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Posts Tagged ‘Sympetrum vicinum’

In everything, give thanks. I am thankful today for friends and family and for all creatures great and small, including this male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I photographed last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I will return home in early December and I can’t exclude the possibility that this will be the last dragonfly that I see this season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© 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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When I went out with my camera on Tuesday, I made sure to carry both my 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens, my preferred lens in the cold months, and my 180mm macro lens, my lens of choice during the warm months. As you may have noticed, I have started photographing more birds during the month of October than in previous months, so I really need the additional reach afforded by the long lens. However, I also know that there is a good chance that I will see some dragonflies, and the macro lens helps me get certain photos that are just not possible with other lenses.

I spent most of my time that day trying to photograph little birds, like sparrows and goldfinches. In the early afternoon, though, I changed lenses when I spotted some Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) basking in the sun on the wooden rails of a split-rail fence. I have learned in the past that Autumn Meadowhawks are often willing to let me move in close for shots and sometimes they will even perch on me—the perfect scenario for me to use my beloved macro lens.

In the first photo, I was so close to the dragonfly that I was balancing the lens hood on the edge of the rail on which the dragonfly was perched. As you can see, the depth of field was pretty shallow and most of the body is blurry. I am ok with that, because the eyes are in relatively sharp focus—I encourage you to click on the image to see some of the amazing details that I was able to capture, include the hairy “stubble” on the dragonfly’s face.

The second shot gives you a better overall view of the body of a male Autumn Meadowhawk. The bright red color of of its body really stands out again the backdrop of the brown fallen leaves and the gray gravel.

We will soon be moving forward to a new month. I am hopeful that November will include additional encounters with these colorful little Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What marks the arrival of autumn for you? Is it the colorful fall foliage or perhaps the shortening of the daylight hours and the arrival of cooler weather? For me, the reappearance of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) is one of the surest signs of the change in the seasons.

It seems like I have had to wait longer this year than in the past, but I am finally starting to see these small reddish-orange dragonflies as I walk the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On Monday I spotted my first male Autumn Meadowhawks of the season, as shown in the first two photos below. The coloration of the males is startlingly bright, but you actually have to look hard to spot them, because they are only 1.3 inches (33 mm) long and often perch on low vegetation or on the ground itself.

The final image showcases the two-toned look of a female Autumn Meadowhawk. She seems to be glancing over at me and smiling, confident in her radiant beauty, her warm coloration a beautiful reflection of the autumn season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The weather is turning cooler, but there are still some hardy dragonflies around, like this beautiful female Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) that I spotted last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, perched high on a branch as she basked in the autumn sunshine.

Most of the time when I see an Autumn Meadowhawk it is perched on the ground, so it was a treat to see this one on an elevated perch that gave me a really good look at the shape of her tiny body—Autumn Meadowhawks are only about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length. This dragonfly species is generally the last one that I see each year and several years I have seen Autumn Meadowhawks in December. From my perspective, the dragonfly season is still far from being over.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Each September I look forward to the reappearance of three dragonfly species: the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum); the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum); and the Fine-lined Emerald (Somatochlora filosa). At a time when most of the other dragonflies are dying off, these species burst onto the scene.

This season, however, “burst” would not be the appropriate verb to describe their activity. At Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where I have photographed all three species in the past, I have seen  Fine-lined Emeralds in flight three times, but have not managed to get a photograph of one. I still have not seen an Autumn Meadowhawk and until last Friday, I have not seen a Blue-faced Meadowhawk.

I was thrilled, therefore, when I spotted this female Blue-faced Meadowhawk on Friday. I had my long telephoto zoom lens on my camera, so trying to focus accurately on my tiny subject was a big challenge, but I am pretty happy with the result. Females of this species have relatively subdued coloration—the males have bright red bodies and blue faces—and they are generally harder to find than the males.

