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Archive for November, 2018

The colorful fall foliage has mostly disappeared and the natural world seems increasingly drab. At this time of the year, even tiny touches of bright colors are welcome, like the patches of yellow feathers on this Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

On many of the Yellow-rumped Warblers that I see, the yellow markings seem pale and faded. I was really struck, though, by the intensity and saturation of the yellow on this particular bird. Yellow is one of those colors that never fails to lift my spirits, even when delivered in tiny doses.

Yellow-rumped Warblers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend I spotted a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus) while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I tend to see this little diving waterbird only a few times a year and often it is so far from the shore that I am not able to capture a decent shot.

This grebe was within range and I watched it dive and resurface multiple times, hoping it would turn toward the sun so I could see its amazing looking red eyes trimmed with gold. Eventually my patience was rewarded and it turned in the proper direction.

The second image is merely a closer crop of the first one that gives you a closer look at those fantastic red eyes. Wow!

Horned Grebe

Horned Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I spotted this bright yellow warbler. Amazingly, it is actually called a Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia). There is sometimes a mismatch between the appearance of a bird and its official name, so I have learned that common sense does not always help in identifying a subject.

I was quite shocked when I first caught a glimpse of this little bird. The bright yellow on its body really stood out among the more muted tones of the fall foliage. I don’t know the normal dates for this warbler to be present, but I suspect that this is really late in the season for it to be around still.

We had several inches of snow this week and nighttime temperatures have dropped below the freezing levels. Most migratory birds, I suspect, have already passed through our area on the way to warmer spots.

 

Yellow Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted a small bird hanging from a branch, I zoomed in with my telephoto lens and discovered that it was a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata). I could also see that there were numerous clusters of poison ivy berries on the branch, so I waited to see if I could capture an image of the warbler grabbing a berry.

The warbler turned its head away from me when it pulled the berry from the cluster, but fortunately turned back in my direction with the berry still visible in its mouth. I was really happy to get the shot and the warbler seemed to be berry contented.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

yellow-rumped warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am not sure what is so special about the small pond in Kingstowne, a suburban development not far from where I live, but every year about this time a group of Ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) shows up and generally spends the winter there. There are not too many other local places where I find this particular duck species.

I know that Ring-necked ducks are diving ducks rather then dabbling ducks like Mallards and I wonder if the depth of the water in the pond is the determining factor in their decision. I am always happy each year to see the golden eyes, striped bills, and odd-shaped heads of these Ring-necked ducks.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus), the most colorful woodpeckers in our area, prefer to eat ants and other insects. Now that the weather had gotten colder and insects are scarcer, they have switched their diet to include more berries and seeds.

Earlier this week I spotted this male Northern Flicker (males have moustaches and females do not) foraging among the clumps of poison ivy berries in a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The photos give you a sense of the wonderful colors and patterns on the body of this incredible bird.

I didn’t get to see the insides of the wings of this particular flicker, but Northern Flickers on the East Coast have beautiful yellow-shafted feathers on the underside of their wings and tails. On the West Coast, Northern Flickers have red moustaches and red shafts on the underside of their wings and tails.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Leaves are now falling from the trees, making my walks though the woods increasingly crunchy. I feel like I am announcing my presence to all of the birds as I approach them. This little Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) lifted its head for a moment to check me out, then returned to its foraging among the fallen leaves, probably having decided that I did not represent a threat.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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