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Archive for January, 2020

Why do eagles scream? Most of the times when I hear a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) screaming, the eagle is by itself and appears to be signaling its location to its mate. This past Monday, though, I spotted a Bald Eagle couple perched together on an osprey nesting site not far from their nesting location. The eagles seem to enjoy hanging out at this location that gives them a clear view of the tree in which the nest is located.

I am posting this little sequence of photos out of order, because the first image best tells a story, although it is not completely clear what that story is. The female eagle, the larger of the two, is on the lower level and seems to be screaming at her mate who is perched higher on the pole. A moment earlier they were both on the lower level and both eagles appeared to be calm, as you can see in the second image. Then the male hopped to the higher level and the female began to scream.

In the final shot, the female has turned away and the male is now screaming. Was he responding to his mate or was he screaming at something else? I guess you can connect the dots of this story in any way that you like.

As I was doing a little research on screaming eagles I came across a fascinating National Public Radio (NPR) article entitled “Bald Eagle: A Mighty Symbol, With A Not-So-Mighty Voice.” The article posits that most people have an incorrect idea of what an eagle scream sounds like and blames Hollywood. According to bird expert Connie Stanger, “Unfortunately for the bald eagle, it has like a little cackling type of a laugh that’s not really very impressive for the bird” and in most movies the sound of the eagle is actually dubbed by a Red-tailed Hawk. (I imagine a hawk in a sound booth with headphones dubbing over the eagle’s calls.)

If you click on the link above and then click the button on the website called “57 Second Listen,” you can hear a short clip of the NPR broadcast that includes both the call of the eagle and that of the Red-tailed Hawk. As for the question in the posting’s title, I personally like to think that it was a conversation, but acknowledge the distinct possibility that they were individually responding to a commonly-perceived threat. I think that my interpretation allows for more creative possibilities as I try to imagine the domestic conversations of a Bald Eagle couple. 🙂

bald eagles

bald eagles

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are rather strange looking birds. Their heads are unusually large and blocky, their bills are short and thick, and they have virtually no tails. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes them with these words, “The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.”

Most of the times when I see a Pied-billed Grebe it is either disappearing from sight as it dives for food or it is swimming away from me. I captured this shot last week as the grebe was in fact swimming away, but paused for a moment and looked to the side. Yes, this is the notorious “butt shot” that we photographers try to avoid, but I like the way that you can see some of the details of the birds eye and the water beaded up on its back and decided to post it anyways.

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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From a distance, I could see that a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was in the nest on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As I have noted in the past, the tree with the nest is right beside one of the trails at the refuge. Normally I approach the nest from the same direction and an eagle can see me from a pretty good distance away because the trail runs through an open field.

This time, however, I was walking from the opposite direction and the tree trunk blocked my view of the eagle as I got closer, which meant that it probably kept the eagle from spotting me. The first shot shows my initial look at the eagle once it came into view as I approached from the right. At this point, I think the eagle was unaware of my presence and I tried to remain as stealthy as I could.

I moved forward a bit more and continued to observe the eagle, completely in awe its beauty and majesty. My peaceful reverie was broken when I head the sounds of people approaching. Perhaps they were speaking at a normal conversational level, but it sure sounded loud to me. In the second shot, the eagle was looking in the direction of the noise. Had it heard the others? In the final shot, the eagle seemed to be looking right at me, having finally become aware of the fact that I was there.

The eagle did not take off immediately, but a short while later it flew off to a nearby osprey nesting platform. Later in the day I observed two eagles on the platform, which seems to be a favorite perching spot for the eagle couple.

It won’t be long before the refuge closes the trail from which I was taking the photos. I am wishing the best for the eagle couple as they move into nesting season. Last year there was one eaglet in this nest, I believe, and the year before there were two.