I hope to be able to feature a new photo of a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk soon, but if you are impatient or curious to see what one looks like, check out this posting called Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male) from September 2020.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold and windy yesterday when I set out for Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, about 44 degrees (7 degrees C), but I thought that there might be a chance that I could find a dragonfly, because the sun was shining brightly. This late in the season, there is only one dragonfly species still present in my area, the Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), and its days are almost certainly numbered. I was heartened by the fact that a fellow photographer had spotted an Autumn Meadowhawk this past weekend and the knowledge that fellow dragonfly enthusiast spotted one on 3 January 2016—a new late-date for a dragonfly in Virginia. (Check out his posting for more details.)

I spent most of my time looking for birds, but I would slow down and look closely at the ground whenever I came to a sun-lit patch of ground. Autumn Meadowhawks often perch flat on the ground and love to bask in the sun. I was nearing the end of my normal loop when I finally spotted an Autumn Meadowhawk, the only one that I would see all day.

I had my 150-600mm zoom lens on my camera and it has a minimum focusing distance of almost nine feet (2.7 meters), so I had to back us a bit to get the dragonfly in focus. Autumn Meadowhawks, are pretty small, about 1.3 inches in length (33 mm), so it was a challenge finding the dragonfly in my camera’s viewfinder—fortunately the bright red color of its body helped me to locate the dragonfly. I managed to snap off two shots before the dragonfly flew away.

I am amazed and delighted by the hardiness of these little dragonflies and will search for them again whenever I am out with my camera this month. I decided to include a photo of an Autumn Meadowhawk that I photographed on 16 November, because it really shows off really well the autumn habitat of this species. For the last three weeks, I have put off posting that image, hoping that it would not be my last dragonfly sighting of 2020.

The season for dragonflies is not yet over!

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© 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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As I was going through my photos again from last week I came upon this image of an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I had spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I already posted another shot of this dragonfly species from that day, but I like this shot even more, because it shows some of the details of the leaves on which the little red dragonfly was perched. I think the leaves help to give a better sense of the environment and emphasize the “autumn” in the name of the species.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled yesterday to spot almost a dozen Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) dragonflies at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. These hardy little red dragonflies are always the last ones of the season and they often hang on until December. In some years they have even been spotted in early January.

When I explored the exact same area on Wednesday, I did not see a single one of these dragonflies. Why? Wednesday was heavily overcase, but yesterday the sun was shining brightly. Every single Autumn Meadowhawk that I saw was basking in the sun, perched on fallen leaves or logs. The sun seems to warm them up enough so that they can fly a bit, though I wonder if they manage to find anything to eat, given that there are almost no other insects flying.

So this year’s dragonfly season continues for at least a little while longer. As I search in the trees for birds, I will continue to look down as well, hopeful of spotting one of these beautiful aerial acrobats.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many people associate the color red with autumn because of the brilliant foliage that the season brings forth in places like New England. For me, though, red is an autumn color because of the bright red dragonflies that remain active in October and November (and sometimes even later in the year).

Yes, I continue to chase dragonflies as we move deeper and deeper into autumn. I spotted this handsome male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly(Sympetrum vicinum) last Wednesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in nearby Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Many of the Autumn Meadowhawks that I saw earlier this fall were females, which have a much more subdued coloration. There is nothing subdued about this male, which made it pretty easy to spot him, especially when he perched on a small stump at knee-level. You do have to pay attention to find them, however, because Autumn Meadowhawks are only about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of my dragonflies have disappeared for the season. I will still occasionally spot a few survivors of the summer species, but their numbers are dwindling in the cooler autumn weather. One notable exception is the aptly named Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum). On Tuesday I spotted a good number of Autumn Meadowhawks while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and captured these images with my long telephoto zoom lens—it is a bit of a challenge to focus on such a small subject with a lens zoomed out to 600mm.

In the area in which I live, Autumn Meadowhawks remain with us throughout October and November. I have personally spotted some in December and have heard of other sightings in early January.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday we were blessed with a sunny, warm day. The temperatures rose to over 60 degrees (16 degrees C) and my hopes that I might see some dragonflies increased correspondingly.

