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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

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? 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.

 

 

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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.

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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.

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No trip to Brussels is complete without a visit to see the statue of the Manneken Pis, the little boy that is one of the symbols of the city. Yesterday he was dressed in a costume that I have not yet been able to identify, but looks Scottish to me.

The little boy has hundreds of different costumes that he wears on special occasions, but the poor fit of this one makes me wonder if it might be an “unofficial” costume that was put on the statue as a prank.

Manneken Pis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On the day of my arrival in Brussels, Belgium for a short business trip, I went for a short walk in the botanical garden, one of my favorite spots to visit in this city. It is within walking distance of my hotel and is one of the few places where I know I can find a taste of nature in the crowed inner city area of Brussels.

Initially I noted only a few mallard ducks and moorhens in the small pond at the botanical garden, but when I looked more closely, I spotted a couple of spectacularly-colored ducks sleeping in a remote corner. I wasn’t sure what they were, but that did not deter me from taking some photos of them. When I went searching on the internet for the species of ducks in Brussels, none of them seemed to match the ones that I had seen. So I switched to searching using more descriptive terms and discovered that the birds were not ducks, but were in fact geese—Egyptian Geese.

As their name suggests, Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) are native to the Nile River area and sub-Saharan Africa. There are now established breeding populations in parts of Europe and even in the United States.

I took this photo with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot camera that I usually take with me when I travel. As you can see from this image, the camera is capable of capturing a pretty good amount of detail and color.

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was walking to work through the streets of Vienna Friday morning, I passed by the Spanish Riding School in the Hofburg Palace and was thrilled to get a glimpse of some of the world-famous Lippizaner stallions. They were mostly hidden in their stalls, but occasionally one of these beautiful horse would pop its head out or a door would open briefly. I was also able to snap some quick photos as one of the horses was being prepared and was then walked across an open area.

Perhaps someday I will see a performance of the Lippizaners, but for now I am happy to have caught a glimpse of them on my last working day in Vienna for this trip.

Lippizaner

Lippizaner

Lippizaner

Lippizaner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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