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Posts Tagged ‘Pachydiplax longipennis’

Blue Dashers are one of our most common dragonflies where I live and it is easy to pass them by and take them for granted. When I stop and look closely at them, however, I am reminded of their beauty. I spotted this striking male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) on Tuesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

There is a lot of detail in this image—like the little amber patch on the wings and a tiny orange simple eye (ocellus) in the middle of the “face” adjacent to the larger compound eyes—and I recommend that you double-click on the image to get a closer view. (If you want to learn more about dragonfly eyes, check out this fascinating article entitled “Dragonflies: eyes and a face” at benkolstad.net.)

Beauty is everywhere.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What do you do to cope on a hot sunny day? Most of us stay indoors in an air-conditioned space, possibly with a cold beverage. Dragonflies do not have those options, so many of them assume a pose, often known as the obelisk posture, in an attempt to regulate their temperature by reducing exposure to the direct sunlight.

You may seen dragonflies in a handstand-like pose, looking like gymnasts in training—that is the obelisk posture. The dragonfly lifts its abdomen until its tip points to the sun, thereby minimizing the amount of surface area exposed to solar radiation. At noontime, the vertical position of the dragonfly’s body suggest an obelisk, which in my area immediately brings to mind the Washington Monument. According to Wikipedia, scientists have tested this phenomenon in a laboratory by heating Blue Dasher dragonflies with a lamp, which caused them to raise their abdomens and has been shown to be effective in stopping or slowly the rise in their body temperature.

While visiting Green Spring Gardens last week on a hot humid day, I observed obelisking behavior in a male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) and a male Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera). I have always been intrigued by this pose and would love to try it out to see if it works for thermoregulation in humans too. Alas, I lack both the upper-body strength and the lower body flexibility to make a go of it, so I’ll continue to be merely a spectator of these beautiful little acrobats.

Blue Dasher

Eastern Amberwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) are one of our most common dragonflies and were an early favorite when I started to get more serious about my photography eight years ago. I still enjoy capturing images of them, especially when the lighting is as interesting as it was last Tuesday during a visit to Green Spring Gardens with my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer.

I had a lot of fun trying to track the male Blue Dasher dragonflies as they flew among the lotuses and water lilies at a small pond. Most of the time they would perch on distant plants, out of range of my macro lens, but on a few occasions they came closer. The first image shows one perched on the broken-off stalk of a lotus, partially in the shadow of other lotuses. The second image shows a Blue Dasher perched in the light, atop what I believe is one of the lily pads, though there is a slight chance that it might be a lotus leaf.

Yes, Blue Dashers are still among my favorites, even after all of these years.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The shape of the silhouette is familiar and if the lighting is bad, you might be able to convince yourself that a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is standing in the corner of a small pond at Green Spring Gardens. I have visited the pond dozens of times, so I know that the heron is not real, but it still makes for a fun subject to photograph.

I love the heron’s distorted reflection in the first photo and the touches of green provided by a small tree to the side and the duckweed floating on the surface of the water. I was equally thrilled when a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perched on the heron’s head after I had moved in closer. I doubt that a real heron would have been quite as accommodating in permitting the dragonfly to perch and seem to recall having seen a Great Blue Heron attempt to snatch a dragonfly out of the air as it flew by.

Great Blue Heron

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Great Blue Skimmer dragonflies (Libellula vibrans) are really common, but I enjoy photographing them anyways, like this grizzled male that I spotted earlier this week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. The curling vines of the plant on which this dragonfly chose to perch add some additional visual interest to these photos.

I must confess that ordinary blue dragonflies have a special place in my heart, because my very first blog posting on July 7, 2012 featured a photo of a Blue Dasher, another common species. My photography skills and my knowledge about dragonflies have increased significantly since that time, though I am still quite proud of that initial photo that started me on this long journey into photography.

 

blue dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you remember the first blog post that you ever wrote? In my first blog posting on July 7, 2012, I featured a photo of a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). Every year since then whenever I see my first Blue Dashers of the season, I recall my excitement I experienced in being able to photograph that first dragonfly. I did not realize at that time how “addicted” I would get to photographing these beautiful little creatures.

I spotted this handsome male Blue Dasher this past Tuesday at the edge of a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Happy 4th of July! It is Independence Day here in the USA and in honor of this holiday I thought I’d post this shot of a patriotic Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) that was sporting a bit of red, white, and blue on its head this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. (Be sure to click on the image to see a higher resolution version of the dragonfly that shows the tiny hairs on its thorax (the torso) and its legs.)

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) are one of the most common and widespread dragonfly species in my area. You can get so used to their presence that you stop paying attention to them, which I think is a mistake, for in doing so you will miss their amazing beauty. The colors and patterns of this little dragonfly are stunning.

Here are a couple of shots of Blue Dashers that I captured this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbot Wetland Refuge. This early in the season, when the dragonflies are newly emerged, the colors seem really saturated and fresh—later in the season the colors tend to become duller and more faded. I was shooting at the edge of a small pond and the water in the background turned into a neutral gray that gives the images an artistic feel, almost like they were shot in a studio environment. The uncluttered background helps to draw your attention to the dragonflies themselves and especially to those wonderful two-toned eyes. (The male’s eyes will eventually turn into a more uniform turquoise blue shade.)

In case you are curious, the Blue Dasher in the first shot looks to be a female and the one in the second image appears to be an immature male.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Blue Dashers (Pachydiplax longipennis) are one of my favorite summer dragonflies. I spotted this one recently at Huntley Meadows Park, perched on the railing of an observation deck in the obelisk pose.

The dragonfly was pretty cooperative and I was able to try few different angles and shooting positions. Although I had my camera’s aperture set to f/10, you can see that the depth of field was relatively shallow and I tried to take advantage of that to isolate the subject and the specific rail on which it was perched.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really easy to find Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) near the hotel where I stayed in Woburn, Massachusetts this past weekend. The challenge was capturing them in interesting poses, which was a bit more difficult than usual because they were unusually skittish—maybe they are not used to seeing people.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) perch on plants growing upwards, but this one decided to be different by perching on hanging vegetation. I love how the lighting makes it look like the image  was shot in the studio. I think I will call his position the “downward-facing dragonfly.” (I captured the image this morning in Woburn, MA at a small canal just outside of my hotel.)

Blue Dasher

© 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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Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) have become for me one of the signs of summer in the area in which I live. When the weather turns hot and humid, they can often be seen flying lazily over the marshes and ponds, perching frequently on vegetation growing out of the water.

On a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens, I captured some images perched male Blue Dasher dragonflies. In the first shot, the dragonfly was perched on the edge of a lotus leaf. I really like the curves and softness of the leaves, which contrast with the details of the dragonfly. I think too that the shadow cast on the lower leaf adds some additional visual interest to the  image.

The second image features a Blue Dasher in the obelisk pose. It is generally believed that some dragonflies assume this pose to dissipate heat by reducing the amount of their bodies that is exposed to direct sunlight. I was shooting partially into the sun, which forced me to overexpose the image a bit and accounts for the lighter background. However, the surface of the water was covered with a lot of duckweed and was not uniform in color. As a result, the background ended ended up with some ugly gray patches that I seemed to be impossible for me to remove.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I should probably be able to remember my own anniversary, but I am a guy. Therefore I was caught a bit by surprise yesterday evening when WordPress notified me that it was the fourth anniversary of the start of my blog. Where has the time gone?

Blogging has become part of my daily life since I first started. I never suspected that I would get such joy and satisfaction from exploring my creativity in words and in photos and from sharing that journey with the wonderful folks that I have encountered through the blog. Thanks to all of you for your support, encouragement, and helpful tips. I sometimes like to say that I write this blog primarily for me, but I know that is not entirely true—I write it for all of you too. My photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, deserves special thanks. She helped me to start the blog and has been a continuous source of inspiration for me.

WordPress statistics indicate that I have made 2030 postings (which includes a dozen or more repostings of  posts written by friends) and have had 110749 views from well over 100 countries. Statistics are only a relative measure of success and I know that my best postings and my best photos are not necessarily the ones that have had the most views.

Over the past four years my skill and my confidence with my camera have grown. I now consider myself a photographer, albeit not a professional. My interests have expanded and my winters are now spent chasing birds, something I never imagined that I would find interesting. My fascination with dragonflies has remained constant and I have learned a lot about them. I think it is altogether appropriate to reprise today the short text and photo from my first posting

Text of my first posting in WordPress on July 7, 2012:

I photographed this Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this morning.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Blue Dasher

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A Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) seemed to covet a prime perching position yesterday at Hidden Pond Nature Center in Springfield, Virginia and took action to try to dislodge the Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) that was occupying the perch.

