Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2021

I am not sure why the bottom feathers of this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were in such disarray when I spotted it this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Clearly something had ruffled its feathers, perhaps some mating activity. Spring is in the air and the eagles should soon be sitting on eggs in their nests.

The pandemic has turned our lives upside down this past year—there is something hopeful and reassuring about observing the inexorable movement in the seasonal cycles of nature. New life will soon be springing up all around us in the Northern Hemisphere with the arrival of spring. I can hardly contain my excitement.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

I couldn’t help but feel that this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was irritated with me when he glared sideways at me as he momentarily ceased his pecking at water’s edge on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On the other hand, he might have simply been trying to pose in a way that minimized his double chin, about which he was very self-conscious. Have I committed a cardinal sin in my initial assessment?

What do you think? Have a wonderful weekend.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

A small flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) disappeared into the underbrush on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but I kept on eye on them and managed to get this first shot as one of them made its way through the dried stalks of vegetation.

Later that same day, I had another sighting of turkeys and captured a familiar view of a turkey hurrying across the road. I like the way that the second shot shows the turkey’s “beard,” the tuft that looks a bit like a miniature horsetail dangling from its breast.

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Adult Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) are easily identifiable because of their white heads, but it actually takes four years for them to grow “bald.” In earlier stages of development their beaks and eyes are dark and their feathers are mottled. Experienced birders can tell the precise age of a juvenile by bald eagle simply by its coloration.

This juvenile eagle that I was excited to photograph on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge appears to be about two to three years old. The beak has turned yellow excepted for the tip and its eyes, which are dark brown when they are really young, look like they are starting to get almost as light as those of an adult. If you want to learn more about the developmental stages of a bald eagle, check out this interesting article by Avian Report on Juvenile and Immature Bald Eagles.

The young eagle was flying above the water, apparently looking for fish, when I captured these images. I tracked it for quite a while, but never did see it pull a fish out of the water. Still, I was happy with my images and definitely enjoyed my time basking in the warmth of a sunny spring-like day as I watched and waited.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I did not have much time to react yesterday when this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) zoomed past me, flying low over the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I was thrilled to capture this image. I am not really sure where the eagle was headed, but it looked like he was fiercely focused on getting there quickly.

Photographing birds in flight is rarely easy. If you spot the bird when it is far away, you might have time to check your settings, calmly track the bird as it approaches, and shoot off a burst of shots at the decisive moment. That ideal situation almost never happens in my world. More often than not, the bird seems to come out of nowhere and I frantically raise my camera to my eye and try to find the bird in my viewfinder and focus on it, never knowing for sure if the camera settings will be anywhere near appropriate.

Yesterday, I managed to snap off only three shots of the eagle and only one came out in decent focus. I decided to include the second photo to give you an idea of what I was seeing through the viewfinder—it is slightly edited, but uncropped. I end up cropping most of my images, which sometimes gives the impression that I was closer to the subject than I actually was.

As you can see the eagle was quite large in the frame in this case, which meant that my heart was really racing as I scrambled to get the shot before it was too late. For those of you who might be curious, I captured the image with my Canon 50D and Tamron 150-600mm lens at 500mm with settings of f/8, 1/1250 sec and ISO 400.

In some ways I am just using a point and shoot technique when I photograph birds in flight, but it is much more sophisticated than what most people think when they hear the words “point and shoot.” After thousands and thousands of shots, I have built up reflexes and muscle memory that help me to react quickly and instinctively in situations like this. There are no guarantees of success, of course, but I have reached a point in my development as a photographer that I feel like I have a fighting chance of getting a decent shot in some pretty challenging shooting situations.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

How closely do you look at birds? There are some birds that are our easy for me to identify, often just by their shape. With other species, I rely on their coloration.

Then there are sparrows, which force me to look very carefully for subtle differences in the markings on their bodies in order to identify them. I thought that House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were relatively easy to identify—I can readily tell that the bird in the second image is a House Sparrow, but what about the one in the first photo?

The markings on its the head are a different color and the bill is definitely lighter in color. The light orangish pink at the bill makes it look like the bird has lips. So, what kind of sparrow is it? It too is a House Sparrow, possibly a male like the one in the second shot. At different phases of their developments, the plumage of birds changes, which adds another level of complexity to bird identification.