This autumn season we have already had some sub-freezing temperatures and even a couple of inches of snow. However, my past experience has shown that Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are unusually hardy.

Autumn Meadowhawks are small, about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length and tend to perch on the ground, which is now covered with fallen leaves and other debris. As a result, it is pretty hard to spot these little dragonflies, despite their bright red coloration.

I searched and searched and eventually found a few of them at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was able to capture a number of images and decided to feature this one, because it gives you a good look at the dragonfly’s beautiful two-toned eyes.

Today we are back to cooler temperatures and there is snow in the forecast for this weekend. Will this be my last dragonfly of the season? I will continue to search for dragonflies for another month or so, though I know that my chances of finding one of these beautiful aerial acrobats will continue to drop.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There are not a great number of dragonflies still around in my area, and those that are present can sometimes be really hard to spot. That was definitely the case with this beautiful female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that blended in almost perfectly with the fallen leaves and other debris on the ground at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past week.

I initially spotted this dragonfly as she was flying and watched her land, but I couldn’t see her at first. Once I saw where she was, I had to back off, because I was shooting with my 150-600mm zoom lens that has a minimum focusing distance of almost 9 feet (270 cm).

Autumn Meadowhawks are only 1.2 to 1.4 inches in length (30 to 35mm) and spotting the tiny dragonfly from 9 feet away was a challenge to me and to the focusing system on my camera. I think that I was pretty much at the extreme end of the resolving power of the lens when I took this shot, i.e. it is tough to capture a subject with any detail that is much smaller than this.

I have already had to scrape frost from my windshield a couple of times this autumn, so the number of insects will inevitably continue to decrease. Past experience has shown me, however, that Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies are hardy survivors and I expect to continue to see them for another month or so.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although we are well into October, some of my beloved dragonflies are still hanging on at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Here are some dragonfly shots from the past 10 days of (1) a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum); (2) a female Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) with a hoverfly in her mouth; and (3) a female Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

I hadn’t really noticed before I aggregated this shots that all three of the dragonflies were perching on leaves. During the summer months, a significant number of the dragonflies that I photograph are perched higher on stalks of vegetation or on branches. In addition to these smaller dragonflies,

I have also recently spotted Common Green Darners, Wandering Gliders, and Black Saddlebags patrolling over the fields. Unfortunately, none of them paused long enough for me to get shots of them. All three of those species are migratory species and they may have been fueling up for a long journey ahead.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Now that fall has officially arrived, I look forward to seeing more Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), like this stunning female that I spotted last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Adult males of this dragonfly species are bright red in color, but females can be either tan or red. The “spike” near the end of the abdomen makes it easy. though, to identify this one as a female.

In Northern Virginia, where I live, the Autumn Meadowhawk tends to be the latest surviving dragonflies—I have spotted them in mid-December and others have seen them in early January.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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With the temperatures today reaching almost 100 degrees (38 C), I long for the cooler weather of autumn, my favorite season of the year. The aptly named Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) is generally one of the last surviving dragonfly species each year and I was therefore a bit surprised last week when I spotted this young female Autumn Meadowhawk. The very clear wings and pale body coloration are an indication that it had only recently emerged.

Summer, though, is the prime season for dragonflies and I hope to be able to take advantage of this season to see lots more of them. I’ll just have to make sure that I pace myself and stay well hydrated as we move through a period of exceptionally hot weather.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As October begins, I renew my search for red dragonflies. Autumn is quite naturally the season when Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) appear along with their more gaudily-colored brethren, the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum). Both of these species have bright red bodies that should be easy to spot, but they like to perch low to the ground and sometimes even on fallen leaves, so you really have to pay attention.

