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Archive for January, 2013

I have returned from Brussels and thought I’d share a photo that I took earlier this month of a kayaker paddling on the Potomac River. In the background you can see the beauty of the obelisk of the Washington Monument and the dome of the Jefferson Memorial. If you look closely at the Washington Monument, you can see the color change part way up the monument that was the result of a 23 year hiatus in construction and difficulty getting matching marble when construction resumed.

Unfortunately, you can also see the rusty railroad bridge that serves as the only rail link between the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia. It serves a necessary function, but it does little to enhance the beauty of the scenery.

kayak_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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On my final night in Brussels for this trip, I made one last walk through the city. Despite the frigid cold, there were still a lot of pedestrians stopping in the Grand-Place to take photos or to visit one of the numerous bars and restaurants in the area. Some of the previous times that I was in Brussels, the buildings in the square were illuminated, but the were pretty dark this time.

I balanced my camera on my stocking hat to stabilize it for this first photo, which you can probably guess was a pretty long exposure. I like the way the different lights in the scene turned out differently, with varying strengths and colors.

The second photo is one of Mannekin Pis, a statue of a little boy that is one of the symbols of Brussels. Sure, it’s a touristy thing place to visit and the statue certainly doesn’t rate high in terms of art. However, I usually try to stop by and see him, because sometimes he is wearing one different outfits for different occasions.

Tomorrow I’ll be home and will probably return to posting mostly nature shots in my blog.  It’s been an interesting experience the last few days trying to orient myself to photographing different things in a completely different environment.

night_blogmannekin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Walking around in Brussels, I came upon this stone statue with a smile that simply drew me in. There is a kind of mischievous glint in the eye that matches the smile.

I hope that you’ll smile too when you see him.

statue

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One of the cool things about walking around in the old area of Brussels near the Grand-Place is that you can unexpectedly come across giant murals on the sides of buildings illustrating scenes from the Adventures of Tintin.  This series of comic books was created by Belgian artist Georges Remi (who wrote under the pen name of Hergé) and was one of the most popular European comic series in the 20th century.

Here are photos of a few of those murals that I took in September, during a previous trip to Brussels. I really like the colors and the style of the illustrations and the way that they were integrated into the buildings on which they were painted.

TinTin1TinTin2TinTin3TinTin4

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Brussels is still blanketed with a light coating of snow. The outdoor areas of the restaurants on the Grand-Place, the old city square, are deserted, but they continue to be surrounded by flowerboxes full of hardy flowers, like this little pansy. My eyes were drawn to this splash of color in a sea of grayness.

The little point-and-shoot Canon that I have with me has a limited zoom range, but it does have a macro mode that lets me get pretty close to my subject. I have tried to capture simultaneously the colors of the flower and the sense of winter. I did find the ice to be particularly difficult to render in a realistic way, probably because of its reflectiveness.

pansy1pansy2

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What do you do when you wake up early in the morning in a hotel in a foreign country and have the desire to take some photos? If the weather were a bit nicer, I might have gone for a walk in the city, but it was bitter cold last night and snow has fallen, so instead I took a few shots looking out my window.

My room overlooks one of the entrances to the Central Train Station in Brussels and there are interesting lights and colors. The fresh snow is already covered in footprints, although not many pedestrians were yet visible when I took my photos. I particularly liked one sidewalk area that goes off to the side of the station and the two shots I’m posting show pedestrians walking in this area. The photos have kind of an urban vibe that is new to me. I’m starting to understand a bit what attracts some photographers to taking photos in the city.

Who are these people? Why are they up and about at a time when most others are still sleeping? I’ll never know their stories, but I have captured their images on this frigid Brussels morning.

Early morning pedestrian in Brussels

Early morning pedestrian in Brussels

Brussels pedestrians

Brussels pedestrians

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I have been photographing so many birds recently that one of my first thoughts upon arrival in Brussels yesterday was to look for birds. I did manage to get a few shots of some sparrows in a small park near the Central Train Station, the neighborhood in which my hotel is located. However, I quickly realized that the 4X zoom of my little Canon A620 is a limiting factor in getting close enough for a decent shot. I also know that at 7.1 megapixxels, I can’t afford to dramatically crop the photos.

