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Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

Do you remember the first blog post that you ever wrote? In my first blog posting on July 7, 2012, I featured a photo of a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). Every year since then whenever I see my first Blue Dashers of the season, I recall my excitement I experienced in being able to photograph that first dragonfly. I did not realize at that time how “addicted” I would get to photographing these beautiful little creatures.

I spotted this handsome male Blue Dasher this past Tuesday at the edge of a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Earlier this week I spotted this male Zabulon Skipper butterfly (Poanes zabulon) while I was exploring Occoquan Regional Park. I am not one hundred percent sure of my identification, given that there are hundreds of different species of skipper butterflies, but I am hoping that I am correct for the simple reason that I find the name “Zabulon” to be exceptionally cool. As some of you may know from the URL for my site, my middle initial is Q, which stands for Quentin, and I am irresistibly drawn to names that begin with infrequently used letters like Q, X, and Z.

In terms of the image itself, I really like the way that the warm orange tones of the butterfly stand out amidst the cooler shades of green in the foreground and in the background.

Zabulon Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you so used to the common beauty that surrounds you every day that you no longer see it? What does it take for you to stop and take notice and maybe even pull out a camera to photograph a subject?

Almost six years ago I read a blog posting by fellow photographer Lyle Krahn that talked of a concept called “stopping power” and that posting has stuck with me to this day. Here’s a portion of that posting that describes the concept, “I think every beautiful scene has stopping power. That’s my term for the ability of a scene to make a person stop hiking or driving in order to pull out a camera and make images. Did you ever wonder what makes you stop? Do you ever hear the music?”

I try to pay attention to even the most common subjects and when it comes to dragonflies, that means the aptly named Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia). Common Whitetails are among the first dragonflies to appear in the spring and among the last to disappear in the autumn. You can find lots of Common Whitetails almost everywhere it seems.

On Tuesday at Occoquan Bay Regional Park I stopped and photographed some Common Whitetail dragonflies as I was searching for some more exotic dragonfly species. This early in the season the Common Whitetails seem to be hanging out at a distance from the water—later in the summer I tend to find them buzzing around ponds and swamps.

The first two shots below are of male Common Whitetails. Although mature males are white, when they are young they have brown bodies similar to those of females. However, males have different patterns on their wings and the second and third images show those differences and may help you to distinguish immature males from females.

So, what has “stopping power” for you? I encourage you to think about that question, to make an effort to lower your threshold, and to look for the uncommon beauty in common subjects.

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this male Lancet Clubtail dragonfly (Gomphus exilis) while exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a relatively small park not far from where I live. The dragonfly was perched on some leafy vegetation overhanging the water and I almost fell into the pond while trying to frame the shot. Fortunately I achieved my desired result by hanging over the edge of the steep bank.

If you look at the end of the “tail,” which technically is called the “abdomen,” you can see the enlarged section that gives rise to the term “clubtail.” Compared to the family of skimmers, which include most of the dragonflies that you probably see, like Blue Dashers and Common Whitetails, clubtails are relatively uncommon and it is always exciting for me to spot one.

I was particularly struck by this dragonfly’s brilliant blue eyes. For some reason I find blue eyes to be especially beautiful, irrespective of the species.

Lancet Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During my church retreat in Orkney Springs, Virginia this past weekend, I played hide-and-seek with a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). It repeatedly flew teasingly close to me, trying to entice me to chase it.  I took the bait and pursued the big dragonfly for quite some time as it flew in and out of the reeds.

It tried to hide by hanging from some vegetation by the tips of its tiny toes—the second photo shows my initial view of the hidden dragonfly. By moving to the side and crouching low, I was able to peer through the vegetation and eventually spot the dragonfly. Realizing that it was found, the dragonfly tilted its head toward me and smiled, as you can see in the first image shown below.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I try to do a blog posting almost every day, but I spent this weekend unplugged from the internet at a church retreat in the mountains of Virginia, so I missed a couple of days. When I first started blogging, I was a bit compulsive about it and worried that I would lose all of my followers if I did not post every single day. Now I have a more balanced approach and realize that it is not the end of the world if the clock strikes midnight and I have not posted something new.

Today I am featuring some Brown Spiketail dragonflies (Cordulegaster bilineata) that I spotted last week while exploring Occoquan Regional Park with my fellow dragonfly enthusiast and blogger Walter Sanford. He and I returned to a location where we had spotted this species last year and were delighted to see that members of this species had emerged on schedule. Like many other species that emerge in the early spring, Brown Spiketails have a limited flight period and are found in small numbers at a limited number of locations.

Walter and I discovered that it is helpful to search for these dragonflies together. Often one of us will flush the dragonfly and the other person can observe the direction and the spot to which the dragonfly has relocated. This is really important because, as you can see from the photos, Brown Spiketails perch at an angle or hang vertically from vegetation that is often low to the ground, which makes it difficult to spot them when they are stationary.

Be sure to check out Walter’s posting today of our encounter with the Brown Spiketails. Although he and I were shooting together, we use different camera gear and approaches and our respective images give you different perspective on the same subjects. We also craft our blog postings independently and the style and content of our individual postings tends to reflect our personalities and backgrounds—I have a liberal arts background and Walter has a background in science.

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

Brown Spiketail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Shorebirds are always tough for me to identify—so many of them are similar in appearance. When I spotted this little bird on Wednesday at Occoquan Regional Park, I noticed that it was all alone. Half-jokingly, I thought to myself that maybe it is a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria). When I later checked my bird identification guide I was shocked to discover that it actually is a Solitary Sandpiper.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, however, the name of the Solitary Sandpiper is not completely accurate—”While not truly solitary, it does not migrate in large flocks the way other shorebirds do.” On the same website I also learned the interesting fact of the world’s 85 sandpiper species, only the Solitary Sandpiper and the Green Sandpiper of Eurasia routinely lay eggs in tree nests instead of on the ground.

Solitary Sandpiper

Solitary Sandpiper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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