Why was this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) crouching in the water? Was he playing hide-and-seek with his heron friends? Was he seeking shelter in the shade?

The more that I watched the heron fix his attention on the eye-level branches, the more I became convinced that he was stalking dragonflies. Several times he advanced forward slowly, never once looking down at the water, but I never saw him make the rapid thrust that he uses when catching fish. It seems to me that he would get a better reward for his efforts by catching fish and frogs, but maybe he simply wanted some variety in his diet.

When I departed, the heron was still crouching and the dragonflies remained hidden.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Beetle on goldenrod

Goldenrod seems to act like a magnet for all kinds of flying and crawling insects and earlier this week I was fascinated by a large beetle crawling around and through the goldenrod. I haven’t yet been able to identify the beetle, but I had a lot of fun trying to move in close with my macro lens and capture its image from various angles.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Preying dragonfly

Dragonflies are so beautiful that I sometimes forget that they are also fierce predators. Last weekend at my local marsh, I captured this image of a female Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly (Erythemis simplicicollis) feeding on another dragonfly, which looks like it might be a female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis).

The dragonfly is perched on the end of one of the slats of a railing that along the edge of an inclined section of the boardwalk. I cropped the image to focus viewers’ attention on the dragonfly, but I also like the second version of the same photo, which is close to the original view when I took the shot. Somehow those three slats remind me of a row of tombstones, a memorial to the predator’s prey.

Eastern Pondhawk

Eastern Pondhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I never realized that I was surrounded by cannibals. No, I did not discover a pile of skulls or a string of shrunken heads, but almost every time recently that I have gone out into my local marsh, I have spotted Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes).

These insects are big and they buzz as they fly by me, so they are hard to miss. I have read that they are vicious predators, but I had never caught one red-handed with prey (or perhaps I should say red-footed) until yesterday. I can’t quite identify the prey, but it looks like it might be some kind of small bee. If so, it wouldn’t bee too surprising, given that one of the nicknames for this species in the “Bee Panther.”

I know that I shouldn’t be worried about these cannibals, but a slight chill went through me yesterday when one of these insects landed on the lenshood of my camera and looked up at me, looking very much like he was sizing me up

Red-footed Cannibalfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Waving in the breeze

It’s not hard to figure out the source of its name when you spot a colorful Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) waving in the breeze. These dragonflies also remind me of pole vaulters, attempting to thrust their bodies over a crossbar while holding on to the very end of a long pole.

I have not seen one yet at Huntley Meadows Park, the place where I take the majority of my photos, though earlier this summer one of my fellow photographers, Walter Sanford, spotted one in the park for the first time in years. I shot this image at edge of a small pond during a recent trip to Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Heron and rock

The Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at my local marsh seem to have grown accustomed to the presence of people and some of them like to fish near the boardwalk. This one was so close that I had to lean backwards over the edge of the edge of the boardwalk to fit the entire heron into these shots—zooming was not an option, given that I was using a lens of a fixed focal length, a 180mm macro lens.

While I was observing the heron, it concentrated its activity around a rock that stuck out of the water, sometimes perching on it and sometimes circling around it. I hope the heron had better luck during the rest of the day, because it did not have any luck at all as I watched and waited in vain to capture a big catch.

Great Blue Heron Huntley Meadows Parkheron3_rocks_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Orange Bluet

I know that damselflies come in many colors, but my brain wanted to cramp up when I was told that this stunning orange damselfly was a bluet. An orange bluet? Aren’t bluets blue?

Apparently that is not always the case, and this little beauty is in fact a male Orange Bluet damselfly (Enallagma signatum). This shot looks like it was done with flash, but I double checked the EXIF data and confirmed that it was simply an effect caused simply by using exposure compensation and metering carefully on the subject. Normally, I am not a big fan of a black background, which can be caused when the light from the flash overpowers the ambient light, but I think that it works well in this shot, which looks almost like it was shot in a studio.

In the second shot, the brown color of the muddy water shows through in a way that is a little more natural. I took this shot when the damselfly was farther away than in the first shot and I like the way that it shows a bit more of the environment than in the first image.

One of the advantages of shooting in bright light and on a tripod was that I was able to shoot at ISO 100 and at f/11, which gave me images that were a lot cleaner than I often get.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.



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