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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 18-400mm’

I suspect that the species is gone for the season by now, but here are a couple of shots of a female Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge on 21 October 2022, before my trip to Texas. Many of the females are tan in color, like the one in these shots, which makes them hard to spot among the fallen leaves.  Some female Blue-faced Meadowhawks, however, are male-like in color, i.e. they are red, and are sometimes referred to as andromorphs.

Since my return from Texas, we have had cold temperatures that have often dipped below the freezing level. This week I will be out looking for some late season dragonflies. In the past I have sometimes seen Autumn Meadowhawks in November and occasionally even in December. It is quite possible, though, that I have seen my final dragonflies of the season and will switch to photographing birds most of the time.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Sunday I encountered this young buck in the woods while I was exploring a trail in Bastrop, Texas. I think that we spotted each other about the same time and we eyed each other with curiosity. After the deer had checked me out, it slowly walked into the woods and disappeared from sight.

I believe that this is a Texas White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus texana). According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website, there are estimated to be some three to four million white-tailed deer in the state.

Texas white-tailed deer

Texas white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I begin my final preparations for hitting the road for my long drive home, it somehow seemed appropriate to post this image of a Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens) that I spotted on Sunday in Bastrop, Texas. Wandering Gliders, also know as Globe Skimmers or Globe Wanderers, are considered to be the most widespread dragonfly on the planet, with a good population on every continent except Antarctica, although they are rare in Europe, according to Wikipedia.

My drive will be a bit over 1500 miles (2414 km), which sounds like a long distance to travel. However, Wandering Gliders “make an annual multigenerational journey of some 18,000 km (about 11,200 miles); to complete the migration, individual Globe Skimmers fly more than 6,000 km (3,730 miles)—one of the farthest known migrations of all insect species,” according to Wikipedia. Yikes!

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this unfamiliar dragonfly on 13 November in a meadow adjacent to the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas. Its shape reminded me of the Swift Setwing (Dythemis velox) that I have seen in Northern Virginia, where I live, but its coloration looks more like that of photos of the Black Setwing (Dythemis nigrescens) that I discovered while doing some research.

Was I right? I have had some difficulties correctly identifying some of the dragonflies that I have seen in Texas, but in this case I was right. Setwing dragonflies perch in a distinctive pose with their wings pulled forward, which looked to some scientist like the “ready-set-go” position of a sprinter and is reportedly the reason for the name of the species. When I spotted this dragonfly, I immediately recognized that pose.

In a few hours,  I am starting my long drive back to Virginia from Texas. I suspect that I will not be doing any blog postings for the next few days. I have had a wonderful stay in Texas, with a beautiful wedding, a fun time dogsitting for two delightful dogs while the couple was away on their honeymoon, and plenty of time for exploring nature and extending my dragonfly season.

Black Setwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was a little shocked to encounter this fuzzy little North American Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) yesterday while walking on a trail through the woods in Bastrop, Texas. The opossum, which is also known as a Virginia Opossum, was in the middle of the trail, walking slowly in my direction.

We spotted each other at about the same time, I think, and we both stopped and looked closely at each other. Fortunately I had the presence of mind to bring my camera up to my eye and take a few shots. Having decided that I was a potential threat, the opossum turned its back to me and slowly waddled into the underbrush, giving me a good look at its hairless tail.

opossum

opossum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am continuing to find cool-looking dragonflies here in Bastrop, Texas, including these handsome ones that I think are Variegated Meadowhawks (Sympetrum corruptum). I spotted them yesterday as I was exploring a meadow adjacent to the Colorado River.

The first two photos show the same dragonfly on two different perches. As you can see, this species, like other meadowhawk species, likes to perch low on the ground, which makes it tough to get a clear shot.

The coloration of this species is very similar to that of the Autumn Meadowhawk that I am used to seeing in Northern Virginia. However, the dark banding on the abdomen and the red veining on the wings are quite distinctive, leading me to judge that this may instead be a Variegated Meadowhawk.

The final photo shows an immature dragonfly. I am a little less confident of my identification of this one, but I think that it might be an immature Variegated Meadowhawk. I am used to the dragonflies in my home area and feel a lot less confident with my identifications when I am traveling.