I’m happy with these two images. I captured the first sparrow on a snowy evergreen bush. Snow may not be special to many, but my part of the USA has seen only a very small amount of snow this year. The second sparrow is perched on the railing surrounding the plants and is looking into them. I think he was singing so much that the bottom part of his beak is blurred.

I haven’t yet been able to identify these sparrows, but I wonder if they are different from the ones that I typically see in suburban Virginia.

Sparrow in Brussels

Sparrow in Brussels

Sparrow on a fence

Sparrow on a fence

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It was almost 60 degrees (15 degrees C) when I left home, but it was well below freezing when I arrived in Brussels this morning. Although I usually try to stay awake when I first arrive, it was so dark and gray that I decided to take a nap first. Eventually the sun came out and I went for a little walk in the city center, though the cold and wind drained the power quickly from the batteries of my point-and-shoot camera and made it a little uncomfortable.

Last fall when I was here, I posted some photos of the main square of the city, the Grand-Place. The light was so beautiful today that I decided to post another shot of one of the buildings on that square, the city hall building. The perspective lines are distorted, but I think you can see how beautiful the building is. I am also including a photo of the bell tower of one of the churches here. It is considerably less ornate than the buildings on the Grand-Place, but I find it equally captivating.

City Hall in Brussels

City Hall in Brussels

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On a long walk along the Potomac River a couple of weeks ago, I stopped to take some photos of National Airport. Its full name is Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, but that name is so long that most of just refer to it as National Airport. One of its nicest features is that it is just across the river from Washington DC. and is incredibly convenient to access. In addition, I find it really cool-looking and really like the control tower and the “Jeffersonian” domes that make up the terminal.

Control Tower and terminal at National Airport

Control Tower and terminal at National Airport

Jut past the north end of the runway there is a park, called Gravelly Point, where you have an incredible view of planes taking off and landing. When I was there, it seemed like it was mostly fathers and their young sons who were observing the aircraft. Here’s a shot I took from that location of a plane taking off. In the background you can see Woodrow Wilson Bridge, one of the major bridges that crosses the Potomac River.

Taking off from National AIrport

Taking off from National Airport

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Yesterday I encountered this big bird in a tree and I’m pretty sure that it is a hawk, probably a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). I was a happy that he was perched relatively low in the tree, so that I could get a relatively normal perspective view of his head and body. His coloration doesn’t match exactly any of the photo identification keys I looked at, so I am not one hundred percent sure of the identification. The photo is a bit soft and grainy, because of the distance and lighting, but I like that fact that I was able to get a relatively unobstructed view of this beautiful bird.

Hawk in a tree

Hawk in a tree

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Yesterday I was observing ducks, geese, and gulls in one of the ponds at my local marshland, when suddenly they all took to the air. It seemed to me that something had spooked them and I quickly scanned the ground area and the water and found nothing. When I turned my eyes to the sky, however, I discovered a relatively large bird flying  across my field of vision in the distance

The day was dark and gray and rain clouds covered the sky, so the lighting was not very good. The poor lighting and the fact that the bird was so far away made it tough for me to lock on the focus of the camera, so I was able to snap off only a couple of shots before the bird disappeared completely in the distance.

The flight of the bird did not look like that of the vultures that I have photographed, so I thought that perhaps I had photographed a hawk, though it was hard to know for sure from the image on the little LCD screen of my camera. When I viewed the images on my computer, I was thrilled to discover that I had finally photographed a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Maybe it’s because of the symbolism attached with the bald eagle—all I know is that I felt really happy with my discovery.

These two images are not really that clear and I hope to get better ones in the future. In many ways, I am continuing what I recognize as a pattern in my shooting. The first time I capture a new subject, I am so excited that I will share the image, irrespective of its quality. The second time, the quality of the image normally increases dramatically.

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I don’t usually take photos of buildings, but the unusual blue color of this roof of this building and its beautiful reflection in the water prompted me to take this shot. The building, is a boathouse, I believe, and it is located along the Potomac River, just north of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to its colors, I really like the angled lines of the tin roof and the lines and geometric shapes in the rest of the image.

Blue_roof_Blog

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Nowadays when I see a little brown bird, my first thought is that it’s probably some kind of sparrow. In this case, however, the beak seemed to be too long to be a sparrow, so I had to so some research. I’m pretty sure this pretty little bird is a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus). In addition to the beak, I was able to use the white eye stripe and uplifted tail as identification features.

