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Archive for October, 2019

Perhaps it is because today is Halloween or because the overcast sky on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge caused everything to be shadowy and monochromatic. Whatever the reason, the shape of this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) reminds me of a bat, especially in the first image.

I captured these two images as the cormorant was preparing to take off from the water. Unlike some birds that rise straight up, a cormorant has to bounce across the water to gain enough momentum for liftoff, which is why you can see the splashes of water behind the cormorant in both shots.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I heard the loud call of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) yesterday I had to turn back in the direction I had come on a trail at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Had I walked underneath the tree in which the eagle was perched? Had it just flown in?

I did not ponder these questions for long, because it was abundantly clear that the eagle was really close and I wanted to try to get a shot. I backtracked slowly and caught sight of the eagle just after I had passed it—it was almost hidden by the foliage. I didn’t want to risk spooking the eagle, so I stayed in place and captured the first image below. Apparently I am not as stealthy as I think, for the image suggests that the eagle was monitoring my every step.

I grew a little bolder and moved to a position from which I had a clearer view of the eagle. Several times the eagle seemed to glance down at me and flex its talons a bit in a not-too-subtle reminder that it was merely tolerating my presence. After a short while, the eagle tired of our little game and took off without warning.

As you can probably tell from the images, yesterday was an overcast day. Although I really like the brilliant blue sky that served as a backdrop to some shots of a bald eagle earlier this month, I think that the clouds diffused the light and allowed me to capture more details in the white head feathers than when the sun was shining brightly.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some experienced birders can identify a bird by its call, but, except with a few common birds, I am not one of the them. I need to be able to see a bird to identify it, and that is a challenge at this time of the year, when most of the leaves are still on the trees.

Last week as I was exploring a trail at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I heard a bird singing almost directly in front of me. As my eyes searched among the leaves, the bird kept on singing and eventually I located it. I could see that it was a sparrow and often that is an identification problem for me, because sparrows fall into the group of little brown birds that all basically look the same. However, in this case, I could see a dark spot on the breast of the bird, which usually means that it is a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia).

I was happy to be able to capture a few shots of the little Song Sparrow before it flew away. If you are curious about the sound of the Song Sparrow’s song, check out this page on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, where there are several audio and video clips of this birds songs and calls.

 

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many people associate the color red with autumn because of the brilliant foliage that the season brings forth in places like New England. For me, though, red is an autumn color because of the bright red dragonflies that remain active in October and November (and sometimes even later in the year).

Yes, I continue to chase dragonflies as we move deeper and deeper into autumn. I spotted this handsome male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly(Sympetrum vicinum) last Wednesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge in nearby Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Many of the Autumn Meadowhawks that I saw earlier this fall were females, which have a much more subdued coloration. There is nothing subdued about this male, which made it pretty easy to spot him, especially when he perched on a small stump at knee-level. You do have to pay attention to find them, however, because Autumn Meadowhawks are only about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the time when I see or hear Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus), they are hidden in the undergrowth. I was thrilled therefore last Monday to be able to capture an image of this one in the open at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I generally think of Carolina Wrens as cheerful, energetic little birds and I like the way that this simple shot captures a bit of that personality.

 

Carolina Wren

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A sharp-eyed fellow photographer spotted this Northern Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus) at eye level in a tree at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge this past Wednesday as we both were searching for dragonflies. The sun was shining brightly and I suspect the snake was basking in its warm on a relatively cool day. I managed to capture a few shots of this colorful snake before it silently slithered away.

Northern Rough Green Snake

Northern Rough Green Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have observed woodpeckers in action numerous times, but have rarely seen one capture an insect. On Monday, however, I managed to capture this image of a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with a tasty morsel of some sort.

According the the welcomewildlife.com website, Red-bellied Woodpeckers are one of three woodpecker species in the United States known for storing their food and protecting their stash. I suspect that the insect in the photo was consumed on the spot, but I have often seen Red-bellied Woodpeckers with acorns in their mouths that they then jammed into a crack in a tree for future consumption. According to the aforementioned website these trees, known as granaries, may hold up to fifty thousand acorns. (In case you are curious about the other woodpeckers that exhibit similar behavior, they are the Red-headed Woodpecker, a species that is present where I live, and the Acorn Woodpecker, which I believe is found in the western part of the United States.)

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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