Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

In the insect world, Red-footed Cannibalflies (Promachus rufipes) are fearsome predators. Yesterday I spotted one at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia that appeared to be subduing a Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemaris thysbe) that it had just captured.

What happens next? Wikipedia describes the tactics of a robber fly, the family to which the Red-footed Cannibalfly belongs, in these words:  “The fly attacks its prey by stabbing it with its short, strong proboscis  injecting the victim with saliva containing neurotoxic and proteolytic enzymes which very rapidly paralyze the victim and soon digest the insides; the fly then sucks the liquefied material through the proboscis.”

Yikes!

red-footed cannibalfly subdues hummingbird moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

This majestic osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was keeping a close watch on a fellow photographer and me as we pointed our long lenses in its direction as it perched high in a tree early one morning this weekend at Huntley Meadows Park.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

In the first sunflower field that we visited yesterday morning at McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area, many of the sunflowers were drooping because of the weight of their seeds. They may not have been very photogenic, but the birds and butterflies seemed to love them, like this Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) and this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) that I spotted among the sunflowers.

Several photographer friends and I made the trip to the sunflower fields in Poolesville, Maryland, hoping to see endless rows of tall sunflowers. According to its website, McKee-Beshers has 30 acres of sunflowers planted in nine different fields. I think that the sunflowers may have been a little past their prime and appeared to be a little stunted in size, compared to some past years.

It was tricky to figure out what kind of gear to bring on a trek like this. I ended up using my super zoom Canon SX50 to photograph the Indigo Bunting, which was a first sighting for me of this beautiful bird, and my Canon 24-105mm lens on my normal Canon 50D DSLR for the butterfly. I had both of the cameras with me at all times, which gave me a pretty good amount of flexibility. I’ve seen some photographers walk around with two DSLR bodies, but that seems like a lot of weight to carry around, especially when you are moving through vegetation as I was doing as I waded through the rows of sunflowers.

I did take shot shots of the sunflowers  and I’ll post some of them eventually. Folks who know me, though, are probably not surprised that my first instinct was to post images of birds and butterflies, rather than ones of the flowers alone.

Indigo Bunting

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Cardinal flowers (Lobelia cardinalis) are now in bloom at Huntley Meadows Park. In addition to being beautiful, these vivid red flowers attract butterflies, like this Spicebush Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio troilus) that I spotted this past weekend at the park.

Spicebush Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

There is not denying that it is exciting to capture unusual moments, like a snake swallowing a catfish, or to photograph a new species, as I have done recently with dragonflies. For me, though, there is something equally satisfying about returning to a familiar location and observing ordinary subjects. It is a different kind of challenge to present the ordinary in an extraordinary way, in a way that makes people stop and realize that natural beauty surrounds them every single day.

Last week, butterflies were really active at Huntley Meadows Park.  When I am in a garden, it is easier for me to guess where a butterfly will fly next, but in the wild, butterfly behavior is a little more unpredictable. When I noticed that a stand of what looks to be some kind of thistle was beginning to open, I hoped that the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that was flying about would be attracted to it. Eventually it flew to the thistle and I was able to capture this image.

Spectacular? No, not really. Beautiful? I’d say so. The image works for me, because it has just enough stopping power to cause views to recall how beautiful ordinary butterflies can be, to rekindle the childhood memories of being excited by butterflies, and to remember how exciting it was abandon caution and simply and joyfully chase after butterflies.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Sanddragon on the rocks? No, it’s not a tropical summertime drink—it is simply a description of a dragonfly that I saw earlier this month in a somewhat unusual location.

Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) have been one of my favorite dragonfly species from the moment I first encountered them at Huntley Meadows Park a few years ago as I was exploring a remote area of the park. I almost literally stumbled upon them and didn’t really know what species they were at the time. I sent photos off to my local dragonfly expert Walter Sanford and he was able to identify them for me.

Since that time I have learned a lot more about the species, including the fact that they emerge on the sandy banks of streams. (Many other dragonfly nymphs attach themselves to vegetation growing out of the water and leave their discarded exoskeletons attached to the vegetation when they emerge.) Last year I even had the awesome experience of watching the emergence of a Common Sanddragon and documented it in series of images in a blog posting called Metamorphosis of a Dragonfly.

This year I have had an unusually hard time finding Common Sanddragons, because the creeks where I normally find them have had unusually high water levels, leaving all of the sandy areas underwater. Earlier this month while I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, which is rapidly becoming one of my favorite locations for finding dragonflies, I decided to check out the creek that runs through the refuge. It is actually part of the same creek where I was used to finding sanddragons, but is further downstream.

I noticed that part of a sandbar was exposed, but I didn’t think that it would be suitable for sanddragons, because it was covered with small rocks. I decided to investigate it anyways and my persistence was rewarded when a male Common Sanddragon flew in and perched on one of the rocks.

Sanddragon on the rocks? It was definitely a refreshing experience for me on a hot summer day. Any ideas on the appropriate ingredients for a cocktail with that name?

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

What are Carolina Saddlebags? Luggage for horseback or motorcycle riding? No, Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) are a species of bright red dragonflies with reddish-brown blotches of color on their hindwings. Why aren’t they Carolina Blue in color? Obviously the folks who named the dragonfly were not fans of the University of North Carolina (UNC) basketball team. (According to Wikipedia, the use of the light blue color at UNC dates back to 1795.)

I first became aware of the Carolina Saddlebags yesterday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge when a flash of red caught my eye. A dragonfly was patrolling over a section of the water and the adjacent grassy area. I tracked it visually and eventually realized it was a saddlebags dragonfly—those blotches of color stand out even when the dragonflies are flying. Most of the saddlebags dragonflies that we encounter in our area are Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), but I was pretty confident that my eyes were seeing the red of the relatively rarer Carolina Saddlebags. I tried to capture some in-flight shots, including the first one below, but eventually lost sight of the dragonfly.

Carolina Saddlebag dragonflies, according to the information on the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, are powerful fliers and are one of only a few species that routinely migrate hundreds of miles. Additionally, according to that same website, they rarely perch.  As I continued to walk around the small pond of the wildlife refuge, imagine my surprise when I came upon one that was perching.

I didn’t dare approach too closely initially and may well have been holding my breath when I took some preliminary shots. My caution proved to be justified, because the dragonfly flew away when I tried to move forward, even though I was approaching as slowly and as stealthily as I could. Either the dragonfly was skittish or its short rest break was over.

Carolina Saddlebags was not a species that I had seen before at this location and it was not really on my radar. Fortunately I was able to react quickly enough and was lucky enough to get some shots, including the in-flight one as the dragonfly was zooming past me. As I learned in the Boy Scouts, it is always good to be prepared.

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

Carolina Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »