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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

I spend a good amount of time looking for unusual subjects to photograph, but I also love to photograph the everyday creatures that inhabit my day-to-day life. I spotted this Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I cannot tell for sure what the squirrel had in its mouth, but he seemed to consider it a treasure.

I love the pose of the squirrel atop the broken-off tree—there is something dynamic about its somewhat precarious position and in fact the squirrel leap jumped to a nearby tree a few seconds after I snapped this photo. I also really like the curve of the squirrel’s tail that adds a kind of whimsical touch to the image.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this raccoon (Procyon lotor) last Tuesday afternoon at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was trotting right towards me on one of the trails, seemingly undeterred by my presence. I stepped to the side as far as I could and grabbed a stick for potential protection. The raccoon swerved a little as it passed me, but did turn its head to growl at me.

Folks in a nature forum on Facebook reminded be that there are a number of reasons why raccoons might be out in the daylight like this, including foraging for food for babies, and that I should not assume that the raccoon has a problem, such as rabies. I try to be really careful when I am out in the wild, particularly because I am usually alone, and avoid direct contact with my subjects. It this case, the raccoon seemed to have a really determined look on its face and I was more than happy to move out of its way.

raccoon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am helping this weekend to take care of three cats that belong to my friend Cindy Dyer and her husband. I mention Cindy fairly often on this blog because she is a constant sources of encouragement and inspiration in my photography and has mentored me over the years—she is a freelance photographer and graphic designer. She is also an amazing gardener and most of the times when I feature flower photos, I have taken the shots in her garden.

Cindy works from home, so her three cats are used to having someone around during most of the day. Over the years I have taken care of the cats multiple times and they are relatively comfortable with my presence in the hours. That being said, each of the three cats has his own personality and shows me varying degrees of attention and affection.

I took these shots of Lobo, Pixel, and Queso yesterday afternoon when I stopped in to check on them. All three cats seemed to be evaluating me and I like the way that I was able some of their personality in these informal little portraits.

Lobo

Pixel

Queso

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was a little shocked last week at Prince William Forest Park, when I spotted a groundhog (Marmota monax) scampering down a trail heading right towards me as I was resting on a log. The groundhog must have sensed my presence, because it suddenly stopped, sniffed the air, and headed back in the direction from which it had come.

When I first detected the animal coming my way, I thought it might be a bear cub. Yes, I know that it is the wrong color and shape for a bear cub, but I had seen the signs at the park entrance to be aware of bears. According to news report, wildlife cameras at the park detected a black bear coming out of hibernation in February of this year. It may look like I was pretty far away from the groundhog, but I actually took this photo with the same 180mm macro lens that I used to photograph yesterday’s small dragonfly.

I thought about rewording the first paragraph that I had also used on a Facebook posting, but decided to leave it untouched. Several of my friends suggested that the groundhog might have gotten closer if I had taken a shower—I definitely left myself open for that interpretation by the way that I worded the last sentence of the first paragraph. I have always felt that it is good to be able to laugh at yourself—as someone once noted, it guarantees that you will have an endless source of humor.

groundhog

groundhog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was watching an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it hung upside down and nibbled on the buds of a tree when suddenly its back legs lost their grip. The squirrel was dangling from its front paws only when I snapped this shot.

Initially the squirrel continued to chew on the bud it was holding. Realizing perhaps the precariousness of its position, it eventually stopped eating and successfully scrambled back up into the tree.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I turned my head instinctively when I heard a splash in the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge? What had made the splash? There were no logs on which a turtle might have been sunning, so I assumed it was one of the many diving ducks that have spent the winter with us. I watched and waited for the duck to resurface so that I could identify its species.

Imagine my surprise when a furry rather than feathered head broke the surface of the water from below. I only had to hesitate a second before I decided that it was a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) rather than a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). Why? It was midday and beavers are generally active only at dawn and dusk; the animal was really small and beavers tend to be a lot bigger in size; and I had a really good look at the tail that was a long, thin “rattail” and not flat like a beaver’s tail.

In the past most of the muskrats that I have seen swimming have kept their tails in the water, often using it for propulsion. Maybe this muskrat was simply treading water, watching me as I watched it. It has been a long time since I have seen a muskrat, so this sighting was a nice treat for me.

Muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Frost covered the ground early on Tuesday morning when I arrived at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first creature that I spotted was an Eastern Cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) foraging in the wintery grass that has not yet turned green. The sunlight was soft and low, making the bunny glow.

It was a wonderfully gentle way to begin a new day.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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.

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The sun had just risen over the horizon as I started walking down a trail on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I noticed a dark shadow at the edge of the trail and slowed down. When I got a little closer, I could see that it was a small White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). There are probably quite a few deer at the wildlife refuge, but I rarely see one.

The deer sensed my presence, raised its head, and stared right at me with what looked to be mostly curiosity. Our eyes remained fixed on each other for quite some time before the deer crossed the path and disappeared silently in the underbrush.

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I do not see Raccoons (Procyon lotor) very often at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so it was quite a treat when I spotted this one on Monday.  The raccoon was leisurely making its way across the leaf-covered trail and I was happy to capture this image while it was mid-stride.

At a time when most of us are wearing masks that cover our noses and mouths, this is the second wild creature that I have seen recently with a black eye mask—I previously featured masked Cedar Waxwings in a posting entitled Cedar Waxwings in November.

raccoon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is always enjoyable to observe these fuzzy little Eastern Cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) when I am out walking the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This one was suddenly alert as I was getting ready to take this shot and may have detected my presence. From a photographic perspective, I like the shot much better when its head is lifted up than when it is grazing, which is what the rabbit was doing most of the time that I observed it.

If you double-click on the image to see more details, be sure to look into the rabbit’s eye, where you can see a pretty reflection of the

Eastern Cottontail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Last Monday I was thrilled to spot this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) slowly swimming by me in the early morning light at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was able to follow the beaver along the shore for several minutes before it disappeared with a big splash, as you can see in the final photo that show the beaver’s distinctive tail, the last part of the beaver to enter the water.

The limited light caused me to shoot at slower shutter speeds than the situation actually demanded, but the slight blurriness somehow enhances the dreamlike feeling of the time around sunrise. I checked the data on the final shot and was a little shocked to see that I took it with a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second. Somehow I was able to capture a decent composition and an almost abstract-style image—the image that you see is also uncropped.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who are celebrating the holiday. I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal, including a large parade that, alas, had to be canceled this year.

beaver

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday, Friday the 13th, was also Groundhog Day for me—I spotted this Groundhog (Marmota monax) while exploring one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At first I thought it might be a beaver or a muskrat, species that I am more used to seeing, but I got a good look at its tail and it was clearly not the flattened tail of a beaver nor the long rat-like tail of a muskrat.

When hearing of groundhogs, some Americans will immediately think of the annual celebration when a groundhog is taken out of its burrow and forecasts the length of the winter, depending on whether or not it can see its shadow. Others will think instead of the 1993 comedy movie Groundhog Day in which the actor Bill Murray is caught in a loop and repeats the same day over and over again. A few others might recall an ongoing GEICO insurance commercial in which woodchucks (another name for groundhogs) chuck wood.

It turns out that I actually know very little about these animals so I did a little research and learned that groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation. According to Wikipedia, “they often build a separate “winter burrow” for this purpose. This burrow is usually in a wooded or brushy area and is dug below the frost line and remains at a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months. In most areas, groundhogs hibernate from October to March or April, but in more temperate areas, they may hibernate as little as three months. To survive the winter, they are at their maximum weight shortly before entering hibernation. When the groundhog enters hibernation, there is a drop in body temperature to as low as 35 degrees Fahrenheit (2 degrees C), heart rate falls to 4–10 beats per minute and breathing rate falls to one breath every six minutes. During hibernation, they experience periods of torpor and arousal. Hibernating woodchucks lose as much as half their body weight by February.” (UPDATE: I later checked other sources and most of them suggest that the respiration rate drops to two per minute when the groundhog is hibernating as compared with a normal rate of 16 breaths per minute.)

