfly at the top seems to be cautiously looking down over its shoulder at the Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta), who appears to be focusing his attention upward. Was it a sign of curiosity or one of hunger? There was never any sign of direct aggression, but I note that the damselfly was the first one to take off and the dragonfly did not pursue it.

For those of you who are not as hooked on dragonflies as I am, this image shows pretty clearly some of the differences in the body shape and eye positions of a damselfly versus a dragonfly. It is important, though, to keep in mind the amazing diversity within the community of dragonflies and damselflies in terms of color, size, and behavior—these are some of the reasons why I am drawn to them as subjects for my photography.

friend or foe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Its colors are not quite as ostentatious as those of the Migrant Hawker dragonfly that I featured yesterday, but the bright red bodies of what I believe are Common Darter dragonflies (Sympetrum striolatum) made them equally hard to miss at the botanical garden in Brussels, Belgium. The colors of these beautiful little dragonflies remind me of those of the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum), a species that I see quite often in my home area of Northern Virginia and the shared Latin genus name of Sympetrum indicates their relationship.

I was able to photograph male Common Darters perched in several different spots and I particularly like the way that the fiery red of their bodies contrasts with the cooler green of the backgrounds.

Common Darter

Common Darter

Common Darter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Last year when visiting Brussels, Belgium in early September, I was excited to discover dragonflies at the botanical garden in the center of the city. I headed back to the same location on Sunday right after checking into my hotel to see if I could find some dragonflies there this year.

As soon as I arrived at the small pond at the botanical garden, I was thrilled to see a number of large, colorful dragonflies flying about. Although they spent most of their time flying patrols over the water, occasionally one of the dragonflies would perch on the vegetation at water’s edge, which allowed me to capture some images of them.

I absolutely love the beautiful colors and patterns of these dragonflies, which I believe are Migrant Hawker dragonflies (Aeshna mixta). I am definitely not an expert on European dragonflies, however, and there are a number of other hawker species that are somewhat similar in appearance. In North America, there are dragonflies of this same Aeshna genus, which are usually referred to as mosaic darners, but I don’t think that this particular species can be found on the other side of the Atlantic.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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As I was working on a post earlier today about an unusually colored damselfly, the Citrine Forktail damselfly, I realized that I had not posted any photos of the beautifully colored ones that I saw during my trip to Brussels earlier this month. They were not yellow in color, but instead were a bright red. The first ones that I saw were a couple in the tandem position that is used for mating and also, for some species, when depositing eggs. A few days later I spotted a singleton damselfly perched on some vegetation.

I don’t think that I have seen any red damselflies in Northern Virginia, so I had to do some research. What I discovered is that these damselflies have the very unexciting name of Large Red Damselflies (Pyrrhosoma nymphula). The name seems to fit, but it strikes me that the scientist must have been tired or was otherwise feeling uncreative when he came named the species. This particular species is mainly a European one with some populations in Northern Africa and Western Asia, according to Wikipedia, so I am not at all likely to spot one on my frequent photowalks here.

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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So many dragonflies…so little time. Although I have returned from my recent trip to Brussels, Belgium, I still have photos to share of dragonflies that I saw while I was there. I guess that I consider the species that I observed to be “exotic” and special because they were new to me, though many of them are probably quite common in Brussels.

The dragonfly species that I am featuring today is the Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum). When I first spotted these dragonflies at the  étang Tenreuken (Tenreuken Pond). I was struck by their resemblance to the Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), a very common dragonfly where I live. The Blue Dasher is particularly special to me because it was the subject of my very first blog posting in July 2012. (For reference purposes, this will be posting number 2740.)

As I watched the Black-tailed Skimmers, I noticed some differences compared to the Blue Dashers. The bodies of the Black-tailed Skimmers appeared to be larger and broader; their eyes seemed greener; and they seemed to spend more time perching flat on the ground rather than on the tips of vegetation.

I thought about posting only the first image, my favorite, because it has a kind of artistic appeal to me. I like the low angle that I chose and the vegetation growing in the foreground out of what appears to be a rock, but is actually the deteriorated wood of a piling at the edge of the water. Ultimately I decided to share some additional shots that give you a more complete view of this beautiful “new” dragonfly species.

UPDATE: A sharp-eyed viewer from the United Kingdom noted that the dragonfly in the second photo appears to be a different species than the ones in the other photos. I did some additional checking and agree with him that it is probably a male Scarce Chaser (Libellula fulva), not a Black-tailed Skimmer. Thanks for the help, blhphotoblog, and others should check out his wonderful blog Butterflies to Dragsters for some wonderful photos.

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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