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Posts Tagged ‘Canon SX50’

Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are rather strange looking birds. Their heads are unusually large and blocky, their bills are short and thick, and they have virtually no tails. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes them with these words, “The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.”

Most of the times when I see a Pied-billed Grebe it is either disappearing from sight as it dives for food or it is swimming away from me. I captured this shot last week as the grebe was in fact swimming away, but paused for a moment and looked to the side. Yes, this is the notorious “butt shot” that we photographers try to avoid, but I like the way that you can see some of the details of the birds eye and the water beaded up on its back and decided to post it anyways.

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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From a distance, male Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) generally look like they are black and white.  Last Friday, however, the lighting was coming from a good direction and revealed some of the beautiful green and purple iridescent feathers on this bird’s head. The second image shows a Bufflehead couple and shows the dramatic difference in appearance between the male and female of this species.

Bufflehead

Buffleheads

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Friday I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), one of the birds that is present in my area only during the winter months. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology there is a huge range of geographic variation in the Dark-eyed Junco, with five variants of the bird considered separate species until the 1980s.

The bird in the photo below is a “slate-colored junco,” the only type that I have ever seen. Variants found in other parts of the United States, however, may have white wings, pink sides, red backs, gray heads, or a dark hood. Yikes—bird identification is hard enough under normal circumstances, but with that much variation, it seems almost impossible.

Dark-eyed Junco

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I generally do not like to take “traditional” selfies. When I do photograph myself, I prefer shots like these ones that I captured early in the morning last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When the sun is low, the shadows are so elongated, as in the first photo, that they remind me of Alberto Giacometti’s famous statue “L’homme qui marche” (The Walking Man).

selfie

selfie

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How much gear do you carry with you when you go out to take photographs? Each time that I get ready, it is like planning for a trip. More gear means that I will be more ready for the full range of situations that I may encounter, but more gear means more weight. So what do I do? I compromise. During the winter, I tend to have my 150-600mm zoom lens on my DSLR and during the summer I use a 180mm macro lens as my primary lens. I will usually have a second lens in my camera bag, often a 24-105mm lens, but often it goes unused.

For greater flexibility I usually carry my trusty Canon SX50 super zoom camera. It is lightweight and versatile, with an equivalent field of view of 24-1200mm, a 50X zoom. Like me, it is a bit old and slow and has some limitations, but it lets me capture wide-angle shots in the winter and distance shots in the summer without having to change lenses on my primary camera in the field. It also lets me shoot in RAW,  my preferred format for capturing images.

On the 2nd of January, I was chasing the sunrise. I knew that sunrise was scheduled for around seven o’clock, which is the time when the electrically-controlled gates of my favorite wildlife refuge slide open. I was a little late leaving home and as I drove south on the interstate, I could see the sky turning a beautiful shade of red. As I entered the refuge, I could see that the colors were starting to fade. As soon as I got to the parking lot, I grabbed my SX50 and captured the second shot below with the engine still running and the car door open.

I turned off the engine, grabbed my gear, and headed for the water. Along the way I stopped to capture the third shot below, a view across a frosty field. When I finally got to the water, I could see that the sun had already risen. However, the clouds reflected some of the brightness of the sun and added drama to the scene and I was able to capture the wide view that you see in the first photo below with the SX50.

In case you wonder why I did not post these photos earlier, I simply forgot to upload them immediately from my “second” camera. It was a nice surprise for me when I looked at them on my computer screen for the first time yesterday. The images validated for me the value of carrying this camera with me for its multi-purpose capability, a kind of photographic Swiss Army knife.

 

sunrise

sunrise

sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last night I had the chance to go strolling through the central pedestrian shopping area in Vienna. A light snow was gently falling, making things feel even more festive as the city prepares for Christmas. One of the really cool things about this area is that each of the streets has a different style lighting. The photos below show three of my favorites.

Vienna Christmas

Vienna Christmas lights

Vienna Christmas lights

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Once again I find myself in Vienna, Austria just before Christmas for a work trip. Many of you know that I retired earlier this year, but I was requested to come back to assist with a workshop this week that I have helped to run for the past seven years. It is hard to say no to an overseas trip and Vienna is particularly beautiful at this time of the year. There are lots of Christmas markets throughout the city, wirh the largest one in front of the Rathaus (City Hall).

In the market there are rows and rows of vendors selling all kinds of products, including a wide variety of food and beverages. My personal favorite is the käsekrainer, a large sausage filled with chunks of cheese that melt when the sausage is grilled. I usually have mine in a hard crusted roll (like a mini baguette) with lots of spicy mustard. The most popular item for consumption, though, appears to be glühwein, hot spicy wine, served in festive mugs. You put down a deposit on the mugs and either return them or take them away with you.

Most of my daylight hours, which seem really limited at this time of the year, are filled with work, but I managed to make it to the Rathaus Christmas Market and grabbed a few photos one evening earlier this week. Hopefully they give you a sense of the festive atmosphere at the market, though you don’t get the smells of the food cooking in the open air and the sounds of the Christmas music, with a variety of individuals and groups performing live.

Merry Christmas in advance and Happy Holidays to those of you who do not celebrate Christmas.

Vienna Christmas Market 2019

Vienna Christmas Market 2019

Vienna Christmas Market 2019

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was going through my photos again from last week I came upon this image of an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I had spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I already posted another shot of this dragonfly species from that day, but I like this shot even more, because it shows some of the details of the leaves on which the little red dragonfly was perched. I think the leaves help to give a better sense of the environment and emphasize the “autumn” in the name of the species.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Landscape photography has always been problematic for me—it often feel like I am taking a photo without a real subject. I spend most of my time in photography trying to fill the frame with a single subject using telephoto or macro lenses, so it is hard to pull back and see the proverbial “big picture.” Sure, I realize that the actual landscape is the subject, but I have trouble “seeing” wide in my mind as I think composing a shot.

My experience in Paris changed my perspective a bit, because I took a lot of wide and even ultra-wide panoramic shots there. So last week when returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is located less than 20 miles (32 km) from where I live, I consciously thought about capturing some of the different types of environments there.

The first shot shows one of the streams that flows through the refuge. I can often find herons, ducks, and occasionally deer along the edges of the stream. The stream is affected by tidal surges coming from the Potomac River and in this image the water level causes me to think that it was low tide.

My favorite trail runs parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay. Small birds hang around in the vegetation at water’s edge, water birds congregate in the deeper waters, and Bald Eagles can often be found in the trees overlooking this tails. During warmer weather, this trail is a great location in which to hunt for dragonflies.

Wide trails crisscross the refuge, which used to be a military installation. The trails are off limits to the vehicles except for official ones. I never know what I might see when I walk on these trails. On occasion I will stumble upon groups of wild turkeys, flocks of migrating birds, and turtles crossing the road.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief overview of the environment in which I have been taking so many of the insect, bird, and animal shots featured on this blog. It is good to remind myself yet again that what is familiar to me is unusual and maybe even exotic to someone in another part of the country or of the world. So periodically I will try to mix in shots like these to make it easier for you as you accompany me on my journey into photography.

 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was looking into the sun when I took this shot of a Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) last week at Huntley Meadows Park. The body and the perch were silhouetted, but the light showed through the dragonfly’s wings and highlighted the beautiful patterns.

I really like the graphic, almost abstract quality of this image. It has a different feel than most of my other images that tend to provide more detailed views of the subject.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most woodpeckers have simple patterns of red, black, and white feathers and it is sometimes difficult to tell them apart. The Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) outdoes them all with a dazzling combination of colors and patterns—they are pretty easy to identify.

The sky was overcast yesterday morning when I went exploring at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I had to play around with my camera exposures and as a result the background turned almost pure white when I photographed this male Northern Flicker that had light coming from behind him. I like the effect in this case because it helps viewers to focus on the details of the beautiful bird, including the wonderful yellow feathers that you can see in the final photo. In case you are curious, I can tell that the flicker is a male because of the black “mustache” that females do not have.

There are two distinct subspecies of flickers. The ones that we have in the North and East have a little red crescent on the back of its neck, yellow underwings, and, in the case of males, a black mustache. The western flickers have no red crescent, have red underwings, and, in the case of males, a red mustache.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Warblers are migrating southward through my area at this time of the year. Although I can sometimes hear them, most often they stay hidden behind the foliage. I was happy therefore when I caught site of this Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum), one of our most common warblers, this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

When I initially spotted this little bird, it was feeding in the grass, as shown in the second image. The warbler was part of a small group and all of them appeared to be really skittish and took to the air when I was still a long way off. Fortunately one of them flew into a tree and paused momentarily, allowing me to get a mostly unobstructed shot of it.

Most of the warblers remain in our area for a short period of time, so I am never confident when or if I will see any of them. I guess that the best way to increase my odds is to spend more time outside with my camera at the ready.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I do not know where the Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) were hiding, but I don’t think that I spotted a single one all summer. All of the sudden they seem to be back and I have seen them repeatedly during my most recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

During most of my encounters, I have spotted them in the distance, pecking away at the side of the trail. Before I can get within camera range, they usually sense my presence and waddle into the undergrowth. I was fortunate, however, to capture a shot of this one turkey who had lingered in the open a bit longer than his compatriots.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am blessed to live in an area in which Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are present throughout most of the year. During the summer, however, my encounters have been pretty infrequent, so I was excited to spot this one on Monday while visiting Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was looking for dragonflies that day and had a macro lens on my DSLR camera and I realized the eagle was too far away for me to capture a decent image.

