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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 50D’

Although it has been almost a week since I last posted an image of a bird, let me reassure you that I have not given up on them. At this time of the year, however, my attention is divided and I am just as likely to be hunting for tiny subjects with my macro lens as I am to be scanning the increasing leafy trees through my long telephoto zoom lens. When I start walking (and I do a lot of walking), I have to decide which lens I will initially put on my camera and that will largely dictate where I will look for subjects.

On Thursday, I went back to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to look for birds and was delighted to spot a small flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). Sometimes the turkeys that I see appear relatively small, but some of the members of this flock seemed enormous, like the one in the first photo. The turkeys were picking about at the edge of the trail on which I was walking and slowly made their way into the undergrowth as I approached. The motion was fast enough, though, that one of the turkey’s legs is blurred in the second photo.

I am hoping to be able to capture some images of springtime warblers and of baby eaglets, but the transition has already begun from mostly telephoto shots to mostly macro shots—it is part of my seasonal transition.

wild tukey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was a little shocked last week at Prince William Forest Park, when I spotted a groundhog (Marmota monax) scampering down a trail heading right towards me as I was resting on a log. The groundhog must have sensed my presence, because it suddenly stopped, sniffed the air, and headed back in the direction from which it had come.

When I first detected the animal coming my way, I thought it might be a bear cub. Yes, I know that it is the wrong color and shape for a bear cub, but I had seen the signs at the park entrance to be aware of bears. According to news report, wildlife cameras at the park detected a black bear coming out of hibernation in February of this year. It may look like I was pretty far away from the groundhog, but I actually took this photo with the same 180mm macro lens that I used to photograph yesterday’s small dragonfly.

I thought about rewording the first paragraph that I had also used on a Facebook posting, but decided to leave it untouched. Several of my friends suggested that the groundhog might have gotten closer if I had taken a shower—I definitely left myself open for that interpretation by the way that I worded the last sentence of the first paragraph. I have always felt that it is good to be able to laugh at yourself—as someone once noted, it guarantees that you will have an endless source of humor.

groundhog

groundhog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally when I photograph a new species of dragonfly I am immediately ecstatic, but that was not the case on Tuesday. After a long day of searching for Uhler’s Sundragons (Helocordulia uhleri) in Prince William County with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, we were excited when we finally spotted a few of them. It had been an overcast day and it was only when the sun came out after noon that the dragonflies began to appear. Walter was thrilled, but my excitement was a little more muted, because I had photographed this species the previous week—check out my posting First dragonflies of the season for details and photos of my adventures that day.

After a while, Walter noted to me that all of the Uhler’s Sundragons that he had seen so far were female and that he hoped he would see a male. This may sound a little strange, but with some species of dragonflies, the females hang out in a separate area from the males until they are ready to mate, so you do not always see the genders intermixed.

I was wandering around the area a bit, as I am prone to do, when Walter called out to me that he had found a male. I rushed over and managed to get some shots of the specimen, including the first two images below. As it turns out, that was the only male that we saw all day.

The following day, Walter sent me an excited Facebook message informing me that the male dragonfly that we had both photographed was not a Uhler’s Sundragon, but was a Selys’s Sundragon (Helocordulia selysii), a similar species that neither of us had ever seen before. Walter did a records search and it looks the species had never before been documented in Prince William County. Finally I was ecstatic.

How did we not notice immediately that this was a different species? One of the primary differences between the species is that Uhler’s Sundragons have amber-colored markings mixed with dark ones at the base of their wings, while Selys’s Sundragons have only the dark markings. Given the small size of these dragonflies, these differences are hard to spot in the field, but are much easier to see when reviewing images afterwards.

For comparison purposes, I have included a photo of a male Uhler’s Sundragon that I photographed last week. If you look carefully, you can see the amber-colored markings in the final photo that are absent in the first two photos.

You may also notice that there is a spider on the branch in the final photo that appears to be reaching down and tapping the dragonfly on the “shoulder.” In this scenario, I am not sure which species would be the predator and which would be the prey. I have documented several cases in which dragonflies have been caught in spiderwebs and also a case when a jumping spider took down a much larger dragonfly (see my 2014 posting Spider captures dragonfly—the story for a fascinating series of images).

If you would like to see Walter’s account of our encounter with the Selys’s Sundragon, check out his blog posting today entitled Sely’s Sundragon dragonfly (male).

