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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

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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Beavers are nocturnal creatures and consequently the best times to see them generally are at dawn and at dusk. Dragonflies, on the other hand, mostly like bright sunlight and they are often most visible during the hottest part of the day.

When I was walking around the small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge yesterday morning around 10:00, therefore, I was expecting to see dragonflies. Imagine my shock when some motion in the water caught my eye and I spotted a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) lazily swimming by parallel to the shore on which I was standing.

The light on the water was amazing and gave it a golden glow, as you can see in the first image. The beaver made a gentle u-turn and I was able to capture the ripples and the wake it created in the second image. The beaver was then swimming  toward the light and that is why you can see some of the details of the eye in that second image.

I then decided to switch from my DSLR with my 180mm macro lens that I used for the first two shots to my Canon SX50 superzoom camera. The third image is framed just as it came out of the camera with no cropping and it lets you see some of the texture of the beaver’s fur and the little hairs that stick out of its face. I also love the way the patterns of the water look in this image.

This little incident was a reminder to be eternally vigilant. Wild creatures don’t always follow the rules and may turn up in unexpected places at unanticipated times.

beaver

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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