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Dragonflies are amazing. They spend most of their lives as nymphs in the water before they crawl out, discard their exoskeletons, and become beautiful aerial acrobats. I photographed this probable Downy Emerald dragonfly (Cordulia aenea) last weekend at the Donau-Auen National Park in Vienna, Austria.

The object in the upper right in the first image is the discarded exoskeleton, often called an “exuvia,” and further down the vegetation is the dragonfly itself.  The dragonfly appears to have recently emerged from that same exuvia. Note how much longer the dragonfly’s body has grown after emergence. The wings of the dragonfly are not yet fully extended, suggesting that it still is in the process of emergence. If you look closely at the exuvia, you may notice some white stringy looking parts. These are the breathing tubes are part of the respiratory system that helped the dragonfly breathe while still a water-dwelling nymph.

I was standing on a relatively steep incline and the reed-like vegetation was growing out of the water, so it was a challenge to get a good angle to photograph the dragonfly. The second image was taken from a different angle from the first (and I was happy that I was able to keep from sliding into the water).

I proceeded down the trail for a while before looping back and returning to the spot where I had seen the dragonfly. I think the dragonfly in the final image may be the same one as in the first two shots, though obviously the perch is not the same. After dragonflies have emerged, they generally have to wait some time for the wings to harden and for their metamorphosis to be complete.

dragonfly in Vienna

dragonfly in Vienna

dragonfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Damsels in Vienna

Damsels in Vienna? Here are a few shots of some beautiful little damselflies that I encountered this past weekend during a visit to the Donau-Auen National Park in Vienna, Austria.

While traveling for work I normally leave at home my Canon DSLR and big lenses and use instead a Canon SX50 point-and-shoot camera with a super zoom lens. There are some compromises and limitations with this type of camera, but I am quite pleased with the results I can achieve using it, including these almost-macro images.

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Vienna singing bird

Finding birds is tough when the leaves are on the trees, but I did manage to spot this cool-looking one here in Vienna, Austria while visiting the Donau-Auen National Park. If this bird had remained quiet, there is no way that I would have been able to find it, but fortunately for me it was singing loudly.

I did a quick internet search, but so far I have not yet been able to identify it. I’d welcome identification assistance, particularly from someone with experience with European birds.

UPDATE: Thanks to the assistance of a number of viewers, I have been able to identify this bird as a Great Tit (Parus major), a widespread and common species throughout Europe, the Middle East, Central and Northern Asia, and parts of North Africa.

singing bird in Vienna
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I have been to Vienna, Austria often enough in the past 25 years that I have seen most of the big tourist sights. Now, when I have a bit of free time in the city, as I did yesterday, I like to go exploring in the Donau-Auen National Park and seek out wildlife.

I was thrilled when I spotted dragonfly in flight and was able to photograph it after it landed high in a tree. It is not a species with which I am familiar, but fellow bloggere and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford suggested that it is of the Emerald family and I tend to agree with him.

dragonfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Earlier this year I encountered an unfamiliar bird that turned out to be a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). On-line photos showed that the bird has really cool plumage during mating season and I remember hoping that I would see one this spring.

Well, this past Friday I spotted one in the distance in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The light was coming from almost in front of me and the grebe was a long way off, but I did manage to capture the sunlight glistening off of the blonde “horns” of this beautiful bird. I especially like the first shot in which you can see just a bit of the grebe’s red eyes and the feathers really do look like horns.

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Kestrel in April

I was thrilled yesterday morning to spot an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It’s pretty rare for me to see this beautiful little falcon and the lighting was good enough for me to see some of its wonderful colors and patterns. From the photos that I have seen on-line, I think this is a female—males have wings that are slate blue in color.

I was also able to watch it hunting for a little while over a distant field. A kestrel hovers in mid-air as it searches for prey below. Although the kestrel dove low a couple of times, I did not see it catch anything.

Both times that I have seen a kestrel, it has been perched in the same tree and I plan to return there regularly during my treks through the wildlife refuge.

American Kestrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Down on the farm

I grew up in the suburbs, so even domesticated farmyard animals seem exotic to me, like this bantam rooster and Red Angus cow with her calf that I encountered last weekend in Montpelier, Virginia while I was out of town for a wedding.

I am also including an image of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that I also captured on the farm—I like the way that the color of the rusted barbs matches that of the robin’s breast and how their shape mirrors that of the robin’s clawed feet.

 bantam rooster
Red Angus cow
American Robin
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.