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Archive for January, 2019

It’s nesting time for eagles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On Monday I spotted this Bald Eagle couple in a nest that I know has been used the for at least the last two years. The tree is adjacent to one of the main trails at the refuge and is pretty prominent. Shortly after my sighting, I encountered one of the law enforcement officers who was putting up barriers to block access on the roads near the nesting site to protect them from human interference.

Each year they put up the barriers in slightly different locations. I am hoping that this year’s barriers are about the same distance from the nest as last year’s. At that distance, I was able to photograph the eagles from a distance that let me get photos about the same as the first image below and also monitor the eagles. I was fortunately last year to be able to even get some distant shots of the two eaglets after they were born. Perhaps I will be equally lucky this year.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Brown Creepers (Certhia americana) are tough to photograph as they spiral their way up tree trunks, so I was thrilled when I managed to get a mostly unobscured shot of one of these little birds on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

How small are Brown Creepers? According to information on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, Brown Creepers are 4.7 to 5.5 inches in length (12 to 14 cm) and weigh 0.2 to 0.3 ounces (5 to 10 grams). For the sake of comparison, the birds that I featured yesterday, Bald Eagles, are 27.9 to 37.8 inches in length (71 to 96 cm) and weigh 105.8 to 222.2 ounces (3000 to 6300 grams).

Brown Creeper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How willing are you to show others your unedited images? When I first started getting more serious about taking photos six and a half years ago, I used to go out shooting with my mentor Cindy Dyer. When we were finished, we would immediately download my images and she would go through them with me.

It is a very humbling experience to let someone see all of your shots, but in doing so Cindy was able to see what I was attempting to do and how well I was succeeding in things like composition and camera settings. Her view was that I should try to get it as correct as I could in camera and not rely on software to fix my problems.

Earlier today I posted an image of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in a blog posting that I titled Unexpected eagle. In response to the posting, Liz of Exploring Colour asked me how much I had cropped the image. I answered her verbally, but then realized it would be more effective to show her the uncropped image and then the cropped one that I used in this morning’s post.

I was shooting with a Tamron 150-600mm lens at 600mm for this shot and that was what allowed me to fill so much of the frame with the eagle. It is very unusual for me to be able to get that close to an eagle without spooking it. When I am uncertain of the amount of time that I will have with a subject, I will usually use the center focus point of my camera and I think that is what I did here.

My DSLR is getting a bit long in the tooth and doesn’t have as many megapixels as some of the really new ones, which means I can’t crop as severely as some other photographers can without degrading the quality of my images. I have no objections to cropping, though I usually try to keep it as minimal as possible.

Bald Eagle

Uncropped image

bald eagle

Cropped image

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I rounded a curve on a trail yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I looked up and realized there was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) right in front of me. I reacted pretty quickly and managed to capture this image before the eagle spotted me and flew away.

Most of the time when I have been in similar situations, the eagle has spotted me before I spotted him and reacted before I did. In this case, I suspect that the eagle was either distracted or was looking in another direction when I first came into view.

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With most birds the shape of their heads is a constant, but with Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), the shape can be wildly variable. I am not really sure how of the bird’s anatomy, but the “hood” appears to be pretty floppy, creating the effect of multiple “hairstyles.” Here are a few of the styles that a male Hooded Merganser was sporting during a brief period last week at a local suburban pond.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There was a sheet of ice in the center of the pond, but I had no idea how thin it was until a Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) that I was watching fell through the ice. I captured this little series of shots as the gull scrambled to regain its footing. Undeterred by its brief contact with the frigid water, the gull continued its solitary march across the ice, although it did seem to move a bit more slowly and cautiously.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How would you dry off after a bath without a towel or a blow dryer? You might have to try the approach of this male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus), who rose out of the water and flapped his wings to dry off and fluff his feathers. Afterwards, the little duck spent a considerable amount of time adjusting the feathers with his bill, presumably to maximize their insulation value on a cold winter day.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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