I was a bit shocked on Monday to see some other small red dragonflies—at least three male Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) were active at a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Calico Pennants are generally a summer species and I have featured them a couple of times earlier this year in this blog. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, their peak flight time is June to July and their late date is 23 September (I saw the one below on 2 October).

There are still other active dragonflies, but over time their numbers will continue to drop. Autumn Meadowhawks, though, usually stay with us into December and, if I remember correctly, occasionally even into January. I’ll be continuing my October hunt for red dragonflies into November and beyond.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant on 2 October at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With all of this cooler weather that we have had recently, including several frosty mornings, you might think that dragonfly season has ended, but it’s not over yet. Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) are still with us in pretty significant numbers at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia. In previous years I have continued to see these dragonflies into mid-December and one of my fellow photographers has seen them in early January.

Autumn Meadowhawks are small dragonflies, a little over one inch (25 mm) in length, so you have to look hard to spot them. At any other time of the year, their red bodies would make them really stand out, but they seem to like to perch on fallen leaves, including red ones, so they are often pretty well camouflaged until they move.

Here are a few favorite shots of these red beauties from this past weekend. Enjoy the dragonflies while you may and put off thoughts of the impending winter.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not about to make a sign proclaiming that “The End is Near,” but I couldn’t help feeling a slight sense of impending doom when I spotted an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) this past weekend. In our area, Autumn Meadowhawks are the ultimate survivors of the dragonfly season and they can usually be found well into December and occasionally into January.

This pretty red and brown dragonfly is a harbinger of doom—inexorably  winter is approaching and dragonflies will eventually cease to fly until the spring.  For now, though, I’ll continue to search for these spectacular aerial acrobats and enjoy their beauty and skill when I am lucky enough to find one.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford managed to spot a dragonfly in January in Northern Virginia. Wow!

Be sure to check out his blog for more facts and photos about dragonflies, damselflies, and other little creatures.

walter sanford's photoblog

A single Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), jokingly referred to as a “Winter Meadowhawk dragonfly” in a recent post, was observed on 03 January 2016 near the terminus of the Hike-Bike Trail at Huntley Meadows Park. This sighting sets a new late-date for this species for both Huntley Meadows Park (formerly 27 December) and the Commonwealth of Virginia (formerly 01 January).

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. 03 JAN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

This individual is a female, as indicated by her coloration, shape of the abdomen, and terminal appendages.

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female. 03 JAN 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (female)

The following graphic image shows the current air temperature in the central wetland area around the time when I spotted the record-setting dragonfly. 51°F is nearly 20 degrees less than 70°F, widely believed to be the minimum body temperature necessary for dragonfly flight!

HMP_wx-station 03 JAN 2016…

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Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies, the sole survivors at this time of the year, are very friendly and it’s not unusual for them to perch on you. It took some contortions, but I managed to get these shots recently of an Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) perched on my arm and my leg.

The first shot, in which the dragonfly was perched on my arm between my elbow and my wrist,  was particularly challenging, because I had to shoot it one-handed. My Canon 50D and Tamron 180mm macro lens together weigh close to 4 pounds (1800 grams), so it was a little tough to hold steady. Additionally, the lens has a minimum focusing distance of 18 inches (470 mm), so I had to slowly stretch out the arm to gain the needed distance for the shot. By comparison, the second shot, in which the dragonfly was on my leg, was easier to shoot and I was able to capture the dragonfly’s entire body.

With a little luck, I’ll continue to see these pretty little dragonflies for a few more weeks, and then I’ll turn my attention to birds (and hopefully the occasional mammal).

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some folks might be surprised to learn that I continue to spot dragonflies, despite the cooler weather of late November. Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) are a particularly hardy species and in past years I have observed these tiny red beauties into December.

One of the challenges for the Autumn Meadowhawks is to warm up and I have noticed that they sometimes like to perch on one particular sign at Huntley Meadows Park, the county-run marshland park where I take many of my photos. The sign is angled to make it easier for viewers to read, making it perfect for a basking dragonfly.