Sely's Sundragon

Sely’s Sundragon, 13 April 2021

Sely's Sundragon

Sely’s Sundragon, 13 April 2021

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler’s Sundragon, 8 April 2021

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am always attracted to the beautiful forms of a fiddlehead as it gradually unfurls from a tightly coiled spiral into a full-fledged fern frond. I have no idea if the process takes days or weeks, but but it was amazing to see the various stages of development of the fiddleheads that I have spotted during recent forays into a forest in Prince William County, Virginia.

The first two photos make it pretty obvious that the fiddlehead resembles the curled ornamentation (technically called a “scroll”) on the end of a stringed instrument, such as a violin that are traditionally carved in the shape of a volute (a rolled-up spiral). As I was poking about on the internet, I also learned that the fiddlehead stage of a fern is sometimes known as a crozier, the term used for the hooked staff carried by a bishop as a symbol of pastoral office.

 

fiddlehead

fiddlehead

fiddlehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is nearly impossible to miss the ostentatious displays of brilliant color as a succession of flowers and trees burst onto the springtime scene. Sometimes, though, they overwhelm my senses and I find myself more drawn to the delicate beauty of the tiny wildflowers that pop up in fields and forests.

Yesterday I was happy to photograph a skittish Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly (Cupido comyntas) as it moved about in a small patch of Spring Beauty wildflowers (Claytonia virginica) in a forested area of Prince William County. With my macro lens, I was able to capture the distinctive “tail” and orange chevrons that help in identifying this tiny butterfly that has a wingspan of only ¾ – 1¾ inches (22 – 29 mm). I also managed to capture the beautiful pink markings of the spring beauties, including the anthers at the tips of the stamens.

It is easy to lose myself in this magical tiny world or perhaps it might be more correct to say that I find myself there.

Eastern-tailed Blue

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Are you the kind of person who sees shapes in the clouds? If so, then perhaps you too may see the shape of a fire-breathing dragon in this amazing parrot tulip that I photographed yesterday in the garden of my dear friend Cindy Dyer.  As more of Cindy’s parrot tulips pop open I am becoming convinced that these are the craziest flowers that I have encountered, with all kinds of wild shapes and colors.

I am equally convinced that we all need a little whimsy, fantasy, and child-like fascination in our daily lives. As adults we tend to take ourselves too seriously too often. Wouldn’t it be cool to see the world afresh as a child does, full of excitement and imagination?

Keep your eyes open today—you too might unexpectedly encounter a fire-breathing dragon or equally fanciful creature.

parrot tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most snakes tend to lie horizontally, but the Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) that I spotted last week felt inclined to slither its way up a protruding tree branch and bask in the sun at a rather sharp angle. I was exploring the edge of a stream in Prince William County and was somewhat shocked to stumble upon this snake—I had been keeping an eye on the vegetated areas, knowing there was a chance there might be a snake there, but did not really expect to see one out in the open.

Most of the Northern Watersnakes that I have seen in the past have been darker and duller in color than this one, which has a distinctive colorful pattern. Given the brightness of the colors and the snake’s relatively small size, I wonder if this might be a juvenile snake.

The snake seemed comfortable on its perch and did not react when I took these photos, though I must admit that I kept a respectful distance away. When I continued on, the snake stayed put, enjoying the warmth of the springtime sun.

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week I came across this carefully-balanced stack of rocks in a stream at Prince William Forest Park. These rock stacks are often called cairns, a word that comes from the Gaelic for “heap of stones” and can be quite beautiful. However, they can cause serious damage to the delicate river ecosystems and are illegal in most national parks—one of the fundamental policies of the National Park Service is to preserve natural resources in an unaltered state.

The Friends of the Smokies website offered these alternative recommendations for visitors who felt a desire to build a cairn in a posting entitled Don’t Move Rocks.

“If you feel so moved by the natural serenity around you, try a silent prayer.

If you feel the extreme urge to balance things, try balancing a drink can on your head (because apparently there’s a world record for everything).

And if you just want to see a stacks of things, hit up IHOP (International House of Pancakes) on the way home.”

cairn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Here’s another beautiful tulip that I spotted yesterday morning in the garden of my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, an elegant variety known as the Lady Jane (Tulipa clusiana var. ‘Lady Jane’) . The pink speckles in the background are fallen petals from her crabapple tree.

