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Posts Tagged ‘Huntley Meadows Park’

As I was walking through a grassy field on Thursday at Huntley Meadows Park, I inadvertently disturbed a grasshopper that flew to a nearby tree. It had been weeks since I had last seen a grasshopper, so I searched carefully for the insect and was happy when I managed to locate it on the trunk of the tree.

Although I carefully composed my shot, I did not have high expectations for it—it was a simple shot with a simple composition. I was stunned when I reviewed the image on my computer at how well it turned out. I love the way I was able to capture the texture of the tree bark and of the grasshopper, though I must confess that the background on the right hand side of the image may be my favorite element of the image.

One of the joys of photography for me is the discovering images like this, appealing images in which the separate components work together to create a harmonious whole. If someone had asked me when I first returned home from the shoot if I had captured any good images, I probably would have responded negatively—I would have been wrong.

Have a wonderful weekend.

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We may be down to a single active dragonfly species in my area. Yesterday I went out with my camera to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite location for wildlife photography the last few years, and found only Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum)—the Wandering Gliders seem to have departed from the areas where I had seen them previously during the last few weeks.

The good news is that I saw multiple Autumn Meadowhawks, so the population seems to be still strong. I was planning to return to the refuge tomorrow, when temperatures are supposed to soar to 73 degrees (23 degrees C), but just noted that the refuge is closed all day for one of the annual managed deer hunts. I may have to go to another location to see if the warmer temperatures coax any stragglers or survivors from other dragonfly species to make a final curtain call.

I captured these three photos of Autumn Meadowhawks last week and really like them for different reasons. In the first photo, I love the way that the color and shape of the leaf stems match the body of the dragonfly. In the second shot, I was thrilled to be able to include the sky in the composition when the dragonfly chose a high perch—I also am quite fascinated by the interplay of light and shadows in the image and the shapes that they help to create.

The simple, stark composition of the final shot appeals to me a lot. The monochromatic color palette of the branch and the background really help to draw a viewer’s eyes to the handsome male Autumn Meadowhawk and his bright red coloration really pops.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I noted in a recent posting, there appear to be only two active dragonfly species remaining in my area—Wandering Gliders and Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum). Today I decided to feature some shots of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies that I spotted last week during a visit to Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge.

Quite often Autumn Meadowhawks perch flat on the ground which makes it easy for me to get shots of them. However, those shots tend to be relatively uninteresting from an artistic point of view. I am always on the lookout for those dragonflies that choose more photogenic perches, especially those that include colorful fall foliage.

I was quite fortunate that the Autumn Meadowhawks were cooperative last week in helping me to capture images that matched my “artistic vision,” which does not always happen in wildlife photography. Wildlife photography has so many variables over which I have little or not control, including the weather, the lighting, the environment, and the subjects themselves. Success is certainly not guaranteed, but I have found that patience, persistence, knowledge, and a bit of skill can often help to tip the odds a bit in my favor.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am still on the lookout for summer dragonfly stragglers and survivors. There are certain dragonfly species that I expect to see during the autumn, but there are also a few particularly hard individuals from the summer species that are managing to hang on. Over the past week and a half I have spotted one Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans), one Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), and one Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), as shown in the photos below.

It is interesting to note that all three of these dragonflies appear to be females. I wonder if female dragonflies tend to outlive their male counterparts, as is the case with humans.

I went looking for dragonflies today, after several frosty nights, and did not see a single dragonfly. The daytime temperature was only about 52 degrees (11 degrees C), which is a bit cold for dragonfly activity. Temperatures are forecast to rise to 68 degrees (20 degrees C) early next week and I anticipate that I will see a few dragonflies then.

 

Great Blue Skimmer

Eastern Pondhawk

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Autumn leaves floating on the dark waters of a marsh—a static moment in a season of change, a time for reflection.

Sometimes I am content to capture a feeling in my photos rather than focusing on a well-defined subject.

autumn leaves

autumn leaves

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is a fun challenge to try to photograph little birds moving about in the trees. I managed to capture this shot of an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis) on Tuesday during a visit to Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge.

I like how the muted colors of this bird seem to reflect the autumn colors of its surroundings. I am more used to seeing goldfinches in the spring, when the adult males are bright yellow in color and are really easy to spot.

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I glanced down at the dark waters of the pond last Thursday at Huntley Meadows Park, a damselfly couple (Orange Bluets (Enallagma signatum), I think) flew by in tandem and I snapped this shot. I love how it looks like we are peering into a night sky, watching the damselflies fly past the celestial bodies of the Milky Way.

I couldn’t help but think about the opening title sequence from the Star Wars movies that begins with the words, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

Orange Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we move deeper into summer, the days of the dragonflies are gradually coming to an end. Their biological clocks are ticking as they feel compelled to make efforts to ensure the perpetuation of their species.

On Thursday I made a trip to Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland park, and spotted this pair of mating Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans). I could not help but notice that the wings of the dragonflies were looking tattered, especially those of the female, the dragonfly that is light brown in color. I can also see scratches along the the body of the male.

I also noticed that the female appears to be holding onto some kind of insect in her front legs. Was she planning for a snack during mating? Is the insect the dragonfly equivalent of a post-coital cigarette? I know a lot about dragonflies, but some things are meant perhaps to always remain a mystery.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted on Monday to see that Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is now flowering at Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge. Butterflies really seem to like all varieties of milkweed and I was thrilled to photograph several different species that were feeding on these fabulous flowers, including a Spicebush Swallowtail(Papilio troilus) in the first image; an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in the second image; and in the final image, a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), a smaller skipper that I cannot identify, and a bee.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Unlike Great Blue Herons, which remain throughout the winter, “our” Great Egrets (Ardea alba) overwinter in warmer places. Great Egrets may have returned weeks or even months ago, but it was only on Monday that I spotted my first ones of the year, while I was exploring Huntley Meadows Park, a marshland refuge not far from where I live. This park used to be my favorite place for wildlife photography, but it became so popular that it is frequently crowded, and for that reason I visit it now only occasionally.

As I approached a small viewing platform overlooking the central wetland area, I could see four Great Egrets, including one that was fairly close to the shore. I was mostly looking for dragonflies, butterflies that day, so I had my 180mm macro lens on my camera and a 24-105mm zoom lens in my bag. I was hoping that the close-in egret would remain in place, so I would have a chance of getting  a shot with my macro lens, but the large white bird took off as I approached.

I had anticipated that this would happen, and managed to capture a few shots of the egret in flight. I was fortunate that the egret flew only a short distance to a nearby pile of branches and remained there, allowing me time to compose some additional shots.

Although I would have liked to have gotten closer to the action with a longer lens, I am pretty happy with the shots that I got, which highlight the habitat as well as the beautiful bird. I love the feathery wingspan in the first photo as the egret was preparing to land. In the second photo, you can see that the long feathers of the egret’s breeding plumage if you click on the image to see the details better.

Whenever people ask me about camera gear, I encourage them to use whatever they have, rather than staying a home and lamenting that they do not have. Make the best use possible of what you have—I try to apply that lesson in other aspects of my life and not just in photography.

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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How do you capture a mood? That was what I was trying to do when I photographed these winter cattails swaying gently in the breeze on Saturday at Huntley Meadows Park.

More than anything else, I was looking to nature to soothe my soul after what had been a traumatic week. As I focused on the cattails I could feel my heartbeat slow down and I was able to breathe more deeply.

We all need moments of respite and relaxation like this.

winter cattails

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What does a wildlife photographer photograph when there is no wildlife to be seen? That was my dilemma, yesterday when we finally had some sunshine after a series of dreary days. I wanted to be out in nature with my camera, but I also wanted to avoid people as much as possible. Weekends are particularly problematic as crowds of people flock to popular areas, so I deliberately chose a remote trail at Huntley Meadows Park that took me past a partially-frozen pond.

There were no ducks or other birds at the pond. Instead I encountered a series of wonderfully abstract patterns in the thin ice atop the pond. A long telephoto zoom lens might not have been my first choice for these kinds of shots, but it worked remarkably well in capturing some of these patterns.

Initially my favorite image was the star-like pattern in the first photo below. Increasingly, though, I am drawn to the final photo that brings to mind a satellite or drone photo of a frozen mountain range at the edge of a sea.

ice

ice

ice

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

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