Posts Tagged ‘dragonflies’

Last Wednesday, 2 November, I took a walk along the Columbia River in Bastrop, Texas, not far from where I am staying, and was delighted to spot a number of different dragonflies. As I have found in the past, it is difficult to identify dragonflies (and birds) when I am outside of my home area. Sometimes the species are the same, but there may be regional variations. At other times, though, I have found species that are not present at all where I live.

The dragonfly in the first image looks like a female Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus), but I must admit that I am not very confident about that call. In the second, the dragonfly looks a bit like a female Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus). When it comes to the third dragonfly, I am not sure that I can even make a guess, other than the fact that it looks like some kind of skimmer.

It was really nice to extend my dragonfly season by traveling briefly to a warmer southern location. By early November, there will only a few dragonflies left in Northern Virginia when I return home next week.

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been playing around with video again and made a little YouTube video about some of my challenges in trying to photograph dragonflies in flight. I tried to combine some video footage captured when I was out in the field (the second shot below is a still extracted from the video) with some of my still images that you may have already seen in past blog postings. I did a voiceover with the still photos that provides some information about my camera settings and techniques as well as commentary about the location where I was shooting. The first image is the thumbnail for the video, which I included to give you an indication in the Reader about the content.

I embedded the video link at the end of this posting that you can click directly if you are viewing directly from my blog. After I posted a video this way in the past, I learned that those folks who receive the blog in their e-mail are not able to see the embedded video. If that is the case for you, here is a link that you can click that will take you to the YouTube video. The video is about eight minutes long, but I think you will find it enjoyable and informative.

I shared the video directly with one of my subscribers, Jet Eliot, who commented, “I absolutely loved your video, Mike. Your enthusiasm and expertise for dragonflies comes through beautifully. I like how upbeat you are about photographing dragonflies, and encouraging. Your voice is rich, vocabulary lovely, and diction is smooth. A complete joy to watch–I’m still smiling.” Be sure to check out her wonderful blog Jet Eliot–Travel and Wildlife Adventures for her weekly essays, photos, and anecdotes on lively, interesting places and creatures that she has befriended all over the world.


In the Field

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As another year in my journey through photography comes to a close, I decided to share a few of my favorite photos of the past year. I initially planned to choose one image for each month and that was doable for the first few months of the year. Once I moved into the prime seasons for shooting, though, there were so many good photos I couldn’t select a single one, so I chose multiples for those months and ended up with these thirty photos.

If you want to see the images in a larger size, all you need to do is click on one of them and they will then be displayed in a slide show format.

Thanks so much to all of you who have followed my blog postings and supported and encouraged me in so many ways. It has been a wonderful year and I look forward to more photos and new adventures in the upcoming new year.

Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for a blessed 2019.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today was a beautiful sunny day in Brussels, Belgium and I had some free time to explore the city. I have been in Brussels for short business trips a number of times in recent years and have already visited many of the attractions in the center of the city.  Today I decided to look for some of the kinds of wildlife that I love to photograph, so I made my way to a park that leads to the Botanical Garden of Brussels.

I was encouraged a little when I saw some ducks and turtles in the small pond there and my level of excitement really soared when I spotted some dragonflies flying about. The only problem was that the dragonflies refused to land. When I have my normal DSLR and my favorite lenses, I’ll try to capture in-flight shots, but when I am traveling for work, I tend to leave all that gear at home and use a point-and-shoot camera. My current travel camera is a Canon SX50. It has an amazing zoom lens, but really is not responsive enough to photograph moving dragonflies.

A bit later, I made my way to the opposite side of the tiny pond and discovered the staging area for the dragonflies. Every now and then a dragonfly would perch very briefly on the vegetation. It took quite a few tries, but eventually I got a few shots. I don’t know anything about European dragonfly species, so I can’t really identify the ones that I photographed today. They look pretty similar to ones that I have seen at home and certainly they belong to the same families, but I’d sure welcome assistance in identifying the species.

Today was a day full of unexpected treats. I don’t expect to see bright days full of sunshine during trips to Europe and I didn’t really expect to find dragonflies in Brussel’s urban center.

UPDATE: I have done a bit more research on the internet and it looks to me like the dragonflies in the first two photos below may be Migrant Hawkers (Aeshna mixta).

dragonfly in Brussels

dragonfly in Brussels

butterfly in Brussels

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved


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Fellow blogger and photographer, Walter Sanford, has an infectious passion for dragonflies and damselflies and has encouraged and inspired me to search for them in remote areas of my favorite marshland park. In today’s blog posting, he chronicles the new species that he has discovered and photographed in the park during the past two years. Individually and sometimes together, we are seeking to discover even more new species.