It was precisely for situations like this that I also carry my Canon SX50 super-zoom camera. The resolution of this camera is not as good as that of my “big” camera, but it gives me a lot of reach. After I had zoomed in to take the first shot, I zoomed out and realized that there was a second bald eagle perched above the one I had just photographed. The second shot shows the relative positions of the two eagles.

I was hoping for better head positions for the two eagles, but they flew away shortly after I took the second shot. I have discovered that it is usually best to get a shot as early as possible in such encounters and then work to get a better shot. If I had waited for the “perfect” moment, I almost certainly would have come up empty-handed.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first spotted two small dark shapes in the the waters of Occoquan Bay, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. As I zoomed in and saw that it was two birds, I assumed that they were cormorants or some similar bird. When the birds changed position and the sun reflected off their white heads, I was shocked to realize that it was two adult Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a floating log.

The photo is a little deceptive because it makes it look like the foreground is a beach. The tide was fairly low when I took this shot and the shallower water was covered with some kind of floating debris—it was definitely not solid ground.

Why were the eagles on the log? I thought that maybe they were feeding, but when I scanned the log, I could not see any evidence of a fish. It looks to me like this is a couple, with the larger female on the left, that is involved in some kind of marital dispute. She seems to be telling her mate something and he seems to be a bit cowed and defensive.

What do you the conversation is about between these two eagles?

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From  a distance I noticed a flash of yellow moving from a tree to a patch of flowers. The flight was too fast for a butterfly, and when I moved a bit closer I spotted, as I had suspected, an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Judging from its coloration, I think it may be a juvenile, though I must admit that after a summer of chasing insects, my bird identification skills are a little rusty. The goldfinch was somewhat skittish and uncooperative, but I was able to capture these two images that I decided to share them with you all.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have not seen as many Green Herons (Butorides virescens) this year as in previous years, so I was happy to spot one this past Tuesday during a quick trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia.

Green Herons are smaller and squatter than the more commonly seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Normally I see Green Herons at water’s edge, because their shorter legs do not allow them to wade into deeper water, and they are often partially hidden from view by vegetation. This Green Heron, though, had placed itself at the edge of a drainage system in the middle of a small pond, which is why I was able to get an unobstructed shot of this handsome bird.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was searching for butterflies last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a flash of brilliant yellow suddenly crossed my field of view. It took a moment for me to figure out what it was and then I realized that several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) were diving into a field of Black-eyed Susan wildflowers (Rudbeckia hirta).

I waited for a long time, hoping in vain that the goldfinches would perch in the open on the flowers nearest me, but mostly they stayed buried deep in the vegetation. Here are a couple of long-distance shots that give you a sense of my experience with these colorful little birds.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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

leaf

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies perch in a lot of different ways. Some perch at the top of vegetation, some perch in the middle, and some, like this Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) like to perch low to the ground or, in this case, to the surface of the water. I don’t see Unicorn Clubtails very often, so I was excited to see this one on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in a marshy pond filled with lily pads.

I had two cameras with me when I encountered the dragonfly. The second image below shows the view from my DSLR with a 180mm macro lens. I really like the way that the shot gives you a sense of the environment and when I was processing the image I paid as much attention to the surroundings as I did to the dragonfly.

My Canon SX50 let me zoom in a lot closer to the dragonfly, as you can see in the first shot, and captured more details of the dragonfly. I like aspects of both images and think that together they provided complementary views of this wonderful dragonfly. You can’t really see it in these shots, but members of this species have a little protrusion in between their eyes, which prompted someone to name them “unicorns.”

 

Unicorn Clubtail

unicorn clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled on Tuesday to get a glimpse of several juvenile Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think that they are the eaglets that were born earlier this year and now it looks like they are almost fully grown. It will take a few more years, however, before they acquire the white feathers on their heads that make them look like they are bald.

The first eaglet was hanging out in the nest when I first spotted it, as you can see in the first shot. There is so much vegetation now that it is hard to see the nest, but I know that it is there. I wasn’t quite ready when the eagle took off so my second shot is a little blurry. I decided to included it, because it provides a pretty cool look at the feathers of this already majestic bird.

