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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 50D’

Normally I try to do a posting to my blog every day, but for the next three weeks my posting schedule will be much more erratic. I am in the final stages of packing my car for a trip to visit my son and his family outside of Seattle, Washington. There are multiple decision points along the way and I have not yet decided on my final route, but no matter how I go, it is likely to be about 3,000 miles (4828 km) each way.

I have some camping gear with me, including a water jug that holds six gallon (23 liter), so I may well be spending some time disconnected from the virtual world. I’ll try to take some photos along the way and will share them when I am able.

I am leaving you with a shot of a pretty little butterfly, which I think is a Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) perched on some Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa). I love the different shades of orange in the image.

In case some of you do not know it, my KIA Soul, in which I am driving out West, is orange in color. It is a coppery orange and not a pumpkin orange and it definitely stands out in a parking lot. My license plate holder has SOUL on it and my license plate itself is “BLESS MY.”

I am attaching a couple of photos of my car from January 2016, after a big snow storm. So many of us throughout the Northern Hemisphere are suffering from oppressive heat and I thought that the sight of snow might cool us off a little. I’ll close with a joke that I say on-line today that is a perfect fit for my quirky sense of humor—”Just be thankful that it is not snowing. Imagine shoveling snow in this heat!”

KIA Soul

KIA Soul

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonflies are amazing creatures. They spend most of their lives underwater as nymphs. When the time is right, they crawl out of the water and begin an incredible transformation. They burst out of their exoskeletons and in a short period of time their bodies lengthen and their wings unfurl. Suddenly they are breathing air and can fly. Six years ago I was able to document this entire process in a posting called Metamorphosis of a dragonfly, which you may want to check out.

If you wander along the edge of a pond, you may spot some of the discarded exoskeletons, often referred to as exuviae—they look sort of like desiccated bugs. Earlier this month during a visit to Green Spring Gardens, I was able to capture this image of a Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) perched alongside an exuvia. I am not certain that the exoskeleton is from the same species as the dragonfly, but I suspect that it is.

Although it is hard to see very many details of the exuvia, you can’t help but notice how much smaller it is than the adult dragonfly and how the shape of the body is different. It you look closely, you can see the shape of little wing pads that eventually turn into wings. The only body parts that appear to remain the same are the legs.

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have not yet made it to Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this year, so I was especially happy to see that a dozen or so lotuses were in bloom last week at Green Spring Gardens. Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. is a National Park Service site with several dozen ponds with a variety of water lilies and lotuses—it is the go-to place in my area to see this kind of aquatic vegetation.

However, I am pretty content with the smaller selection at Green Spring Gardens, which is only a couple of miles from my home. Every time that I see lotuses, I am faced with the dilemma of how to photograph them. Should I try to get a group shot or should I photograph a single flower? Should I try to capture an image of a whole flower or of some of its parts? When I am trying to photographic birds and insects, I usually do not have the luxury of thinking about all of these compositional considerations, so it feels a little strange to be so intentional when photographing flowers.

Here are three photos from my outing that day that represent several different ways that I approached my subject. The first image is a kind of traditional portrait of a lotus that I took when the sun had slipped behind the clouds and softened the harshness of the light. For the second shot, I moved in closer and focused on the center of a lotus, creating an image that simultaneously realistic and abstract. For the final photo, I moved even closer and tried to emphasize the texture of a lotus leaf and all of its interlocking veins.

It’s fun to play around with my camera and try some different creative approaches that I do not regularly use in photographing wildlife.

Have a wonderful weekend and consider trying a new approach to something you regularly do. It may not necessarily work, but it will undoubtedly be fun.

 

lotus

lotus center

lotus leaf

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was not sure of the species of these damselflies when they flew by me in tandem last week at Green Spring Gardens, but I managed to track them visually until they landed on some floating vegetation. As some of you may recall, when damselflies mate, their bodies form a shape that resembles a sidewards heart, a position sometimes referred to as the “wheel” position. When mating is completed, the damselfly couples fly off together with the male still grasping the female by the back of her head and the male stays attached as the female deposits her eggs—that may have been why they landed on this vegetation.

