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Sometimes the most mundane scenes capture my eye and prompt me to photograph them. On Monday morning, I looked out of my hotel window and was captivated by the way that the early sunlight was falling on the dome of a building in the distance. As I started exploring the scene I saw lots of wonderful details, a wonderful juxtaposition of elements of the old and the new, of historical buildings and new construction.

This is not my normal style of photography, but I thought it would be fun to share with you a couple of images that give you a sense of the feel of that early morning in Vienna, Austria. I had hoped to take some additional photos of the city, but the last couple of days have been cold, wet, and windy. With a little luck I will be able to take a few photos of the Christmas markets to share with you before I depart this beautiful old city.

Vienna Austria

Vienna Austria

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Odd duck in Vienna

Whenever I am traveling for work I try to find some local wildlife to photograph. I am currently in Vienna, Austria and yesterday morning I went for a short walk in the Stadtpark, a park in central Vienna that is not far from my hotel. In the small pond there I found mostly mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), a species with which I am quite familiar.  One duck, however, really stood out because it had such unusual markings.

I focused my attention and my camera on this particular duck. Its shape looked to be similar to that of normal mallards and I wonder if this might be some kind of hybrid. I suppose that it could be another species altogether, though it did not look like any of the species in the photographic list I found on-line of the birds of Austria.

Whatever the case, this bird struck me as being a bit of an odd duck.

duck in Vienna

duck in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Soaring hawk

Over the past few months I have repeatedly heard the screaming of hawks in the distance, but it has been rare for me to actually catch sight of one. I was thrilled therefore when I spotted this Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The hawk soared almost directly over me, providing me with a wonderful view of its fully extended wings and red tail.

This was one of the few cases when it was not an advantage to have my camera attached to a monopod. I ended up taking this shot with the camera held at a high angle with monopod sticking straight out, almost parallel to the ground.

Red-tailed Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Buffleheads taking off

When I am watching water birds, it is hard for me to predict when they will decide to take to the air. Often they give no visible warning. Some species, though, need to dance across the water to gain momentum before they can lift off, like this pair of female Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) that I observed last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The one in the back had already started its takeoff maneuvers when I captured this image and a second later the second bufflehead was also skipping across the water.

bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Turtles in December

The temperature today feels so frigid—right about the freezing level—that it is hard to remember that only this past Monday it was sunny and 60 degrees (16 degrees C). While I was enjoying the unseasonably warm weather and exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I photographed these sunning turtles, a relatively rare sight in December.

I did not get a good enough view of the turtles to be able to identify them with any confidence, but I think they may be Eastern Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) or possibly Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans).

Turtles in December

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Posing Cedar Waxwing

Recently I served as the assistant for a fellow photographer Cindy Dyer as she shot some portraits in her studio. I had never before participated in that kind of a venture and I was a little shocked by the amount of coaching that the subject needed to ensure a proper head position, body position, and expression. Apparently most of us do not know how to act “naturally” in a way that will yield a goof portrait.

Fortunately many birds do not require these instructions. On Monday of this week, this Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) took a break from its foraging and seemed to be posing for me.  The bird decided that a profile shot would be good to show of its distinctive eye mask and that any hint of a double chin could be eliminated by slightly elongating its neck. Although the Cedar Waxwing tried to maintain a serious expression, I think I detect the beginning of a tiny smile.

Cedar Waxwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Kinglet with attitude

Despite his diminutive size, this male Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) seemed to have plenty of attitude when I spotted him on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Size is relative, of course, but by almost any standard Golden-crowned Kinglets are tiny. The are about 3-4 inches (8 to 10 cm) in length and weigh only 0.1 to 0.3 ounces (4 to 8 gm). Their small size and hyperactivity make them a fun challenge to photograph.

I particularly like this bird’s combative stance and the way that it provides us with such a good view of its bright yellow “crown.” It is one of the rare occasions when I got an unobstructed shot of a kinglet—normally there are branches blocking at least part of the view.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.