In addition to the internet, I now have my first hardcopy identification guide, Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America, a thank-you gift from friends for catsitting. I suspect that this may turn out to be the first of a series of guides that I’ll end up acquiring.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

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One thing that I have learned since I started watching birds is that birds seem to enjoy the company of other species of birds. In the past, for example, I might have assumed that a flock of birds was made up of a single species—now I know better. As a result, I’ve started to pay more attention to the individual birds in a group and determine if there are some that look “different.”

That was the case last weekend, when I was looking at a group of mallard ducks from a pretty good distance. One of them had a streak of bright white, which seemed unusual for a mallard. Clueless to what kind he might be, I took some photos, following my usual practice of “shoot first and ask questions later.” Returning home and doing a little research, I discovered that my mystery duck is a male Northern Pintail Duck (Anas acuta), a new species to me.

My first photo permits you to compare him with a mallard and it’s pretty obvious why he stood out. I like the way that he hold his long white neck upright in almost a military posture.

The second shot was my attempt to capture him in flight when he took off. My view was obscured a bit as I shot from a distance and the focus was not great, but I at least managed to catch him in flight. This is the kind of shot I aspire to shoot, so you’re getting to see my practice shots as I try to master the techniques of capturing photos of birds in flight.

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It is not well known that geese are jealous of their water fowl colleagues, the swans, for all of the attention they get in numerous productions of Swan Lake. Geese consider themselves equally adept at dancing and have picked up regional folk dancing during their long migratory travels through numerous territories. In this photo, a goose is practicing a variation of a traditional fan dance (and it turns out that geese, unlike humans, don’t need any props for the fan dance).

dance_blog

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I stumbled upon a pair of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) at Lake Cook, a tiny urban lake, shortly after I photographed a Belted Kingfisher this past weekend. As soon I spotted them, they also became aware of my presence and immediately took evasive action. In most cases in the past, that has meant that they started swimming away. This time they seemed to have decided that more decisive action was needed and they immediately took off.

Fortunately my camera was already in my hands and the settings were about the right ones for the situation. When I started photographing birds, one of the more experienced birders whom I met recommended keeping the camera set for burst mode and that’s where I keep it most of the time now. Occasionally that means I shoot off a few extra exposures unintentionally when my trigger finger is a little heavy, but sometimes it lets me get an exposure I might not have gotten otherwise. Now, let me be clear that my almost ancient Canon Rebel XT is not a professional DSLR, so burst mode means about three frames a second, which worked out this time.

I fired off a half-dozen frames as the two ducks, a male and a female, took off from the water and I am pretty pleased with the results. It looks like the ducks get a running start on the water before they take to the air. The photo of the male duck that I featured at the start is the second one in the chronological sequence, but I thought it was the most interesting in showing the little water “explosions” as the ducks skipped across the surface. The rest are pretty much self-explanatory. I especially like the way that the heads flatten out into more aerodynamic shapes as the ducks start flying and the reflections are pretty nice. A couple of the shots are cropped to show only the male duck, because his position happened to bemore interesting than that of the female in the image (no discrimination intended).

Takeoff2_blogTakeoff1_blogtakeoff3_blog Takeoff4_blog

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I really enjoy watching woodpeckers at work—they are so determined and industrious. I find their simple black and white coloration (sometimes accented with a bit of red) to be tasteful and elegant. Usually I end up watching them from a distance or with my neck at an uncomfortable angle as I look high up into the trees or low near the ground.

This weekend, though, I observed a woodpecker—I think he was a Downy Woodpecker—at relatively close range and at eye level. He was hanging upside down on a branch and was systematically pecking away at it. I really like the lighting in this shot and the way it is reflected in his eye. My favorite element, however, is the feathers on the breast area. The texture is simply amazing and looks like almost like a loosely woven fabric. It is a nice contrast to the black-and-white feathers on his back that look like they are stacked from this angle.

I never tire of photographing the same subjects, whether they be birds, insects, or flowers. Familiar subjects somehow seem different when viewed from new angles or in different light.

Downy feather texture

Downy feather texture

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On rare occasions I can anticipate a photo opportunity as a series of actions seems to heading towards an inevitable conclusion. That was the case this past weekend.

The weather here has warmed up and the layer of ice on the ponds has started to melt a bit. I watched as a mixed group of Canada Geese and Mallard Ducks started walking across the iced-over beaver pond.

A duck walked past a branch sticking out from the ice and I thought I detected some water, suggesting to me that they were walking on thin ice. A goose (in the second photo) looked down at the ice and made a mental calculation that it was safe to cross. His calculations proved to be wrong as he broke through the ice and started to sink into the water. I caught his initial reaction in the third photo. I especially like the startled look in his eyes.

Without further delay, he flapped his wings and was able to lift himself out of the water. The photo I took of that moment is the first one shown on this blog posting and is my favorite. I am happy that I was able to capture a lot of the the details of the wings and of the ice. You can see, for example, the sheets of ice that have broken off on either side of the goose. I also like the sense of action in the position of the goose, a moment frozen in time (sorry about the obvious pun).

I always feel a little strange when I post a series of action shots in non-sequential order, but I worry that folks won’t stay around to see the dramatic conclusion if all they see is the first shot (which is not that exciting, but is an important part of the story). That is why I led with the conclusion, thereby giving away the end of the story. Maybe I need to employ the kind of techniques used in television, “Stay tuned as this goose rescues himself from the frozen waters of the pond…”

Breaking the ice

Breaking the ice

Testing the ice

Testing the ice

Starting to go under

Starting to go under

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This past weekend I decided to return to a little lake (it’s actually more like a pond) where I had previously seen some Hooded Merganser Ducks. This lake is part of a regional park and, according to posted signs, is stocked with trout.

As I was looking down at the water, I was surprised when a powder blue bird flew across my field of view. It was a pretty good size bird, but I didn’t have a clue what it was. It perched on a tree across the small lake and I was able to get a couple of shots to help me identify it. I came back later in the weekend and found the bird again and was able to take some additional photos. None of the photos yet is very good, but I thought I would share some of them, because I find the bird to be exceptionally cool.

What is the bird that has me so excited? It is a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology article, the Belted Kingfisher is one of the few bird species in which the female is more colorful than the male.  In a couple of my photos you can see the blue and chestnut bands across the breast of the female kingfisher (the male has only the blue band).

The Belted Kingfishers eat mostly fish and you can see a fish in the mouth of the bird in a couple of my photos. I suspected that the kingfisher swallows the fish whole, but I was too far away to see it happen. The same Cornell Lab article states that the kingfisher often dives from a perch, catches a fish and returns to the perch. It then pounds the prey against the perch before swallowing it head first.

As I mentioned, these photos were heavily cropped and are not that great in quality, but I hope to be able to take some better ones in the future. In addition to the shots of the bird in the tree, I am including one in which I attempted to photograph the bird in flight.

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We had some sunny weather this past weekend and temperatures soared to the upper 40’s (about 8-9 degrees C). As I was walking through my local marshland park, I heard an approaching loud noise, and before I knew it the sky was full of blackbirds. I turned my camera skyward and snapped off a few shot.

From the photos, I can’t identify all of the types of birds, but there seems to be a mixture of Red-winged Blackbirds and grackles and maybe a few others. What I find most fascinating, though, is the variety of wing positions, sizes, and shapes that you can see. Unlike the geese that I see flying in beautiful V-shaped formations, these blackbirds seem to be utterly lacking in organization as they move from place to place.

blackbirds_blog

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On an overcast day last week, I came across this Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), silhouetted against an almost white sky. As I was focusing on him, he hopped to a slightly higher branch. He didn’t flap his wings at all, and I managed to catch him in mid-air.

hopping_blog

The image was underexposed and as I played with it to bring back some of the details, I realized it was already almost black and white. It was not a far stretch to desaturate the photo and play around in black and white. In fact, it was so much fun that I decided to work on a second photo of the same mockingbird.

mocking2_blog

I think I need to work on my techniques a little more, but I like the initial results of my dabbling in black and white.

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I generally have had difficulties getting good photos of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus), because of their size, speed, and skittishness. These little ducks also hang out in different bodies of water than the Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese that I regularly feature and the little streams where they can be found are pretty inaccessible and offer obstructed views of the water.

I did manage yesterday to finally get some decent photos of a Hooded Merganser couple together and separately. I ended up having to walk and down the banks of a stream repeatedly as the ducks changes directions every time they seemed to sense me (and eventually flew away) The first photo is probably my favorite, but I like all three of them.

Merganser(C)_blogMerganser(M)_blogMerganser(F)_blog

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Last month I featured a photo of an American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea), a species that is among the most visible and active during the cold, gray days of winter. I should probably caveat my statement about the sparrows being visible, because they are usually only partially visible as they root around in the tangled undergrowth and move quickly from place to place.

Occasionally I manage to get a somewhat clear shot of the American Tree Sparrow and I decided to share a couple of them this morning. The first one shows the sparrow in what I consider his most “natural” environment, mostly surrounded by vines and branches. I like the way he just poked out his head, permitting me to get a clear profile shot. The second image shows a sparrow at the top of cattail, a place where I rarely see them, which made it a little easier to get a clear shot.

Although I may not show photos of some of these smaller birds as often as I post photos of ducks, geese, and herons, I am attempting to photograph them almost every time that I am out shooting. I enjoy the challenge, even if my success rate is relatively low.

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As I was out shooting today, I was happy to encounter Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) a couple of times, They are the coolest-looking ducks in my opinion (although Wood Ducks are in the running too). It’s a real challenge to get good shots of them, because they are small, fast, and skittish. I would love to find myself in a position like Phil Lanoue, a fellow blogger and incredible photographer, who recently photographed a Hooded Merganser duck coming in for a landing next to him (check out his blog posting).

I’m still going through my photos, but this one jumped out at me. It shows two duck couples swimming in formation. What is unusual is that one of the pairs appears to me a male Mallard and a female Merganser. Oh, I know that some of you are thinking that such a relationship could never work, but true love always finds a way.

I can only imagine what their children will look like.

Mixed couple

Mixed couple (click for higher resolution view)

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A few days ago I featured a Black-crowned Night Heron in a posting called Heron of a different color. One of the most unusual things about that heron was the location where I found him—a man-made canal at the edge of the runways at Reagan National Airport, across the Potomac River from Washington D.C.

That day there was another heron, a Great Blue Heron, fishing just opposite the night heron. I thought that herons preferred clear water, to help them see their prey better, but this water did not look to be very clear.

The first photo shows part of the canal, with a concrete wall in the lower right and the peeling paint of a bridge support in the upper left. I captured the image as the heron was moving around a freshly-caught little fish in his beak prior to swallowing it.

Urban_GBH2_blog

In the second shot, the heron had just dipped his beak into the water. I like the concentric ripples in the water and the drops of water visibly dripping off of the heron’s beak. This may have been an unsuccessful strike or he may have decided to rinse out his mouth (to get rid of the fish taste?).

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In this final photo, the heron is crossing the canal. As you can see, the water is fairly deep. I particularly like the heron’s reflection and how the details of the long feathers in the front are visible.

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Six months ago, I didn’t realize that there were Great Blue Herons in the area in which I live, but now I seem to find them with some regularity. As long I continue to see them, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be seeing them again in this blog.

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Earlier this week I managed to photograph this male Mallard Duck as he secretly practiced the ancient art of Zen levitation. Note his closed eyes and relaxed concentration as his body is gently lifted out of the water. With sufficient practice, Zen master ducks can take off and land in this position,  like a helicopter or a Harrier jet.

Zen levitation

Zen levitation

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They came from the skies, invaders from the north in a tight military formation, seeking for openings to breach the defenses of their southern neighbor’s capital city.

Invaders

They sent out reconnaissance forces, in the air and on the waters of the Potomac River, collecting information and looking for a spot for a larger landing force.

Reconnaissance

The landing zone secure, a larger force arrived and thus began the naval blockade of Washington D.C. A declaration of war has not yet been made by either side.

Landing Force

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Earlier this week I posted a photograph of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I encountered while walking along the Potomac River here in Virginia. As I looked over the images from that day I came across another one that I really like.  The heron’s posture and his feathers make this image stand out for me, especially the way the feathers merge with his reflection in the water.

It’s probably clear to many readers that Great Blue Herons are among my favorite birds and that I never tire of finding opportunities to photograph them.

Great Blue Heron on Potomac River, Take 2

Great Blue Heron on Potomac River, Take 2

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Birders, I’m finding out, are an excitable breed. Sometimes they travel in flocks and sometimes alone. You can often identify them by their binoculars and spotting scopes and sometimes their cameras with enormous camouflaged lenses. They have special apps on their smartphones and frequently can be observed with their heads buried in one of the numerous identification guides they may be carrying.