As I returned back to my townhouse, I could not help but notice that my front yard was carpeted in pretty pink petals from my crabapple tree, thanks to the gentle wind and light rain in the early morning. I felt like I should be lighting candles and pouring champagne—clearly all of those lovely petals meant that I was loved. Yes, I am an unapologetic romantic.

Lady Jane tulip

petals

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I love to stroll along the shore—the rhythmic sound of the waves relaxes me and often puts me into a contemplative frame of mind. When I spotted this crow on a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t help but think that the crow too was lost in its thoughts and enjoying the same therapeutic benefits of a stroll at the water’s edge.

I must confess that I do not know my crows very well. I assume that this is an American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), but realize that it might instead be a Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus). From what I have read, even experts sometimes have trouble visually distinguishing between the two species, though Fish Crows are substantially smaller than American Crows. Apparently some people can tell them apart by their calls, but this crow was silent, so I too will remain silent and simply identify the strolling bird as a crow.


crow

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Tulips come in many varieties and my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, who is also my photography mentor, likes to find photogenic ones to plant. For several weeks I have been keeping an eye on her garden, waiting and wondering what type and color tulips would emerge from the green growth that was slowing pushing upward.

This week some of those tulips finally burst open and I was delighted to see that they are Parrot tulips. Parrot tulips are whimsically-shaped, with uncontrolled ruffled edges that somehow make me think they have a bad case of “bed head.”

I captured these images on Friday, a gloomy day punctuated with periodic rain showers. The colors of the tulips are more subdued and do not “pop” as much as they do in the sunlight, but I like the moody feel of the images. The raindrops add a nice touch too—I love to photograph the drops of rain that bead up so beautifully on so many plants and flowers.

 

parrot tulip

parrot tulip

parrot tulips

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Thursday I finally photographed my first dragonflies of the season. I had previously spotted Common Green Darners several time, but they don’t really “count” because I was not able to capture images of them. I initially checked out several locations at a stream in Prince William County, Virginia, where I had seen Uhler’s Sundragon dragonflies (Helocordulia uhleri) in recent years and came up empty-handed.

However, I was thrilled when later in the day I spotted Uhler’s Sundragons at several locations further upstream from my previous locations. Uhler’s Sundragons have a brief and very early flight period and are considered rare in our area. They also are habitat specialists and “they need clean, small to medium, rocky forest streams with gravelly and/or sandy substrate, and a decent flow,” according to the wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website.

These three photos are indicative of the types of photos that I often try to capture of dragonflies. I love to try to get as close as I can and take extreme close-up shots, like the first one. You can easily see the spines on the legs of the dragonfly and even some of the ommatidia, the optical units that make up the amazing compound eyes of the dragonfly.

The second shot of a female Uhler’s Sundragon is a good illustration of the way that I try to separate my subjects from the background. The final shot of a male Uhler’s Sundragon shows more of the habitat in which I found the dragonfly. The background is a little busy, but I like the way that the image shows the transparency of the dragonfly’s wings.

In case you are curious about how I can tell the gender of these dragonflies, one of the primary keys is to look at the tips of the abdomens (the “tail”)—you will probably note the different anatomical shapes if you compare the second and third images.

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler's Sundragon

Uhler's Sundragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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When it comes to mating, many male insects are really aggressive—they will do everything they can to prevent their rivals from hooking us with a desirable female. I think that is what was going on in this image I captured on Sunday of three bees outside of a bee house in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. It looks to me that the top bee in this ménage à trois was trying to dislodge a rival and somehow gain access to the female. Yes, as the old song simply states, “birds do it, bees do it.”

Perhaps you have a better explanation of what was transpiring, like they were simply playing piggyback and wanted to see how strong the bottom bee was. What do you think? I encourage you to click on the image to see the details better.

I often tell you that I was not as close as it seems, because I generally shoot with a telephoto lens or a long macro lens. In this case, though, I was shooting with a 60mm macro lens and was only a few inches away from the “action” and had to dodge bees that were entering and exiting the tubes of the bee house.

bees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love simple beauty, like that of a single tulip flower that opens in the sunlight to reveal its colorful center, and closes at night as if to protect its precious treasure. This red tulip was the first full-sized tulip to bloom in the garden of my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. I spotted it early on Easter morning when it was closed up, as shown in the second image. I was pleasantly surprised that afternoon to see that the tulip was open and I captured the first image.

