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Posts Tagged ‘McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area’

How much pollen can a bee transport at one time? As it circled the inside of a sunflower, this bee filled the pollen baskets on its hind legs with so much bright yellow pollen that I was afraid it would not be able to lift off and fly away. In addition to the very full pollen baskets, which looked like cotton candy to me, the bee was virtually covered with grains of pollen. My fears proved to be unfounded, and the overladen bee was able to carry away its golden treasure.

I think this bee is a bumblebee, though I am no expert on the subject of bees. According to Wikipedia, certain species of bees, including bumblebees and honeybees, have pollen baskets (also known as corbiculae) that are used to harvest pollen. Other bee species have scopae (Latin for “brooms”), which are usually just a mass of hair on the hind legs that are used to transport pollen.

bee pollen

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t know about you, but if I were an insect with large, fragile wings, I think that I would avoid perching on vegetation with large thorns. This male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis), however, is obviously bolder and more skilled than I am. With precision flying skills matching the parking abilities of an inner city driver, he has managed to squeeze into a space that seems barely large enough to accommodate him.

Pointless perching—that seems to be the point.

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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When you are confronted with a field of sunflowers, what’s the best way to photograph them? That was my challenge this past weekend at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland. Before I arrived, I though I would get a wide-angle view, filled with the bright yellows of the tall sunflowers. The reality was a little underwhelming, because the sunflowers had not grown very tall this year and many of them were past their prime.

So instead of going wide, I decided to move in closer and try to capture some of the details of the sunflowers. Here are a few images of single sunflowers in different stages of development. Some of the images are a little abstract and hopefully challenge readers to think beyond the normal shapes and colors that they associate with sunflowers.

 

sunflower

sunflower

sunflower

sunflower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A Red-footed Cannibalfly (Promachus rufipes) is one of the coolest and creepiest insects that you can encounter in the wild. A type of robber fly, Red-footed Cannibalflies usually feed on other insects, but they reportedly are capable of taking down a hummingbird. I spotted this “beauty” during a visit this past weekend to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland after a fellow photographer pointed it out to me.

Red-footed Cannibalflies are special to me for an unusual reason—a posting that I did about one in August 2013 has proven to be my most widely viewed normal blog posting over time. (I did have a couple of postings about the rescue of an injured bald eagle that received a huge boost in readership when linked in local media reports, but that spike was  a one-time occurrence and I tend to exclude those posts in my calculations.) The enduring popularity of that posting is a bit of a mystery to me. Yes, the subject is fascinating, but the accompanying photos are not really my best work.

Why then do I keep getting viewers for this posting? The posting, for example, had 512 views in 2015 and 612 views in 2016. During this year, there have already been 211 views, including 39 in August. I don’t know what kind of algorithms Google and the other search engines use in deciding how to rank order listings when searches are conducted, but somehow I have frequently made it onto the first page of the listings when a search is done for “red-footed cannibalfly.”

I receive offers all of the time for something called Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that promises me that, after I have paid a fee, my posting will rise higher on the Google results.  I am not sure that it would be possible for me to get any higher on the list than I already am—I think that my posting has on occasion been as high as fourth on the Google results.

I am a little amused that my name may have become associated with Red-footed Cannibalflies in the minds of some viewers after a Google search. On the whole, readership statistics remain a mystery to me. I can sometimes guess which of my postings will have a good number of viewers when originally posted, but I am clueless in figuring out which ones will have additional views after a couple of days have passed.

For better or for worse, my postings seem to have a life of their own. I never know when or how a viewer somewhere in the world may stumble across my words and images. Wow! How cool is that?

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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In the first sunflower field that we visited yesterday morning at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, many of the sunflowers were drooping because of the weight of their seeds. They may not have been very photogenic, but the birds and butterflies seemed to love them, like this Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) and this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) that I spotted among the sunflowers.

Several photographer friends and I made the trip to the sunflower fields in Poolesville, Maryland, hoping to see endless rows of tall sunflowers. According to its website, McKee-Beshers has 30 acres of sunflowers planted in nine different fields. I think that the sunflowers may have been a little past their prime and appeared to be a little stunted in size, compared to some past years.

It was tricky to figure out what kind of gear to bring on a trek like this. I ended up using my super zoom Canon SX50 to photograph the Indigo Bunting, which was a first sighting for me of this beautiful bird, and my Canon 24-105mm lens on my normal Canon 50D DSLR for the butterfly. I had both of the cameras with me at all times, which gave me a pretty good amount of flexibility. I’ve seen some photographers walk around with two DSLR bodies, but that seems like a lot of weight to carry around, especially when you are moving through vegetation as I was doing as I waded through the rows of sunflowers.

I did take shot shots of the sunflowers  and I’ll post some of them eventually. Folks who know me, though, are probably not surprised that my first instinct was to post images of birds and butterflies, rather than ones of the flowers alone.

Indigo Bunting

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The bright colors and distinctive shape of sunflowers never fail to bring a smile to my face. Here’s a shot of one from my trip last Friday to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland.

sunflower

Normally a shot like this is easy to get when the towering sunflowers reach tall into the sky. In reality, however, the sunflowers at this site were not that tall and I had to crouch low to the ground to capture this image. In addition, many of the sunflowers were a bit wilted and past their peak. One of my Facebook readers commented that it looked like the flowers had their heads bowed in prayer in the following shot, which gives you and idea of the conditions in one area of the field of sunflowers.

sunflower

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you get your subject to smile when you want to take a picture? This Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) didn’t need any prompting at all when I went in for an extreme close-up shot yesterday at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Maryland.

Start each day with a smile.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking through a field of sunflowers at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Poolesville, Maryland, I spotted an unusual dragonfly that I couldn’t immediately identify. It turned out to be a Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus)—a cool name for a cool-looking dragonfly.

When I first caught sight of the dragonfly, the dragonfly’s long, skinny abdomen and the enlarged area near the end suggested to me that it was a member of the clubtail family of dragonflies. (You can get a really good sense of the shape of the “clubtail” when you look at the shadows in a couple of the images). The only clubtails that I have seen with any kind of regularity have been Common Sanddragons and Unicorn Clubtails, and this was clearly not one of them. When I am out in the field, I don’t worry too much about identification—I practice what I call the “Law of the West,” i.e. “shoot first and ask questions later.”

Later in the day my shooting partner was able to identify the dragonfly after I pointed her to the website “Dragonflies of Northern Virginia.” This website is my favorite resources for information and photos of dragonflies in my area. I checked my past blog postings because I had a vague recollection that I had seen this species before and found a posting indicating that I saw one almost exactly a year ago on a trip to a different part of Maryland.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I traveled with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer to McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in nearby Poolesville, Maryland to check out the large fields of sunflowers that are planted there each year. We just missed the peak blooming period and many of the sunflowers were drooping and seemed a little wilted. Cindy, who has visited this area multiple times, noted that the sunflowers were not as tall or as dense as in previous years.

Several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) that I observed in the fields, however, were definitely not disappointed—they were gorging themselves on sunflower seeds. The goldfinches were pretty skittish, but occasionally were distracted enough when feeding that I was able to get some shots, despite the fact that I was shooting with my 180mm macro lens.

American Goldfinch

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Different flowers affect me differently—some attract me with their beauty or their fragrance or their colors. Others produce an emotional response, like sunflowers, which invariably make me feel happy.

The sunflower’s large size, bright colors, and bold graphic design appeal to me. The sunflower virtually shouts its presence to the world—there is nothing soft and delicate and hidden about a sunflower.

Like this Easter Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus), I sometimes enjoy the flowers one at a time. It was really fun, though, to visit a large field of sunflowers last month with some friends and to see row after row of these cheery flowers. I wanted to capture a group shot of the sunflowers, but I struggled to find a way to do so effectively (even though we had even brought along a little stepladder to give us a perspective from above the flowers).

In the end, my favorite shot (the second one below) focuses on a single sunflower, with other flowers a blur in the background. I used a simple 50mm lens (often called the “nifty fifty”) on my camera to make sure that I could control the aperture and throw the background out of focus.

EasternTigerSwallowtail lorez

sunflowers_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was ending a photo shoot of sunflowers last month with some fellow photographers, one of them noticed a pretty butterfly perched on a leg of one of our tripods.

The butterfly remained on the tripod leg for a long time and appeared to be licking the leg, prompting us to speculate that there might be residual salt from sweaty hands on the leg. Of course, we all gathered around the tripod and tried to snap photos of the butterfly. Eventually the butterfly flew off to some nearby vegetation, where I got this shot of a butterfly that I have not been able to identify.

As we go ready to walk back to our vehicle, the butterfly perched on the pant leg of one of the other photographers and then on my shirt before flying away again. After stowing our gear in the trunk, we figured that we had seen the last of the butterfly.

However, as we were slowly driving away, we noticed that the butterfly was inside the car, eventually moving to the windshield, right in front of the driver. We helped the butterfly out of the car with the aid of a CD cover, but had to admire its persistence—the butterfly really seemed to want to go home with us.

SpottedButterfly lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The sunflower was big enough that an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) and a bumblebee could peacefully coexist, though it looks like they had each carved out their individual spheres of influence and kept a respectful distance from each other.

coexistence_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was photographing sunflowers this past weekend, I came across this Dogbane Beetle (Chrysochus auratus), peering over the edge of a leaf. I can not confirm if it was responsible for the hole in the leaf, but I do like the way that the hole looks in the photo.

I took this shot at the minimum focusing distance of my 55-250mm telephoto zoom (3.6 feet (1.1 m), even though it looks like it was photographed with a macro lens. Often when shooting nature shots, I’ve found it best to make do with the lens that is on the camera at that moment, rather than risk losing the shot by changing to the best lens for the situation.

Dogbane Beetle lorez

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was out yesterday on a trip to photograph sunflowers, but couldn’t resist capturing images of insects that my fellow photographers and I discovered, like this beetle—probably a blister beetle—on a chicory flower.

chicory_bugA_blog

In many ways this image was part of an experiment for me. I was using a camera that is new to me, a used Canon 50D that I recently purchased, and this was my test run with it. The Canon 50D is several years old and is far from the bleeding edge of technology, it’s a considerable step up from my Canon Rebel XT. I also was trying to shoot macro-like photos with a telephoto zoom, because my macro lens has been acting up and is now on its way to Canon for repair. Finally, I jumped a couple of versions of Photoshop Elements and discovered today that the interface has changed considerably between versions 9 and 11, so it was interesting trying to work on this image.

Once I get the hang of my new camera and new software, I’m hoping to improve that you’ll be able to see some improvement in the quality of my images.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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How do you capture a field of sunflowers in a single image? That was my challenge yesterday, when I visited McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area in Montgomery County in Maryland, where there are 48 acres of sunflowers in a total of seven fields.

I am still going through my photos from yesterday, not sure if any single image captured the feeling of the endless rows of sunflowers. I am happy, though, that I was able to capture this iconic (or perhaps cliché) image of a single sunflower isolated against the sky.

BlueSkySunflower lorez

It should have been a simple shot to take, but initially the sky was overcast and white—good for most kinds of photos, except for this kind of image. I was taking photos with some friends and we joked about having to Photoshop in the sky, but eventually the clouds broke up a little and enough blue showed in the sky that I was able to get this shot.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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