So when I spot a bird, I have to take into consideration, its gender, age, and phase of development as well as the season of the year, habitat, and the geographic location. It sometimes feels like a miracle when I am able to identify any bird correctly.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Sparrows are so industrious as they poke about in the underbrush that I rarely get a clean look at one. I was happy therefore that I managed to get a shot of this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) when it perched momentarily on some vegetation amidst the thorny stalks recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

We have had quite a number of small snow and ice storms this winter, but it has proven difficult to capture images of bird against a snowy background. I am happy here that the sparrow chose to perch in a tiny patch of snow that adds a bit more visual interest to the shot. Several viewers yesterday commented that they like it when I show more of the bird’s environment in my photos, so I decided not to crop in too closely today.

Song Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As I walked about in my neighborhood on Friday, I was reminded that we share our living spaces with some wonderful creatures, like this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) that I spotted perched high in a tree. Fortunately I had my long lens on my camera and was able to capture these images. The first two images are cropped to give you a better view of the hawk, but I included the final photo to let you see the wonderful structure of the branches surrounding my subject.

People sometimes get a little freaked out by the the length of the telephoto zoom lens when it is fully extended, so I am usually reluctant to use it in a residential area—I do not anyone to accuse me of being a peeping Tom. I reserve that kind of voyeuristic behavior for wildlife.

In this case, I had stayed inside for too long because of snow and ice and felt an uncontrollable need for a photographic “fix.” Yeah, I am kind of addicted to my photography and have a codependent relationship with my camera.

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

Sometimes my potential subjects are immediately visible and there are no obstructions between the us. In other cases, I have to look more deeply through the trees or vegetation to spot a distant subject.

Spotting the subject, though, is only the start. Oftentimes the bigger challenge is to find a visual tunnel that gives the clearest possible view of the subject. I frequently find myself leaning, kneeling, bending, and standing on my tiptoes as I consider my options.

When circumstances permit, I am able to capture images like this one of a perched Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I saw a couple of weeks ago at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is not as dynamic as some of my shots of the eagles building their nests, but I really like the mood of this little portrait and I am happy with the way that I was able to capture the ruffled feathers of this majestic bird.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As the waves rhythmically struck the rocky shoreline, the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) slowly moved forward, all of his attention focused on one small spot. It was lunchtime on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and this heron was hungry. I watched and waited and finally the heron struck the water with a mighty thrust. When he pulled his bill out of the water, it was empty.

The heron paused for a moment and seemed pensive, wondering perhaps if he was looking for lunch in all the wrong places.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Timing is a critical skill in taking wildlife photographs (and in telling the lame jokes I so enjoy), and I was thrilled to capture this image last Friday as a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was lifting off from its nest high in a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I kept my wits about me and was able to track the eagle and get a few shots as it flew parallel to me  before turning and flying away.

If you remember yesterday’s posting with the singing eagle, you can’t help but notice the contrast in the sky colors. On Monday of last week, we had brilliant blue skies, which have been rare this winter, but when I took these photos a few days later, we had reverted to the gloomy, gray skies that are more typical.

Without the glare, I didn’t have to worry about blowing out the details of the eagle’s bright white head and tail, which was a definitely plus, but my camera and lens combination tends to work best when I have better light. Nonetheless, it is always a joy to successfully capture images of birds in flight, especially bald eagles.

I am particularly happy with the eagle’s wing positions in the final photo, though I dud have to crop it in an unusual way because it was near the bottom of the frame in the original shot—if the eagle had extended the wings, they would surely have been cut off in my shot.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) never seem happy and frequently look fierce or even angry. OK, I know that I am sometimes guilty of anthropomorphism, attributing human traits, emotions, or intentions to my wildlife subjects. How can you tell if an eagle is happy when their massive inflexible beaks make them physically incapable of a smile?

We often consider music to be a signal of happiness and songbirds sound happy. What about eagles—can they sing? I usually think of eagles as “screaming” rather than “singing,” but this image that I captured last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge makes me wonder if eagles can express their joy or their love in their songs.

What do you think? Does this eagle look happy to you?

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

Do you have trouble getting your ducks in a row? Following a snow storm earlier this month, my photography mentor and neighbor Cindy Dyer and I played around in the snow with a device that makes snowballs in the shape of little ducks and arranged them atop her fence.

