Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

The female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) that I spotted last Friday at Huntley Meadows Park was too quick and too far away for me to photograph in flight when she took off several times to try to catch a fish. I did manage, though, to capture a short sequence of shots when she was returning to her perch after an unsuccessful attempt. Unlike many birds that would have approached the perch horizontally, the kingfisher came up out of the water vertically, appearing almost to levitate as she rose to her perch.

Normally I lead a blog post with my favorite or my best image, but this time I decided to leave the shots in the correct time sequence. The middle image in which the kingfisher was fully spread her wings is my clear favorite of the three, though I like the way that each shot shows the different body and wing positions as she stuck her landing–I would give her a perfect score of 10.

 

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As I was exploring in Huntley Meadows Park last Friday, I heard the unmistakeable rattling call of a kingfisher. After a bit of searching, I located this female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) on a perch high above an osprey nesting platform jutting out of the water. I watched and waited and eventually kingfisher flew down from the perch in an attempt to catch a fish.

The kingfisher was successful and returned to the perch with a sizable fish. The first challenge for the kingfisher was to subdue the fish and it beat the fish repeatedly against the perch. At the same time it adjusted the fish in order to swallow the fish headfirst, in the same way that a great blue heron does. In the second image, you can see that the kingfisher has maneuvered the fish into almost the proper position.

I am a bit more used to watching ospreys and eagles consume fish, which they accomplish by tearing away pieces of the fish with their sharp beaks while holding down the fish with their equally sharp talons. Kingfishers have differently-shaped bills and talons, so they have to swallow their fish in a single gulp.

The kingfisher has little margin for error as it makes its forceful movements while balancing itself on a narrow perch high above the water. The final photo shows that mistakes can happen—the fish slipped out of the kingfisher’s bill when she lifted her head upwards to swallow it.

I am able to happily report that the kingfisher was able to fly down to the water, retrieve the fish, and eventually consume it. As always, I encourage you to double-click on the images to get a closer look at the wonderful details of the photos.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The weather has gotten decidedly colder, with daily high temperatures struggling to get past 60 degrees (16 degrees C). I am beginning to wonder if this female bluet that I saw last week at Huntley Meadows Park will be my final damselfly sighting of the season.

I was fairly confident that this was a female Familiar Bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile), but once again I learned how difficult identification can be when I posted the image to a Facebook forum for dragonflies and damselflies in Virginia. Several experts weighed in with suggestions that the eyespots made then think it was a female    Atlantic Bluet (Enallagma doubledayi), a species that I have never before encountered.

How hard can it be to identify a damselfly? One of the aforementioned experts noted that  “you cannot be completely sure about many female Enallagma without microscopic examination.” Microscopic examination? Yikes!

Familiar Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Some birds are with us for only a season or two before they migrate to new locations. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), however, stay in our area throughout the year and I can generally find one if I look hard enough. When I spotted this one recently at Huntley Meadows Park, it was perched on a single leg on a wood pile near the edge of the forest.

The heron was in the process of preening and if you look closely, you can see what I think are tiny feathers in its long bill. I noticed that the heron’s eyeswere only half-open, almost like the heron was still half-asleep as it prepared for the new day.

Great Blue Heron

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I thought that all of the migrating warblers had already finished passing through our area, so I was delighted when I spotted this beautiful little Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum) this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. We had several days of warmer than average temperatures, so I had switched back to my macro lens from my longer telephoto lens, thinking there was a chance I might get some close-ups of late season dragonflies. As it turned out, I did not see many dragonflies, but did see a small group of birds including this one.

Close-up shots of the warbler were out of the question, but I was determined get some shots nonetheless as the little warbler bounced all around in the vegetation. Although I had to crop these three shots quite a bit, I was pretty happy with them, because collectively they provide a nice view of the yellow coloration on various parts of this warbler’s body. The colors of the warblers in the autumn are beautiful, I believe, even though they tend to be significantly more subdued than the bird’s brighter colors in the spring.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The end of the season has come for most species of dragonflies, with only a few hardy survivors still flying. However, I am delighted that to note that I am still seeing plenty of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) and expect to continue see them for at least a number of months. For me, the appearance of these bright red dragonflies is one of the signs of the change of the seasons.

