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Archive for March, 2016

The winds were blowing hard at Huntley Meadows Park on Monday and I watched as a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) struggled to stay on its perch high in a tree. The determined little bird kept changing wing positions in an effort to maintain stability.

Eventually, however, the swallow lost the battle and appeared to be blown off of its perch.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have moved into at least some of the nesting boxes at Huntley Meadows Park as they get ready for babies. The accommodations are spacious and comfortable, but the views are undoubtedly much better from high atop the trees.

Strange as it sounds, it is unusual for me to get shots of Tree Swallows in a tree. Normally they are zooming about in the air when I see them and it seems rare for them to stop for a rest. They seem to weigh almost nothing, so they can perch on the flimsiest of branches at the very top of trees. As I learned earlier this week when observing them, however, those perches can become pretty precarious when the wind starts to blow, but that’s a story for another posting.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The early morning light was a beautiful golden orange yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park and I was thrilled when I spotted a pair of Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) and a Bufflehead couple (Bucephala albeola), two species of water birds that I rarely have encountered there.

I took these shots from a pretty good distance away, so I initially wasn’t sure what kind of birds they were. WhenI took a quick look afterwards at a couple of the images, the shapes and markings of these birds were so different from the usual birds that I knew I needed to do a little research. Fortunately they were not hard to find in my identification guide.

Somehow I can’t help but smile when I speak aloud the names of these two birds—they seem a little silly and slightly pejorative, though not overtly rude. I can imagine a grizzled cowboy confronting another and saying, “You’re nothing but a pied-billed grebe,” and the other cowboy responding, “And, you, you’re a bufflehead.” (My favorite bird name that makes a great cowboy cuss word, though, has to be the yellow-bellied sapsucker.)

Pied-billed Grebe

Bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The single American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus) inched closer and closer to the couple, looking like he wanted to cut in. Growing impatent, he decided that the only way to dislodge his rival was to take action.  With a big splash, he jumped right onto the other male’s back.

Was the maneuver successful? Well, I think he separated the couple, but I couldn’t tell which of the males ended up with the female.

American Toad

American Toad

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As the early morning sun reflected on the water in pale shades of pink and blue last Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, this American Coot (Fulica americana) looked unusually happy as he foraged in the vegetation, occasionally glancing in my direction with a smile on his face.

It must have been a young coot—we all know that old coots are crotchety and don’t like to be bothered by others.

American Coot

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Early yesterday morning, a fellow photographer pointed out some foraging water birds in the distance and I was fortunate to get a shot of some Blue-winged Teal ducks (Anas discors), a species of small dabbling ducks that I see only rarely. I love the bold white facial markings of the male Blue-winged Teal during breeding season.

One of the big advantages of going out early in the morning to take photos is that I am able to see some birds and animals that are more concealed later in the day. Blue-winged Teals, for example, tend to forage at the edges of ponds, where they are almost impossible to spot, but early in the morning they were in relatively open water. The downside, of course, is that there is not much light so early in the day, so it’s hard to get images with sharp focus and good contrast.

We are definitely in bird migration season in my area and it’s always exciting to see what birds will show up next. The trees are starting to put out buds now and soon there will be leaves, which will made it more and more difficult to the birds when I hear them singing—I have more of a fighting chance of getting a shot when the birds are in the water.

 

Blue-winged Teal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In a field full of cattails, this male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) at Huntley Meadows Park chose to perch on a man-made structure, a weather-monitoring station.

I really like the juxtaposition of the natural and industrial elements in the simple composition of this image and its limited palette of colors.

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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