Variegated Meadowhawk

Variegated Meadowhawk

Variegated Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past week I managed to get some more shots of American Rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina americana) along the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas. The sun was shining that day, unlike during my previous encounter with this species when the weather was overcast. This extra light helped to bring out the amazing colors and patterns on these spectacular damselflies.

The male in the first image displays well the bright ruby patch for which this species is named. Though they do not have such a distinctive red spot, the females in the second and third images are equally beautiful. I encourage you to click on the images to get a closer look at the wonderful details of these damselflies.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have always admired photos of Roseate Skimmers (Orthemis ferruginea), a spectacular dragonfly species in which mature males are bright pink in color. There have been a handful of sighting over the years of Roseate Skimmers at one of the parks I visit in Northern Virginia, but until last week I had never seen one.

A little over a week ago, when I spotted the dragonfly in the first photo, I knew almost immediately that it was a Roseate Skimmer, because of the shockingly pink color of its body. Later that day and on a subsequent walk along the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas, I spotted other Roseate Skimmers, but did not realize that was what they were until much later.

Why did I have such trouble with their identification? When it comes to dragonflies, mature males tend to be brighter in color and have more distinctive markings than their female counterparts that have drab colors that are somewhat similar across species. Additionally, immature males often have the same coloration as the females.

So, when I posted the second photo below in an earlier posting and thought is might be a Variegated Meadowhawk, I was absolutely wrong. According to some experts in Facebook groups and at Odonata Central, the dragonfly is an immature male Roseate Skimmer.

The dragonfly in the final photo is a female Roseate Skimmer that I photographed a few days ago. Note how the coloration is similar to that of the dragonfly in the second photo. How do you tell them apart? If you look closely at the terminal appendages at the end of the abdomen (the “tail”) of the two dragonflies, you should be able to see that they are quite different in shape. Most often, those terminal appendage are key in distinguishing immature male dragonflies from females.

In a few days I will be heading home from Texas. It has been fascinating to see quite a few dragonflies, some of which have been new for me. Even here, though, I suspect that the season may be coming to a close soon. Earlier in the week temperatures were in the mid-80’s (29 degrees C), but I awoke this morning to a temperature of 41 degrees (5 degrees C) and we will drop even closer to the freezing level over the next couple of days.

Roseate Skimmer

Roseate Skimmer

Roseate Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been a bit befuddled by the dragonflies that I have seen here in Bastrop, Texas and have misidentified about half of them. I was therefore delighted on Wednesday when I managed to get a few shots of a familiar species—a Common Green Darner.

The Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius) had been patrolling overhead and I managed to track it when it came down to earth and perched low in the vegetation. I only had a little latitude in trying to frame my shot, because I know from experience that Common Green Darners can be very skittish. I varied my angle a little between shots by moving slightly, but most of the shots ended up looking pretty similar.

Common Green Darners are a migratory species and are one of the most common and abundant dragonfly species in North America. I love the beautiful colors of this species and am happy when I can get a shot, like the first one, in which you can see the bullseye marking on the “nose” of the dragonfly.

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this really cool-looking dragonfly as I was exploring a meadow area beneath some power lines just off a trail along the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas. My primary purpose for coming to Texas was to participate in a wedding last Saturday, but I am staying a few extra days to watch the couple’s two dogs while they are away on their honeymoon.

In a recent post, I featured photos of some dragonflies that I had spotted here in Bastrop last week. I identified one as a Russet-tipped Clubtail, a species I am used to seeing, but when I posted a photo in Odonata Central, an expert informed me that it was a female Narrow-striped Forceptail dragonfly (Aphylla protracta)

I believe that the dragonfly in this image is from that same species, possibly a male. I am not at all familiar with forceptail dragonflies, so I can’t tell if the terminal appendages (the “tail”) are the right shape. Whatever its identity, I love the image that I managed to capture of this beautiful dragonfly as it was briefly perching.

Narrow-striped Forceptail

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t know what was so special about this spot on the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas, but lots of couples in tandem as well as some single damselflies were concentrated in one small area last week. I love the way that the reflections in the water of the various flying damselflies makes it look like there were twice as many damselflies as were actually present.

