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Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

I felt like I had hit the jackpot last Friday when I finally spotted several Uhler’s Sundragon dragonflies (Helocordulia uhleri) while exploring a stream in Prince William County, Virginia. Uhler’s Sundragons are a scarce and seldom seen dragonfly species with a brief and early flight period. There is a very active Virginia dragonfly group in Facebook that posts sightings and photos and it appears that my sightings of this species were the first in our state for 2020.

Last year I was able to do some reconnaissance of an area where this species had been spotted in previous years using information shared with me by fellow dragonfly fanatic and blogger Walter Sanford. Eventually I found and photographed some Uhler’s Sanddragons and he and I were able to spot them again several times.

This species generally is found in a specific type of habitat—”Clean, sandy or gravely forest streams with a mix of riffles and pools,” according to the excellent Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website. So Friday I scoured the locations where had spotted them last year and it was in one such location that I spotted the Ashy Clubtail and Common Green Darner that I featured recently in my posting First dragonflies of the season. I looked for Uhler’s Sundragons there but came up empty-handed.

It was at a second spot that I finally spotted one as it flew through the air and landed on a piece of vegetation. There is not much flying this early in the season and I could tell from the way that it perched that it was probably my target species. I think I was shaking a little bit and certainly my heart rate had accelerated, but I managed to get a shot of that one (the middle shot below), before it flew away. A few minutes later, I had another spotting and captured the last shot below—it might have been the same dragonfly or a different one.

Part of my long walk back took me along another stretch of the same stream and I was absolutely thrilled when I spotted yet another Uhler’s Sundragon and captured my favorite shot of the day, the first one below. It turns out that all of the Uhler’s Sundragons that I photographed were females. I am not sure if the males were all out patrolling or were simply in other locations.

Many of the locations where I might normally search for dragonflies are closed and some of the others are potentially crowded, do I am not willing to go there. As you can see from my recent postings, I am staying really close to home most of the time, with trips like this one to remote locations being a rare exception.

 

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler's Sundragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Friday I photographed my first dragonflies of the spring, a male Common Green Darner (Anax junius) and a female Ashy Clubtail (Phanogomphus lividus). The Common Green Darner is probably a migratory dragonfly that is just passing through as it heads north—we do have local-born members of this species, but it is too early for them to have emerged.

The Ashy Clubtail, which was actually the first dragonfly that I photographed, almost certainly emerged locally. When a dragonfly emerges, its wings are really shiny and the wings of this Ashy Clubtail were definitely sparkling in the sunlight. According to the local flight calendar, the Ashy Clubtail is one of the earliest dragonflies in our area to emerge, but I have never seen one this early before.

As you can see, I captured the images of both of these dragonflies when they were perched flat on the ground. There were dry leaves all around, which made a stealthy approach almost impossible and focusing on the dragonfly was a bit of a challenge.

Common Green Darner

Ashy Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I have my macro lens on my camera, I tend to scan small areas very carefully, looking for variations of color and patterns or signs of movement. The colorful markings permitted me to spot the tiny cricket frog that I featured in yesterday’s posting. Not far from the frog’s habitat, it was movement that allowed me to spot this cool-looking wolf spider (Tigrosa georgicola) on Monday. The spider was slowly crawling through some leaf litter and I was able to grab this shot when it paused for a second in an open area.

I believe that this is the first wolf spider that I have ever photographed. Fortunately I was able to get help in identifying it in a Facebook group devoted to spider identification. I know that some people are totally creeped out by spiders, while others are fascinated by them. I apologize to those in the former group, but hope that exposure to these spiders through my photos will help you appreciate their beauty—they truly are amazing creatures.

If you are at all interested in or curious about wolf spiders (and there are a lot of different species), you should check out Pete Hillman’s blog that just yesterday featured a photo of a wolf spider basking in the sun. Those who really like spiders will love a posting that Pete did earlier in the month entitled Not One For The Squeamish that shows a female wolf spider with a group of little spiderlings on her back—be sure to double-click on that image.

 

wolf spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I captured this shot of an Eastern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans) while exploring a seepy area in Prince William County, Virginia. The frog was tiny, only an inch or so (25 mm) in length. I was thankful for the green markings or I might otherwise have missed seeing the frog. The markings look very much like an arrow point towards the frog’s head. They also gave me something on which to focus since the rest of the frog’s body was pretty well camouflaged.

Eastern Cricket Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) will renovate preexisting nests, but often they have to build one from scratch. This osprey couple that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was trying to build one in what seemed to be a rather precarious location.

I learned about the location of the nest only when I spotted an osprey flying by me with a stick in its talons. In my zeal to track the osprey, I neglected to pull back on my zoom lens, so I ended up cutting off its wing tips in the first image in which the osprey is delivering the stick. In the second image, you can see the nest-to-be as the osprey attempts to arrange the sticks. The final shot shows the osprey arriving at the nesting site with another stick. I like the way that the osprey almost hovered in order to land softly with its delivery.

I don’t know it the osprey couple will manage to jam enough sticks in the crook of the tree to be able to form a stable nest, but I will be sure to check their progress in future visits, as long as the wildlife refuge continues to stay open.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” I started my Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with this handsome Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who seemed to be serenading me.

If you have ever heard the squawk of a Great Blue Heron, you know why it is best that there is no soundtrack. Instead, I recommend that you click on this link to a YouTube video of the song that I cited in my opening sentence from the classic 1955 movie “Oklahoma”—it is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Land prices are so high here in Northern Virginia that you have to be creative. Yesterday I spotted this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) couple building their tiny house on one of the boundary channel markers off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The osprey perched in the back, which I believe is the female, remained in place while the other osprey flew off to forage for building materials. Sometimes they were only small twigs, but occasional the male osprey would return with a fairly long branch, as in the second photo. In the third shot, the male osprey has successfully landed with the long branch, but has not yet let go of it.

Multiple osprey couples are busily constructing nests all of “my” wildlife refuge and I hope to be able to share some images of their constructions sites.

 

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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