I encountered a very excited member of this species as I passed by the bird feeders at my local marshland park this past weekend. He had his camera—with a large lens and flash—set up on a tripod pointed at the feeder.  Crouching in the shadows with a remote release in his hand, he was obviously waiting for something.

Before I could pose the obvious question, he asked me in a whisper if I also was there to photograph the Wilson’s Warbler. He must have mistaken me for one of his own kind, probably because I had a camera with a telephoto lens around my neck. I got the impression that this bird was rarely seen here and that word had circulated in birding circles of this find. Suddenly he snapped a few photos and went rushing off into the underbrush, saying that a fellow birders had alerted him that the bird had also been seen near one of the benches in the park. His closing words to me were that the warbler had been timed as coming back to the feeder every four to five minutes.

Caught up in the excitement, I waited near the feeder with my camera. The only problem was that I did not have a clue what a Wilson’s Warbler looked like. How was I going to photograph it if I couldn’t identify it? An assortment of Downy Woodpeckers and nuthatches arrived and departed at the feeder and I was beginning to despair that I would see this elusive bird, when all of the sudden I saw a flash of bright yellow. It was a small yellow bird, a welcome sight on a gray late December day, and over the course of the next fifteen minutes or so I attempted to take his picture.

When I arrived home, looked at my photographs on my computer, and did a little research, I realized that I had photographed a Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla or Cardellina pusilla). Judging from the range maps on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, Virginia is on the migratory path for these birds, which breed in the northern and western parts of North American and winter in the tropics.

I am not used to photographing birds at a feeder, but managed to get a few interesting shots of the Wilson’s Warbler. To avoid scaring off the bird, I was at a pretty good distance from the feeder,  so I had to crop the images quite a bit. I am quite content, though, that I have managed to capture some of the essence of this happy little bird.

Wilson's Warbler Walking

Wilson’s Warbler Walking

Wilson's Warbler Hovering

Wilson’s Warbler Hovering

Wilson's Warbler Feeding

Wilson’s Warbler Feeding

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In the past six months I have photographed Great Blue Herons and little Green Herons, but I had never encountered a black-and-white heron like the one that I saw yesterday.

He was about the size of a green heron, but the coloration was different. At first I wasn’t sure that it was a heron, but as I watched him, he perched on the bank and stared intently at the water, just like I had seen the Green Herons do.

Actually, I am exaggerating a little when I call it a “bank,” for the little heron was in what appeared to be a man-made canal at the edge of the runways at Reagan National Airport. The water was muddy and slow-moving, but there must have been some kind of sustenance in it, because there were also ducks nearby.

What kind of a bird was it? Judging from the photos that I took, it was a Black-crowned Night Heron (Nycticorax nycticorax). The scientific name, Nycticorax, means “night raven”, according to Wikipedia, and refers to this species’ nocturnal habits and harsh crow-like call. This “Night Heron” was actively hunting for food during the day, despite his name. Maybe he was hungry or the noise of the nearby jet engines was too loud for him to sleep. The Black-crowned Night Heron is the most widespread heron in the world and has a range that spans five continents, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

This photo of the heron shows part of the concrete wall of the canal in the background and the netting that was being used to contain the rocks. The lighting was not that great, but I think that you can see some of the details of this interesting-looking bird, including his red eyes.

I don’t know why, but every time that I look at this photo, it looks to me like the heron is wearing an ill-fitting toupee.

Black-crowned Night Heron

Black-crowned Night Heron

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This past weekend there was a thin layer of ice on many of the little ponds at my local marshland park. I thought the ice would deter the migrating ducks and geese from stopping in, but I was wrong. Perhaps they just needed a break from flying.

It seemed unusual enough that I took some photos of the ducks walking on the frozen water. The first two images are pretty straightforward, but I tried to be a little creative in framing the third image, as a female duck contemplates the vast expanse of the ice in front of her.

I even tried to capture a duck landing on the ice in the last photo. A female duck is making a soft landing as her male companion prepares to come in right behind her. It’s not really sharp, but it gives you the idea. I had previously thought that the ducks would aim to land in the water that had not yet frozen, but obviously the ducks know what they are doing.

I never know what I will find when I venture out into nature—it’s one of the reasons that I keep returning to the same places, in hopefeil expectation of new surprises.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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