Bald Eagle

bald eagle

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I captured some images of a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura), providing a pretext for me to repeat a joke I recently came across—A vulture boards a plane carrying two dead raccoons. The flight attendant says, “I am sorry, sir, but we only allow each passenger one carrion.” I confess that I am addicted to bad jokes, especially puns and word plays, and I have been dying to photograph a vulture ever since I read that joke.

I initially spotted the vulture while it was flying and captured several shots, shown below, as it was landing in a tree. Generally I prefer action shots like those ones and I do like the dynamic quality of those poses. In this case, however, I really like the formal, portrait-like pose the vulture assumed as I was taking the first shot below. Somehow, at least in my mind, it lends a kind of dignity and beauty to this bird that most people do not see because they cannot get past the fact that vultures feed on carrion.

Turkey Vulture

 

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From a distance, male Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) generally look like they are black and white.  Last Friday, however, the lighting was coming from a good direction and revealed some of the beautiful green and purple iridescent feathers on this bird’s head. The second image shows a Bufflehead couple and shows the dramatic difference in appearance between the male and female of this species.

Bufflehead

Buffleheads

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Friday I spotted a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), one of the birds that is present in my area only during the winter months. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology there is a huge range of geographic variation in the Dark-eyed Junco, with five variants of the bird considered separate species until the 1980s.

The bird in the photo below is a “slate-colored junco,” the only type that I have ever seen. Variants found in other parts of the United States, however, may have white wings, pink sides, red backs, gray heads, or a dark hood. Yikes—bird identification is hard enough under normal circumstances, but with that much variation, it seems almost impossible.

Dark-eyed Junco

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this Bald Eagle last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle was initially mostly hidden by branches, but I managed to get a clear shot of its head when it leaned forward and started to take off.

This month I have been particularly fortunate in finding eagles and in getting some pretty good shots of them. It is almost time for them to be nesting and before long portions of the refuge will be closed to keep the eagles from being disturbed. In the mean time I continue to walk the trails, trying to stay alert as I scan the trees and the skies for the possible presence of one of these majestic birds.

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The lighting was so beautiful last week when I spotted this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I did not mind that there was a branch partially blocking my view of the bird. I especially love the way that the lighting highlights the bright yellow markings in the area between the eye and the bill known technically as the lores.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I am photographing wildlife, I have to make decision about composition really quickly. I generally have only a few options to capture the subject and then I try to work with what I have gotten when I do post-processing. With a landscape, though, I have the chance to think more deliberately about composition while taking the shot and not merely afterwards.

Last week when I arrived early in the morning at Prince William Forest Park, fog was hanging over a small pond. As I walked around it, I decided to try to capture the scene in several different ways. In my first attempt, I placed the fence in the lower portion of the image to emphasize the height of the trees. In the second shot, I placed the fence in the upper portion of the image to focus more attention on the reflection. In the final shot I switched to landscape mode and included more of the tree to the right.

Which one works best? None of these shots will win a prize, but for me the first one does the best job of capturing what I was seeing and feeling at the moment. I think it is a valuable exercise, though, for me to explore a number of possibilities when taking a shot, because it allows me to think of creative possibilities as I change perspectives rather than adopt a “one and done” mentality.

fog

fog

fog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Most of the times when I see Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, they are foraging in the open along one of the trails. As I approach, they usually disappear deep into the vegetation.

At this time of the year, though, I can see a lot farther into the woods than when there are leaves on the trees. Occasionally now I can get a glimpse of the turkeys moving about in the distance. I was happy to capture these head shots last week of one of the local turkeys as it popped in and out of view.

wild turkey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Thursday I went for a hike in Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. According to Wikipedia, the park is the largest protected natural area in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area at over 16,000 acres (65 square kilometers) and has over 37 miles (60 km) of hiking trails.

One of my favorite trails runs along Quantico Creek, a swiftly moving creek that flows through a large part of the eastern portion of the park. The trail, which runs roughly parallel to the creek, is hilly in places and the creek is sometimes not visible, but I can always hear the therapeutic sound of the flowing water.