I love trying to capture images of Autumn Meadowhawks perching on colorful fall foliage, but they are rarely as cooperative as the dragonfly featured in the first two photos. I’ll be trying to capture similar shots as the season progresses. The final photo provides a somewhat more isolated view of the stunning brown eyes of this male Autumn Meadowhawk and the beautiful red tones of its body.

The dragonfly season may be winding down, but from my perspective it is far from being over.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Whenever I see a Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea), the frog appears to be sleeping. Why is that the case? Many frogs spend their time in the water and have an easy way to regulate their body temperatures. Tree Frogs probably need to avoid direct sunlight and I suspect they are more active earlier and later during the day.

I photographed these beautiful tree frogs on consecutive days last week during trips to different parts of Huntley Meadows Park. I love the simplified V-shaped tree crotch that makes a photogenic perch for the frog in the first photo. I am sure that I am imagining things, but the frog appears to be pensive or possibly daydreaming.

The previous day I was on the boardwalk with my friend Walter Sanford on the boardwalk when a passing woman with two young children, Dante and Aria, asked us if we wanted to see a tree frog. It had been a slow day for us photographically, so of course we said yes. The kids were really excited to talk with us and to show us their find.

Walter asked them to come up with a name for the frog and Aria chose the name “Sleepy.” Unlike the frog in the first photo that seemed semi-alert, the second frog seemed to be sound asleep, so the name certainly fit. Check out Walter’s posting on the encounter in his recent blog posting called “Sleepy” for more info and another photo of the sleeping tree frog.

 

Green Tree Frog

Green Tree Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Looking up into the trees at Huntley Meadows Park during a recent trip and lamenting the lack of brilliant fall foliage, I glanced down into the dark waters of the duckweed-spattered marsh and saw these wonderful abstract patterns of colorful shapes and textures. I love the fall.

floating fall foliage

floating fall foliage

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I was absolutely delighted to spot this Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum) last week when I visited Huntley Meadows Park with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford. Some of you may recall that this colorful katydid is my favorite insect. The katydid, which appears to be a female, was sunning herself on the raised edge of the boardwalk that runs through the marshland at this park. I love the way she is sprawled out with her body fully extended, forcing me to take a panorama-style shot to capture her portrait.

If you look carefully, you may note that “wood” of the boardwalk is actually an artificial composite material. For me this is a real benefit, because I don’t get splinters when I lie down on the boardwalk, as I am wont to do to get certain shots. However, I have learned from past experience that this surface gets really slick when there is frost or ice.

Handsome Meadow Katydid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

We do not have many lizards where I live, so it is always fun to spot one. The lizard that I see most often is the appropriately named Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus). The adults are cool-looking, but they are no match in appearance for the juveniles that sport a brilliantly blue tail.

I spotted this handsome little skink last week while exploring Huntley Meadows Park. The skink was spread out wide on the trunk of a tree in an apparent attempt to warm up in the sunlight. I snapped off a few quick shots with my long telephoto zoom lens before I stealthily moved forward to improve my shooting position. However, as is usually the case, the skink was skittish and disappeared from sight as soon as it detected my presence.

Common Five-lined Skink

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was very excited last Thursday when a passing photographer pointed out this little tree frog to me last Thursday as I was walking along a trail at Huntley Meadows Park. I think that it is a Gray Tree Frog (Hyla versicolor), through there is a chance that it could be a Cope’s Gray Tree Frog (Hyla chrysoscelis). According to the Virginia Herpetologcal Society, “Our two native gray treefrogs are identical in appearance. In the field the only two ways to distinguish H. chrysoscelis from H. versicolor is by their call and in some cases geographic location.”