Perhaps this groundhog had recently emerged from his winter sleep and was looking for things to eat when I spotted it. Fortunately all kinds of things are starting to grow and hopefully he will have few problems in filling his stomach.

groundhog

groundhog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Male White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) shed their antlers during the winter and start to grow a new set in early spring. When I first spotted the pointed white tips of deer antlers while exploring Prince William Forest Park this past Wednesday, I assumed that they were shed antlers. As I got closer, I was shocked to see that they were still attached to the skull of the now dead deer.

We have an overpopulation of White-tailed Deer in our area, in part because there are not many natural predators. I couldn’t help wondering how this large buck met his demise. Was it a coyote or fox? Was it disease, starvation, or old age? Whatever the cause of death, scavengers had done their part and the only other body parts that I spotted in the immediate area were several small spinal sections.

Later that day, I spotted a second set of antlers with the skull still attached. These antlers, shown in the second photo below, showed more damage and it is hard to tell how large they may have initially been. As was the case with the first deer, there were few parts of the deer carcass in the surrounding area—the only parts I saw in the surrounding area were the lower jaw bones.

I spend a good deal of time out in nature, but see only a small part of what really takes place in the areas that I visit. Spring often makes us think of new life as baby birds and animals are born and trees and flowers emerge with new growth. These antlers, however, are a sober reminder that death is also a part of the cycle of life for the wildlife that I enjoy observing and photographing.

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Deer hunting is conducted from early September to late February in many of the county-run parks where I take photographs. Our area is over-populated with White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) and hunting is one element of a comprehensive deer management program. I am personally not a hunter, but I understand the need to try to keep the population in check to limit the likelihood of collisions with cars or of deer dying from starvation during the winter months.

No areas of these parks are closed during this hunting season, which might sound dangerous, but there are strict requirements that the hunters must follow. Most notably they have to be trained and certified archers and must shoot from tree stands. Most people never see the tree stands because they are in remote areas of the parks, but those are precisely the areas that I like to visit.

During recent trips to Occoquan Regional Park, I spotted the tree stand shown in the first photo below. No archers were sitting in the stand, though in the past I have spotted occupied tree stands a couple of times. The second image shows one of several trail cameras that I have seen at this park this year. The cameras that I have spotted in the past were more primitive—they recorded to a memory card that had to be retrieved and reviewed. The markings on the camera shown indicated that it could transmit on a cell phone signal. The manufacturer’s website notes that images can be sent in real-time or transmitted in a batch at periodic intervals during the day.

How does all of this affect me? I am not deterred from visiting these locations, but I am extra alert and cautious when I know there are tree stands nearby. I also make sure that I smile whenever I spot a trail camera—I never know when someone is watching me.

tree stand

trail camera

© 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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At the end of each year I am faced with a decision about whether to do a review of the year and/or select my favorite photos. Some years I have done a selection based on the number of views received; some years I have chosen my personal favorites; and some years I have opted to do no yearly retrospective whatsoever.

This year I went through my postings month by month and selected two photos for each month. Rather than give an explanation for each selection, I have provided links to the postings themselves to make it easier for interested readers to see the images in the context of the original postings that often include additional photos and explanatory information.

This has been a rewarding year for me in so many ways and I have had a lot of wonderful experiences capturing images. Thanks so much to all of you for your support and encouragement. Stay tuned for part two, which should appear in the next few days.

 

Northern Cardinal

January 16, 2019 Cardinal in the snow (https://michaelqpowell.com/2019/01/16/cardinal-in-the-snow-3/

 

winter sunrise

February 4, 2019 Reflected sunrise colors (https://michaelqpowell.com/2019/02/04/reflected-sunrise-colors/)

 

mountains in Germany

February 22, 2019 Mountain views in Germany (https://michaelqpowell.com/2019/02/22/mountain-views-in-germany/)

 

 

Northern Mockingbird

March 30, 2019 Mockingbird seeking seeds (https://michaelqpowell.com/2019/03/30/mockingbird-seeking-seeds/)

 

 

Uhler's Sundragon

April 12, 2019 Uhler’s Sundragon dragonfly (https://michaelqpowell.com/2019/04/12/uhlers-sundragon-dragonfly/)

 

 

 

 

Hummingbird Clearwing Moth

June 24, 2019 Hummingbird Moth (the posting was on 2 July, but the photo was taken on June 24) (https://michaelqpowell.com/2019/07/02/hummingbird-moth/)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I grew up in the suburbs and have little experience with farm life. So as far as I am concerned the rooster and cows (and dogs) that I saw this past weekend can be considered “wildlife.”

