Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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.

Read Full Post »

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.

 

Read Full Post »

Many dragonflies are colored with muted shades of green and brown and blend in well with their environments. Some, though, are more boldly colored and are hard to miss when they are present.

That is definitely the case for this Scarlet Darter dragonfly (Crocothemis erythraea) that I spotted last week at the Rouge-Cloître Park in Brussels, Belgium. I first noticed the bright red color of this dragonfly when it zoomed across my line of sight and I was thrilled later in the day when one accommodated me by landing on the ground not far from where I was standing.

Scarlet Darter

Scarlet Darter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

When this bird spread its wings and left them open last week at a small pond in Brussels, I instantly knew it was a cormorant. Cormorants have to frequently dry out their wings, because their feathers are not completely waterproof like some other water birds. It sounds like that would be a problem, but it actually is an advantage for them. Their waterlogged feathers help them to dive deeper, kind of like a weight belt that a deep-sea diver might wear.

It turns out that this is a Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo), a larger and somewhat darker cousin of the Double-crested Cormorants that live in our area.

Great Cormorant

Great Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Although I saw Eurasian Coots (Fulica atra) a few times when I was in Brussels, Belgium this week, I was especially thrilled to spot this juvenile coot interacting with one of its parents. The color pattern on the juvenile is quite different from the adult’s, but the shape of their bills definitely shows that they are both coots.

Eurasian Coots are similar in appearance to the American Coots (Fulica americana) that I am used to seeing, though it appears to me that the white frontal shield on the “forehead” of the coot seems more prominent on the Eurasian species.

As I was thinking about the word “coot,” I realized that most people use the word only in the expression “old coot.” It made me wonder why coots are associated with a somewhat disparaging term for older men. According to an article in the Hartford Courant newspaper, “If you’ve ever seen a coot — an ungainly marsh bird that bobs its head like a hen as it swims or walks — you can see why “coot” came to denote, by the 1700’s, “a harmless, simple person,” as in “an old coot.””

I love when I have the chance to photograph the interaction between two species or two members of the same species. In this case, the eye contact and body positions tell a story that scarcely requires words.

Eurasian Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

It’s amazing how many different species of dragonflies I have been able to spot and photograph during my brief stay here in Brussels, Belgium. One new species for me is the Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata)—there were quite a few members of this species active at a pond in the Rouge-Cloître park. Unlike some of the species that I have seen here, this species is also found in North America, where it is known as the “Four-spotted Skimmer.”

This species is so popular that,  according to one website, it won a contest in 1995 to become the state insect of the state of Alaska. That may sound a bit strange to some readers, but personally I am happy that it beat out competitors that included the mosquito. (I have heard stories that mosquitoes in Alaska are large and aggressive and possibly are even larger than dragonflies, though that may be a slight exaggeration.)

Four-spotted Chaser

Four-spotted Chaser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

One of the most exciting things that I have observed during this brief trip to Brussels has been a family of Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) swimming in a small pond at the Rouge-Cloître park. I have seen swans a few times before in the wild, but I had never seen baby swans. As you might expect, they are really cute. Both of the parents seemed to be very attentive to the little ones and stayed close to them at all times. The baby swans, technically known as cygnets, seemed to be very curious and energetic and interacted a lot with each other as they explored the world.

Swan babies

Swan babies

Swan babies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »