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Archive for October, 2018

When the lighting is perfect, the blue and orange colors of an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) are incredibly saturated and beautiful. Alas, lighting conditions were far from ideal when I spotted three bluebirds earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the bluebirds were elusive.

I was able to capture some images that give at least a hint of the beauty of the bluebirds, a species that I am always happy to see.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this turtle from a distance earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was so elevated that I thought it was standing on a log or a rock. It was only when I zoomed in on this Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) that I realized that it was standing on the back of another turtle. Yikes!

You have to be pretty old—probably about my age—if you remember the song whose name I used as the title for this blog posting. No, it was not sung by The Turtles.

Eastern Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this little family of Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday. The adult seemed bothered by something and initIally cried out before finally taking off, leaving the younger cormorants temporarily by themselves.

I am not actually completely certain that this is a family unit, but I think it is a pretty safe assumption when I look at the way that the smaller ones are paying attention to the larger cormorant. It also appears to me that the the adult was potentially reacting to a perceived threat and flew off as a way of protecting the younger ones.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) are probably the most numerous warblers in our area. You can often seem them in constant motion flitting about high in the trees. They rarely stay still for more than a moment and it is unusual to get a clear view of the entire body of one.

I have spent a lot of time this week patiently tracking these little birds at several locations at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife  Refuge and managed to get a few shots that I really like. The first image shows a Yellow-rumped Warbler perched at ground level on the trunk of a tree that had fallen across the road and had been cut up and moved to the side. I particularly like that it shows the tiny feet of this bird that is about 5 inches in length (13 cm). The little yellow streaks just under the wings help to identify this as a Yellow-rumped Warbler.

The second image, possibly my favorite, shows the yellow patch on the bird’s rump that is responsible for its name. The intense focus of the warbler as it looks upward help to give this image a dynamic element that is absent in many images of perched birds.

The final image has a studio-like feel to it, because the sky was completely overcast and turned white as I was processing the image. I had tracked the bird when it entered into the vegetation and managed to get this shot when it finally popped up at the top of the tree and stretched its neck to look around.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch fish so big that I was sure that they would not be able to swallow them, but I don’t think I have ever seen one catch fish as small as the ones this heron was pulling out of the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The Great Blue Heron was standing on the shore rather than in deeper water. As I watched,  the heron periodically would catch and swallow one of these tiny fish and then return to scanning the water. It struck me that it would need to catch a lot of these little fish to make a satisfying meal.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the autumn, various species of warblers fly through our area as they migrate south and I spent a large amount of time this past Friday trying to get shots of what I believe were mostly Palm Warblers (Setophaga palmarum). Warblers in general are tough for me to identify, even in the spring when the colors and patterns on the birds are bright and distinctive. At this time of the year, however, all of the colors and patterns are muted and many species look really similar to me.

Palm Warblers are a little easier to spot than most warblers to identify, because they often can be found pecking away on the ground rather than in trees, as you can see in the second shot. Although I usually strive to get unobstructed shots of my subject, the first image is my clear favorite of the three in this posting. The branch in the foreground that partially blocks the bird helps in the composition, I think, and reinforces the sense of the elusiveness and caution of this little warbler.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am always shocked by the length of the tails of Yellow-billed Cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus), like this one that I spotted on Friday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is pretty rare for me to get an almost unobstructed view of a cuckoo—usually they either fly away as I approach or are hidden in the foliage.

In the second shot, the cuckoo had shifted its body and the the new perspective has the effect of making the tail look a bit shorter and the body a bit chunkier.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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