My son is in the Army and is stationed in Colorado Springs, Colorado. While he was deployed to Iraq during most of this year, his German Shepherd, Katie, has been with family members on the East coast. Josh picked up Katie this past weekend and before he began the long drive to Colorado, we had a family get-together at his Granny’s farm in Montpelier, Virginia on Friday evening. I spent the evening with Josh and Granny to avoid having to drive back to Northern Virginia late in the evening.

Early Saturday morning, about 6:00, I think, I was awoken by the loud crowing of King, the bantam rooster. He crowed a dozen or more times and then was silent for about ten minutes before resuming. After spending some quiet moments observing the cows grazing in the hay pasture, I was treated to a real country breakfast, with fresh eggs from Granny’s hens, bacon, and biscuits and gravy.

It was a beautiful day, so I headed outdoors and played with the dogs for a while. The two of them, Katie and Chin, Granny’s dog, made for an interesting contrast in size as they ran around the yard, sometimes chasing a ball, but often content to just explore.

All too quickly the time came to bid farewell and I left behind the relative calm of the farm life and prepared to face a slow drive back home on what I knew would be a crowded interstate highway.

cow

Chin

Katie

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was scanning a pond last week for activity at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted this structure. Its relatively large size initially made me think that it might be a beaver lodge, but after more closely examining the construction materials, I have concluded that it is more likely to be a muskrat habitation.

Unlike beavers that use large sticks and logs and a lot of mud, muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) mostly use cattails and other reeds to form mounds that permit them to dry out and get some air. Occasionally beavers and muskrats will share a beaver lodge, but I am pretty sure that is not the case here. The fragile nature of this kind of muskrat house makes it vulnerable to predators if the pond freezes over and allows access to foxes or coyotes, both of which inhabit this wildlife refuge.

muskrat house

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Any wild animals in Paris? While wandering through the gardens at the Rodin Museum on Friday, I came across this adorable rabbit sunning itself in a semi-shaded open area. I watched it for a while until some noisy visitors scared it away.

I knew there had to be some wildlife in Paris other than the two-legged partygoers that were awfully loud late into the night yesterday in the streets outside of my apartment.

Rabbit in Rodin garden

Rabbit in Rodin garden

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s always fun to encounter cute little rabbits like this one that I spotted recently as I was walking along one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I do not see a lot of mammals during my walks, with the notable exception of squirrels, so I am always happy to see a rabbit or a deer or a beaver. As most of you know, I tend to see a lot more insects and birds and that is one of the reasons why they appear so often in my postings.

On the sides of some of the trails at the refuge there are heavy thickets and my observations suggest that they are the preferred habitat for the rabbits, which are almost certainly Eastern Cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus).  The rabbits at the wildlife refuge generally seem to be very cautious, which is probably a good survival tactic, considering the number of hawks and eagles in the area.

This particular rabbit froze in place for a moment when it first detected me, allowing me to get this shot. After a brief pause, it scampered away into the safety of the heavy vegetation.

rabbit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I don’t see rabbits very often during my visits to various wildlife parks. Perhaps the numerous hawks and eagles in the area keep the rabbit population under control, or at least make the rabbits especially cautious and stealthy. I was happy therefore when I spotted this Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and thrilled when he posed momentarily for me.

This rabbit looks to be an adult, but somehow all rabbits are “bunnies” to me. I suspect that is because I had a rabbit as a pet for several years and got used to playing with him every day. I would let Prime Rib (yes, that really was his name) out of his cage and he would happily run around me as I sat on the living room floor, periodically bounding over my outstretched legs.

It was a sad moment for me when Prime Rib died and I can’t help but think of him every time that I see one of his cousins in the wild.

Eastern Cottontail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Thanks to a reminder from WordPress, I realized this morning that I am starting my 8th year with this blog. On July 7, 2012 I made my first posting “Blue Dasher dragonfly” and, as they say, the rest is history. According to WordPress stats, I have had 205,209 views of 3,177 posts. Some of those were re-reposts of blogs written by others, but I figure that I have written over 3,100 individual posts with well over 5,000 photos.

This morning I decided to share three of my all-time favorite photos—a singing Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus); a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) on a frozen pond; and a close-up shot of a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum). I think that these three images taken together give you a good idea of my approach to photography.

I could not have made it this far on my journey in photography without the support and encouragements of so many of you. You have helped to make blogging part of my daily life. Thanks so much to you for enriching my life in a whole range of different ways.

I owe a special debt of gratitude to Cindy Dyer, my dear friend and photography mentor. She was the one who sat me down seven years ago and helped me with the mechanics of starting this blog. She continues to inspire me and to support me in both my personal life and in my photography. Thanks, Cindy.

What’s ahead? For the foreseeable future I plan to continue my adventures in photography. Having recently retired, I may start to venture to somewhat more distant locations, but mostly I anticipate more and more hours of walking around with my camera in hand, trying to capture all of the beauty of the natural world.

Red-winged Blackbird

Red Fox

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The most common view that I have had of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) the last few months has been of their bobbing tails as they ran away from me. Last week, however, I managed to capture some shots of a young buck as it ran laterally across a trail at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

When I first spotted the deer, its head was just sticking out of the vegetation at the edge of the trail. As you can see in the first image, the deer looked straight at me and seemed to hesitate a moment before deciding what to do. Without much warning, the deer sprung into action and I was able to capture these shots as the young deer bounded across the trail. Note how the deer had only a single hoof in contact with the ground in many of the photos.

White-tailed Deer

 

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was so shocked yesterday morning at Prince William Forest Park to spot a bright white squirrel that my brain froze for a moment—it simply could not process the information transmitted by my eyes. We have black squirrels in the Washington DC area, but I never realized that an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) could be white.

My first thought was that it might be an albino squirrel, but when I zoomed in, I could see that its eyes are dark. I did a little poking about on the internet and learned that there are white morphs of the gray squirrel that have a rare gene that causes them to be white.

In response to a photo I posted on Facebook, Sue, a retired biology professor who authors the wonderful Backyard Biology blog, reminded me of a post she had written in 2013 entitled “A white shade of tail” that includes a lot of great information on white squirrels.  Who knew, for example, that there are locations in the United States where white squirrels are relatively common? Be sure to check out that posting and other awesome postings on Sue’s site, where she freely shares her accumulated knowledge, current observations, and beautiful images. (She is special to me too because she was one of the first subscribers to this blog almost seven years ago.)

I suspected that the white squirrel would be skittish, so I took a series of shots from a distance. As I anticipated, when I took a step forward, the squirrel scampered away.

At first glance, I thought all my photos were the same, but when I looked more closely, I saw that they captured different facial expressions. I try to look at my subjects as individuals and not merely as representatives of their species. The cute little expressions in these images remind me of the individual personality of this unusual little creature.

white squirrel

white squirrel

white squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Whenever folks of my generation catch sight of a spotted fawn, we invariably think of the animated Disney movie Bambi, a movie that is an integral part of  our collective memory of childhood. Perhaps we remember the friendship of Bambi, Thumper,  and Flower or the love of Bambi and Faline  or the shocking death of Bambi’s mother. Our memories of the movie may vary, but I think we all feel a soft spot in our hearts if we are lucky enough to catch sight of a fawn.

I spotted this little deer on Tuesday at Prince William Forest Park in Triangle, Virginia. It was down in a small valley at the edge of some heavy vegetation. I watched from a distance from my higher vantage point as the fawn poked about in the vegetation. At some point, the fawn became aware of my presence and looked straight at me through its soft brown eyes. The deer held its gaze for what seemed like a long time and it faded into the underbrush and the spell was broken.

Thanks, Bambi, for sharing those magical moments with me.

Bambi

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I hope that the title did not lead to an expectation that you would find photos of tiny deer in this posting. It may have been a stretch to use that title, but I wanted to give a hint of the fact that I captured all of these images with my macro lens. In fact, the first two images are uncropped, which gives you an idea of how close I was to the deer.