I love this time of the year, when so much color is beginning to appear. Take the time this season to smell the roses—tulips do not seem to be particularly fragrant.

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of you know that dragonflies and damselflies are my favorite subjects to photograph in the warm months of the year. There is something magical about these colorful aerial acrobats that spend most of their lives underwater before undergoing a remarkable metamorphosis. If you are not familiar with a dragonfly’s total transformation, you may want to check out a posting I did a few years ago called Metamorphosis of a dragonfly that documents in photos and in words the step-by-step metamorphosis of a Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus).

It is still a bit early in the season, but I have already been searching for dragonflies and damselflies for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday I finally found my first damselfly, the female Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) in the first photo that I spotted as she perched on some skunk cabbage in a muddy seep at Occoquan Regional Park. I scoured the area and eventually spotted a few more Fragile Forktails, including the male in the second photo that was also perched on the leaves of a skunk cabbage.

As their name suggests, Fragile Forktail damselflies are quite small and delicate and are only .8 to 1.1 inches (21-29 mm) in length. This species is fairly easy to identify, once you manage to spot one, because both genders have interrupted pale shoulder stripes that look like exclamation marks. I encourage you to click on the images, especially the first one, in which you can see the incredible details of this little lady, including her amazing wings, spiny legs, and tiny feet.

The dragonfly/damselfly season has now officially started for me and I will now begin to intensify my search for spring species, many of which can be found only in specific habitats for a limited period of time. Can you feel my excitement? Yeah, I an unapologetically a bit geeky about these little creatures.

 

Fragile Forktail

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you call a group of butterflies? There are apparently many collective nouns for butterflies in English, but my absolute favorite is “kaleidoscope.” The word combination “kaleidoscope of butterflies” captures well for me the magical and fanciful nature of these colorful creatures.

I was excited yesterday when I spotted an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) fluttering about near a stream at Prince William Forest Park—it was my first “big” butterfly of the spring season. I was even more thrilled later in the day when a spotted this kaleidoscope of Eastern Tiger Swallowtails clustered together on a rocky ledge at water’s edge, engaged in what is often referred to as “puddling.” Many species of butterflies congregate on wet sand and mud to partake in “puddling”, drinking water and extracting minerals from damp puddles or even from animal droppings.

According to a posting by Westborough Land Trust, “When tiger swallowtails emerge from their chrysalises, one of the first things they do – especially if they’re male – is to head for a mud puddle. There they fill up on water and get minerals needed for reproduction. They suck water and dissolved minerals up through their long “tongue” or proboscis, which they also use to drink nectar.”

It is really early in the season and all of the butterflies were in perfect condition, with fully intact wings and vibrant  colors. I am always energized to see the emergence of new life in the spring in plants and in all of the small and large creatures that I love to photograph.

 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Walking through the forest is such a joy at this time of the year with all kinds of ephemeral spring wildflowers popping up, including the Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis), Quaker Ladies (Houstonia caerulea), and Cutleaf Toothwart (Cardamine concatenata) that I spotted last Monday at Prince William Forest Park. Some of these flowers bloom for only a few days, so I am always thrilled when I am able to capture shots of them during that brief period.

I am definitely not an expert on wildflowers and welcome corrections if I have misidentified any of these species.

bloodroot

Quaker Ladies

Cutleaf Toothwart

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I photographed this beautiful hellebore flower, sometimes referred to as a Lenten rose, early this Easter morning in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Have a wonderful Sunday and don’t forget to stop and to look for the beauty that is everywhere around you.

hellebore

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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There is something so soothing to the soul in the sounds of a stream—I sat for quite some time last Monday beside this little waterfall at Prince William Forest Park, almost hypnotized by the sounds of the rushing water.

It has been a rather quiet, contemplative Holy Week for me this year, as we have prepared to celebrate our second Easter under pandemic restrictions. Normally I attend an outdoors Easter sunrise service on Easter morning, but the Episcopal church collaboration of which I am a part instead held a Great Vigil service last night.

When I woke up this Easter morning, it was still dark and I read through all four Gospel accounts of the resurrection right in a row, the first time I have ever done that. I was struck by the differences in the details that each writer chose to include. As the skies began to lighten, I went out on my little outdoor deck that faces to the east and sang aloud three of my favorite Easter songs, unconcerned that early morning runners or dog walkers might hear me singing.

For many of us, this has been had a long, troubling year. I have found comfort and reassurance in these words from John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

I wish a happy Easter to those of you who are celebrating this glorious holy day and a blessed weekend to all of you.

waterfall

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cool and windy yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and most of the birds seemed to be taking refuge from the elements. I was therefore especially thrilled to spot and photograph my first warbler of the season, this Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica).

This is the time of the year when a lot of colorful warblers pass through our area on their northward migration. Many of the warbler stay for only a short time, so it is a hit-or-miss proposition for me to find them. This is also the time of the year when the trees are budding, flowering and pushing out new leaves. All of this new growth is beautiful, but it makes it harder for me to spot the little birds as they flit about, often at the tops of the trees.

We had some spring-like temperatures a week ago and I was walking around in a T-shirt or at most a sweatshirt. Yesterday, though, the day started with temperatures below freezing and eventually made it up to only 47 degrees (8 degrees C) with almost constant winds of 15 miles per hour making it feel much colder. I dug out my heavier coat, insulated boots, and thermal underwear and was comfortable walking about, though most of the wildlife seemed to have taken the much more commonsense approach of simply staying sheltered.

Yellow-throated Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do spiders overwinter as adults? Most of the crawling creatures that I tend to spot this early in the spring are quite small, so it was a little surprising to spot several large Wolf Spiders ( probably Tigrosa georgicola) on Monday at Prince William Forest Park. I was pretty sure these spiders had not hatched recently, so I did a little research and learned that “a surprisingly large number of spider species overwinter as adults or immatures, forsaking the cozy shelter of an egg sac in which to endure the harsh, cold extremes,” according to a blog posting by Bug Eric entitled Spider Sunday: Spring Spiders.

The spider in the first photo was actively crawling about in the leaf litter when I first spotted it, probably searching for prey, given that wolf spiders do not spin webs and instead are opportunistic hunters. The second spider was scurrying down a trail at a surprisingly fast pace when it paused for a moment to let me capture an image.

I encourage you to click on the photos to get a closer look at the fascinating details of these spiders, including their multiple eyes and the spiky hairs on their legs.

Wolf Spider

Wolf Spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As temperatures rise, the springtime air is frequently filled with the sounds of frogs, ranging all the way from the high-pitched choruses of spring peepers to the solitary bass notes of croaking bullfrogs. When I walk along the edge of marshes and ponds at this time of the year, the ground in front of me often seems to explode as well-camouflaged frogs arc through the air seeking to escape me.

On Monday as I wandered about in Prince William Forest Park, I spotted quite a number of tiny frogs at the edge of the water, but did not hear them calling, so I had to rely on their physical appearance to identify them. On the basis of the dark triangle between their eyes and their other markings, I believe the frogs in the photos below are both Eastern Cricket frogs (Acris crepitans crepitans).

Eastern Cricket frogs are small frogs,  reaching lengths of 5/8 to 1-3/8 inches (16-35 mm), which make them a challenge to photograph. According to the Virginia Herpetological Society, part of the scientific name for the species is derived from the Latin word crepit which means “rattle” and the call of these frogs sounds like pebbles being clicked together. Perhaps they will be calling, the next time that I visit the park.

The evidence is mounting that spring is really here. What are your favorite signs of the arrival of spring?

Eastern Cricket Frog

Eastern Cricket Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Is it a bee? Is it a fly? It is a Greater Bee Fly (Bombylius major), a parasitic bee mimic that is one of the earliest spring pollinators of wildflowers. I photographed this bee fly as it was feeding on the nectar of a Spring Beauty (Claytonia virginica) on Monday at Prince William Forest Park.

I was quite happy to be able to capture so many of the details of this curious creature, including its long proboscis, spindly legs, patterned wings, and fuzzy body. In case you are curious, the body of one of these bee flies is about six-tenths of an inch (15mm) in length and its wing span is about one inch (25mm). I recommend that you double-click on the image to get a better looks at the little details of this bee fly.

If you would like to learn more about these fascinating little bee flies, including their parasitic behavior, check out the article on the US Forest Service website by Beatriz Moisset entitled “A Pollinator with a Bad Reputation.”

Greater Bee Fly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the tulips in the garden of my good friend Cindy Dyer are almost ready to bloom. Already we have a hint of the beauty that is to come—a preview of coming attractions. Many of the flowering trees in my neighborhood recently popped open, seemingly overnight, but others plants, like this tulip, force us to wait patiently for their fully beauty to be revealed.

Delayed gratification is supposed to be good for the soul, but sometimes I feel like a small child cooped up in a car on a long journey, incessantly repeating the same question—”Are we there yet?”

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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One of the signs of spring where I live is the emergence of small wildflowers in the wooded areas, including Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica), like this one that I photographed yesterday at Prince William Forest Park in nearby Triangle, Virginia. According to the description of the Spring Beauty in Wikipedia, “the individual flowers bloom for three days, although the five stamens on each flower are only active for a single day.”

I do not know if this was “the day” for the stamens of this particular flower, but a large hairy fly was definitely attracted to its nectar. I cannot identify the species of the fly, but think that it is a kind of Tachinid fly. The large family of Tachinid flies differ in color, size, and shape but many somewhat resemble house flies and tend to feed on liquids such as nectar.

When I showed this image to fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, he noted the low angle at which I had taken this shot and characterized it as a “belly flopper photo.” Walter has seen me in action multiple times and knows that I will often try to get as low as I can to get a shot, which was pretty low in this case, given the fact that Spring Beauties are often only a few inches tall.

How low do I go? Check out a posting that Walter did in 2016 called Opposing viewpoints to see a shot of me sprawled on the ground trying to get at eye level with a snake and my posting that same day called Close to a garter snake to see the kind of images that you get when shooting at such close range.

spring beauty

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The warm weather on Friday brought out a lot of turtles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, including this group of Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta). I too enjoyed soaking up the sun, but felt more of a need to distance myself from other members of my species than these turtles did.

In terms of photography, I love the way that the red stripes on the turtles’ neck really stand out in an image made up of mainly muted colors. I thought of removing the leaf in the background, but decided that I liked the touch of whimsy that it added to the image.

Painted Turtles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never realized that grape hyacinths (g. Muscari) come in so many different colors and varieties. Here are some that I spotted yesterday morning in the garden of my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. The coloration of the flower in the first photo is what I traditionally associate with grape hyacinths—it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that it looks like a little cluster of grapes. The ones in the second image are much paler and have a bluish rather than purplish tint.

Some of you may recall that I recently featured a grape hyacinth that was different in shape as well as color. If you have not seen that posting, check it out at Unusual grape hyacinths. We have had a lot of rain and warmer weather recently and I can’t to wait to see what pops up in Cindy’s garden next. I usually alert Cindy of newly-opened flowers well before she notices them, a system that Cindy has nicknamed “Powell’s Flower Forecasts.”

Happy Palm Sunday for those who are celebrating that Christian holy day today.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I searched a stream in vain for dragonflies last weekend, but became fascinated by the abstract patterns of the water moving through areas festooned with moss, algae, and grasses. Later in the year I am almost certain to find Gray Petaltail dragonflies near this stream and the surrounding seeps. For the moment I was content to let my mind run wild, feeling a bit like I was underwater as I observed the abstract shapes created by the moving water.

stream

stream

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I immediately thought how apt a visual metaphor it was for our lives this past year. Surrounded by its protective shell, the turtle tentatively looked out at a hostile world, wondering if it was safe to stick out its neck and move forward.

It is still not completely safe, but conditions appear to be improving somewhat in many parts of the world. Yesterday I had my second Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination shot and I hope that as many people as possible will choose to get vaccinated when they have the chance.

In the meantime, we owe it to each other to continue to wear our masks, to wash our hands, and to practice social distancing. None of us really like these restrictions, but they will protect us as we await the day when we can all come out of our shells.

Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was watching an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it hung upside down and nibbled on the buds of a tree when suddenly its back legs lost their grip. The squirrel was dangling from its front paws only when I snapped this shot.

Initially the squirrel continued to chew on the bud it was holding. Realizing perhaps the precariousness of its position, it eventually stopped eating and successfully scrambled back up into the tree.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During growing season I keep a close eye on the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, since I have no gardening skills at all. On Tuesday I took a few shots of one of the cute little red tulips that opened just a few days ago, the first tulips of this spring that I have spotted.

Unlike most tulips, which tend to be spherical in shape, the blooms of these tulips are slender and angular. As I look at the second photo, for example, I see a series of triangles.

Cindy has a new raised bed in the back yard of her townhouse that looks like it has more tulips, judging from the leaves that have popped up from the soil. It will be a surprise for us all when they emerge, because neither she nor her husband can recall what specific varieties they planted last fall.

tulip

tulip

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