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Archive for May, 2016

It’s dragonfly season and this past Friday fellow dragonfly enthusiast and photographer Walter Sanford guided me to a new spot to search for the elusive beauties. Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge is a nature preserve located on Fort Belvoir, a nearby military base in Fairfax County, Virginia.

We are in a lull period of sorts for dragonflies—some of the early dragonflies are gone and others have not yet appeared. As we were making one final swing through likely locations, having come up almost empty-handed in our search, Walter spotted a dragonfly. The wings were so clear and shiny that it was obviously a teneral dragonfly, one that had only recently emerged.

Identification (and photography) was a bit of a challenge, because the young dragonfly was perched inside of a tangled mass of vegetation, making it almost impossible to get an unobstructed view. Eventually we were able to find a visual tunnel and I was able to get the first shot below. It gives a pretty good view of the dragonfly, which after the fact I could clearly see is a Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea), but I really wasn’t satisfied with it.

Eventually I managed to get a second shot. It doesn’t show the dragonfly’s entire body and many element are out of focus, but it has an artistic sense that I find really appealing. I’m not sure if it’s because of the more vibrant colors or the unusual angle—I just know I like that image a whole lot more than the first one.

Spangled Skimmer

Spangled Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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As I turned to photograph a tiny damselfly perched on an overhanging branch, it flew down to the water. Initially I was disappointed, but then I looked more closely through my camera’s viewfinder. The male Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) had landed on a floating leaf and had assumed a pose that made it look like he was riding a surfboard. As a bonus, I was able to capture a fascinating area of bubbles in the algae in the foreground of the image.

Fragile Forktail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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While I was hunting for dragonflies the past Friday at Meadowood Recreation Area in Lorton, Virginia, I managed to get this shot of a hoverfly (family Syrphidae) on what I was told was blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium) by some folks conducting a wildlife survey.

I had no idea what blue-eyed grass was, so I turned to the internet when I got home. It turns out that blue-eyed grass is not actually a grass, but a perennial plant of the iris family, and sometimes it is not blue. According to Wikipedia, the genus of blue-eyed grasses includes up to 200 species that may have blue, white, yellow, or purple petals.

hoverfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most dragonflies like sunshine, so it’s been tough this month to find very many of them, given the almost constant cloud cover and frequent rain showers. Here are a few shots nevertheless of female Common Whitetail dragonflies (Plathemis lydia) from earlier in May. All of them appear to be young ones, in particular the one in the final shot, whose wings have not yet acquired their final coloration, indicating that it has only recently emerged.

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As a child, I remember thinking that turtles could all pull their bodies inside of their shells for protection. Clearly that is not the case with this prehistoric-looking Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) that I spotted last week lounging on a fallen tree at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

We kept little turtles as pets several times in my family as I was growing up and I remember the clear flat plastic habitat that we used that had a small plastic palm tree. As a product of the suburbs of Boston, I didn’t have a whole lot of experience with wildlife, though I was Boy Scout for a while.

To this day I am amazed by the size and apparent power of snapping turtles, which are pretty common in my favorite marshland park. Most of the time I see them moving slowly in the water and only occasionally do I see one sunning itself on a log as the smaller turtles regularly are wont to do—I imagine that it is quite a chore to haul that massive body out of the water.

snapping turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year I love seeing irises growing in the wild at Huntley Meadows Park. I think these all are Blue Flag Irises (Iris versicolor), though I am not absolutely certain of this identification. These irises are not as big and showy as the ones growing in my neighbors’ gardens, but I find them to be equally beautiful.

Blue Flag Iris

Blue FLag Iris

Blue FLag Iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was wandering through the woods of Huntley Meadows Park last Friday, I came upon a giant Luna Moth (Actias luna) that seemed to be almost as big as my hand. I was trying to get a close-up of its really cool antennae when an ant crawled onto one of the moth’s legs. I thought the ant might become lunch until I learned that Luna Moths don’t eat—they have no mouths and they only live for about a week as adults, with a sole purpose of mating, according to a Fairfax County Public Schools webpage.

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

Luna Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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