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This beautiful dwarf bearded iris was almost hidden by the weeds and the undergrowth when I first discovered it early in April. Cindy, my neighbor in whose garden I have been taking flower photos this spring, recalls planting it a couple of years ago, but was a little surprised when I alerted her to it—she does nor remember seeing it bloom last year. The iris never grew very tall and was repeatedly been beaten down by the rain, but it was still strikingly beautiful.

There are so many different irises that specific cultivars are hard to identify. I looked through a lot of photos on-line, though, and think that I have identified it as a variety called “Love Bites.” Stout Gardens at Dancingtree described its characteristics in these words, “Rosy red standards over rich, dark carmine red falls with lavender beards” and added “Velvety carmine red falls with big lavender beards make this one a standout.”

I am curious about the name of the iris, because in my mind it can be interpreted in at least two different ways. Perhaps it refers to romantic little nibbles between lovers.  Maybe, though, it is a bitter commentary on love, an homage to the song by the same name by Def Leppard that ends with the words, “If you’ve got love in your sights, watch out, love bites. Yes it does, it will be hell.”

dwarf iris

dwarf iris

dwarf iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday morning I was delighted to spot this immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It takes approximately five years for a Bald Eagle to gets its classic white head and I estimate this one to be about three years old, judging from its coloration.

Initially I spotted the eagle when it flew into the midst of a group of trees. I moved around only a little, fearful of spooking the bird, and captured the second shot below when the eagle leaned forward a little and exposed its head. Moving as stealthily as I could, I maneuvered to a position from which I had a somewhat clearer shot and captured the third shot below. I noted that the eagle was crouching, which is often a prelude to taking off, but the eagle remained in place.

Eventually I reached a little opening and was able to capture the first image, which I think is the best of the group. The tree in which the eagle is perched is, I believe, a sycamore. Unlike the sweet gum trees with spiky seed balls that have appeared in many of my perched eagle shots, the seed balls of this tree appear to be much smoother.

If you are interested in the developmental stages of a Bald Eagle and how its appearance changes over time, I recommend that you check out a posting from onthewingphotography.com entitled “Bald Eagles – Age Progression from one to five years old” that features wonderful photographs of each stage.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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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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