Mocha Emerald

What’s a Mocha Emerald? No, it’s not the newest Seattle coffee craze—it’s a dragonfly.

I was thrilled this past Friday to spot a type of dragonfly at Huntley Meadows Park that I had never seen before—a Mocha Emerald (Somatochlora linearis). Fellow photographer and blogger, Walter Sanford, saw some in the park earlier in the summer, but I thought that it was probably too late for me to find one. It’s nice to be surprised.

Initially, I didn’t know what type of dragonfly I had photographed and knew only that its body shape was different from the ones that I had seen previously. Serendipitously, later in the day l ran into the manager of the park, Kevin Munroe, a noted dragonfly expert who runs the website Dragonflies of Northern Virginia, and he helped me make a tentative identification.

This one has somewhat tattered wings–it looks like he had a tough summer.

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

More spider drama

When I encountered this spider hanging on a branch just above eye-level, I knew I was going to have a problem getting a stable shooting position, so I decided to use my popup flash. It added some additional light and a little drama, though it is pretty obvious that I used it. Like the spider image that I posted earlier today, the image has a really narrow depth of field, a consequence of having to shoot hand held, and only a few of the spider’s legs are in focus.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Spider drama

This summer I haven’t been seeing any of the large orb-weaver spiders at my local marsh that I observed in previous years, but the small spiders can be equally beautiful.

I spotted this little spider when I was hiking through the woods. There wasn’t really enough room to set up my tripod, so I ended up taking the shot handheld with the available light, which meant my depth of field was pretty limited. Although my normal instinct is to move in really close, I decided to take some shots from a slight distance and I like one of the resulting images so much that I am presenting it with almost no cropping (which is unusual for my insect shots). I especially like the interplay of light and shadows on the different elements in the scene, which together produce a sense of drama.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Kiss of a wasp

I don’t know much about the intimate life of wasps, but it sure looked to me like one of them is giving the other a loving nibble on the back of its neck. Both of them were covered in a lot of pollen, like they had just had a roll in the hay, figuratively speaking.

The two of them had flown to this flower in what appeared to be a mating position, though I can’t tell if the wasps are actually hooked up in this shot. My experience with dragonflies, however, has shown me that insects can mate in all kinds of unusual positions.

I am comfortable with moving in close for photos of bees, but I decided that in this case it was prudent to maintain a respectful distance from the wasps.

wasp kiss

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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.


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