In this image I was able to capture a favorite portion of the text on that sign and a cooperative Autumn Meadowhawk added a useful accent to the message. The last sentence sums up pretty well my view of nature and my aspiration during my visits to walk lightly.

walk lightly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not particularly fond of mosquitoes and flies landing on me, but I love it when a colorful dragonfly chooses to do so. Autumn Meadowhawks are especially friendly in this regard and my friend Walter Sanford captured some fun images of these little red beauties that had landed on different parts of his body (and even included a few photos I took of him with his little friends). Check out his posting!

walter sanford's photoblog

The Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) were especially “friendly” during a recent visit to Huntley Meadows Park, landing on me frequently as Michael Powell and I were searching for Great Spreadwing damselflies (Archilestes grandis).

My Photos

The following individual is a male, perching on the leg of my Columbia convertible pants. Regular readers of my photoblog know I’m especially fond of head-tilts in which the dragonfly seems to display some of its personality. Like this guy, who I imagine is thinking “What are you looking at? That’s right pal, I’m perching on your pants!”

An Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male, perching on my leg (Columbia pants). 11 NOV 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The next photo shows two individuals perching on my pants, both females, as indicated by their coloration and terminal appendages.

Two Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. These individuals are females, perching on my leg (Columbia pants). 11 NOV 2015 | Huntley Meadows Park | Autumn Meadowhawk (male)

The last individual is another female. I shot this photo…

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What do you do when a dragonfly lands on you? My first reaction, of course, was to take a photo when this Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) landed on my leg on Friday.

The good news was that I had a macro lens on my camera, so I knew that I would be able to focus on the dragonfly. The bad news was that it was a 180mm  macro lens, so I had to go through acrobatic contortions to try to achieve enough distance to fit the entire dragonfly into the frame. I also had to move like a ninja to keep from scaring away my subject.

In the end, I managed to get a decent shot of the dragonfly by standing as tall as I could and shooting straight downward, although my gray sweatshirt billowed out a bit and obscured the view of the dragonfly’s feet. For those of you who are not familiar with Autumn Meadowhawks, they are small dragonflies with bodies about an inch or so in length (25mm).

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As we have moved deeper and deeper into autumn, the number of dragonflies at Huntley Meadows Park has continued to drop and the sole survivor now  appears to be the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum).

During my most recent visit to the park on the 1st of December, I observed quite a few Autumn Meadowhawks, primarily perched on the synthetic boards of the boardwalk that runs through several portions of the marshland.

Some of them, however, seemed to really like one of the signs adjacent to the boardwalk that provides tips on wildlife watching at the park. The Autumn Meadowhawk in the first image seems to be fascinated by the photo of the crayfish at which it is intently staring. (This photo is an homage to fellow photographer Walter Sanford, who did a similar posting recently with the same sign and the same species of dragonflies.)

Autumn Meadowhawk

A month ago, I probably would have photographed the dragonfly with my macro lens, but now I have a telephoto zoom lens on my camera most of the time. I decided to use the dragonfly as a test for my new Tamron 150-600mm lens and took some shots at 600mm to see if I could capture any of the details of this small dragonfly, which is at most about 1.4 inches (35mm) long. If you click on the image below, which is a slightly cropped and lightly edited version of the original, you can see that the lens did a pretty good job with the details and you can even see the dragonfly’s tiny feet.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawks frequently seem to be quite tolerant of the presence of people and sometimes will even seek it out and land on you. I will often try to coax one to perch on my finger and one of my fellow photographers, Lova Brown Freeman, took these wonderful shots of a successful attempt. Thanks, Lova. I like the fact that her final shot gives you an idea of  context in which you this activity took place. I am usually so anxious to zoom in close on the action, with macro or with telephoto, that I frequently forget to provide viewers with a view of the overall setting.