The couple in the second image found a somewhat more private spot where the female can deposit her eggs underwater in the vegetation, while the male continues to grasp her head.

damselflies

damselflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted this colorful Gulf Fritillary butterfly (Agraulis vanillae) perched on a cactus last week as I was exploring some trails along the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas. This is the kind of shot that it would be impossible to capture in my home area, since neither the butterfly nor the cactus is found in the wild in Virginia.

Gulf  Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here are a couple of shots of what I believe are American Snout butterflies (Libytheana carinenta) that I spotted on 2 November in Bastrop, Texas. Although you can’t see the butterfly very well in the first shot, I really like the “artsy” feel of the image. The second shot has a completely different feel to me, perhaps because of the coolness of the green background vice the warmth of the yellow in the first image.

American Snout

American Snout

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Wednesday, 2 November, I took a walk along the Columbia River in Bastrop, Texas, not far from where I am staying, and was delighted to spot a number of different dragonflies. As I have found in the past, it is difficult to identify dragonflies (and birds) when I am outside of my home area. Sometimes the species are the same, but there may be regional variations. At other times, though, I have found species that are not present at all where I live.

The dragonfly in the first image looks like a female Russet-tipped Clubtail (Stylurus plagiatus), but I must admit that I am not very confident about that call. In the second, the dragonfly looks a bit like a female Eastern Ringtail (Erpetogomphus designatus). When it comes to the third dragonfly, I am not sure that I can even make a guess, other than the fact that it looks like some kind of skimmer.

It was really nice to extend my dragonfly season by traveling briefly to a warmer southern location. By early November, there will only a few dragonflies left in Northern Virginia when I return home next week.

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted on Tuesday to spot some damselflies along the edge of the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas. I believe that they are American Rubyspot damselflies (Hetaerina americana), with a female in the first photo and males in the other two photos.

Normally I prefer natural perches vice manmade ones when photographing wildlife, but I really like the texture and color of the rusty corrugated drainage pipe on which the damselfly chose to perch for the final photo.

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

American Rubyspot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled yesterday afternoon to spot this Barred Owl (Strix varia) as I was walking on a trail along the Colorado River in Bastrop, Texas, within walking distance of my friends’ house where I am staying. The owl  appeared to be busy eating something when I first spotted it, as you can see in the second photo below, and may have been a little distracted.

I am not at all certain what was in owl’s mouth. Any ideas?

Barred Owl

Barred Owl

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Thursday I visited Shenandoah National Park with a friend and we drove a section of Skyline Drive to see the colorful fall foliage. I love the patchwork pattern of colors that we observed on the slopes of the  mountains. The predominant color seemed to be a bright rusty orange, with only small patches of bright yellow and red. In some directions, the sky was hazy, so the successive layers of mountains gradually faded out, as you can see in the final photo.

My blog posting schedule will be a little erratic during the next two to three weeks. I will be driving from Virginia to Texas for a wedding and don’t expect that I will be doing any posting on the days when I will be traveling. I hope that I will be able to do a few postings while I am in Texas—I will be just outside of Austin for about a week or maybe a little longer.

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It looks like all of the summer dragonflies are gone. During three treks with my camera this week, I have not spotted any of the species that were common during the summer.

Fortunately, there are a few autumn species that hang on long after the summer species are gone. This week I was pleased to see some Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum), which in the past have been present as late as December.

The dragonfly in the first photo is a male Autumn Meadowhawk that I photographed yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. Each year when I see them I are struck by their small size—they are only about 1.3 inches (33mm) in length. Mature males are a bright reddish-orange in color and have beautiful brown eyes, a perfect color combination for the season.

Female Autumn Meadowhawks are less conspicuous and have a two-toned tan and red coloration. I spotted the female in the second photo on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Generally I see a lot more male Autumn Meadowhawks than females, so I was happy to be able to photograph this one, which also happened to be my first Autumn Meadowhawk of the season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At this time of the year, I sometimes complain that the leaves that are still on the trees prevent me from spotting birds. While that is definitely true for small birds like warblers, Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) are so big that it is hard to miss them when they are perched in a tree, even when they are partially hidden by the foliage.

