Liaison dangereuse

Liaison dangereuse? Living life on the edge? That’s how I would characterize these mating Big Bluet damselflies (Enallagma durum) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Neither of them was harmed during their “activity,” though those thorns look really menacing.

It is definitely not what I would call “safe sex.”

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I have seen birds and bees stick their heads inside tubular flowers, but I had never before seen a small butterfly do so. I watched this Cloudless Sulphur butterfly (Phoebis Sennae) yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge almost bury itself inside this flower as it searched for nectar. I love the way that the light was shining though its wings, illuminating some of the fine details of its tiny body.

I think that this is a Cloudless Sulphur butterfly, but I am easily confused because there is a similar-looking Clouded Sulphur butterfly. To borrow a line from Joni Mitchell, “I really don’t know clouds at all.”

Cloudless Sulphur

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Walking along a creek

Like dragonflies, there are many species of nature photographers—some prefer to perch in one location for long periods of time, waiting for the action to come to them, while others are in constant motion, aggressively seeking potential prey. As most of you probably suspect, I put myself primarily in the latter group and spend a lot of time walking when I am out in the wild with my camera.

Last week I visited Prince William Forest Park, a hilly, tree-covered oasis that is the largest protected natural area in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region at over 16,000 acres, according to Wikipedia. I have explored this park on numerous occasions and one of my favorite activities is walking on the trails that run parallel to creeks that run trough the park. Normally when I am doing so, I am scouring the shorelines looking for dragonflies and other wildlife.

This time, though, I was in a contemplative mood and was repeatedly struck by the interplay of the light and shadows and by the textures and sounds created by the flowing water. I obviously can’t convey the sounds in still photos, but here are a few photos that capture some of my impressions from my walk along Quantico Creek that day.

I realize that these are quite different from my usual photos and are a bit more “artsy.” It’s fun for me to mix things up a bit from time to time and attempt to photograph some different subjects.

Quantico Creek

Quantico Creek


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Beginning of the end

On Friday I spotted this female Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (Argia tibialis) alongside a creek in Prince William County, Virginia. The fallen leaves provided a nice backdrop for the damselfly and remind me that the days of the summer are numbered.

Some of you undoubtedly noticed that there is no blue tip on this Blue-tipped Dancer. As is often the case for species names for insects (and for birds too), the name applies primarily to the males of the species. There is, however, some variety among female Blue-tipped Dancers, with a blue variant, as seen below, and a brown variant.

Blue-tipped Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Sci-fi Spider

As I was exploring Prince William Forest Park yesterday morning, I spotted this little spider. I was shooting almost directly into the sun when I captured this image and the light caused the spider’s legs to look almost transparent and the web to glow with all kinds of colors.

It looks almost like the spider was in outer space (and a Facebook viewer commented that she was totally ok with the spider being as far away as possible from her)..


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Egret in a tree

I inadvertently spooked a Great Egret (Ardea alba) last week while exploring a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I thought that it was going to fly away, but instead it opted to perch in a nearby tree. The sun was really bright as I tried to track the bird in my camera’s viewfinder, so many of my shots were overexposed. As the bird was settling in among the tree branches, I was able to capture this shot.  I really like this shot because of the egret’s wing  positions that are  so  unusual  and  graceful.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Mosaic wings

Dragonfly wings are amazing, but most of the time they are so transparent that it is hard to see all of the tiny little “cells” that make up the wings. Last Friday, though, I captured this shot of an immature male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that really highlights the beautiful mosaic-like pattern of its hind wings. Wow!

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.