Cindy, her husband Michael, and I have made up our own little pod during this pandemic.  Cindy, Michael, and their three cats (Lobo, Queso, and Pixel) have helped keep me from going completely bonkers during our time of isolation. Zoom and other virtual communications means are good, but they can never completely replace physical contact with other humans or pets.

Humor helps too. When I walked through my neighborhood the day after the storm, I looked for subjects that were whimsical or simply made me smile, like the snowman with its leafy earrings and the butterfly in the snow. If you look at its nose, it is not hard to tell that the snowman is a celeried employee.

Many of you know that I have been attending a short virtual church service, called Compline in the Episcopal church, each weekday night at eight o’clock in the evening. It is a short service that, among other things, allows us to share our moments of thanksgiving and our personal prayer requests out loud or by typing them in the chat feature. After the service, we talk for a bit to see how everyone is doing and it has become traditional for me to share a daily Dad joke. If I forget, someone will usually remind me. What?

For Christmas, some dear friends sent me a daily calendar of bad Dad jokes, the kind of jokes that always elicit a combination of laughs and groans. It is a curious juxtaposition to tell jokes in the context of a church meeting, but it is a sign of how close we have become with each other—we can cry together and we can laugh together, sharing our unfiltered feelings.

How bad are the jokes? Here is a recent favorite, “I just bought a thesaurus and when I got home I discovered that all of the pages were blank. I have no words to describe how angry I am.” Sorry.

Happy Mardi Gras.

ducks in a row

snowman

butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Read Full Post »

There may not have been much snow on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but the whole world was a whiter shade of pale at water’s edge, except for this handsome male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis).

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I spotted this Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) high in the trees in my neighborhood on a day when my travels were grounded by the snow and the ice. Normally you know when there is a blue jay is in the area because their calls are really loud, but this one was surprisingly silent.

I was fascinated to read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that, “The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.” I think that my neighborhood blue jays have deceived me on multiple occasions when I searched in vain for a hawk upon hearing one of its distinctive calls.

If you look closely at the feet of this bird you may notice that they are not in contact with any of the branches. There also does not appear to be any wing movement, so perhaps the blue jay was practicing its levitation skills. While that is certainly possible, I believe that the blue jay may simply have been hopping to another spot on the branch and did not want to bother with flapping its wings.

Blue Jay

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was hunkered down in its large nest last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge but still managed to keep an eye on me through a peephole between the branches. (You may need to enlarge the first image to see the eagle, in what has been described by one of my friends as a “Where’s Waldo?” photo.) Earlier I had seen both of the eagles fly into the nest and they promptly disappeared from sight—one left a short time later.

As I watched and waited, I realized that I would have a tough time timing any shots of the eagle leaving the nest. When a bird is perched, I look carefully for indications that the bird is preparing to depart, hoping to be able to capture a decisive moment. The second shot below was the best that I could manage when I reacted to the appearance of a wing tip over the edge of the nest.

I have no way of judging the dimensions of the interior of the nest, but it looks to be really big and really deep, as you can see in the final photo. In the past, it has been hard to spot eaglets in this nest until they are old enough to climb around a little and pop their heads over the edge of the nest. I hope to see some little ones in this nest later this season.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

For almost a year now we have been taking defensive measures to minimize our risks—we now must cautiously consider our actions before we take them. “Spontaneity” has almost disappeared from our active vocabulary. Were we ever completely carefree?

When I first looked at this photograph of a Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I immediately saw it as a kind of visual metaphor for my life. Surrounded by thorns in an almost monochromatic world, this serious-looking little bird cautiously contemplates its surroundings. Is it safe yet?

No, it is not yet safe, but there are signs of hope that things are improving. Vaccinations have started and here in the Northern Hemisphere, there are already small indications that spring is on the way. The birds are preparing their nests and buds are appearing on the trees.

Our celebrations may still be muted, but even now there is joy to be found. Don’t forget to stop and look for it in today—joy in the midst of caution.

Carolina Wren

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

My spirits are instantly lifted whenever I see an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), like this handsome male that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Many of the bluebirds that I have seen in recent years have been a bit dull blue in color, but the blue of this bird was positively electric—it was startling how bright and vibrant it was. I definitely felt recharged after my encounter with this little bird.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

It is hard to get a good exposure of the feathers on the head of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). When the lighting is too strong or direct, the bright white head risks being overexposed and the details often disappear. Even under good circumstances, the head often looks like the slicked-down hair of a 1950s greaser. I was thrilled last week when I managed to capture fluffy head feathers in this shot of a pensive eagle in the early morning sunshine at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Many female ducks are a muted shade of brown and it is sometimes difficult to determine their species. Often I have to rely on other characteristics, like the shape and color of their bills. It was on that basis that I decided that this duck that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was a female Canvasback (Aythya valisineria).

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a canvasbacks is “a large, big-headed diving duck with a gently sloping forehead and a stout neck. Its long bill meets the sloping forehead, creating a seamless look from the top of the crown to the tip of the bill.”  Indeed, the sloping forehead was the first thing that I noted when I spotted this bird among a group of smaller scaups and ruddy ducks.

Canvasbacks are one of the many species of ducks that spend their winters with us and then fly north for breeding. They always seem to stay out in the deeper waters, so I have not yet gotten a close-up shot of a Canvasback.

 

Canvasback

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Last Thursday I enjoyed watching a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple working on rebuilding their nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One member of the couple remained in the nest while the other one went off in search of sticks to add to the nest. Together they worked to arrange the new sticks and slowly seem to be raising the height of the walls of the nest. If you click on the images, you can get a closer look at the eagles and their building materials.

For those of you who have been following my posts on the two eagle nests at my favorite wildlife refuge, this is the “small” one, the one that was damaged last summer when a branch broke off. It is a bit of a race to see if the nest will be in good enough shape when the eagles are ready for nesting, but I am really hopeful that it will be. I will be keeping an eye on the nest and will continue to provide updates.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) in my area are really skittish and often take to the air before I have even spotted them—they make a very distinctive and loud noise when disturbed and taking flight. Last week at Occoquan Bay  National Wildlife Refuge, however, I was fortunate to spot a pair of wood ducks at the far side of a small pond and snapped off a shot of them before they could react to my presence. Fortunately I kept shooting and managed to capture some in-flight shots as they were taking off.

Wood ducks are probably the prettiest of all of the ducks where I live. The stunning colors and patterns of both the female, on the left, and the male are breathtaking, especially when the light is good.

wood ducks

wood ducks

wood ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

At the edge of a small pond a solitary Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) hunched over, trying to stay warm on a frigid winter morning last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. From a distance, it looked like the heron had wrapped itself in a shaggy winter coat.

The heron did not move from its single-legged pose as I passed, but seemed to be tracking me with its half-opened eyes, judging that I did not represent a threat.  There was no need to expend its precious energy in avoiding me.   Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

It is hard to predict how a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) will take off. Will it fly up or down of maybe sidewards? Will it push off its perch or flap its mighty wings and ascend upwards? Will it wait until I am ready or wait and wait until I am not?

This past Thursday I was fortunate to capture an image of this bald eagle as it was leaving its perch at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle was high in a tree and quite a distance away, but I was able to steady my camera on my monopod and capture a decisive moment. Be sure to check out all of the cool details on the eagle’s body, like the rows of chest feathers and the very sharp-looking talons.

 

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Out of the corner of my eye I detected some movement on the ground as I was looking up at an eagle nest early Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As I turned my head, a shadowy form emerged out of the brush and began to trot down the trail—it was a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes).

I do not see foxes very often at this refuge and have been told that most of them have been killed by the resident coyotes, so this was a pleasant surprise. I tried to focus on the fox as it moved away from me, but my photos were mostly out of focus and featured only the legs and tail of the fox. Then the fox stopped and looked back in my direction for a moment and I was able to capture this image as we stared momentarily at each other.

Red Fox

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

A lot of birds puff up their feathers to stay warm in the cold weather, but I don’t know that I have ever seen a more extreme case than this spherical White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I spotted yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

It was right around the freezing mark and I must confess that I was bundled up in multiple layers and also looked a bit more rotund than normal. It is well known that the camera adds ten pounds and makes you look heavier. When it comes to staying warm, all vanity goes out the window for me.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I could hear rustling in the fallen leaves along one of the trails yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but had trouble determining what was making the noise. Most of the time, sparrows fly away in similar situations, but this little creature seemed to be crawling about, moving in one direction undeterred by my presence. When I finally got a partial glimpse of it, I realized that it was a Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis).

