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I just love the vibrant colors of the tropical water lilies at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens, like this one that I photographed on Sunday during a brief trip there. These gardens, located in a part of Washington D.C.,  are run by the National Park Service and have acres of ponds with all kinds of lotuses and water lilies. The tropical water lilies are in small cement ponds behind the visitor center and are one of my favorite spots to visit.

tropical water lily

tropical water lily

tropical water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Halloween in June

Halloween in June? I spotted a beautiful female Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) this past Saturday in one of the back areas of Huntley Meadows Park.

Although it is now summer, the colors of this beautifully-patterned dragonfly bring to mind those of the autumn, which thankfully is still a long way off.

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

The last few years it has been pretty rare for me to see a Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus). Most of the time when I thought I had spotted one, it turned out to be a similar-looking Viceroy Butterfly.

I was therefore really excited when I spotted a Monarch Butterfly fluttering about in a clump of what I think is some kind of milkweed during a brief trip to Kenilworth Aquatic Garden this past weekend. The butterfly seemed to be unusually skittish—it would perch for only a split second and then take off again. When it would decide to perch for a slightly longer period of time, inevitably it would bury itself among the vegetation, making a clear shot almost impossible.

I waited and waited and finally was able to get this almost unobstructed shot of the spectacular butterfly. Even in America we celebrate this kind of Monarch.

Monarch Butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

With most of my dragonfly shots, I try to get as close as I can to the dragonfly, either my moving or by zooming, in order to highlight my subject. If I am not able to do so, I will often crop the image during post-processing.

Sometimes, though, I will intentionally keep my distance and will carefully compose the image to include more environmental elements. That was the case yesterday during a quick trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens with my photography mentor Cindy Dyer. Cindy needed to drop off some prints at the gift shop and I had a few minutes to grab a few shots.

Dragonfly perches generally are not very interesting, often just dried-out branches sticking out of the water. I was excited, therefore, when I spotted a male Slaty Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula incesta) perching on a purple Pickerelweed plant (Pontederia cordata).  I positioned myself to capture an additional pickerelweed plant in the background, pretty sure that it would be out of focus and not be too distracting. The cool colors and the sinuous curves of the plants in the background combine to create an “artsy” image that I really like.

 

Slaty Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

As I was wandering about in the woods early yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park, I inadvertently spooked a raccoon (Procyon lotor) that was stretched out high above me on a tree limb. The raccoon quickly climbed inside the tree, but it seems like it was overcome by curiosity and poked its head out to get a better look at me.

A sharp-eyed viewer of my posting of this image in Facebook noted that the raccoon seems to have a problem with ticks, with several of them visible in one of its ears. I know that raccoons are notorious for carrying rabies, so I kept a close eye on the raccoon and was ready to move away if it had made a move to climb down from the tree.

raccoon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia,  I was able to photograph a new dragonfly species for me, the beautiful Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa). Fellow photographer and dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford had alerted me to the presence of these dragonflies at this location and had given me a general idea of where I might find them.

When I arrived at the wildlife refuge, which I had never visited before, I was a bit disoriented at first, but eventually found the pond that was my target location. The challenge, though, was to find the diminutive dragonflies. I walked about for quite some time before I finally spotted one perched on the very top of some vegetation in a field adjacent to the pond. Like other pennant dragonflies, Calico Pennants usually hang on to the most fragile, flimsy branches of plants and are often flapping in the breeze like a pennant.

Here are a couple of shots of Calico Pennant dragonflies that I observed. The one with the yellow abdomen is a female and the male has the red abdomen. As is the case with many species, immature males have the same coloration as the females, so it usually pays to look at the terminal appendages to determine the gender.

female Calico Pennant

male Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Last weekend when I was staying outside of Roanoke for a wedding, I had the chance to walk a few miles of the Appalachian Trail. It was pretty awesome—now I have only about 2178 more miles to go to complete it.

Like most people, I had heard about the Appalachian Trail, but didn’t know much about it. Somehow I imagined that it was about as wide as a jeep and relatively smooth. My brief hike on the trail dispelled those notions. The trail is narrow, muddy, and steep, at least in those parts where I was walking.

I encountered the trail in Troutville, Virginia, a small town that is designated as an Appalachian Trail Community, where hikers can resupply along the way. Troutville marks a point on the trail where thru-hikers, those trying to complete the entire trail in a single year, will have completed about a third of the trail, assuming they started in Georgia.

It’s pretty exciting to think about hiking a 2200 mile trail, but it requires a lot of planning, training, and commitment. Generally thru-hikers spent five to seven months hiking on the trail, and quite a few people drop out along the way for many different reasons.

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

As I climbed a hill and came to a meadow, I noticed this small tent. Apparently a hiker decided this was a good spot to spend the night. You can see part of the trail, which is marked with white “blazes,” like the one on the wooden post.

Appalachian Trail
This was the scenic view from the top of one of several hills that I climbed during my short stint on the trail.
Appalachian Trail
 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.