Earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I captured this image of what I an pretty sure is a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). The subject was significantly backlit and is a bit dark, but even the most casual view will note that the bird has no horns. Well, only breeding adults have golden head tufts that someone decided look like horns.

Horned Grebes are diving ducks and most of the time that I see one it is in deep water in the distance. I was fortunate to be at the right place at the right time when this grebe surfaced closer than normally with a small fish in its mouth. I posted this photo to a Facebook forum, but so far the identity of the fish remains a mystery. The best response I received when I asked if anyone knew what kind of fish it was— “a slow one.”

In any case, I really like how the warm orange of the skinny little fish contrasts with the overall bluish tones of the image. Needless to say, the fish was gone a few seconds later.


Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Doves in love?

When I first spotted these Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) perched closely together on a branch yesterday morning, I immediately assumed that they were a couple. Are these really doves in love?

I have trouble figuring out the relationships among birds, because I have to judge solely on the basis of outward appearances. Come to think of it, I have the same problem with humans.

Friends or lovers? Who knows?

mourning doves

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Camouflaged creeper

This Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) blended in so perfectly with the tree bark yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I don’t think I would have spotted it if it had not been moving. Brown Creepers are small in size, 4.7-5.5 inches in length (12-14 cm) and 0.2-0.3 ounces in weight (10-15 grams, and are in motion almost continuously, which makes them pretty tough to photograph.

If you click on the photos below, you can see some of the cool details of this little bird, like its large feet that aid stability and its slender, curved bill used to probe for bugs in and under the bark.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Single crocus

Daffodils have popped up all over my neighborhood the past few days, but none of them says Spring to me as much as this single crocus that I spotted in a neighbor’s yard last week. Backgrounds are always a big problem with flowers this early—it’s hard to avoid having mulch or fallen leaves in a shot. For this shot I used my 180mm macro lens and a really shallow depth of field. I like the softness that the settings gave the edges of the flower, while the center on which I was focusing was pretty sharp.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

As we move forward into spring, more and more birds are returning to my local area after spending the winter in warmer spots. This past week I was happy to welcome the return of some Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) to Occoquan Bay National WIldlife Refuge.

Two things always stand out to me when I see these little flycatchers—their heads seem unusually large and their tails are constantly flicking. Heads or tails? In either case I know it is an Eastern Phoebe. 🙂

Eastern Phoebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

A need to scream?

Do you ever feel the need to scream at the top of your lungs like this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted on Saturday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge? I think that most of us have moments in our lives when our emotions overwhelm us and we feel a need to vent. Why not scream? 

As the old children’s rhyme tells us, “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream.” 🙂

screaming eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Osprey nest at dawn

Saturday morning at dawn I noted than an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) had already claimed the most prominent nesting site at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There are several man-made nesting platforms scattered through the wildlife refuge and there are usually some additional osprey nests in trees and one on the top of a hunting blind on stilts in the water. This particular nesting platform is visible from the parking lot, so it was easy to check to see if it was occupied.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.