Autumn MeadowhawkAutumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Like my friend, Walter Sanford, I am thankful to have such a wonderful suburban oasis that serves as a refuge and an inspiration for so much of my outdoor photography. Walter has had a powerful influence on me as I have gotten more serious in my pursuit of dragonflies this past year. He has always been willing to share his time and extensive knowledge with so many of us, serving as an ambassador for Huntley Meadows Park. Thanks, Walter! Be sure to check out his blog for some amazing photos and fascinating information.

walter sanford's photoblog

It’s the traditional time of year when we give thanks for our many blessings. I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a frequent and careful observer of the natural beauty of the hemi-marsh at Huntley Meadows Park, and for many good friends with whom I share the experience. And thanks to WordPress.com for the blog that enables me to share my sightings with others!

Last year I noticed a single male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) perching on the signage along the boardwalk, located near the observation tower. I wondered how many visitors wandered past the sign without noticing the dragonfly watching the “Wildlife Watching” sign.

On Veteran’s Day, 11 November 2014, I noticed two male Autumn Meadowhawks perching on the same sign so I stopped to take a few photos (shown above). Nearly a dozen people passed me and not one person stopped to see what…

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When I captured these two images of mating dragonflies on the 10th of November, I did not realize that their frantic efforts to perpetuate their species that day would mark an end to this year’s dragonfly season for me. There is a chance that some especially hardy Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum) may have survived our recent spell of bitter cold, but realistically speaking, it’s time to put my macro lenses on the shelf and focus my photographic efforts and birds (and the occasional small mammal).

The Autumn Meadowhawks in the first image were a little higher off the ground that the Blue-faced Meadowhawks (Sympetrum ambiguum) in the second shot and I managed to get into a better shooting position to capture details and separate the dragonflies a bit from the background.  In case of the Blue-faced Meadowhawks, I was so thrilled to see them so late into November that I was willing to settle for a lower angle shot with a more cluttered background.

Most of the time I feature only a single species of dragonflies in a posting and it’s a little hard to compare the featured dragonflies with others. It’s a whole lot easier to see the differences between the species when you compare the two photos here.

And so this year’s dragonfly season draws to a close, as the mating couples dance their last tango of the autumn.

Autumn Meadowhawk matingBlue-faced Meadowawk mating

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Make sure the eyes are in focus.” I can’t even count the number of times that I have read or heard these words of advice, which I usually try to follow, even when taking extreme close-up macro shots.

These are the compound eyes of the Autumn Medowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), a close relative of the Blue-faced Meadowhawk that I have featured in several postings recently. I took this shot on a cool day when the dragonfly was perched on a tree, trying to warm itself in the warmth of the sun. The camera’s aperture setting was in a middle range at f/9.0, but with the subject this close, the depth of field was pretty shallow and the eyes are pretty much the only portions of the dragonfly in focus (in addition to small section of the wings and the front legs).

autumn_close1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) have finished mating, the male does not release the female, but continues to clasp her head tightly with the tip of his abdomen. The pair flies off together in the “tandem” position and remains attached until the female has finished depositing her eggs, normally in the water.

A chivalrous interpretation of this behavior might be that the male is merely protecting his mate from clamoring suitors and allowing her to oviposit in peace. The reality, though, is that there is a fierce competition among males that can sometimes involve attempt to dislodge a rival’s sperm from a female and replace it with his own if the female has not yet laid her eggs. By holding onto the female, the male increases his odds of fathering some baby dragonflies.

Check out a 2006 National Georgraphic article called Dragonflies Strange Love for some other fascinating insights into the love life of dragonflies.

Earlier this month, I was at a small pool of water and I watched as a series of Autumn Meadowhawk couples in tandem went through the process of ovipositing and I attempted to get some in-flight shots of them. These dragonflies are really small and my success rate in keeping them in the frame was not high, but I did manage to get a few decent images.

Hopefully the practice in tracking a moving subject will carry over and help me as I move to photographing birds in flight, rather than dragonflies.

Autumn MeadowhawkAutumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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