Last week I was walking down one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I heard the unmistakable squawk of a Great Blue Heron. It is hard to describe this distinctive sound, but the Farmer’s Almanac website did so with these words, “The Great Blue Herons “squawk” or croak has an almost prehistoric sound. If you surprise this bird as it is hunting on the water, it will squawk as it leaves, almost as if it’s annoyed by your disturbance.”

After hearing the squawk, I watched as the Great Blue Heron landed in a nearby tree. There was a good deal of foliage between me and the heron, which helped to conceal my presence, but it made it tough for me to get a clear shot of this big bird. Eventually I managed to capture some shots of the heron in a number of different poses. The background is pretty cluttered, but it helps to give you a good sense of the environment in which I found this Great Blue Heron.

Unlike Great Egrets, which migrate south for the winter, Great Blue Herons remain with us throughout the year. Do not be surprised if you see a few more heron shots in the upcoming months. As the leaves fall from the trees and many other birds depart, I suspect that I will be spending more time observing Great Blue Herons.

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Quite often when I am walking through grassy fields, the ground in front of me seems to explode with grasshoppers arcing through the air in all directions. Last week during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I managed to capture images of two of them.

I am not certain of the species of the formidable looking grasshopper in the first photo. When I looked through sources on line, however, it looked most like an American Bird Grasshopper (Schistocerca americana). Grasshoppers like this always make me think of medieval knights, suited up in protective armor.

The insect in the second image is almost certainly a katydid, and not a grasshopper—the extremely long antennae are often an easy identification feature. I love the brilliant green of the katydid’s body and its matching green eyes. There are lots of different kinds of katydids and I do not know to which species “my” katydid belongs.

We have had a lot of rainy weather recently and temperatures have noticeably dropped. Today’s forecast calls for intermittent rain and a high temperature of only 50 degrees (10 degrees C). I wonder if this cool, rainy period will mark the end of the season for some of the insects that I have been photographing during the past few months.

grasshopper

katydid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As many of you probably realize, I generally do not spend much time photographing landscapes and focus primarily on insects, in the warmer months, and birds, in the colder months. This past Wednesday, however, I was absolutely captivated by the clouds and tried to capture them in both landscape and seascape images at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I used my Canon 7D for the first two images and shot the panorama in the final shot with my iPhone 11.

As I look at these images, I can’t help but think that I should keep my eyes open more often for opportunities to take landscape shots. Last year I managed to capture some of the fall foliage in Virginia when I traveled to Shenandoah National Park and I may try to do so again later this month. There is a chance, though, that I will miss the peak color, because I will be driving to Austin, Texas near the end of the month for a wedding.

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted this past Wednesday to spot several Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I often see news stories about Monarchs being threatened or becoming endangered, so I am happy whenever I see some. The ones that I saw looked to be in perfect condition—perhaps they have recently emerged and are preparing for migration.

I tried several different angles when photographing this Monarch. The first photo shows the detail of the butterfly best, but I really like the way that I was able to capture the curve of the vegetation in the second shot by shooting in a vertical format.

 

Monarch butterfly

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Wednesday I spotted a small group of a half-dozen of so Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) patrolling over a large field at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Common Green Darners are one of few species of dragonflies that migrate. Perhaps the ones that I saw are preparing to migrate from the local area or are just stopping off on their journey southward.

It is a fun challenge to point your camera toward the sky and to try and capture photos of these colorful dragonflies as they zoom overhead. The first image is the sharpest image that I was able to capture and it provides a good look at the dragonfly. In many ways, though, I am even happier with the second and third image that include some vegetation and help to provide some context to the shots.

The migration cycle of the Common Green Darner involves three generations. I highly recommend a research article entitled “Tracking dragons: stable isotopes reveal the annual cycle of a long-distance migratory insect” that was published in 2018 in the journal Biology Letters that explains the migration cycle and has some fascinating maps and diagrams. Despite the geeky-sounding title, it is actually quite easy to read and understand.

Here is an extract from the abstract for the article, in case you do not want to read the entire article:

“Using stable-hydrogen isotope analysis of 852 wing samples from eight countries spanning 140 years, combined with 21 years of citizen science data, we determined the full annual cycle of a large migratory dragonfly, the common green darner (Anax junius). We demonstrate that darners undertake complex long-distance annual migrations governed largely by temperature that involve at least three generations. In spring, the first generation makes a long-distance northbound movement (further than 650 km) from southern to northern range limits, lays eggs and dies. A second generation emerges and returns south (further than 680 km), where they lay eggs and die. Finally, a third resident generation emerges, reproducing locally and giving rise to the cohort that migrates north the following spring. Since migration timing and nymph development are highly dependent on temperature, continued climate change could lead to fundamental changes in the biology for this and similar migratory insects.”

Wow!

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

Common Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was delighted to spot another Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum), one of my favorite dragonflies, while wandering the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  The previous one that I saw earlier this month was perched high in a tree, so it was difficult for me to get a good shot of it.

The newest Blue-faced Meadowhawk, a male, was perched on the ground amid the leaf litter, which is where I usually see this species. I love the way that the fallen leaves provide an instant indication that we are now in the autumn season. The drab brown color of those leaves really helps to make the bright red and blue of this spectacular dragonfly really pop.

It was almost impossible to blur out the background completely, but I got low and carefully chose an angle that makes the clutter a bit less distracting. It turned out that this was the only Blue-faced Meadowhawk, so I was happy that I managed to get some decent shots of this one before he flew away.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Generally I prefer to photography my wildlife subjects in natural surrounding and often try to frame my shots so that they do not include manmade elements. During a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I inadvertently spooked a small bird, which looks to me to be a juvenile Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), and I watched as it flew to a tall wooden post. I looked at it as a mixed blessing, because I had a clear view of the bird, even though the perch was manmade.

I captured this image when the bluebird turned its head to look at me. I really like the way that the composition of this modest little image turned out. I remember moving a bit to make sure that the sky was in the background, but hadn’t really counted on the background being as pleasantly blurred as it is. The wires and other hardware attached to the post add some additional visual interest to the foreground without being too distracting.

 

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As we approach the end of September, I am keeping a mental checklist of the dragonflies that I continue to see. Some species have already disappeared for the season. With other species, I see only the tattered survivors. There are a few other species that will remain with for at least another month.

Here are some shots of three of the dragonflies that I saw last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first one is a colorful male Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa). We are nearing the normal late date for this species, so I was particularly happy to see this dragonfly.

The second image shows a female Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia), one of the most common dragonflies in our area. This species is always one of the first to appear in the spring and one of the last to disappear in the autumn.

The final photo shows a male Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) perching in the vegetation at the edge of a pond. This species is probably the most common one that I see right now when I am visiting a pond. I thought about cropping the image a little closer, but decided I really like the pops of pinkish-purple provided by the flowers near the edge of the frame.

There are, of course, other species still around that I have featured in recent postings, such as the Russet-tipped Clubtail, the Blue-faced Meadowhawk, and the Prince Baskettail, as well as several others. I am still searching for my first Autumn Meadowhawk of the season, a small red dragonfly that is often the last species to disappear.  I have seen Autumn Meadowhawks as late as the 3rd of December. If you want a sneak preview of what an Autumn Meadowhawk looks like, check out the December 2018 blog posting of that late sighting.

Calico Pennant

Common Whitetail

Slaty Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been playing around with video again and made a little YouTube video about some of my challenges in trying to photograph dragonflies in flight. I tried to combine some video footage captured when I was out in the field (the second shot below is a still extracted from the video) with some of my still images that you may have already seen in past blog postings. I did a voiceover with the still photos that provides some information about my camera settings and techniques as well as commentary about the location where I was shooting. The first image is the thumbnail for the video, which I included to give you an indication in the Reader about the content.

I embedded the video link at the end of this posting that you can click directly if you are viewing directly from my blog. After I posted a video this way in the past, I learned that those folks who receive the blog in their e-mail are not able to see the embedded video. If that is the case for you, here is a link that you can click that will take you to the YouTube video. The video is about eight minutes long, but I think you will find it enjoyable and informative.

