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Posts Tagged ‘Prince William County VA’

Most of us associate butterflies with flowers, but they sometimes can be found on the sandy banks of creeks, like this cluster of male Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (Papilio glaucus) that I spotted earlier this month in Prince William County, Virginia.

I went looking for information about this behavior and learned the following on the thoughtco.com website:

“Butterflies get most of their nutrition from flower nectar. Though rich in sugar, nectar lacks some important nutrients the butterflies need for reproduction. For those, butterflies visit puddles. By sipping moisture from mud puddles, butterflies take in salts and minerals from the soil. This behavior is called puddling, and is mostly seen in male butterflies. That’s because males incorporate those extra salts and minerals into their sperm. When butterflies mate, the nutrients are transferred to the female through the spermatophore. These extra salts and minerals improve the viability of the female’s eggs, increasing the couple’s chances of passing on their genes to another generation.”

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Should I present a subject in landscape mode or portrait mode? That is a question I face frequently when I am composing photos initially and later when I am processing the images. Some subjects or scenes lend themselves naturally to one of the modes, but often it is not clear which one will be more effective. I remember reading somewhere that it is best to take shots from multiple angles, at varying distances, and using multiple modes and I try to follow that advice whenever I can.

This past week I encountered a large dragonfly as I was exploring a small creek in Prince William County, Virginia. The creek was mostly in the shadows and I was unable to identify the species of the dragonfly until it perched on a sun-lit tree. Then it was easy to determine that it was a Gray Petaltail dragonfly (Tachopteryx thoreyi).

The dragonfly was pretty cooperative and I was able to take multiple shots, two of which I have included in this posting. From an artistic perspective I particularly like the first image, which gives equal weight to the dragonfly and to the environmental elements. The second image draws your attention more to the details of the dragonfly and give greater emphasis to the texture of the tree.

Are you drawn more to one of the two images? If so, why? I know how I react to my own images and am always curious to hear what you think and/or feel about them.

Gray Petaltail

Gray Petaltail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A couple of weeks ago I posted a photo of a Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus) that prompted one of my readers, Molly Lin Dutina of Treasures in Plain Sight, to comment, “Spinyleg —sounds like something a child would be afraid of!” That photo, alas, did not give a very good view of the spiny legs.

This week, however, as I was exploring a creek in Prince William County, Virginia, I was fortunate to capture some images of a Black-shouldered Spinyleg that show off those fearsome spines. If you click on the image below and focus your attention on the back legs, you will see the long pointed spines that help the dragonfly hold on to prey.

Ouch! 

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday as I was exploring a creek in Prince William County, Virginia I spotted this large damselfly. I marveled at its beautiful coloration and was happy to be able to capture an image that shows it off well. At the time I took the photo I was not certain of the species, but when I returned home and looked in my damselfly book, I learned that it is a male Powdered Dancer damselfly (Argia moesta).

As a Powdered Dancer male gets older, its thorax and the tip of its abdomen become covered with a powdery blue or gray substance in a process known as pruinescence. Eventually the male will look almost white, which makes it even easier to identify. So many damselflies have a lot of blue on their bodies that it is hard for me to be confident in my identification when I see a damselfly with blue coloration.

Powdered Dancer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you suffer from recency bias? Recency bias is a type of cognitive bias that causes you to give greater weight in decision-making to things that have happened recently than to those that happened in the past, even the recent past. It is the only explanation I can come up with for not having already posted these shots of a Sable Clubtail dragonfly (Stenogomphurus rogersi) that I observed on 12 June.  Essentially, I got so caught up in excitement over newer photos that that I pushed this dragonfly out of my mind or at least off of my “To-do” list.

Sable Clubtails are rare in our area. Although I have searched for them repeatedly this season, including in a location where I saw some last year, this is the only one that I have seen in 2019. According to the website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, “Sables appears to prefer small, relatively clean, shallow and stable forest streams, with plenty of low vegetation and a gentle flow.” That is a pretty good description of the stream in Prince William County, Virginia where I spotted this Sable Clubtail, but it also means that I am unlikely to stumble upon a member of this species at the ponds and marshes that I often visit.

In addition to being found only in a very specific type of habitat, Sable Clubtails have a very limited flight season—only a few weeks in length. That window of opportunity has almost certainly closed for the year. If you would like to see some additional photos of Sable Clubtails or read of my thoughts about chasing after rare dragonflies, check out this posting from a year ago.

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Perhaps there are dragonflies with longer names than the Black-shouldered Spinyleg dragonfly (Dromogomphus spinosus), but none of them immediately come to mind. Sometimes I will complain about the inaccurate names given to various species, but in this case the descriptors are accurate. Alas, when I spotted this dragonfly in a boggy area of Prince William County, Virginia last week, I couldn’t get close enough to capture those details very well.

The vegetation on which the dragonfly is perched is skunk cabbage, a plant that grows in the mucky confines of seeps and swamps. It is said that bruised leaves present a fragrance reminiscent of skunk, so I try to step carefully  whenever I am near any skunk cabbage.

Black-shouldered Spinyleg

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I love seeing my old familiar dragonfly friends, it is always exciting to observe new species. Last week while I was exploring in Prince William County, Virginia with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford, I spotted this dragonfly perched on a small tree. I really liked the pose and moved closer for some shots.

I initially thought it was a Needham’s Skimmer, a fairly common species in our area, but the more I looked at my photos afterwards on my computer screen, the more I began to note some differences in the colors and patterns on wings and the body. After consultations with some dragonfly experts on Facebook, I learned that it is a Yellow-sided Skimmer (Libellula flavida).

As far as I know, this is the first time that I have seen a Yellow-sided Skimmer. There is a possibility that I have unwittingly seen one in the past and dismissed it as “only” a common species.  I try not to do that, because this is not the first time that I have photographed something new without realizing until later that it was in fact new.

 

Yellow-sided Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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