The first two photos show waterfalls just below a dammed section of the creek—there is a small pond/lake just upstream. The smaller waterfall in the second photo is just to the right of the one shown in the first photo.

Parts of most of the trails, including the creekside one, were covered with wet fallen leaves, but occasionally I would come across narrow bridges that helped me cross marshy areas with relatively dry feet, like the one in the final photo.

I did not see much wildlife during my hike, but that was ok—the solitary walk in the forest was its own reward.

waterfall

waterfall

path in the woods

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was gray and overcast early last Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I captured this shot of a small flock of Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) flying away from me. Normally “butt shots” are undesirable, but in this case I like the almost abstract patterns of the birds’ wings and their reflections in the water.

Although this looks like I converted the image to black and white, this is more or less what it looked like color-wise straight out of the camera. No matter how I played with saturation, I could not bring out any colors in the shot. I think, though, that the monochromatic look of the final image is a pretty good match for the mood of that moment.

bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ever since I was a kid, I have always enjoyed the game “one of these things is not like the others.” Can you spot the juvenile Snow Goose (Anser caerulescens) in this photo of geese that I observed last Thursday at Occoquan Regional Park?

Generally the only geese that I ever see in my area are Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). They are so numerous that many people consider them to be a nuisance. I have learned from experience that birds intermingle when floating on the water, so I was carefully scanning the flock of Canada Geese when I spotted this anomaly. At first I thought it might be some kind of duck, because it seemed so much smaller than the other birds. After some research and  assistance from more experienced birdwatchers, however, I have determined that it is a Snow Goose, a species that I have never photographed before.

The song “One of these things is not like the others” used to pop up regularly on the Sesame Street television program with all kinds of different items. When I looked on YouTube, I came across a delightful video with the song that features with food items and a mitten and dates back to 1969. Click on this link to watch the short video that concludes with the provocative question, “Did you ever try eating a mitten?”

Snow Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This female Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) was backlit on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I had to overexpose the image, which made the cloudy sky turn almost pure white. I really like the effect, which is reminiscent of a high-key portrait taken in a studio setting. One of my Facebook friends commented that the shot looked to him “like an old time copper image.”

My initial thought was to crop the image in a landscape format, as in the second image below, because I liked the graceful curve of the main branch. Upon further reflection, I decided that maybe there was literally too much white space in the image and opted for the square format in the first shot below, which gives a bit more attention to the main subject. What do you think? Do you have a preference for one version over the other?

red-winged blackbird

red-winged blackbird

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I never get tired of photographing Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Here is a shot of one taking off from a tree last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. My view was partially obscured by branches, but I somehow managed to keep the eagle’s eye in focus.

I never got a fully clear shot of the eagle when it was perched, so it was a happy surprise that I was able to capture this image when it started to take off. I think the eagle’s pose here is more dynamic than any shot I could have taken when it was in a static position, so it is not a huge loss that I have no perched pose.

bald eagle takeoff

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I generally do not like to take “traditional” selfies. When I do photograph myself, I prefer shots like these ones that I captured early in the morning last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When the sun is low, the shadows are so elongated, as in the first photo, that they remind me of Alberto Giacometti’s famous statue “L’homme qui marche” (The Walking Man).

selfie

selfie

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How much gear do you carry with you when you go out to take photographs? Each time that I get ready, it is like planning for a trip. More gear means that I will be more ready for the full range of situations that I may encounter, but more gear means more weight. So what do I do? I compromise. During the winter, I tend to have my 150-600mm zoom lens on my DSLR and during the summer I use a 180mm macro lens as my primary lens. I will usually have a second lens in my camera bag, often a 24-105mm lens, but often it goes unused.

For greater flexibility I usually carry my trusty Canon SX50 super zoom camera. It is lightweight and versatile, with an equivalent field of view of 24-1200mm, a 50X zoom. Like me, it is a bit old and slow and has some limitations, but it lets me capture wide-angle shots in the winter and distance shots in the summer without having to change lenses on my primary camera in the field. It also lets me shoot in RAW,  my preferred format for capturing images.

On the 2nd of January, I was chasing the sunrise. I knew that sunrise was scheduled for around seven o’clock, which is the time when the electrically-controlled gates of my favorite wildlife refuge slide open. I was a little late leaving home and as I drove south on the interstate, I could see the sky turning a beautiful shade of red. As I entered the refuge, I could see that the colors were starting to fade. As soon as I got to the parking lot, I grabbed my SX50 and captured the second shot below with the engine still running and the car door open.

I turned off the engine, grabbed my gear, and headed for the water. Along the way I stopped to capture the third shot below, a view across a frosty field. When I finally got to the water, I could see that the sun had already risen. However, the clouds reflected some of the brightness of the sun and added drama to the scene and I was able to capture the wide view that you see in the first photo below with the SX50.

In case you wonder why I did not post these photos earlier, I simply forgot to upload them immediately from my “second” camera. It was a nice surprise for me when I looked at them on my computer screen for the first time yesterday. The images validated for me the value of carrying this camera with me for its multi-purpose capability, a kind of photographic Swiss Army knife.

 

sunrise

sunrise

sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last month I received a curious question from Cindy Dyer, my good friend and photography mentor—she asked me if I had any good winter images. In addition to being an amazing photographer, Cindy works as a graphic designer. The editor with whom she works on Hearing Life Magazine, the official magazine of the Hearing Loss Association of America, wanted a winter-related full-page original image for the January/February 2020 issue.

She knew that she did not have many snow images, but figured that I would. I gave her some options, and she chose this shot of a male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I photographed in my neighborhood after a snowstorm last January. The editor loved this image as cardinals hold special significance to her—her late sister loved them—and added the quotation from Vincent Van Gogh, one of my favorite artists.

I was curious about the context of the quotation and learned from vangoghletters.org that it was from a letter that Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother Theo from London in January 1874. Here is the paragraph of that letter than contains the quotation, “Things are going well for me here, I have a wonderful home and it’s a great pleasure for me to observe London and the English way of life and the English themselves, and I also have nature and art and poetry, and if that isn’t enough, what is?” As I read the letter in its entirety, I was equally struck by Van Gogh’s commentary about nature and art, “Always continue walking a lot and loving nature, for that’s the real way to learn to understand art better and better. Painters understand nature and love it, and teach us to see.”

I am always thrilled to see one of my images in print and I was excited yesterday when I finally received a printed copy of the magazine. One of my goals this year is to have more of my photos printed—I have a few of my favorites hanging on the wall already, but still have room for more of them. If you are interested in seeing the original posting in which this image appeared, click on this link to Cardinal in the snow.

 

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I am normally a little unhappy when I cut off the tip of a bird’s wings when taking its photo, the intensity of this Bald Eagle(Haliaeetus leucocephalus) more than made up for any sense of disappointment and I am actually thrilled with these shots. I was standing close only a short distance from the eagle last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was concentrating on photographing it while it was perched. When the eagle suddenly extended its wings and took off without warning, my immediate reaction was to concentrate on tracking it rather than worry about pulling back on the zoom and in all three of these photos I clipped the wings.

I decided to present the photos in reverse chronological order, because the first image is my favorite. If you look closely you will note that the eagle snagged a few spiky balls from the sweet gum tree in which it was perched, sending them flying and leaving one stuck in its tucked-in talons. You can also see how the eagle generated its initial lift with a flap of its impressive wings in the final photo and then pushed off with its talons to clear the branches in the penultimate image.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) roosting low in a tree at the edge of a trail last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was initially happy to be able to get a shot. As I got closer, though, I was saddened to see that the turkey appeared to be injured or more likely suffering from a disease.

I was initially alerted to the presence of a ranger who drove past me heading in the opposite direction in a truck. I was sure that the passing of the truck had spooked the turkey and was surprised to see that it was still there as I silently moved closer. I noted small movements by the turkey, so I could tell that it was alive, but the extent of the damage to its face made me wonder if it could see. I quickly took the first two shots and departed.

When I circled back an hour later, I could see that the turkey had changed positions, but was still perched in the tree. I could now see that the damage to the other side of its face was equally severe. I worry about the survivability of this injured/sick wild turkey.

 

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The colors in the sky were soft and beautiful early last Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The reflections in the water were equally beautiful. What a wonderful way to start the day.

sunrise at Occoquan Bay

sunrise at Occoquan Bay

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The last few days I have been struck again by some fundamental differences between birders and photographers. In simple (and overgeneralized) terms, birders tend to be more scientific in their approach and photographers tend to be more artistic.

Most birders keep detailed records of what they see when they go out for a walk and have life lists of species they have observed. They know about the ranges of each species for each season and can often recognize a bird from its call. Any sighting of a bird “counts,” even if the bird is far away and a photo of it is tiny and blurry, though a photo is not an absolute requirement.

Many photographers like me don’t keep track of all that they see—if I am not able to get a shot of a bird that I spot, preferably a good shot, I mentally erase the sighting from my memory. I have not studied and internalized information about most bird species and therefore have trouble determining if a species is rare or common. That distinction does not really matter to me as I am generally more focused on getting a well-composed shot in decent light with an interesting pose, ideally a dynamic pose. I was therefore excited by the sequence of shots that I captured of a bald eagle taking off when I did a photowalk on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and immediately posted those images in posting on Friday morning.

I also took some shots of a small yellow bird on the icy surface of a small pond. I really did not know what it was, but suspected that it was some kind of warbler. I posted a photo on the Virginia Birding Facebook forum and asked for help. The response that I got from birders was immediate and excited—I was asked to document the sighting in eBird, an online database of bird observations with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance, and to repost the photo in the Virginia Notable Bird Sightings Facebook forum.

Why were the birders so excited? The bird, I was told, is a Nashville Warbler (Leiothlypis ruficapilla). According to the moderator of the Virginia Notable Bird Sightings forum, current records for Nashville Warblers are “very sparse on the East Coast. There are no other winter records for the species currently input to eBird at Occoquan NWR so this is quite remarkable.”  Apparently this is really late in the season to see a species that should have migrated through our area quite a while ago.

As for me, I am happy with the way I was able to capture the warbler’s reflection on the ice and the natural framing of the subject by the vegetation. The fact that it is a rare sighting at this time of the year is at best of secondary importance to me.

Nashville Warbler

Nashville Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A number of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were active yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I managed to capture this sequence of images as one of them was in the process of taking off from its perch.

I had accidentally spooked this eagle from its previous perch a bit earlier and was fortunately to be able to visually track the it to the new perch, a tree in the middle of a large field. The high vegetation surrounding the trail gave me some cover as I moved along the trail until I was in sight of the eagle again. I waited and watched the eagle, hoping to detect signs when it was preparing to depart. When the eagle bent down a little, I suspected that it was getting ready to fly away and I guessed right.

My zoom lens was extended to its maximum focal length (600mm) for these shots, so I was really happy that I was able to capture the full wing extension in the final shot—I am often prone to clip off the tips of the wings in situations like this. The final shot is my favorite in this sequence and I encourage you to click on the image to see the wonderful details more clearly, like the position of the talons as the eagle pushed off from the tree.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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We have moved into a season of the year in which it is increasingly difficult for me to find birds to photograph. When the weather is cold and grey, birds seem to be less active and are certainly less visible. Photography, though, is not about efficiency for me—I have come to enjoy my long, mostly solitary walks in nature with my camera irrespective of the actual results.

Consequently I think that I value each of my interactions with wild creatures even more than usual during the winter. For example, last week I worked hard to capture this little portrait of a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Sparrows are often ignored by many birders and photographers, because of their commonness and drabness, but I enjoy the challenge of trying to photograph them as they move about, scratching and pecking, often buried within bushes and other vegetation.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last week I watched as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly flew across the sky and perched high in a tree in the middle of the woods. The perch seemed precarious and the heron’s position did not appear to be at all comfortable. I honestly don’t know how the heron managed to land amidst all of the small branches—it required precision flying for the heron to pull in its wide wings at precisely the right moment as it decelerated.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A week ago I did a retrospective posting on some of my favorite photos from the first half of 2019 and alerted readers that a second posting would appear “in the next few days.” Here at last is part two—click here if you missed the first installment. As was the case in the initial posting, I went through my postings month by month and selected two photos for each month. I have provided a link to the individual postings in the captions of the photos to make it easier for interested readers to see the images in the context of the original postings, which often include additional photos and explanatory information.

If you look carefully at the dates, you may notice that I did not include any photos from November in this posting. As many of you may recall, I was in Paris for three weeks in November. After my first posting, one reader suggested that I do a separate posting for Paris, rather than be forced to select two photos from the many that I posted of my adventures in Paris. I decided to follow that recommendation, so hopefully there will be  a third and final posting of my look back at 2019 sometime “soon.”

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly, July 6, 2019 Sable Clubtail

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant dragonfly July 31, 2019 Perching Halloween Pennant

Osprey

Osprey, August 3, 2019, No sushi for me

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly, August 5, 2019 Getting down with an Eastern Ringtail

 

crab spider

Crab spider, September 7, 2019, White-banded Crab Spider

Handsome Meadow Katydid

Handsome Meadow Katydid September 10, 2019 My favorite insect?

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly, October 2, 2019 Blue-faced Meadowhawk in October

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle October 16, 2019 Bald Eagle Takeoff

Hooded Merganser duck December 7, 2019 Hoodie Season

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe December 24, 2019 Portrait of a Pied-billed Grebe

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at one of the nesting sites at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge looked to be renovating their nest this past week. In the first shot, the female eagle was taking a short break from arranging the sticks around the edge of the nest. The second shot gives you a wider view of the nesting site and also shows the male eagle perched higher in the tree and to the right.

The male eagle arrived at the tree first and a short time later the female flew in and began to work. The male seems to be keeping watch over his mate and surveilling the overall situation.

I was planning to watch the eagles for an extended period of time, but unfortunately a loud group of visitors approached from the opposite direction and spooked the two eagles. In the upcoming weeks, I expect the refuge authorities to close off some of the adjacent trails to allow the eagles to nest in peace. I was therefore really happy to have had the chance to see the bald eagles during these preliminary stages of renovating their nest.

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This past Thursday I was thrilled to photograph a handsome male Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Most of the times when I see towhees, they are poking about in the leaves, half hidden by the shadows, so it was wonderful to get a few unobstructed shots of one.

As I was doing a little research on this bird, I came across this wonderful description of the species on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website:

“A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.”

Eastern Towhee

Eastern Towhee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I accidentally spooked a small flock of wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and one of them flew up into a tree in the middle of a field. I waited patiently and captured these shots when the turkey finally flew out of the tree. As you probably have noticed, the images are not in chronological order—I decided to lead with the two shots in which the turkey is in the air, which I think are the most dramatic images, and finish with the shot in which the turkey was starting to take off.

I was shooting almost straight into the sun, which is why the turkey is mostly a silhouette and the images seem like they were shot in black and white.

wild turkey

wild turkey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I was thrilled to capture these images of a cute little Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa). Golden-crowned Kinglets are really small, only 3.1-4.3 inches (8-11 cm) in length and weighing 0.1-0.3 ounces (4-8 g), and they very active, which makes them hard to spot and even harder to photograph.

The kinglet posed so nicely that I don’t even have to explain why it is called “Golden-crowned.” In fact, it was the bright yellow streak on its head that initially caught my eye and helped me as I tracked the tiny bird as it moved in and out of the vegetation.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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