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Posts Tagged ‘Alexandria VA’

As the seasons change, some dragonflies begin to disappear, but happily some new ones appear, like this spectacular female Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum) that I spotted this past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.

One of the really cool things about this species is that there are two different color variants of the females. Most of the females (and young males) are brown in color and are sometimes referred to as heteromorphs, while a smaller number of females, like the one in the photo, have a bright red color matching that of mature males and are sometimes referred to as andromorphs. This is roughly parallel to the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail butterfly, which has two different varieties of female, a yellow morph that matches the males and a black morph.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this praying mantis today at Huntley Meadows Park, I couldn’t help but think that it had chosen an appropriate pose to remember those who died and countless others whose live were forever changed by the tragic events of 9/11.

praying mantis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the days of summer gradually wind down, I can’t help but notice a significant amount of wear and tear on the bodies and especially the wings of some of the dragonflies and butterflies that I see. Clearly it has been a long, tough season for some of them. Despite its tattered wings, this male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) that I spotted on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park seemed to have no trouble flying, though I suspect that his days are numbered.

I hope that all of you have managed to survive this season well and that your “summer wear” refers to your clothes and not to the condition of your body.

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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A clump of what I think is Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnataseemed irresistible to a trio of Great Spangled Fritillary butterflies (Speyeria cybele) on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. For a brief moment they coexisted peacefully, until one of them encroached into the territory of another and they all began to jostle each other for the prime spots.

I quickly snapped off a series of photos before the butterflies flew away. As is the case with almost any group, it was almost impossible to capture an image in which all of the subjects were more or less facing the camera and had interesting poses. It was roughly equivalent to trying to photograph a group of wiggly little children—single subjects seem easy by comparison.

Great Spangled Fritillary

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When is a cluttered background so distracting that it draws attention away from the primary subject? When I have the luxury of time, I will normally attempt to compose my shots so that the background fades into the background as a creamy blur. As a wildlife photographer, though, I am often photographing live subjects that are likely to flee as soon as they become aware of my presence. Frequently I barely have time to bring the camera up to my eye and am forced to react rapidly and instinctively—I just don’t have time to think about the background.

Yesterday as I was walking along the Mount Vernon Trail in Alexandria, Virginia parallel to the Potomac River, I spotted a bird at the very top of a distant tree. Earlier in the day I had seen an osprey in a similar position, so I initially assumed it was another osprey. I had just zoomed in on the bird when it exploded out of the tree into the air. From the way that it was flying, I realized that it was probably an eagle or a hawk. I tracked the bird, which I believe is a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) as it flew behind some trees and eventually into the clear blue skies.

Here are my three favorite shots of the encounter. Two of them are cluttered and one has a plain blue background. Which one do you like most? I am not bothered by the branches in the first two shots and like the way that they help to give a sense of context to the action that is depicted. The third shot shows some of the wonderful details of the beautiful hawk, but it seems a bit more sterile to me. (For the record, the first shot is probably my favorite of the three images.)

Are cluttered backgrounds ok? Like so many factors in photography, the correct response appears to be that it depends on the specific circumstances.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-taile Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I spent a considerable amount of time one morning earlier this month at Huntley Meadows Park trying to get some shots of this skittish female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). It was almost impossible to get really close, so I had to rely on my long telephoto zoom lens.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Although I tend to associate Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) with milkweed, this Monarch was hungrily feeding on Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota) this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park. I am not sure why, but I have seen significantly more Monarch butterflies this summer than in the past few years.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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