I shared the video directly with one of my subscribers, Jet Eliot, who commented, “I absolutely loved your video, Mike. Your enthusiasm and expertise for dragonflies comes through beautifully. I like how upbeat you are about photographing dragonflies, and encouraging. Your voice is rich, vocabulary lovely, and diction is smooth. A complete joy to watch–I’m still smiling.” Be sure to check out her wonderful blog Jet Eliot–Travel and Wildlife Adventures for her weekly essays, photos, and anecdotes on lively, interesting places and creatures that she has befriended all over the world.

YouTube_thumbnail

In the Field

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Carolina Chickadees (Poecile carolinensis) are small and active, so I rarely get a clear view of one of them, especially during the times of the year when there are leaves on the trees. Last week I was happy to get some photos of this chickadee at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as I was searching for warblers.

The leaves in the first two images and the tiny acorns in the final photo provide indications of the change in seasons. Temperatures are really dropping as we approach the end of September and the leaves are just beginning to change colors. In my area, unfortunately, the leaves mostly tend to turn brown—the fall foliage is definitely not as bright and vibrant as the colors in New England, where I was born and grew up.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was looking over my photos from my visit last Wednesday to Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I was struck by the variety of perching styles of the dragonflies that I had photographed. The dragonfly on the left in the first photo, a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta), was using the style that I see most often—he was perched horizontally with his wings extended outwards. The dragonfly on the right, a male Swift Setwing (Dythemis velox) had his abdomen raised to about a 45 degree angle and had pulled his wings forward.

In the second image, the dragonfly was perched at a slight angle as it held onto the vegetation. The coloration of this dragonfly is so faded that it is hard for me to identify its species, though I think it might be an old Great Blue Skimmer (Libellula vibrans).

In the final photo, the dragonfly is in an almost vertical position as it clings to the stalk of the vegetation. The shadows make it tough to identify this dragonfly, but I am not worried about that—I like the “artsy” feel of the photo.

This little posting barely scratches the surface of the topic of dragonfly perching behavior, but I hope it raises your awareness of the diversity in the world of dragonflies, not just in their appearances, but also in their behavior.

 

dragonfly perches

dragonfly perches

dragonfly perches

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I never realized how much the face of a Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonfly (Stylurus plagiatus) looks like the face of a human—the one in the first photo appears to have a nose, a chin, and even lips. The dragonfly was flying over the pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge this past Wednesday and I watched it land in the goldenrod at the edge of the water, where I was able to capture the image.

When the Russet-tipped Clubtail was flying, it stayed in the center of the pond and did not come near to the shore, which made it tough for me to capture an in-flight shot. I was thrilled when I managed to capture a long distance shot of the dragonfly and its cool, distorted reflection in the water, as you can see in the second photo below.

As I was walking around the small pond, I inadvertently flushed another Russet-tipped Clubtail and it flew into a tree. I could see where it was perched, but the lighting was tricky, because I was shooting almost directly into the sun. I liked the interplay of the light and shadows on the leaves of the tree and the way that sunlight illuminated the “tail” (which is technically the abdomen) of the dragonfly, which made for a nice environmental portrait.

Generally I consider myself lucky if I have a single encounter with a dragonfly like this, so it felt amazing to have multiple encounters with the Russet-tipped Clubtails and multiple chances to capture some beautiful images.

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Russet-tipped Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was a little surprised on Wednesday to see a Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) flying over the pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge—I thought they were all gone by now. There were not too many other dragonflies around, so I concentrated on trying to capture in-flight shots of this elusive dragonfly that I never saw perch.

Photographing dragonflies while they are flying is a huge challenge for both my skill and my patience. I had a general idea of the area in which this dragonfly was flying as he flew repeatedly over a patch of lily pads. However, his specific flight path varied a lot and he often changed directions without warning.

Most of my photos were blurry or did not contain my subject, but I eventually managed to get a few decent shots of the Prince Baskettail. The first one is the sharpest, but it does not give you much of a sense of the environment in which the dragonfly was flying. The second shot has a bit of blur, but I really like the background pattern of the water of the pond. The dragonfly was flying away from me when I took the final photo, but I like the way that the image shows the pond vegetation and the tiny perched Eastern Amberwing dragonfly in the foreground was a nice bonus.

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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