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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

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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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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I spotted this curious little White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  The deer appears to have moved out of the cute little Bambi phase and seemed more like a gawky adolescent to me (though I confess I know very little about deer development).

I like the fact that you can still see some of its white spots, which look to be a little faded.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This little buck seemed more curious than fearful when he spotted me on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He continued to forage in a marshy area for a while before he finally disappeared from sight.

I know that we have a herd of White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) on the wildlife refuge, though I see deer only on rare occasions. This little deer seemed to be alone and I was really struck by the shape of his antlers. It looks to me like they might be his first set of antlers, though I confess to knowing almost nothing about the stages of development of a deer.  The shape of the antlers reminds me of photos that I have seen of several species of antelope in Africa.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I tend to be more of a dog person than a cat person. Cats have always been somewhat mysterious creatures to me, a bit wild and uncontrollable. Nonetheless, I am usually the go-to person to watch her three cats when my neighbor and fellow photographer Cindy Dyer goes out of town.

This past weekend I watched and fed the three male cats and, as is usually the case, I attempted to take some photos of them. Cindy often manages to capture them in wonderful candid moments, but it was hard for me to get them to cooperate. I am not used to shooting indoors with limited light, so that was an additional challenge. I learned pretty quickly that the 180mm macro lens that I happened to have on my camera is not optimal for this task—it was tough to get far enough away to capture the cats’ major facial features.

Eventually I was able to capture a portrait of each of them. Queso, the orange cat who was rescued in the bushes outside of a Mexican restaurant, is the youngest one; Pixel is the one with the pixelated hair who loves to roll over to have his tummy scratched; and Lobo, the gray lone wolf of the pack, fixed me with a fierce stare when he finally let me take his picture.

I should be back to my more typical wildlife shots tomorrow in case any of you were concerned that I had abandoned my butterflies and dragonflies. I enjoy the challenge of a different set of subjects and I must admit that it was nice to shoot in the coolness of the air-conditioned indoors rather than in the hot, humid summer weather we have been experiencing.

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Queso

Pixel

Lobo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Six years ago today my photography mentor Cindy Dyer sat me down and told me that I was going to start a blog. She showed me the basics of WordPress editing and navigation and helped me set up my initial pages. I don’t think that either of us anticipated the degree to which I would grow to love the process of blogging, a process that has allowed me to express myself creatively in both words and images

WordPress data show that I have published 2768 posts and have had approximately 170800 views. Those posts have included 429649 words (about 155 words per posting) and well over 3000 photos.

The importance of my blog, though, cannot be expressed merely in numbers. More significantly the blog has helped me to develop relationships with a lot of different viewers, to share with you the different steps on my meandering journey into photography. Thanks to all of you for helping me along the way and sharing your comments, suggestions, and recommendations. I especially owe a debt of gratitude to Cindy Dyer for motivating me throughout this entire period, for pushing me at times when I was hesitant, and for serving as my museThanks, Cindy.

To celebrate this anniversary, I thought I would reprise a few of my favorite photos. These are not necessarily my most popular images or my “best” images, but they are ones that are particularly memorable to me. I am also including links to the original postings so you can read the accompanying text and additional commentary about the circumstances under which they were captured.

Links to original postings: Visible Song (8 March 2016); Fox on a frozen pond (31 January 2016); and Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle (4 November 2014).

Thanks again for all of your support and encouragement over these past six years. The journey continues onward.

Visible song

fox on frozen pond

eagle resuce

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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As I was looking over some images from about a month ago, I realized that I had not posted any views of this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I spotted swimming off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge one early morning. At that hour we both were moving pretty slowly—one of us on land and the other in the water.

As the beaver altered its course , the light falling on its face and body changed, occasionally catching a bit of sunlight from the just-risen sun. I love the way that the water was tinged with light blue and pink and how the mostly still water picked up the reflections of the swimming beaver.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I grew up in the suburbs, so even domesticated farmyard animals seem exotic to me, like this bantam rooster and Red Angus cow with her calf that I encountered last weekend in Montpelier, Virginia while I was out of town for a wedding.

I am also including an image of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that I also captured on the farm—I like the way that the color of the rusted barbs matches that of the robin’s breast and how their shape mirrors that of the robin’s clawed feet.

 bantam rooster
Red Angus cow
American Robin
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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All wild creatures seem especially beautiful in the early morning light, like this cute little muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) that I spotted last week in one of the small ponds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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 When I spotted a dark shape in the distance yesterday morning at the edge of a trail alongside the water at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I had no idea what it was—then it started to move. These images suggest to me that it was a North American River Otter (Lontra canadensis), the first time I have seen one at this location and the first time that I have seen one in the wild on land rather than in the water.
North American River Otter
North American River Otter
As my mind was busy processing what my eyes were seeing, the otter scurried into the brush and then into the water, where it was joined by a second otter. When I watched the otters swimming away, I was facing almost directly into the sun, so all I was able to capture was this “artsy” silhouette of one of them. I really like the way that the backlighting shows off the otter’s whiskers as it turned its head around and watched as the other otter caught up.
North American River Otter
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I know that rabbits don’t go south for the winter, but they seemed to disappear in late autumn and I did not see a single one during the winter months. Suddenly this past week, they started reappearing on the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Yesterday I spotted this cute little Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus) as it gathered up stalks of grass. Initially the rabbit grazed a bit before it started to accumulate a mouthful of the long, dry stalks of grass—perhaps there are little ones that need to be fed.

Eastern Cottontail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it carefully made its way across one of the small streams that crisscross the refuge.

This deer was lagging behind a small group of four deer that I initially spotted. That group pretty quickly and I was not really ready for them, so my photos were not that good. I was quite happy when this final deer appeared and I was able to get some shots. I couldn’t tell for sure how stable the footing was where the deer was crossing, but the deer did appear to be very careful as it chose places to place its feet.

deer crossing

deer crossing

deer crossing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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