The Blue Dasher was successful and occupied the top position for a little while, but eventually the larger Slaty Skimmer resumed the position at the top and the Blue Dasher was relegated to a lower spot on the plant.

Coming in for the attack

Coming in for the attack

The attack

The attack

Temporarily on top

Temporarily on top

battle4_blog

Relegated to the bottom

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Yesterday I visited Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. for the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival and I was thrilled to be able to get some of my favorite kind of dragonfly images—dragonflies perched on the buds of colorful flowers. Generally I manage to get shots only of the Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), but this time I was also able to get a shot of a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) on a lotus flower bud.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher on purple water lily bud

Slaty Skimmer

Slaty Skimmer on lotus bud

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher on water lily bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Dragonflies are colorful and flowers are colorful too, but it’s rare that I get to see the two of them together. I was thus thrilled when fellow photographer Cindy Dyer spotted a colorful Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perching on a beautiful purple water lily during our recent trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in the District of Columbia.

I took some initial shots with the 180mm macro lens that I had on my camera at that moment, but wasn’t really able to fill the frame with my subject and the background was a little distracting. (The second photo below was one of those first shots and it does a pretty good job of highlighting the water lily, but the dragonfly is merely an added bonus.) I couldn’t physically move any closer, because the water lilies were in a cement pond, surrounded by a three foot high wire fence.

I decided to change to a longer lens, though I sincerely doubted that the dragonfly would stay in place. Almost all of the times that I have done a rapid lens change in the field, the subject has departed before I was ready to shot. In this case, however, I got lucky and the Blue Dasher held his perch long enough for me to get a few shots with my 70-300mm lens.

I simply love the color combination of the different shades of blue of the dragonfly and the purple and yellow of the water lily.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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When it is really hot and the sun is directly overhead, Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) will often perch in a handstand-like pose that is generally referred to as the “obelisk posture.” By doing this, they minimize the direct exposure of the abdomen’s surface to the sun and stay cooler. Some other dragonflies will also engage in this kind of postural thermoregulation, but I see it most commonly in Blue Dashers.

Blue Dashers, one of our most common dragonflies,  were largely responsible for my initial fascination with dragonflies. In fact, almost three years ago my very first posting on this blog featured a Blue Dasher in an obelisk posture.

Since that time, I have grown in experience and knowledge and have cranked out over 1600 posts. My fascination with dragonflies has broadened and grown into a quasi-obsession, but I am always drawn back to the little Blue Dasher dragonfly, whose acrobatic poses never cease to amaze and entertain me.

dasher1_june_obelisk_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Simple compositions are often the basis for my favorite images. My subject was a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), one of the most common dragonflies in our area. The vegetation on which it chose to perch was nothing special. Somehow, though, the shapes and colors of these elements work together to create an image that I find really pleasing.

Blue Dasher

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The light reflecting off the water in the background was really bright, creating these disco ball highlights when I took these shots of a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) recently at Green Spring Gardens. Normally I try to avoid distinctive specular highlights, but in this case I decided to embrace them.

Why do I suddenly feel an irresistible urge to watch Saturday Night Fever?

disco1_blogdisco2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A dragonfly perching on a heron? In real life it’s highly unlikely that you would see such a thing, but a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) decided that the metal silhouette of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a pond at Green Spring Gardens made a good spot to rest.

Click on any of the tiled images to see all of them full-sized in slide show mode.

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Two years ago today, my photography mentor and dear friend Cindy Dyer sat me down at her computer and told me that I was going to start a blog. We had just returned from a photo shoot at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. and had taken lots of shots of waterlilies, lotus flowers, and dragonflies.

Cindy is a professional photographer and web designer and I had previously looked at her blog (which currently has had over 560,000 views), but I had never really thought about starting a blog myself. Inside I had all kinds of concerns about my inadequacies as a photographer and about not being ready to share my images with an audience broader than, but Cindy was undeterred and helped me choose a theme and a banner and set up my basic page.

My first posting was short, only 14 words and included a shot of a Blue Dasher dragonfly. I have reposted it below for your convenience or you can use the link in the first sentence of this paragraph.

Today’s posting is posting number 1,224. I never imagined that I would enjoy this blog as much as I have or that I would continue so faithfully to document my journey into photography. Thanks to so many of you readers who have encouraged and supported me along the way.

I may take a pause this week to reflect on that journey and possibly re-post some of my favorites from the last two years. Don’t worry, though, I be back to posting new images before long.

My first WordPress posting on 7 July 2012:

I photographed this Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens this morning.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What adds drama to a photo? Sometimes it is the lighting of a scene or the positioning of a subject. These recent shots of Blue Dasher dragonflies (Pachydiplax longipennis) seem to have a bit more drama and are more “artsy” than many of my typical images.

Should I start wearing a beret now when I am shooting?

dramatic_blog dramatic2_blog dramatic3_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you think about when you hear the word “dasher?”  From my early childhood days, the word meant only one thing—it was the name of one of Santa’s reindeer.

Many of us grew up hearing these familiar words from the poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” (“A Visit From St. Nicholas“) by Clement Clarke Moore:

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,

And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!

On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!

Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

So, every time I see a Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), like this beautiful male that I photographed this weekend, I can’t help but have a little thought of Christmas, even on the hottest days of summer.

But Santa, some may complain, didn’t have a blue Dasher. That’s true, of course, but Elvis had no problem singing of a Blue Christmas, the perfect setting for a Blue Dasher. (Click here to watch a You Tube video of Elvis singing this signature tune.)

dasher1_june_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend I finally saw one of my favorite dragonflies, the male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis), at Green Spring Gardens in Alexandria, Virginia. The Blue Dasher is bright and colorful and likes to perch on protruding vegetation, thereby providing lots of photographic opportunities.

Now that I have seen my first Blue Dashers, I know for sure that summer is almost here.

dasher_may_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the mix of colors that resulted when a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) that I was observing chose to perch on a plant with red leaves.red_obelisk_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most dragonflies choose perches high in the air, but this male Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) decided to land on a little plant just inches above the surface of the water at my local marsh, creating a photographic challenge for me.

Hanging over the edge of the boardwalk, I tried to get at eye level with the dragonfly and simultaneously sought an uncluttered background.  In the first image, I was successful in shapes of the leafs, achieving a kind of three-dimensional effect. The water turned into an almost even gray, totally lacking in details. The second image gives you a better sense of the context, with the ghostly plants in the background.

The Blue Dasher dragonfly is the most common one that I see and it’s always a challenge to come up with creative new ways to show off its beauty. For this one day, I feel like I successfully met that challenge.

dasher_leaf_blogdasher_leaf_2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I noted in an earlier posting today, some of my favorite images are almost minimalist in their approach. This recent image of a male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) fits into that category.

Once again, the composition is simple, the color palette is fairly limited, and there is a good amount of negative space. The brown-colored background is the water in one of the areas of my local marshland park.

I like the position of the dragonfly—I think he was trying to cool off on a hot day by raising his abdomen—and the viewer’s eyes are drawn to the dragonfly, because it is the most colorful and the most sharply-focused object in the photo.

This image reminds me a little of a painting in which the artist has arranged the elements to make a pleasing composition. In this case, though, nature did the arranging.

dasher_leaves_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One of the many reasons why I love dragonflies is their amazing wings, which are so delicate and yet so powerful, like those of this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis). In this shot, I tried to capture some of the intricate detail of the structure of the wings of the dragonfly. They remind me a bit of the leaded glass windows that I sometimes see in old homes, with each small piece of glass outlined in black.

dragonfly_wings_blog

© 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?”

wheel_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I don’t often see dragonflies perched on flowers, so I was really happy when this male Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) decided to take a break on something more attractive than the usual broken swamp reed.

If you look closely at the dragonfly’s face (or click on the photo for higher resolution), you can see some interesting details, like his cute little bucktooth and some sparse sprouting hairs on his chin, like those of a human teenager. I also like the contrast in color between the blues and greens of his body and the pink of the flowers.

Why did the dragonfly choose to land on the flower? It almost looks like he is helping with pollination, but I suspect that is not the case. The answer to the question is probably much more simple—he landed on it, because it was there.

face_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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