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Two different colored dragonflies, a Needham’s Skimmer (Libellula needhami) and a Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), were peacefully sharing a prime perch on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Why is it so hard for us to peacefully coexist with one another?

peaceful co-existence

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Sometimes photography seems so complicated with a myriad of competing factors in play as I search for interesting subjects and seek to capture their beauty. There is a kind of pull to travel to ever more exotic locales and to constantly think of upgrading my gear.

Sometimes my favorite images, however, are my simplest ones, like these shots of a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) that I spotted last week in the midst of the cattails of Huntley Meadows Park. The subject is commonplace, the setting is ordinary, the composition is uncomplicated, and even the color palette is restricted.

I find a real beauty in this kind of minimalism. At its heart, photography is simple, although it requires a lot of effort.

chickadee

chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Blue-tailed skink

I especially love seeing skinks when they are juveniles and their tails are blue. I spotted this Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) last week at Huntley Meadows Park.

Common Five-lined Skinks are a variety of small lizards that I see from time to time in my local area. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society, the average length of these skinks is from 5 to 8 and a half inches (12.5 to 21.5 cm).

This skink was on the trunk of a rotten tree when I encountered it. It was quickly clear that I was going to have to switch my camera from landscape orientation, which is how I take most of my shots, to portrait orientation, because of the length of the skink’s body.

I like both of these shots for different reasons. I find the curve in the body in the first shot to be more interesting, but the second shot is much sharper and shows greater detail. Which shot is “better?’ You have to make that call—I keep going back and forth in attempting to decide.

Common Five-lined Skink

Common Five-lined Skink

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Turkey Vulture takeoff

Generally when I see Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura), they are soaring through the air, using their incredible sense of smell to find something dead on which to feed. This past week, though, I watched as this vulture landed on a dead tree in the middle of a marshy field and groomed itself for a little while. I guess even vultures need to rest from time to time.

I took this shot just as the vulture was taking off to resume its search for a “tasty” meal.

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never realized that I was surrounded by cannibals. No, I did not discover a pile of skulls or a string of shrunken heads, but almost every time recently that I have gone out into my local marsh, I have spotted Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes).

These insects are big and they buzz as they fly by me, so they are hard to miss. I have read that they are vicious predators, but I had never caught one red-handed with prey (or perhaps I should say red-footed) until yesterday. I can’t quite identify the prey, but it looks like it might be some kind of small bee. If so, it wouldn’t bee too surprising, given that one of the nicknames for this species in the “Bee Panther.”

I know that I shouldn’t be worried about these cannibals, but a slight chill went through me yesterday when one of these insects landed on the lenshood of my camera and looked up at me, looking very much like he was sizing me up

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s not hard to figure out the source of its name when you spot a colorful Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) waving in the breeze. These dragonflies also remind me of pole vaulters, attempting to thrust their bodies over a crossbar while holding on to the very end of a long pole.

I have not seen one yet at Huntley Meadows Park, the place where I take the majority of my photos, though earlier this summer one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, spotted one in the park for the first time in years. I shot this image at edge of a small pond during a recent trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.

pennant1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at my local marsh seem to have grown accustomed to the presence of people and some of them like to fish near the boardwalk. This one was so close that I had to lean backwards over the edge of the edge of the boardwalk to fit the entire heron into these shots—zooming was not an option, given that I was using a lens of a fixed focal length, a 180mm macro lens.

While I was observing the heron, it concentrated its activity around a rock that stuck out of the water, sometimes perching on it and sometimes circling around it. I hope the heron had better luck during the rest of the day, because it did not have any luck at all as I watched and waited in vain to capture a big catch.

Great Blue Heron Huntley Meadows Parkheron3_rocks_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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