Rainbow dragonfly

On Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to spend some time hanging out with this Common Green Darner dragonfly (Anax junius). The range of colors on its body is so remarkable that I almost couldn’t believe my eyes when I zoomed in on it. An expert in a dragonfly forum on Facebook noted to me that the dragonfly is a teneral one, which means that it has only newly emerged. That would account for its relatively pale, almost pastel coloration and the perfect condition of its wings. If you click on the image, you can see even better some of the remarkable details of this dragonfly, like the colorful pattern on its “nose.”

The beautiful dragonfly was hanging vertically only a few inches above the ground, in a pretty safe location. I kept my distance as I took some photos and departed quietly, conscious of the fact that a dragonfly is fragile and vulnerable at this early stage of development. It remained in place as I slowly slipped away.

Green Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Tiny hitchhiker

As I was loading camera gear into my car on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed that I had a tiny hitchhiker—a crab spider that looked ready to embrace me with open arms. After photographing the cute little spider, I released it into a grassy area, where it seemed more likely to catch something to eat than on the roof of the car.

I do not have much experience with crab spiders, but think this one might be a Goldenrod Crab Spider (Misumena vatia). As always, I would welcome a correction or confirmation if you are knowledgeable about spiders.

crab spider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Dragonfly geometry

Different dragonfly species rest in varying positions. Some of them hang vertically, but most of them perch at somewhat of an acute angle. Last week when I spotted this male Swift Setwing dragonfly (Dythemis velox), I was struck by the degree to which its rigid position reminded me of the diagrams of a right angle in my geometry textbook when I was a schoolboy—the dragonfly and the plant stem seemed to form an almost perfect 90 degree angle. One unusual thing about Swift Setwing dragonfly is the way that it holds its wings forward when perched and not straight out as most dragonflies do. Perhaps it helps to counterbalance the effects of gravity and helps it hold its abdomen so high for so long.

Swift Setwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

For quite some time I chased after a male Fine-lined Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora filosa) one morning last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but it seemingly had endless energy and would not stop to perch. Unwilling to give up, I decided to try to shoot him in mid-air as he patrolled a section of a trail.

As you might suspect, it is pretty challenging to shoot dragonflies in mid-air. If you have a high-end camera with a really good focusing system and a fast, responsive lens, you might be able to use auto focus, assuming you  are able to track the dragonfly in your camera’s viewfinder. I was using my somewhat older Canon 50D DSLR, a camera that was made starting in 2008, and mya Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens, which is sometimes slow in acquiring focus, so I was focusing manually. In this situation, I was helped a little by the fact that the dragonfly would hover a bit from time to time, although usually he would do so while facing away from me.

Patience and persistence paid off and I was pretty excited when I was able to capture this shot.

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

It seems a little late in the season for Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) to be mating, but I nevertheless spotted this couple in action this past Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. In case you are curious, the male is the red one near the top of the image that is clasping the female by its head. I like the way that the soft background and simple composition draw our eyes to the shapes, colors, and patterns of the dragonflies, rendering the subject in a beautifully abstract way.

calico pennant dragonflies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Magical web

Although some folks find spiders to be creepy, I look at them as wonderfully creative architects and artists and I was thrilled to capture this image of one in its web that I spotted early yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I have found that early morning is the best time to get shots of spider webs and they tend to show up best in shots that are backlit, which is to say that light is shining from the front. In this case I tried to frame the shot carefully for maximum effect and did not have to crop the image at all.

web art

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Screaming osprey

The loud cries of an osprey (Pandion haliaetus) echoed though the early morning air yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was never able to figure out what was bothering the clearly unhappy osprey, but did manage to capture this image of the screaming bird just before it flew away.

screaming osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.