I encourage all of you to check out his blog to learn more about odonates and see some amazing images of these little beauties.

walter sanford's photoblog

My interest in odonates, that is, dragonflies and damselflies, began during Summer 2011 at Huntley Meadows Park. Toward the end of Summer 2012 and continuing in 2013, my goal was to explore new venues for hunting odonates. Along the way, I spotted several species of odonates that are either uncommon or unknown to occur at Huntley Meadows, including Blue Corporal dragonfly, Stream Cruiser dragonfly, and Rambur’s Forktail damselfly, to name a few.

During 2014, continuing in 2015, I have been a man on a mission to explore the relatively unexplored areas at Huntley Meadows Park in search of habitat-specific odonates unlikely to be found in the central wetland area of the park. In retrospect, 2014-2015 has been a good run: five new species of odonates were discovered and added to the list of Dragonflies and Damselflies of Huntley Meadows Park.

Common Sanddragon dragonfly

Common Sanddragon dragonfly (Progomphus obscurus) 20 June 2014

Mike Powell

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Like my friend, Walter Sanford, I am thankful to have such a wonderful suburban oasis that serves as a refuge and an inspiration for so much of my outdoor photography. Walter has had a powerful influence on me as I have gotten more serious in my pursuit of dragonflies this past year. He has always been willing to share his time and extensive knowledge with so many of us, serving as an ambassador for Huntley Meadows Park. Thanks, Walter! Be sure to check out his blog for some amazing photos and fascinating information.

walter sanford's photoblog

It’s the traditional time of year when we give thanks for our many blessings. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a frequent and careful observer of the natural beauty of the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park, and for many good friends with whom I share the experience. And thanks to WordPress.com for the blog that enables me to share my sightings with others!

Last year I noticed a single male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on the signage along the boardwalk, located near the observation tower. I wondered how many visitors wandered past the sign without noticing the dragonfly watching the “Wildlife Watching” sign.

On Veteran’s Day, 11 November 2014, I noticed two male Autumn Meadowhawks perching on the same sign so I stopped to take a few photos (shown above). Nearly a dozen people passed me and not one person stopped to see what…

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Do you want to learn patience? If so, try photographing dragonflies in flight, those speedy little flyers that patrol the edge of a pond without ever seeming to need a rest.

Several readers commented that I must have lots of patience after they saw the photos of dragonflies and damselflies that I recently posted. Comparatively speaking, however, it is a whole lot easier to photograph these insects when they are perched on a stationary object than when they are in constant motion.

My fellow blogger and photographer, Walter Sanford, a true dragonfly stalker, emphasized to me recently that many of the early spring dragonflies are found only in limited locations for very short periods of time. (Check out his blog for lots of wonderful shots of dragonflies and other wildlife creatures.) I decided to return to Hidden Pond Nature Center, a county-run park in Springfield, Virginia that is only a few miles from where I live. Last year I spotted a few common dragonflies there, and it seemed to be a good place to broaden my search for spring dragonflies.

Sure enough, I caught sight of a few dragonflies, flying low over the surface of the small pond. They seemed to have fairly well defined patrol areas and tended to move about in large, lazy circles. I tried tracking several of them using my camera’s autofocus, but that proved to be impossible, so I switched to manual focusing, which was merely difficult.

I took a few breaks to get some shots of the more cooperative damselflies, but persisted in my quixotic efforts to capture the dragonflies in flight. Over the course of a couple of hours, I managed to fewer than a dozen images that are more or less in focus. I think that my subjects for this shoot might be Common Baskettail dragonflies (Epitheca cynosura), but I’m not very confident in that identification.

My adventures with dragonflies (and wildlife photography in general) continue teach important lessons about the value of patience and persistence.





© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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There is something a little wistful about searching for the last dragonfly of the year. Most of the familiar dragonflies from the summer have disappeared and it looks like the sole remaining dragonfly in our area is the Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum).

Yesterday I spent some time trying to photograph this dragonfly along with fellow photographer and blogger Walter Sanford, who has an amazing collection of photographs of dragonflies on his blog site, including a world-class series on the Blue-faced Meadowhawk. I was willing to try to capture photos of any dragonfly that I could spot, but Walter noted that he had taken enough photos of the male Autumn Meadowhawk and was really interested in photographing females or, even better, mating pairs.

The mating pairs tended to elude him most of the day, until suddenly a pair in the “wheel” position circled around us and landed on his bare calf—talk about unprotected sex. There was no way that he could twist himself around to get a good photo, but I manage to get this shot of the two dragonflies in action.

Temperatures are supposed to continue to drop this week, so there is always a chance that these will be the last dragonflies that I see this year, though I will be out searching for them for weeks to come before I bid my final adieu to them.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first caught sight of this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) in the air, I thought that he had captured some sort of prey. I was wrong, yet I was also right.

The male dragonfly’s prey was a female dragonfly and they were in a mating position that I later learned is known as the wheel. The sheer flexibility and athleticism involved seems worthy of the Cirque de Soleil. Apparently it starts when the male grabs the female’s head with special claspers at the tip of his abdomen.

I came across a fascinating article by Jennifer Ackerman in National Geographic Magazine entitled Dragonflies Strange Love that provides some amazing insights into the mating habits of dragonflies. One sentence really sums up the process, “Grab, shake, bite, puncture, punch—that’s just the courtship ritual of these dazzling aerobats.”

The male dragonfly seems to be driven by an incredibly strong biological drive. I can almost hear one of them repeating the words of the Tina Turner song, “What’s love got to do with it?”


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have always been fascinated by light and shadows.

Shadows often hide or mask details of a subject, although they also may reveal elements of a subject that might otherwise be concealed. Sometimes shadows are an accurate reflection of the subject (like a silhouette), but other times they distort reality. Shadows intrigue me too because they often pick up characteristics of the surfaces on which they are cast in addition to those of the subject.

My musings on shadows were prompted by this photo of an unidentified wasp (I think it is some kind of wasp) that I shot yesterday morning. The wasp was back lit by the morning sun, causing a hidden part of his body to be revealed in the shadow.

A few months ago I decided to photograph the morning light coming through a small flower in my neighbor’s garden. As I getting ready to shoot, an ant started walking across the back of the flower. It’s not a technically good shot but I like the effect that was produced by the ant’s shadow.

Folks who follow this blog know that I love dragonflies. In early June I took some photos of dragonflies on a sunny day, resulting in lots of shadows. The dragonfly’s shadow makes me think of the position of a person hang gliding and it even looks like the dragonfly is wearing a little helmet.

The undulating surfaces on which the shadow falls really make a difference in the shape of the shadow. I especially like how the shadows of the wings fall on a separate leaf from the shadow of the main body. The shadows of the leaves themselves make this image even more interesting for me.

In this final photo a dragonfly literally is casting a long shadow. The distortion caused by the angle of the sunlight causes his legs to appear much longer and I find that this dragonfly looks much more menacing than is typical of a dragonfly.

Can a dragonfly actually look menacing?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A flash of emerald green whizzed past my eyes as I was walking in a meadow near my hotel in Massachusetts. What could it be? I waited a few minutes and recognized the familiar flight patterns of a dragonfly.

Most of the dragonflies that I see are drab by comparison with this one that is almost tropical in the brightness of its color. I am pretty sure this is a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis). For more details about this dragonfly check out BugGuide.

Female Eastern Pondhawk

I stayed for a while longer in the meadow to see what else might appear and was pleased when a pretty bluish-green dragonfly flew into view. At first I thought it was a Blue Dasher but after examining him more closely I realized he was a different type.  I think he is a male Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis).

Male Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have always admired my friend Cindy D’s photos of an unusual dragonfly that she has featured in her postings.  He is called a Halloween Pennant dragonfly (celithemis eponina).

Wikipedia has some interesting information about this dragonfly including the fact that, “Sexual activity normally occurs between 8 and 10:30 am.” Who knew? I imagine there are scientists somewhere keeping track of the mating habits of the different species of dragonflies using stopwatches.

Today I was happy finally to see a Halloween Pennant dragonfly at Brookside Gardens and take some photographs of him. I love this shot but his wingspan was really wide. I decided to crop out part of the wings so that you can see the details of his face and his wings. I find that dragonflies have wonderfully expressive faces and didn’t want you to miss this face. How can you not love such a face?

I’ll soon be on the lookout for new dragonflies to photograph. Do they have one named for all of the American holidays?

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Red and green—they are colors that I usually associate with Christmas. As the temperature climbed to 105 degrees yesterday in the Washington DC area I could easily be forgiven for letting my thoughts drift to a cooler season. While I was photographing lotus flowers and waterlilies in the Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, though,  I encountered these colors in an unexpected place—in dragonflies. Over the last few months I have taken lots of photos of dragonflies, mostly blue ones (especially the blue dasher) and an occasional, brown, white, or amber one. One time I saw—but was unable to photograph—a green one but until yesterday I had never even seen a red dragonfly. My photos of these two dragonflies are not technically perfect but they show the vivid colors of these two types of dragonflies. I think the red one is a Ruby Meadowhawk and the green one an Eastern Pondhawk. As we enter into our 11th consecutive day with high temperatures over 95 degrees, we all could use a little Christmas, in both the air temperature as well as in our hearts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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