The green and gray pattern on its body looks unusual to me and makes it look like the frog has lichen on its back. The Smithsonian National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute website notes that, “The gray tree frog’s scientific name is Hyla versicolor, which comes from the Latin for “variable color.” It is named for its ability to alter its skin color based on the time of day and surrounding temperature. The skin becomes much lighter at night and darker during the day.”

I was starting to feel a little cold as I was observing the tree frog and wondered what would happen to it in the winter. I was shocked to discover that Gray Tree Frogs hibernate during the cold weather. The Smithsonian website mentioned above states that, “The gray tree frog hibernates in the winter by taking refuge in trees. It survives freezing temperatures by producing glycerol to “freeze” itself while maintaining interior metabolic processes at a very slow rate.” Wow!

 

Gray Tree Frog

Gray Tree Frog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Large black spiders are often associated with Halloween—many people find them to be merely spooky, but some are totally creeped out by them. Maybe the spiders need better marketing and a new poster child for the autumn holidays. I would nominate this colorful Marbled Orbweaver spider (Araneus marmoreus) that I spotted on Thursday at Huntley Meadows Park.

When I spotted this spider, I was immediately attracted to the way that the light was illuminating its legs from behind and causing them to glow. As I made adjustments to my camera settings, I was a little shocked to see the beautiful orange coloration and intricate patterns on the spider’s body. The oval body brought to mind a kind of stylized jack-o’-lantern and I later learned that one of the informal names for this spider is “pumpkin spider.”

For many of us this is the season for voting. Would you vote for this spider as a new autumn mascot?

Marbled Orbweaver

 

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

On Wednesday I travelled to Huntley Meadows Park with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford in search of some late-season species. A vernal pool in the woods, where we had seen them in the past, unfortunately has largely filled in with dense vegetation over the course of the last few years. The changed habitat appears to have caused out target species to disappear and we left that area empty-handed.

Fortunately, though, there are other areas in the park to explore, including a boardwalk that runs through a wetland areal, and we did manage to get some shots of other subjects. The day was starting to come to a close and we started down a gravel-covered trail heading for the parking lot. As I was scanning the vegetation on the side of the trail I suddenly caught sight of a spreadwing damselfly perching in a patch of greenbrier vines.

I was not sure what species it was, but Walter initially identified it as a female Southern Spreadwing damselfly (Lestes australis), but a closer examination of the photos of the dragonfly by an even more experienced dragonfly revealed that it is a female Slender Spreadwing (Lestes rectangularis). The damselfly was reasonably cooperative and perched in a couple of different places on the vines before it flew away.

Walter and I shoot with very different gear configurations and we often like to do complementary blog postings to show how two photographers shooting the same subject can produce somewhat different results. I was shooting with my Canon 50D and Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens, which has a minimum focusing distance of 8.9 feet (2.7 meters), so I had to be pretty far from the damselfly to get a shot and focused manually. I was also using a monopod for stability. Walter was shooting with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ300 superzoom camera and a full-sized flash and was able to get a bit closer to our subject and composed his shots from different angles.

Be sure to check out Walter’s blog posting today entitled “Slender Spreadwing damselfly (female)” to read his narrative and see his excellent photos of this beautiful female Slender Spreadwing damselfly.

 

Southern Spreadwing

Southern Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was excited to spot several female Slender Spreadwing damselflies (Lestes rectangularis) during a visit to Huntley Meadows Park this past Thursday. As damselflies go, Slender Spreadwings are quite large, up to 2 inches (51 mm) in length, and are very striking in appearance. Normally spreadwings, as their name indicates, perch with their wings outstretched, though the one in the first photo has its wings mostly closed above its body like a “normal” damselfly—its paler coloration suggests to me that it may have emerged relatively recently.

The middle photo shows well the typical perching style of a spreadwing, with its body held at an angle and several legs grasping a thin stem. The final photo shows a female Slender Spreadwing depositing eggs in the leafy stem of a plant.

I have noted several times my dismay at the winding down of the dragonfly/damselfly season, so it is particularly gratifying for me to spot species like this one that I rarely see.

Slender Spreadwing

Slender Spreadwing

Slender Spreadwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

The beautiful colors on this dragonfly that I spotted yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park are so amazing that it it hard for me to call it “common,” even though I know that it is a Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). I initially spotted this dragonfly when it was patrolling over a field and was thrilled when I saw it land nearby.

Although my telephoto lens zooms out to 600mm, I needed to extend it to only 450mm, because Common Green Darners are so large, about 3 inches (75 mm) in length. As a result, the images were sharper and I was able to capture a lot of detail. I encourage you to double-click on the images to see those details, like the bullseye pattern on the top of the “nose” and the spectacular rainbow colors of this dragonfly.

Common Green Darners are a migratory species that flies in swarms so big that they can be picked up on weather radar. This dragonfly seemed to be alone, so it could be a migratory straggler or simply a part of the local population.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

 

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was both shocked and delighted to spot this brilliant male Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea) on Monday during a trip to Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge. All of the other times that previously I spotted these colorful little birds were during the early spring and I did not know that they were still around in our area.

It is hard for a bird so brightly colored to hide itself completely, but I am used to seeing only flashes of yellow amidst the foliage high in the trees. In this case I spotted the warbler when it was perched on a wooden fence. As I got a little closer, it dropped down to ground level, but I was able to find a small visual tunnel that gave me an unobstructed view of this beautiful little warbler and was able to capture this image.

Prothonotary Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

As I was walking past one of the fields Huntley Meadows Park on Monday, I spotted a large dragonfly patrolling back and forth, flying low over the heavy vegetatation. I tracked the dragonfly’s movements with my camera as it flew tantalizingly close to me, only to abruptly change directions each time. All of the sudden, the dragonfly zoomed past me and disappeared into the foliage of a tree on the other side of the trail on which I was standing,

Fortunately I was able to see where the dragonfly had landed and eventually I found it perched on the underside of a branch. The second shot shows the view that I had after I had approached the dragonfly cautiously. If you look closely at the space between the dragonfly’s head and the branch, you will see that it is in the process of eating what looks to be a black and yellow insect of some kind. In my experience, when dragonflies are eating, they tend to be so focused on their food that I can get closer to them than might otherwise be possible.

From that distance I could already identify it as a Swamp Darner dragonfly (Epiaeschna heros), one of the largest dragonflies in our area, almost 3.5 inches in length (89 mm). I was happy to be able to get the side shot, but wanted a different angle, so I maneuvered my way around and captured the dorsal view shown in the first photo. From this angle you get a really good view of its amazing blue eyes and the wonderful circular ring markings on its abdomen. The angle of view also showed me some body parts that allowed me to determine that this is a male.

I spent only a couple of hours hunting dragonflies on Monday, but had a very successful day, finding the elusive Mocha Emerald that I featured yesterday and this gorgeous Swamp Darner. Folks frequently ask me why I like dragonflies so much and I think that the first photo is a convincing visual response to such a query—no further explanations should be required.

Swamp Darner

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

It has been a few years since I last saw a Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis), so I was excited when I spotted one yesterday while exploring at Huntley Meadows Park. The male Mocha Emerald was patrolling along above a small stream in a way that is typical, but infuriating—he would fly a bit and then hover, but before I could focus on him, he would fly some more, each time moving again before I could catch up to him. Fortunately, Mocha Emeralds perch pretty often and I was absolutely thrilled when this one chose a perch within sight of where I was standing.

As you look at the photos, you cannot help but notice that the dragonfly’s body long, dark, and skinny body, although you eyes may well be drawn first to his brilliant emerald eyes. You may also note that he does not really perch, but instead hangs from the branch to relax. The position reminds me of the one what I assume when I am doing pull-ups and definitely would not be my preferred position for resting.

I am often surprised by the amazing diversity in the dragonfly world. When I first started to focus on dragonflies, it was obvious that they came in different colors. As I have learned more about dragonflies and photographed them, I have grown more attuned to body shapes, behavior, and habitats. Yes, I am somewhat obsessed with these beautiful creatures and enjoy searching for hours for little jewels like this Mocha Emerald.

 

 

Mocha Emerald

Mocha Emerald

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

I went searching through my archives yesterday for a photo from March 2016 that I wanted to have printed. I won’t dwell on my storage practices, but suffice it to say that I am not very well organized. The image in question, one of my all-time favorite shots, shows a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) whose breath was visible in the cold morning air. I have posted the image a few times and have had some really positive response, but somehow I had never gotten around to having it printed.

I had forgotten that I had captured multiple shots that day and as I was going through them yesterday I came across the first shot below that I have never posted. I love the way that the image shows how the blackbird puts his whole body into producing his “visible song”—I remember my choir leaders instructing us on the importance of breathing from the diaphragm for better sound projection.

The second and third shots give you a better view of the bird’s breath as it was being expelled. I was playing around with image formats and decided to do a square crop that I think works pretty well with these images. One of the photo companies has a sale today on canvas prints and I may one or more of these shots printed to see how they look. A friend has also suggested that I consider having a metal print made of one of them.

The temperature, humidity, and lighting all have be perfect to be able to see this phenomenon shown here. I have not been lucky enough to see it again since that day almost four years ago, though others have taken similar shots at the same location in recent years.

If you are curious to read my blog posting about the initial encounter, check out my 8 March 2016 blog posting entitled “Visible Song.”

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Last week I watched as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly flew across the sky and perched high in a tree in the middle of the woods. The perch seemed precarious and the heron’s position did not appear to be at all comfortable. I honestly don’t know how the heron managed to land amidst all of the small branches—it required precision flying for the heron to pull in its wide wings at precisely the right moment as it decelerated.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

Butterflies in October? October has been a crazy month weather-wise in Northern Virginia where I live. Yesterday we had a record high temperature of 98 degrees (37 degrees C) and it feels a lot more like summer than autumn. Therefore it did not seem at all strange that I saw lots of butterflies on Tuesday when I visited Huntley Meadows Park.

I spent quite a while chasing after this beautiful little butterfly, which I think is an Orange Sulphur butterfly (Colias eurytheme). Most of the time the butterfly would perch sidewards and then fly away when I tried to circle around to get a better angle for a shot. I was thrilled when I finallly managed to capture this image with the butterfly’s wings partially open. I also like the way that the light helped to illuminate some of the details in the wings.

I look forward to the cooler autumn weather that will eventually come, but for now I am continuing to enjoy some of the delights of this endless summer.

Orange Sulphur

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

My dragonfly season is not over yet! Yesterday, the 1st of October, I managed to get my first good shots of the year of Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum ambiguum). This species emerges a bit earlier in the season, but generally does not make an appearance until September. (Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford posits that they spend that interim time in the tree tops.)

I really love the combination of colors of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk—I find the colors to be striking without being garish. You might think that these colors would make it easy to spot these dragonflies, but they are small in size with a length of 1.4 inches (36 mm) and are found only in very specific habitats.

I have been searching unsuccessfully for these little beauties the last few weeks at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my most frequent “habitat,” and ended up returning to Huntley Meadows Park, where I had seen them in the past. Huntley Meadows Park is a wonderful county-run marshland refuge and used to be my favorite location for nature photography. In recent years, though, the park has become a victim of its own success and there are often mobs of photographers on its boardwalk through the wetlands.

Perhaps I am a little selfish, but I do not like to share my wildlife experience with a large group of other people. For me, my treks with my camera are most often a solitary pursuit, a meandering one-on-one experience with nature.

What about you? Do you prefer to experience nature alone or with others?

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

It is a gray and gloomy Friday morning and rain is forecast for most of the day. Somehow I feel the need for a boost of bright colors. So here is a shot of a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly (Speyeria cybele) on a clump of what I believe is Purple Milkweed (Asclepias purpurascens) from this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park.

As I worked on this image, there was a real temptation to crank up the saturation level of the colors, which made the shot look unnatural. I tried to show a little restraint and render the colors as I remember them, bright, but not in neon-like tones.

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I remember reading an article once with tips on photographing butterflies. The article suggested that you photograph only the butterflies in perfect condition, the ones with no signs of aging, no faded colors, and no tattered wings.

I personally don’t believe in following that advice. Life can be really tough for the tiny creatures that I like to photograph (and for us two-legged creatures too) and I don’t mind at all when my photographs capture the effects of some of life’s struggles. As some of my friends are fond of saying, we have earned our wrinkles.

This past weekend I visited Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland park that used to be my absolute favorite place to take photographs. In some ways it is a victim of its own success. Lots of photographers now flock to the park to photograph the wildlife there. I prefer, however, for my wildlife viewing to be more of a solitary pursuit than a group activity, so increasingly I have been spending my time in other local spots.

While at the park I spotted this beautiful Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata). Its wings are a bit tattered and somehow it seems appropriate that its perch shows some spider webs. Yet I couldn’t help but feel how confidently this little dragonfly perched on the tip of the vegetation, boldly displaying its faded beauty to the world.

The composition is simple, as is the message—true beauty is not about perfection.

 

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I was prompted this morning to read again the challenges to all Americans found in Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, challenges that seem so appropriate and relevant as we pause in the United States on this Memorial Day to remember the sacrifices of so many brave men and women.
 “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Bald Eagle
(I captured this image of a hyper-vigilant injured Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in November 2014 shortly before it was rescued. You can learn more about the rescue and see additional images in a posting from that period entitled “Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle.”)
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I don’t tend to think of American Robins (Turdus migratorius) as acrobatic birds—most of the time I see them poking about on the ground, the traditional early bird searching for the worm. I photographed this acrobatic robin in February at Huntley Meadows Park, a marshland park not far from where I live. The robin was precariously perched on a very thin branch and moved slowly and carefully to maintain its balance and gently grab the little red berries you can see in the photo.

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

While I was at Huntley Meadows Park on Wednesday, I spotted this Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple perched on a semi-submerged log, relaxing and preening their feathers. These small ducks have such an unusual and distinctive look that it is hard for me to ignore them whenever I am fortunate to spot them—often they spot me first and my first indication of their presence is when they are flying away from me.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The light was dim in the early morning hours this past Wednesday at Huntley Meadows Park, but I could detect some movement in the vegetation adjacent to the boardwalk that runs through the marshland. I watched and waited and eventually a male Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) swam slowly into view and I managed to capture some images of it. I love the reflections of both the duck and the vegetation in this shot.

After the fact, I discovered that I probably should have changed the setting of my camera to raise the shutter speed. Many of my shots were blurry, but somehow this one came out reasonably sharp, despite the fact that it was taken with a shutter speed of only 1/15 of a second with my lens zoomed out all of the way to 600mm. I am pretty sure that it helped that I was using a monopod.

This incident reminded me of the special challenges and rewards that come with shooting at dawn or dusk. There is often a lot of activity, but there is a constant struggle to capture that activity in the limited light that is available. When things come together, though, it is almost magical and is definitely worth the effort.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The early morning sunlight was spectacular yesterday as it streamed through the trees at Huntley Meadows Park. I tried to capture this phenomenon as a kind of mini-landscape by using my telephoto lens and framing it just as you see in this image. It is a little unusual for me not to crop an image at all, but by composing it this way, I was able to include those elements that I found the most interesting, the light and shadows of the trees, and left out the things that I found less interesting such as the sky. I did include a little strip of grass in the foreground so that the image is not completely abstract.

early morning trees

When I first arrived at the park, the sun had barely risen and there was a lot of ground fog, which made the woods look really mysterious and a little spooky. One of my viewers on Facebook said the image looked like it could be the setting for the witches in Macbeth. The second image was a lot tougher to capture, because of the lack of light and my desire to capture a sense of the fog that was clinging to the ground. There is a slight blur to the image, which would normally be a shortcoming in a photo, but I think it works ok with an image like this one.

early morning trees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »