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Archive for October, 2018

I never got around to posting a shot of my final Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) of the 2018 season, so today seems an appropriate time to do so. I spotted this tattered beauty on 29 September at Ben Brenman Park, a small suburban park not far from where I live in Alexandria, Virginia.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes it is better to be lucky and to react quickly than it is to be skillful and systematic. As I was tracking a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) recently at Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge, it suddenly took off.

In and of itself, this was not unusual, because these small birds are in almost constant motion, weaving their way in and out of the vegetation. Instinctively I snapped off a short burst of shots. I thought I had missed the shot and the empty frames at the end of the sequence indeed showed that I was a bit late in reacting.

However, one of the initial shots was this fun image that shows the warbler raising its wings to prepare to provide propulsion while its feet are still attached to the branch. I was shooting in aperture-preferred mode, which meant that the camera chose the shutter speed. There was enough light that the shutter speed of 1/1600 froze most, but not all, of the bird’s motion.

Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to take off into the air like this little warbler, free to fly off to new destinations in search of new adventures?

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I read the newspaper this morning before I looked at the photos I took yesterday. This image of a Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seems to reflect my innermost feelings at this moment about the senseless slaughter of innocents in Pittsburgh.

My heart goes out to all of those mourning their losses.

Mourning Dove

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s hard to ignore a red head. No matter whether it is on a human or a woodpecker, it simply attracts your eyes. I spotted this handsome male Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

You might wonder why this woodpecker is not called a Red-headed Woodpecker. That name is reserved for a woodpecker that has a completely red head. For comparison purposes, I am attaching an image from 2016 of a Red-headed Woodpecker. If you’d like to see more shots of the Red-headed Woodpecker, check out the 2016 posting Red-headed Woodpecker in late January.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There are not a great number of dragonflies still around in my area, and those that are present can sometimes be really hard to spot. That was definitely the case with this beautiful female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that blended in almost perfectly with the fallen leaves and other debris on the ground at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past week.

I initially spotted this dragonfly as she was flying and watched her land, but I couldn’t see her at first. Once I saw where she was, I had to back off, because I was shooting with my 150-600mm zoom lens that has a minimum focusing distance of almost 9 feet (270 cm).

Autumn Meadowhawks are only 1.2 to 1.4 inches in length (30 to 35mm) and spotting the tiny dragonfly from 9 feet away was a challenge to me and to the focusing system on my camera. I think that I was pretty much at the extreme end of the resolving power of the lens when I took this shot, i.e. it is tough to capture a subject with any detail that is much smaller than this.

I have already had to scrape frost from my windshield a couple of times this autumn, so the number of insects will inevitably continue to decrease. Past experience has shown me, however, that Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies are hardy survivors and I expect to continue to see them for another month or so.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If its head feathers were not so white, I probably would not have spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) amidst all of the leaves still on the trees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week.

Bald Eagle

A short while later, I spotted a second bald eagle, possibly the same one, in a different leafy perch near the top of some trees.

Bald Eagle

It is rare for me to have the chance to photograph a perched bald eagle at what qualifies as close up (though I was shooting at the long end of my 150-600mm lens) and I was incredibly thankful to have two separate opportunities to do so in a single day.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The brightly colored summer butterflies have mostly disappeared, but Common Buckeye butterflies (Junonia coenia) still accompany me in great numbers as I walk the trails of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The subdued, earthy shades of this beautiful butterfly seem a perfect match for the autumn season.

Common Buckeye

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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