The final shot is of what I assume is one of the siblings of the eaglet in the first two shots. Based on a conversation that I had with one of the volunteers at the wildlife refuge, there may have been three eaglets at this nest this year (and two in a nest in another part of the refuge).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During the hot, humid days of mid-summer, I often hear the sounds of birds, but rarely see them. Although I may be out in the blazing sun, most of the birds seem to use common sense and take shelter in the shade of the trees.

Last week as I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I heard the unmistakable call of a kingfisher and caught a glimpse of it skimming across the water of a small pond. I was a bit surprised when it chose briefly to perch in a small tree overhanging the water. I was a long way away, but had a clear line of sight and captured this image of the female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I can tell that it is a female because I can see a reddish-colored band across its chest that the male lacks.

Many of you know that I photograph birds more frequently during the winter months, when insects disappear and the lack of foliage makes it easier to spot the birds. Throughout the year, however, I try to be ready in case a bird decides to be cooperative and poses for me.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled last Friday to spot this Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Growing up in a suburb of Boston, I remember visiting the Boston Public Garden and riding in the famous pedal-powered Swan Boats there. As a result, the mere sighting of a swan is enough to trigger fond memories of my childhood.

Readers of my generation (and maybe even younger folks) may recall that the Swan Boats were featured prominently in the beloved book “Make Way for Ducklings.” I was a little surprised to learn from Wikipedia that the Swan Boats have been in operation since 1877.

“Robert Paget first created the Swan Boats in the Public Garden in 1877, after seeing the opera Lohengrin with his wife Julia Paget. Inspired by the knight’s gallant rescue of the damsel by riding a swan across the lake, Paget decided to capitalize on the recent popularity of the bicycle and combine the two, designing a two-pontooned boat with two wooden benches and a brass seat on top of a paddlebox concealed by a swan. The driver would sit inside the swan and pedal passengers around the pond.”

One of the amazing things is that the Swan Boats have remained virtually unchanged since that time.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early Friday morning I spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Although the bird’s facial features were in the shadows, I was happy to be able to capture its distinctive hooked beak in this silhouetted view.

As many of you know, I try to find opportunities to capture nature images even when I am traveling. On Thursday I drove from Virginia to Massachusetts to attend a surprise 60th birthday party on Friday evening for one of my brothers. Although I was somewhat worn out from the drive, which took almost 12 hours thanks to numerous road construction projects and rush hour traffic in Boston, I was out on the trails of Horn Pond by 6:30 in the morning. In many ways immersing myself in nature helps to recharge my batteries as much as sleep does.

A few seconds after I spotted the cormorant, it sensed my presence and flew away. I was anticipating that it might do so and was able to capture this shot just as the bird was starting to take off.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Dragonhunter dragonflies (Hagenius brevistylus) love to perch and wait for their prey to come by and then use their powerful back legs to snag that prey, which is often another dragonfly. Those legs are so long and ungainly, though, that Dragonhunters’ poses often seem awkward when they are perched—they remind me of teenage males who have undergone a recent growth spurt and haven’t gotten used to their longer limbs.

Last Friday as I was exploring a stream at Prince William Forest Park with fellow blogger and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, he spotted this female Dragonhunter perched at the edge of the water. I was walking toward him when I spotted the Dragonhunter on the rocks that I featured yesterday and was delayed in getting to see this dragonfly. Fortunately, she was relatively tolerant of our presence and remained in place long enough for me to get some shots.

All of the images that I captured show a side view of the Dragonhunter, because she was facing toward the water and I was trying not to get wet. Walter, however, wanted more of a frontal view  and waded into the water to get that shot. Check out today’s posting on his blog and you can compare the results of our different approaches.

dragonhunter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was exploring Mason Neck West Park in nearby Lorton, Virginia last Saturday, fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford pointed to a dragonfly perched at the top of a tree and said it would make a good “artsy” shot. He was right. Although some details are lost in the shadows, the simplified silhouetted view lets you focus on the essence of the dragonfly.

The patches on the inner wings indicate that it is one of the saddlebags dragonflies. I think it might be a Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina), but there is also a chance that it could be a Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata).

Carolina Saddlebags

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I was exploring a small creek in Prince William County, Virginia last week with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford when suddenly I spotted a dragonfly hanging almost vertically from a branch not far above the ground. It is always a good sign when a dragonfly is hanging vertically, because many of the uncommon species perch in this way. My initial thought was that it was a clubtail and I informed Walter, who was searching another part of the stream, that it had two yellow stripes on its thorax. He reminded me that most clubtails have two yellow stripes, but was interested enough to move closer to me.

Walter has a lot more experience with dragonflies than I do and he grew visibly excited when he looked at the dragonfly though his camera. It was not a clubtail at all, but a relatively uncommon Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua). Not only was it an Arrowhead Spiketail, it was a female and females tend to be harder to find than males. As I got closer, I could see the “spike” protruding from the tip of the abdomen, which showed it was a female, and the telltale arrow shaped markings all the way down the abdomen. We believe that this was the first documented sighting of an Arrowhead Spiketail in Virginia this year.

The dragonfly was unusually cooperative and both Walter and I were able to take lots of shots without disturbing her. In fact, she was still on the same perch when we left, though she was absent when we returned an hour or so later.

In situations like this, Walter and I like to do companion blog postings independently. Our photography styles and personal backgrounds color the way in which we produce our blog postings and they help to give our readers different perspectives on the same subjects and situations.

I have provided an assortment of images that show the female Arrowhead Spiketail from different distances and angles. I decided to do them in a gallery style—if you want to see them in a larger format slide show, which I recommend doing, just click on any one of them and then click the arrows. You probably notice that some of the images are intended to help you to identify the dragonfly and others are more “artsy.”

Be sure to check out Walter’s companion posting. I will include a link to it after I have published this article and have a chance to check out Walter’s posting.

UPDATE: Walter’s posting is wonderful. In addition to some excellent photos of the dragonfly, Walter provides a lot of contextual information about the location at which we found it and additional information about the species. Click here to see his posting.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was so shocked yesterday morning at Prince William Forest Park to spot a bright white squirrel that my brain froze for a moment—it simply could not process the information transmitted by my eyes. We have black squirrels in the Washington DC area, but I never realized that an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) could be white.

My first thought was that it might be an albino squirrel, but when I zoomed in, I could see that its eyes are dark. I did a little poking about on the internet and learned that there are white morphs of the gray squirrel that have a rare gene that causes them to be white.

In response to a photo I posted on Facebook, Sue, a retired biology professor who authors the wonderful Backyard Biology blog, reminded me of a post she had written in 2013 entitled “A white shade of tail” that includes a lot of great information on white squirrels.  Who knew, for example, that there are locations in the United States where white squirrels are relatively common? Be sure to check out that posting and other awesome postings on Sue’s site, where she freely shares her accumulated knowledge, current observations, and beautiful images. (She is special to me too because she was one of the first subscribers to this blog almost seven years ago.)

I suspected that the white squirrel would be skittish, so I took a series of shots from a distance. As I anticipated, when I took a step forward, the squirrel scampered away.

At first glance, I thought all my photos were the same, but when I looked more closely, I saw that they captured different facial expressions. I try to look at my subjects as individuals and not merely as representatives of their species. The cute little expressions in these images remind me of the individual personality of this unusual little creature.

white squirrel

white squirrel

white squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This Green Heron (Butorides virescens) was practicing its yoga on Saturday while perched on the railing of a small bridge at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. In the first image you see the rarely observed giraffe pose—don’t try this at home or you many end up in traction. The second shot shows the green heron with its neck in a more relaxed position.

I am amazed by the amount of neck extension the green heron was able to achieve—I am willing to stick my neck out for others at times, but not to that extent.

Green Heron

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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During a visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, I was reminded of my favorite artist—Claude Monet. During the last thirty years of his life, water lilies (Nymphéas in French) were the main focus of his artistic production. One of the museums that I most love visiting is the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris, because it houses eight massive water lily murals by Monet in two specially-built oval rooms. It is incredibly peaceful to just sit in one of those rooms, surrounded by those amazing paintings.

I was delighted and a little surprised yesterday to see that some water lilies were already in bloom. There was a lot of vegetation surrounding the pond in which the beautiful flowers were floating, so there were some limits to my ability to compose my shots. Still, I am pretty happy with the images that I was able to capture.

Perhaps you will find yourself as captivated by the water lilies as I was.

Water lily

Water lily

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Whenever folks of my generation catch sight of a spotted fawn, we invariably think of the animated Disney movie Bambi, a movie that is an integral part of  our collective memory of childhood. Perhaps we remember the friendship of Bambi, Thumper,  and Flower or the love of Bambi and Faline  or the shocking death of Bambi’s mother. Our memories of the movie may vary, but I think we all feel a soft spot in our hearts if we are lucky enough to catch sight of a fawn.

I spotted this little deer on Tuesday at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. It was down in a small valley at the edge of some heavy vegetation. I watched from a distance from my higher vantage point as the fawn poked about in the vegetation. At some point, the fawn became aware of my presence and looked straight at me through its soft brown eyes. The deer held its gaze for what seemed like a long time and it faded into the underbrush and the spell was broken.

Thanks, Bambi, for sharing those magical moments with me.

Bambi

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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