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Archive for March, 2018

Perched high in a distant tree, this first Great Egret (Ardea alba) of the spring made an appearance for me on Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love this egret’s long feathery breeding plumage.

My only regret is that I was unable to get a closer look at this beautiful bird. The egret seemed content to remain in its standing perch for a long time—perhaps it was tired from an extended migration flight. I don’t yet know if this was merely a resting spot for the egret or if it will remain in our area.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Its heavy weight and non-waterproof feathers cause the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) to float really low on the water. The cormorant that I spotted yesterday in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, however, was even lower than usual, with most of its body almost completely submerged.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This week I visited the bird banding station at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This is a very small operation, run almost entirely by volunteers, that bands mostly smaller songbirds.

While I was there, they captured a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum). Both birds were weighed, measured, and examined. The tiny Carolina Wren already had a band from a previous year and the much larger Thrasher got a band. The bands come in all sizes—it was amazing to see the range of sizes.

When it was time to release the wren, one of the volunteers handed her over to me. It was such an amazing feeling to hold the little bird in my hand and then to slowly release my grip and feel the tiny points of her little feet press down on my palm as she took to the air.

Click this link For more info on the banding station including hours of operation.

Carolina Wren

Carolina Wren

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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An enthusiastic birder who I encountered on a trail earlier this week excitedly informed me that she had just seen a pipit. Before I had a chance to respond, she described for me the general area where she had seen the bird. I am pretty familiar by now with Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I knew that I would have no trouble finding the spot. I thanked her and we continued on our separate ways.

It suddenly dawned on me that I had no idea what a pipit looked like or the kind of habitat that it preferred—all I had was a name and a general location. When I arrived at the location, the intersection of two trails, I started looking around for birds. I spotted some familiar species and then started to watch one particular bird that caught my eye. At first I thought it was a sparrow, but it seemed to act differently from other sparrows, including wagging its tail from time to time.

The unknown bird eventually flew into a small tree and I was able to capture some unobstructed images of it. Had I somehow managed to find a pipit? I posted a photo on a Facebook bird identification and folks there confirmed that my bird was in fact an American Pipit (Anthus rubescens).

It’s nice to be lucky sometimes when it comes to photographing wildlife.

American Pipit

American Pipit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

 

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Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I captured this shot of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) as it assumed a yoga-style pose and saluted the early morning sun.

In many ways, this is one of my favorite styles of wildlife photography. I find an ordinary subject, in this case the robin, and try to capture it in a way that highlights its beauty.

Of course, “ordinary” is a relative term and I have become more and more conscious of the fact that subjects that are common in one area may well be considered rare and exotic in another location. That heightened consciousness also caused me to identify this as an “American Robin,” because I have learned that Europeans have an equally beautiful, but different, bird that is also called a “robin.”

Beauty comes in many forms and one of my goals as a photographer is to capture a sense of that beauty and to share it with others. Ideally, it will cause some of those viewers to pause and wonder how it is that they did not notice that beauty themselves.Perhaps the next time they are out in nature, they will linger a little longer and look a bit closer and find that beauty revealed to them as well.

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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I was a bit shocked and absolutely thrilled this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot my first butterfly of the year, which appears to be the appropriately named Spring Azure butterfly (Celastrina ladon). We have had some slightly warmer and sunny days recently, but the temperatures continue to be below freezing most nights.

When I encountered the tiny butterfly, I had my trusty Tamron 150-600mm lens on my camera, which is not exactly the optimal lens for this kind of subject. Life is often about making do with what you have, so I extended the lens to its full length, steadied myself as well as I could, and focused manually on the butterfly as it perched on some vegetation, a few inches above the ground.

It won’t be long before I see some bigger and more colorful butterflies, but this one is really special to me as the first butterfly of the spring.

Spring Azure

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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All wild creatures seem especially beautiful in the early morning light, like this cute little muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) that I spotted last week in one of the small ponds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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