When I returned home and was able to examine the damselflies closely, I was delighted to see that they were Dusky Dancers (Argia translata), a species that I rarely see. If you click on the photos, you can get a closer look at the stunning eyes and beautiful markings of these damselflies. I am particularly drawn to the pattern of thin blue rings around the abdomen of the male, the damselfly on the left that is perched almost vertically.

Dusky Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the way that this acrobatic bee was able to position its antennae for optimized access to the nectar in this bee balm flower last Friday at Green Spring Gardens. The bee was so focused on the flower that it paid me no attention, allowing me to get really close to it to capture this image.

I believe that the bee is an Eastern Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa virginica). As for the flower, there was quite a variety of flowers in different colors that looked like this one. I think that it is a type of bee balm (g. Monarda), though I really do not know flowers very well.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the simple beauty of Cabbage White butterflies (Pieris rapae). They are mostly white with a few touches of black, but if you get a close-up look, you discover that they have stunningly speckled green eyes. Cabbage Whites, in my experience, tend to be pretty skittish and do not stay in one place for very long. If you were to track my movements, you would probably discover that I spend a good amount of time chasing after these little beauties.

Last Friday I was able to capture these images of a Cabbage White butterfly as it flitted about some pretty purple flowers at Green Spring Gardens. The first shot is my clear favorite of the three thanks to its saturated colors, out-of-focus background, and interesting composition. The other two images, however, are interesting in their own ways, showing a more dynamic view of the butterfly at work.

I am not a gardener, so I tend to view this butterfly almost exclusively from the perspective of its beauty—the same is true with invasive species of animals and insects. I fully recognize that this butterfly is considered to be an agricultural pest and can cause damage to crops, but that, in my eyes, does not diminish its beauty.

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am always fascinated by interactions between species. It is impossible to know exactly what is going on in the minds of the participants, but sometimes the behavior is one of curiosity, co-existence, or confrontation.

As I was preparing to photograph a pretty pink water lily at Green Spring Gardens last Friday, a honey bee flew into the frame. The bee dove right into the center of the flower, so I waited for it to emerge and continued to watch through the viewfinder of my camera.

I was just getting ready to finally take a shot when suddenly a small hover fly flew into the frame. I timed it right and managed to captured this image when the hover fly was right above the honey bee.

The hover fly seemed to be on a reconnaissance mission and the honey bee seemed to be telling him to buzz off. Somehow the posture of the bee reminded me of that of a policeman at the scene of a crime as he repeatedly tells onlookers, “Move along, there is nothing to see here.” Was this a confrontation? I don’t think that it rose to that level, but it was clear to me (and probably to the hover fly) that the bee did not want to share his golden treasure with anyone else.

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I had no idea that Eastern Gray Squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) liked mushrooms, but this squirrel certainly seemed to be nibbling on one when I spotted him on Wednesday at Green Spring Gardens. I love the way that he was holding the mushroom in his “hands” as he gently chewed on the stem—I think he may have already consumed the mushroom cap.

Squirrel and mushroom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the distinctive coloration of Orange Bluet damselflies (Enallagma signatum), whose name always causes me to smile at the apparent oxymoron. How can a bluet be orange? As the name “bluet” suggests, most of the 35 members of the genus American Bluet (Enallagma), the largest damselfly genus in North America, are blue. However, certain species come in other colors including red, orange, and green and the Rainbow Bluet combines red, yellow, and green.

I spotted this handsome male Orange Bluet last Wednesday as he was perching on a lily pad in a small pond at Green Spring Gardens. He posed beautifully for me and I was able to capture quite a few details of this little damselfly. I recommend that you click on the image to get a closer look at this Orange Blue, including his wonderful orange markings.

Orange Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Eastern Amberwings (Perithemis tenera) are very small dragonflies, with an overall length of no more than one inch (25 mm). Males of this species are easy to identify because of their amber-colored wings. Males are quite common and I ofter see them buzzing around the edges of the ponds that I visit. Females have brown patches on their clearer wings and often hunt far from the water, so I do not see them very often.

Despite their small size, Eastern Amberwings are one of the easiest dragonflies to photograph in flight. They often hover low, close to the water surface near the shore, which gives me a fighting chance to focus on them. It requires a steady hand and quick reactions, but the first two images show the kind of results you can get. The second shot is a little quirky, but I like the way that it shows two male Amberwings passing each other, flying in opposite directions.

The final shot is an “artsy” shot of a perched Amberwing. The dragonfly was flying among the lotus flowers last Wednesday at Green Spring Gardens and perched for a moment on a lotus leaf that had not yet unfurled. I tried to compose the image so that the viewer gets a sense of the habitat, which gives the shot a completely different feel from the first two photos in which the subjects are completely separated from their environment.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was absolutely thrilled on Wednesday when I streaks of bright yellow flashed in front of my eyes while walking among the flowers at Green Spring Gardens—goldfinches were present. Few other birds in my area can match the brilliant yellow color of the male American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) in breeding plumage. It is easy to spot these birds, but it is a challenge to photograph them, because they are small, fast, and skittish.

My camera was equipped with my 180mm macro, which can also serve as a short telephoto lens, so I had to use all of my stalking skills to get as close as possible. Fortunately, the goldfinches were preoccupied with feeding and I was able to capture these images. I had to be quite patient, though, because the goldfinches spent most of their time with their heads buried in the flowers and only rarely gave me a good view of their faces

Together with the goldfinches, the abundance of blooming flowers helped me to create images that have a happy feel to them, a welcome antidote to the gloom of these troubled times.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Ten years ago today I started this blog. After reviewing some of my photos from earlier that fateful day, my dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer told me I needed a blog. I was a little skeptical, but we sat down at a computer and she helped me to set up this blog. I could not come up with a cute or creative name, so I simply called it “Mike Powell—My journey through photography.”

My first posting was a modest one that showcased a single photo of a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). In case you are curious, here is a link to that first posting that was entitled “Blue Dasher dragonfly.”

I figured that my blog would be primarily a place to display my photos. I rapidly realized, however, that I enjoyed expressing myself with my words as much as with my images. My postings are often a direct reflection of my thoughts or feelings at the very moments when I am composing the post. I do not compose them in advance, so my postings sometimes ramble around a bit, but I have found that many of my readers enjoy this conversational, stream-of-consciousness style.

According to WordPress statistics, I have done 4462 postings, with almost three hundred sixty thousand total views. I have written most of these postings myself, though occasionally I have reblogged the postings of others. My favorite subjects over the years have been insects and birds, but I have also done postings on a wide range of other topics including animals, travel, poetry, and painting.

Today it seemed appropriate to post a photo of a male Blue Dasher—the dragonfly that started it all—that I photographed yesterday at Green Spring Gardens, a local, county-run historical garden. When I was starting to get more serious about photography ten years ago, Cindy and I would often photograph flowers and insects at this garden.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Cindy for the initial push to start this blog and for her continued encouragement and inspiration. However, I am equally indebted to so many readers who have provided thoughtful comments, support, and motivation as we have made this journey together. Thanks to all of you—I could not have done it without you.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is fairly uncommon for me to see a Cyrano Darner dragonfly (Nasiaeschna pentacantha), so when I do, I try my best to get a shot of it. The problem, though, is that they always seem to be patrolling over the water far from the shore and rarely seem to perch.

Last Wednesday I spotted this Cyrano Darner flying around a heavily vegetated area, which made it even tougher to focus on the dragonfly. I was thrilled to be able to get a recognizable shot of the dragonfly, though the background is so cluttered that you may have to look hard to see it in the first image. The second image is a little less sharp, but gives you a clearer view of the dragonfly.

In case you are curious, the species is named for its long, protruding, greenish forehead that is somewhat reminiscent of the long nose of literary character Cyrano de Bergerac. This is the only species that I have encountered where the “nose” helps me to identify it—most of the time I focus on other parts of a dragonfly’s anatomy.

Cyrano Darner

Cyrano Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I sometimes feel like male Slaty Skimmer dragonflies are checking me out—they often seem to hover and look right at me when I encounter them. Perhaps it is is a sign of curiosity or maybe one of territoriality. Whatever the case, I love their dark, good looks, like those of these Slaty Skimmers (Libellula incesta) that I encountered last Wednesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

The first image is a traditional shot of a perching Slaty Skimmer. In the second shot, I attempt to capture an image of a Slaty Skimmer as he zoomed on past me. I like the feel of the shot, even though I was a little slow in pressing the shutter and caught him as he was flying away. As many of you know, I love to try to photograph dragonflies while they are flying. It is possible to do so, but the degree of difficulty is pretty high.

Slaty Skimmer

 

Slaty Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I generally prefer to photograph dragonflies on natural perches, not on manmade ones. However, whenever I visit Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge I always check a piece of rebar that sticks out of the water of Mulligan Pond near one of the fishing platforms, because I have found that dragonflies love this photogenic perch.

Last Wednesday, I spotted a male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) perched on the rebar. It flew away as I approached, but I waited patiently and it eventually returned. I tried a number of different approaches in framing my shots, taking advantage of the changing background caused by the movement of the brownish waters of the pond.

I love the contrast between the colors, patterns, and textures of the natural object, the dragonfly, and those of the man-made subject, the rebar. The muddy waters of the pond provide a mostly uniform background color that really complements the amber and rust tones of the primary subjects.

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Each summer season I look forward to photographing Swift Setwing dragonflies (Dythemis velox) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. These little dragonflies perch in a distinctive pose with their wings pulled forward, which looked to some scientist like the “ready-set-go” position of a sprinter and is reportedly the reason for the name of the species. One of my fellow photographers recently posted some photos of the species in Facebook, prompting me to set out last Wednesday to see if I could find some of them myself.

Six years ago I spotted my first Swift Setwing dragonfly at this same location. This primarily southern species had never before have been documented in Fairfax County, Virginia, the county where I live, so it is kind of special for me to see them each year. (You can see details of that first sighting in my 25 June 2016 posting Swift Setwing dragonfly.)

Members of this species like to perch at the very tip of vegetation overhanging the water and almost always face the water. It can therefore be quite a challenge to get profile shots and almost impossible to get the kind of head-on shots that I love to take.

I had a number of encounters with Swift Setwings and tried a variety of compositions to capture images of these cool little dragonflies. My favorite shot is probably the first one—I really like the way that the colors of the dragonfly’s head are mirrored in the colors of the berries in the background.

Swift Setwing

Swift Setwing

Swift Setwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled on Wednesday to spot some Banded Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis fasciata) at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Earlier this season I photographed Calico Pennants and a Halloween Pennant and it is nice to capture images of another “pennant” species with patterned wings. This is the only local spot where I have reliably seen them in the past, and in some years I have not see a single one.

Adult male Banded Pennants are blue, like so many other dragonflies, but the distinctive pattern on their wings make them easy to distinguish from the others. They may be easy to identify, but they are small in size—about 1.3 inches (34 mm) in length—and perch in vegetation right at the edge of the water, so you have to look carefully to spot them.

I was fortunate to have multiple opportunities to photograph Banded Pennants that day. The colorful little dragonflies would make short forays over the deeper waters of the pond, but would sometimes would return to the same clumps of vegetation. The banks of the pond are pretty steep in many spots, so I had to really pay attention as I leaned over the edge to capture some of these images, but I managed to stay dry.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Banded Pennant

Banded Pennant

Banded Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Wednesday I spotted this aptly-named Blue-tipped Dancer damselfly (Argia tibialis) while I was exploring a small stream at Jackson Miles Wetland Refuge. This was my first sighting of this species this season, so I was really happy to see it.

Unlike most damselflies, this one was content to perch on the rocks in the stream bed rather than on the nearby vegetation. That meant that I too had to descend to water level for me to get a shot.

When I took the image, I remember that I liked the way that the damselfly was perching at the edge of a large rock and I carefully composed the shot to include the entirety of the rock. As I was adjusting the image this morning, however, it suddenly struck me that the damselfly looked like it was trying to push the rock aside, which would clearly be an impossible task.

I immediately thought of the story of Sisyphus. According to Greek mythology, Zeus punished Sisyphus for cheating death twice by forcing him to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity.

I obviously have an overly active imagination when I start making these kinds of strange connections early in the morning. but it is fun sometimes to just let my creative mind run freely. I never know where these flights of fancy will take me, but the final destinations are often quirky. So, can you too imagine my little damselfly as an insect Sisyphus?

Blue-tipped Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There are quite a few blue dragonflies where I live, so I can’t simply rely on color to tell them apart. Fortunately, it is very easy to identify a male Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), because it has a white spot beside a black spot on the outer leading edge of each wing—as far as I know, no other dragonfly in our area has multi-colored stigmata, the technical name for those spots.

The stigmata are not there for decoration, but serve an important role in the flight of dragonflies. I do not really understand the physics of flight, but have read that the stigmata are heavier than the adjoining cells and help to stabilize the vibrations of the wings.

I spotted these two mature male Spangled Skimmers during recent trips to Occoquan Regional Park. Earlier this year I saw some immature male Spangled Skimmers at the same location that were brown and yellow in coloration, just like the females of the species. (See my posting from 30 May 2022 entitled Spangled Skimmer dragonflies to see photos of an immature male and a female of this species.) Although the color of the males changes completely as they mature, the distinctive stigmata are present even when they are young.

Spangled Skimmer

 

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Earlier this season I saw a lot of Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) activity at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Many of the Ospreys seemed to be attempting to build nests, but it was never clear to me which ones were viable. These potential nesting sites were scattered around the entire refuge, so I count not simply monitor them as I do with the two eagle nests.

One of these sites is a man-made nesting platform that is located in the middle of a field. It is a simple wooden platform atop a vertical post that looks like a telephone pole. During the off-season, when the ospreys have departed from our area, bald eagles often perch on this platform, but it is not suitable for a bald eagle nest.

Apparently, though, the nesting platform is suitable for ospreys. Last Friday, I noted a lot of activity at the platform and managed to capture this image of an osprey family. I was shooting a telephoto lens, but was a good distance away, so the shot is not quite as sharp and detailed as I would have liked. However, it is easy to pick out both parents and at least two baby ospreys.

That same day, I checked the eagle nest to see if I could see the eaglet that I had previously photographed, but did not see it. Previously it looked like the eaglet was almost ready to fly and it is possible that the eaglet is no longer spending its time in the nest, but I will be sure to check for activity the next time that I visit the refuge—it is one of my regular stops when I make the rounds at the wildlife refuge.

Ospreys

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The calendar and the temperatures both tell me that we have entered into the long, hot, lazy days of summer. Here in the Washington D.C. area, where I live, that often means a lot of humidity too. Some days it can be a bit of a challenge to motivate myself to go out into the wild with my camera.

However, many dragonflies seem to love this kind of weather and the fields and ponds are abuzz with dragonfly activity. One of our common species is the Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans). This past week I noticed a sharp increase in their numbers as I wandered the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Blue Skimmers have stunning blue eyes and white faces, which help to distinguish them from similar species. The Great Blue Skimmer in the first photo, which looks to be a young male, was cooperative and let me get quite close to him to get this close-up view of his head. Dragonflies of this species seem to have a pronounced overbite, which gives them a goofy grin that I find endearing.

I think that the dragonfly in the second shot is a female Great Blue Skimmer. Several dragonfly species share the same black and yellow coloration and pattern for juveniles and for females, so it can often be a real challenge to make a definitive identification. Fortunately, the differences among the species become more pronounced as the dragonflies mature.

 

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I was excited last Monday to spot this Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina), one of my favorite dragonflies, as I was exploring a small pond in Fairfax County. I especially love the beautiful patterns on its wings and the way that it perches on the very tip of flimsy vegetation, causing it to flutter in the slightest breeze, like a pennant.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I noticed on Friday that quite a few milkweed plants are now in bloom at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Hopefully they will attract some Monarch butterflies. In the meantime, I was happy to see this Red Milkweed Beetle (Tetraopes tetrophthalmus) with its cool “longhorn” antennae.

Over ten years ago, I encountered these strange-looking insects for the first time and was utterly fascinated by their appearance. That fascination has not diminished over time. Milkweed plants are amazing hosts to a wonderful variety of insects and it is always fun to examine them closely.

I was a pretty good distance away from this beetle, so I was not able to get a close-up shot of it, so settled for a shot that included a bit of the milkweed. I really like the resulting image, a reminder to myself that the primary subject does not necessarily have to fill the frame for a photo to be effective.

If you want a better view of a Red Milkweed Beetle, check out my June 2013 posting entitled “Red Milkweed Beetle—he’s back.”

Red Milkweek Beetle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Numerous Needham’s Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula needhami)) have recently emerged at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Yay! I just love the golden leading edges on the wings of this species. Male Needham’s Skimmers eventually turn reddish-orange in color, but initially have the same yellow and black coloration as the females.

In the first shot, I was thrilled to photograph a beautiful female as she perched on some colorful Eastern Gamagrass (Tripsacum dactyloides).  I cannot identify very many plants, but this one is distinctive enough that it has stuck in my memory. I love the expression on the dragonfly’s face–she seems to be either smiling at me or sticking out her tongue at me.

The Needham’s Skimmer in the second image also seems to be smiling. I think that it is a male, but cannot be certain from this angle of view.

Have a wonderful weekend. Needham's Skimmer

Needham's Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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We have had rain and clouds the last few days and I feel the need for a pop of color today. This blanket flower (g. Gaillardia) provided a wonderfully colorful backdrop for a little bee that I spotted during a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens. I think that it may be some kind of sweat bee, but I did not get a close enough look at it to be able identify it.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is a simple law of nature that all creatures have to eat and many of my subjects are carnivores. The question of whether a creature is predator or prey is often a relative one—today’s predator can easily become tomorrow’s prey.

I try not to get emotionally involved when I witness one creature feeding on another, but that is not always possible. For me it is somewhat jarring when I see one dragonfly eating another—it feels like cannibalism.

For some reason, most such encounters that I have witnessed have involved Eastern Pondhawk dragonflies (Erythemis simplicicollis). This species is not at that large or powerful, but seems particularly fierce. Some other dragonflies catch their prey and eat while they are flying, their version of “fast food,” so that may be why I don’t see dragonflies consuming other dragonflies very often.

In the first photo, a female Eastern Pondhawk was feasting on a male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) that it had just caught. As you can see, the dragonfly holds its prey in its long legs and begins by eating the head.

In the second photo, taken at a different location, another female Eastern Pondhawk was munching on an unidentifiable damselfly. Readers sometimes ask me about the differences between dragonflies and damselflies and this photo gives you a general idea of the relative size and shape of their bodies.

According to a fascinating posting called “What do Dragonflies Eat?” on The Infinite Spider website, “All adult dragonflies are insectivores, which means they eat insects they catch with their spiny hairy legs.  The insects are then held in a basket-like device while flying. They particularly delight in mosquitoes (30-100+ per day per dragonfly!) as well as other pesky flight bugs  such as flies, butterflies, bees, and even other dragonflies.”

Check out the posting that I referenced in the previous paragraph, if you dare, for details about how dragonflies actually eat. Here is a sneak preview, “The main thing to notice is that they have jaws that work side to side and that are shaped like wicked meat hooks, mandibles that go up and down and maxillae that act like a lower lip and hold food.” Yikes!

Eastern Pondhawk

 

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There was only one water lily in bloom last week at Green Spring Gardens—it did not have to share the spotlight with any other floating flowers. In some ways, its uniqueness made it even even more special. I love water lilies, but it may be a bit early for them to be blooming, at least at this pond.

As I was looking through my camera’s viewfinder, trying to think of an interesting way to photograph the single water lily, I spotted a tiny hover fly making a beeline for the center of the water lily. I reacted quickly and frantically clicked away. In most of my shots, the hover fly was out of focus, but my luck and timing allowed me to capture the first image below, in which the little insect is in relatively sharp focus—click on the image to get a closer look at the patterns on the hover fly’s body.

I realize that some viewers may prefer to enjoy the beauty of a flower without having to see insects, so I have added a second shot of the water lily that I took from a slightly different angle. No matter which image you prefer, I am confident that you will agree that the water lily is stunning—I love the way that the center of the flower seems to glow.

Water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Here is a look at what might be one or more of the parents of the young eaglet at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I featured in a recent post. Last Friday, the larger Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at the top was perched for an extended period of time in a tree overlooking the large nest when the second eagle flew in. They remained in place for several minutes before flying away.

Are these two eagles a couple? The one on the left is probably three to four years old and may not be mature enough to be a parent—it can take about five years for the head feathers to turn completely white and for an eagle to fully mature. On the other hand, if only the older one is a parent, it seems a little strange that it was so comfortable with an interloper zooming in and perching that close if they are not a couple.