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the appearance and behavior of the Winter Wren in these words, “It sports a palette of browns with dark barring on the wings, tail, and belly. It habitually holds its tiny tail straight up and bounces up and down. This rather weak flier hops and scampers among fallen logs mouselike, inspecting upturned roots and vegetation for insects.” Wow. I don’t recall any other instance of the term “mouselike” being used to describe a bird, but it fits pretty well.

The little Winter Wren was a ball of energy, moving all the time in and out of the vegetation, making it hard to track and even harder to photograph. Eventually it hopped up onto a perch for a few seconds and I was able to capture the first two images. Most of the time, though, it was hidden in the undergrowth, even when it was mostly exposed as in the final image, which gives you a good idea of its habitat.

I really encourage you to click on the images to get a closer view of the different shades of brown and detailed patterns on this beautiful little Winter Wren.

 

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

Winter Wren

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Growing up in New England, I tended to view the American Robin (Turdus migratorius) as a harbinger of spring. When the snow had melted, we would often see robins hopping about in the grass, hoping to pull a worm out of the ground.

I now live further south in the United States in Northern Virginia and see robins throughout the year. On Tuesday I spotted a small flock of robins during a walk through my snow-covered neighborhood. Some of them were bathing in a small run-off stream, as I documented in yesterday’s posting, but most of them were foraging in the trees. I believe that they were feeding on the small red berries that you can see in these two images, but I was not able to capture any of them actually consuming one, so that is really just an assumption.

As I have noted before, the American Robin is a completely different species from the European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) that has orange on its breast and face. I was thrilled to photograph a European Robin in November 2019 during a visit to Paris—check out my posting European Robin in Paris if you want to visually compare the two species. It is fascinating to note that the American Robin is shaped exactly like the European Blackbird (Turdus merula)—they share the same vocalizations and belong to the exact same family and genus.

American Robin

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

It was snowing off and on for most of Monday and Tuesday and the roads were messy, so I decided to walk around and look for birds in my neighborhood. We have had a total accumulation of “only” about four to six inches (10 to 15 cm), but people in this area are not used to driving in the snow. Another big problem is the refreezing that has been occurring overnight that has created a lot of patches of black ice. It is safer to stay home.

As I was trudging through the snow, I noticed a lot of bird activity at a run-off stream that goes through the neighborhood. At first I thought the birds getting drinks of water, but when I got closer, I was shocked to see that they were actually bathing in the frigid water—many were splashing about as they did so. Most of them looked to be American Robins (Turdus migratorius), but there were also some House Sparrows (Passer domesticus).

I am hoping to venture farther from home in the coming days, but for now I am content to search for subjects that are within walking distance of my home.

 

bathing birds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) have so many different colorful patterns that they sometimes remind me of patchwork quilts. If I were to be dressed in clothing with dots and stripes and patterns, I probably would look really weird, but somehow the flickers pull it off amazingly well. Compared to other woodpeckers, the flickers are fashion stars.

In addition to the patterns, they also have pops of accent colors, like the red on the back of the head, a black mustache, and bright yellow on the inside of the wings. (If you click on the image to see the details, you get a tiny glimpse of that bright yellow on the edge of the lower wing.)

I spotted this handsome male—females do not have the black mustaches—during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Believe it or not, I don’t spend all of my time observing the bald eagles at the refuge.

 

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

As I noted in a posting last week, I am currently keeping an eye on two bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Eagle couples have actively used both nests in each of the years that I have been visited this refuge. In that earlier posting, I provided a look at one of them, a really large nest.

Today I am featuring the second one, which has always been quite small. During this summer, I noticed that it had gotten even smaller. I can’t tell for sure what happened, but it looks like one of the supporting branches may have broken off and a significant portion of the nest was dumped on the ground. I was afraid that the eagles would abandon the site and rebuild at another location.

I was thrilled therefore when I spotted the couple last week engaged in some reconstruction efforts that I documented in the posting Carry a big stick with a shot of an eagle carrying a large branch to this small nest. The first two photos, which I took last Monday, show the current size of the nest. For comparison purposes I included the final photo which is from January 2019—it looks to me like the nest was considerably larger two years ago.

The refuge has blocked the trails near this nest to keep the eagles from being disturbed, but I am able to get photos like these from the barrier that blocks the road. I’ll continue to watch the nest as often as I can and I am hopeful that the eagle couple will be able to restore it well enough to use for nesting this year.

 

bald eagle

bald eagle

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: