Posts Tagged ‘virginia’

I was exploring a small creek in Prince William County, Virginia last week with fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford when suddenly I spotted a dragonfly hanging almost vertically from a branch not far above the ground. It is always a good sign when a dragonfly is hanging vertically, because many of the uncommon species perch in this way. My initial thought was that it was a clubtail and I informed Walter, who was searching another part of the stream, that it had two yellow stripes on its thorax. He reminded me that most clubtails have two yellow stripes, but was interested enough to move closer to me.

Walter has a lot more experience with dragonflies than I do and he grew visibly excited when he looked at the dragonfly though his camera. It was not a clubtail at all, but a relatively uncommon Arrowhead Spiketail dragonfly (Cordulegaster obliqua). Not only was it an Arrowhead Spiketail, it was a female and females tend to be harder to find than males. As I got closer, I could see the “spike” protruding from the tip of the abdomen, which showed it was a female, and the telltale arrow shaped markings all the way down the abdomen. We believe that this was the first documented sighting of an Arrowhead Spiketail in Virginia this year.

The dragonfly was unusually cooperative and both Walter and I were able to take lots of shots without disturbing her. In fact, she was still on the same perch when we left, though she was absent when we returned an hour or so later.

In situations like this, Walter and I like to do companion blog postings independently. Our photography styles and personal backgrounds color the way in which we produce our blog postings and they help to give our readers different perspectives on the same subjects and situations.

I have provided an assortment of images that show the female Arrowhead Spiketail from different distances and angles. I decided to do them in a gallery style—if you want to see them in a larger format slide show, which I recommend doing, just click on any one of them and then click the arrows. You probably notice that some of the images are intended to help you to identify the dragonfly and others are more “artsy.”

Be sure to check out Walter’s companion posting. I will include a link to it after I have published this article and have a chance to check out Walter’s posting.

UPDATE: Walter’s posting is wonderful. In addition to some excellent photos of the dragonfly, Walter provides a lot of contextual information about the location at which we found it and additional information about the species. Click here to see his posting.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the photos in recent postings have shown that damselflies are incredibly flexible. Normally they demonstrate this flexibility when mating with a partner.

Earlier this week I spotted this damselfly, which I believe is a male Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita), doing a solo gymnastics exhibition. The acrobatic damselfly repeatedly would swing its body backwards (second photo) and them end up with the tip of his abdomen between his legs (first photo). What was he doing?

According to my local dragonfly/damselfly expert Walter Sanford, damselflies are quite fastidious and will often spend time grooming themselves. That is what appears to be happening in these photos.

Who knew? It is not what I would have guessed—sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. 🙂

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


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I love to photograph dragonflies and damselflies when they are perched, but it is even more exciting to capture them in action. Now you may be wondering what kind of action I can possibly observe  and photograph. Dragonflies and damselflies seem to have two major biological imperatives—eating and mating. This posting focuses on the latter.

I was thrilled this week in Prince William County, Virginia to observe a new species of damselfly—the beautiful Aurora Damsel (Chromagrion conditum). Like many damselflies, the male Aurora Damsel has a black and blue coloration, but as an added bonus the male and female both have a bright yellow patch on the sides of their thoraxes (the “chest” area).

The first image shows the female, on the left, and the male in what is known as the “tandem” position. If you look carefully, you can see the yellow patched on both of their bodies. Often this position is a prelude to mating, and that certainly was the case in this situation. The second image shows the couple in the mating position known as the “wheel,” which often resembles a sideward-facing heart.

When mating is completed, the couple remains attached and they fly together to the water in order for the female to deposit her eggs in a process known as “ovipositing.” In the final image, you see the female ovipositing in some vegetation floating on the surface of the water. You don’t see it here, but sometimes the male will push down so hard that the female ends up partially submerged in the water.

Aurora Damsel

Aurora Damsel

Aurora Damsel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Red-roofed barns, silos, and rolled bays of hay may seem ordinary if you live in the country, but they were exotic enough to cause a group of city-dwelling photographers to pull off to the side of the road this past weekend to photograph them.

Never having lived or worked on a farm, I have a romanticized vision of life on a farm, of living close to nature. There is something almost idyllic for me in a setting like the one in the first photo.

As for rolled bales of hay, I don’t quite understand them. A lot of the cowboy movies that I grew up with featured muscular cowboys tossing around bales of hay that looked nothing like the ones in the second and third photos. These bales look like giant Shredded Wheat biscuits that would require a huge bowl and lots of milk to soften up enough to swallow. I remember from my childhood the scratchy sensation in my throat when I was in a hurry and swallowed my Shredded Wheat cereal before it had absorbed the milk.

Red Barn blogBales x 3 blogWheaties blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“How many legs does a horse have if you call the tail a leg? Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

My apologizes to Abraham Lincoln for changing the animal from a dog to a horse in a famous quote attributed to him, but that was what came to mind when I first brought up this image of a horse that appeared to have five legs. The tail is so long that it just about touches the ground and it seems to be almost as rigid as the legs.

Of course, as some of you know, I am a product of the suburbs, so I am happy that I can identify this animal as a horse. Earlier in the day I saw two bulls with horns, but when I took a closer look, one of them seemed to have udders. When we stopped to photograph a farmhouse on the drive home, I could identify sheep and cattle, then suddenly a group of emus came running onto the scene accompanied by a llama (or maybe it was an alpaca).

Is it any wonder I find identifying domestic animals confusing?

Five Legged Horse blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My neighbor, noted blogger and photographer Cindy Dyer, has a really cool garden on the side of her townhouse. Earlier this year I took a lot of photos of flowers and insects there, including one of my most popular postings on a mysterious creature on the lavender plant.

I hadn’t checked out the garden in a month or so and was surprised to see that some of the flowers were still blooming yesterday. I was especially drawn to a flower that looks a little bit like a sunflower—I am not sure exactly what it is. I tried to shoot different blooms from different angles to capture a sense of the depth of the flower. I don’t usually use flash with flowers, but I made some attempts with my built-in flash cranked down low,which I think accounts for the black background in some images.

Here are some of my favorite images of these flowers. They look like they might have been shot with a macro lens, but I was actually using a telephoto lens.

flower6_blogflower3_blog flower5_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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