Several Facebook readers commented that the eagles that were hanging around the nest earlier in the year both had completely white heads. What happened? We may need a paternity test to determine if this precocious young eagle is indeed the father.

So what do we have here? Is this a much older sibling of the eaglet in the nest? If so, where is the other parent? Female eagles tend to be larger than males, so it is quite possible that the eagle perched higher is a female. Maybe she is disappointed that there is only a single eaglet and is trying out a possible new mate. It is a bit of a mystery.

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never know what will catch my eye when my camera is in my hand. On Monday, for example, I spotted these tiny, colorful flowers while hunting for dragonflies at Occoquan Regional Park. The blue one is a type of blue-eyed grass (g. Sisyrinchium), but I can’t identify the pretty pink one.

I am not a gardener, so I never learned to differentiate between flowers and weeds—they are all flowers to me. I find the names of plant species to be confusing at times. Blue-eyed grass, for example, is not actually a grass, but a perennial related to the iris, and it comes in multiple colors. Yikes!

The good news is that my lack of knowledge about plants does not keep me from enjoying fully the beauty of these tiny flowers. To borrow a line from Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.”

If you recognize the pink flower and can identify it, please let me know what it is. Ten years ago I could not identify a single dragonfly, but over time I have learned a lot about them. There is hope, therefore, that I will similarly expand my knowledge of flowers as I encounter and photograph them.

UPDATE: Thanks to Steve Gingold, I now know that the pink flower is a Deptford Pink (Dianthus armeria), a plant species native to Europe that is naturalized in much of North America. Be sure to check out Steve’s blog for lots of wonderful nature images and a wealth of information about plants, insects, and other aspects of nature, especially in Western New England, where he lives.


pink flower

blue-eyed grass

pink flower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was visiting a small pond at Green Spring Gardens last week, checking to see if the lotus flowers and water lilies were in bloom, I detected some movement at the edge of the water. It took me a moment to spot some tiny Eastern Forktail damselflies (Ischnura verticalis) that were buzzing around the vegetation sticking out of the water. Eastern Forktails are quite small, about 0.8-1.3 inches (20-33 mm) in length.

I got down as low as I could and captured several images of a beautiful female Eastern Forktail. In the first shot, she perched and posed for me, so I had the luxury of carefully composing my shot. Click on the photo to see the wonderful details of this damselfly, including her stunning two-toned eyes. Eastern Forktails are quite small, about 0.8-1.3 inches (20-33 mm) in length.)

In the second shot, she was perching on the edge of a lily pad with the tip of her abdomen in the water. She was in the process of depositing eggs into the bottom of the lily pad or possibly into the stem of the plant.

As it turned out, it is still too early for the lotus flowers to bloom, though the plants were producing lots of leaves. There was one white water lily that was blooming, so the scene at the pond does not yet remind me of a Monet painting.

Eastern Forktail

Eastern Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Earlier this month I did a posting called  Looking out of the nest that featured a young Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting up in a large nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and wondered when it would be able to fly. Last Friday I returned to the refuge and was delighted to see the eaglet flapping its wings and testing them out—I think it is almost ready to fly..

The eaglet repeatedly extended its wings, but seemed a bit uncoordinated, like a gawky teenager who has experienced a growth spurt. Several times it was able to rise up into the air, but looked uncertain about what to do next. The photos below show some of the action, which lasted only for a few minutes. The eaglet then disappeared into the deep nest, possibly to rest after its exertion.

I watched for a while longer and eventually the eaglet reappeared, but it simply sat up, looking out of the nest. A fellow photographer told me that he spotted the eaglet the following day perched in the tree that you can see in the right side of the image. I suspect, though, that the eaglet will need some quite a bit more practice before it will be capable of venturing out on its own and, of course, it will have to learn how to fish.

I will probably make a trip to the refuge this week to check on the eaglet. So many of the nearby trees are covered with leaves that I may have trouble spotting the eagle, particularly because its dark, and mottled plumage help it to blend in well with the foliage. Adult Bald Eagles tend to stick out a bit more because of the bright white feathers on their heads.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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