Yesterday I set off for Occoquan Regional Park to search primarily for dragonflies and butterflies. I put my Tamron 180 mm macro lens on my camera, a lens which is my go-to lens for much of the spring and summer. Now I must confess that the reach of this macro lens is a bit longer than the average macro lens, which generally has a focal length of 100 mm or so, but it certainly would not be my first choice for wildlife photography.

I was sitting on a log taking a break when I heard some nearby noise in the underbrush. I stood up, expecting to see a scurrying squirrel, and suddenly was face-to face with a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). For a considerable amount of time the deer eyed me with curiosity before slowly moving away. As I watched the deer depart, I noticed another deer, one with amazingly long ears. As I prepared to photograph the second deer, the first one photobombed us, resulting in the third image.

This situation reinforced to me the importance of shooting with whatever camera or lens that I happen to have at hand. It may not be the optimal option, but it can often yield surprisingly good results.

Whiite-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was exploring Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge earlier this week, I spotted an unusual shape in a small tree. I moved a little closer and zoomed in with my camera and discovered that it was a fairly large animal. It was bigger than a squirrel, so my initial thought was that it was a raccoon or an opossum, but as I studied my viewfinder, I quickly rejected those possibilities.

What was the animal? When I uploaded the images to my computer, the facial features reminded me of a beaver, but the visible portions of the animal’s tail look to be hairy, so I eliminated both the beaver and the muskrat. Grasping at straws, I started looking at photos of porcupines, but they didn’t match at all what I was seeing in the photo. Finally I came across some photos of a Groundhog (Marmota monax) and I realized that I had finally found a match.

I guess that the name “groundhog” threw me off, because I expected a groundhog to be on the “ground,” not is trees and I can’t imagine a “hog” climbing a tree. According to Wikipedia, groundhogs, also known as woodchucks, “occasionally climb trees when escaping predators or when they want to survey their surroundings.”

groundhog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During one of my recent early morning forays to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was thrilled to spot several beavers. I had seen plenty of gnawed off trees in the area around this pond, so I knew that there had to be some beavers nearby. You generally have to be really lucky to see one, because they are mostly nocturnal creatures.

There were three beavers when I initially spotted them swimming towards me. Two of them seemed to sense my presence as they got a little closer and dove underwater. One kept approaching and I was able to capture the first image, a head shot  of a handsome North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). The second image shows the beaver as it was swimming and gives you a better sense of the environment in which it was found.

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was thrilled to observe a group of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fording a stream at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The activity level of all kinds of creatures seems to be picking up as we move closer to or deeper into spring, depending on how you calculate the start of spring. The bottom of the body of water they were crossing seemed to be uneven and the deer had to move carefully. At one point it looked like they even had to swim a few steps, especially the smaller deer.

As I watched the deer, I was reminded of the lyrics of one of the songs from The Sound of Music that included the words “ford every stream.” Folks of my generation may well remember the inspirational message of the song “Climb Every Mountain,” which I have included below, as found at metrolyrics.com.

Here’s hoping that you will find your dreams, irrespective of whether or not it involves fording streams or climbing mountains.

“Climb every mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow every byway,
Every path you know.

Climb every mountain,
Ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow,
‘Till you find your dream.

A dream that will need
All the love you can give,
Every day of your life
For as long as you live.”

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

 

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge dozens and dozens of times, but had never seen an opossum there until yesterday. I am pretty sure that I would not have seen this one almost hidden in the trees if fellow photographer Ricky Kresslein had not pointed it out to me. Initially I was incredulous, suspecting that he had misidentified a raccoon, but as soon as I looked closely at the animal, I realized he was right.

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the animal that I photographed, is the only marsupial found in North America north of Mexico. I had to double-check, but was able to confirm my remembrance that a marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala.

The connection to Australia and New Zealand is occasionally a source of some confusion, because the “possums” in those locations are entirely different species. Here in North American, “opossum” and “possum” are used interchangeably.

One of the most common references to this animal is the expression “playing possum.” In the literal sense, it refers to the Virginia Opossum’s reaction sometimes when threatened—it may roll over, become stiff, drool, breathe slowly and shallowly, and appear to be dead. In a more general sense, the expression has come to mean pretending to be dead or asleep to avoid having to deal with a problem.

Virginia Opossum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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