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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

Sometimes Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) will renovate preexisting nests, but often they have to build one from scratch. This osprey couple that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was trying to build one in what seemed to be a rather precarious location.

I learned about the location of the nest only when I spotted an osprey flying by me with a stick in its talons. In my zeal to track the osprey, I neglected to pull back on my zoom lens, so I ended up cutting off its wing tips in the first image in which the osprey is delivering the stick. In the second image, you can see the nest-to-be as the osprey attempts to arrange the sticks. The final shot shows the osprey arriving at the nesting site with another stick. I like the way that the osprey almost hovered in order to land softly with its delivery.

I don’t know it the osprey couple will manage to jam enough sticks in the crook of the tree to be able to form a stable nest, but I will be sure to check their progress in future visits, as long as the wildlife refuge continues to stay open.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” I started my Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with this handsome Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who seemed to be serenading me.

If you have ever heard the squawk of a Great Blue Heron, you know why it is best that there is no soundtrack. Instead, I recommend that you click on this link to a YouTube video of the song that I cited in my opening sentence from the classic 1955 movie “Oklahoma”—it is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Land prices are so high here in Northern Virginia that you have to be creative. Yesterday I spotted this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) couple building their tiny house on one of the boundary channel markers off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The osprey perched in the back, which I believe is the female, remained in place while the other osprey flew off to forage for building materials. Sometimes they were only small twigs, but occasional the male osprey would return with a fairly long branch, as in the second photo. In the third shot, the male osprey has successfully landed with the long branch, but has not yet let go of it.

Multiple osprey couples are busily constructing nests all of “my” wildlife refuge and I hope to be able to share some images of their constructions sites.

 

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even though we were at more than an acceptable social distance, this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) seemed to be communicating a message to me with its direct eye contact on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—something like, “Please leave so I can continue working on my nest.”

Most of the time I will try to avoid photographing a bird head-on, because it has the potential to distort its features a lot. With this osprey, though, I think it worked out pretty well, perhaps because of the size and shape of its head.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Each spring I try to get shots of birds perching in blossoming trees, but the birds rarely cooperate with me—they all seem more interested in foraging for food than in posing for me. On Saturday, though, a White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge paused for a moment and I was able to capture this image.

I chose not to crop this image any closer in order to give you a better view of the delicate white blossoms of a tree that I am not able to immediately identify.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am more of a liberal arts guy than a scientist, so the details of bird identification often escape me. Sue of the Back Yard Biology blog, on the other hand, is a self-avowed “geeky science nerd.” She decided to do some work to find out how to tell the age of a wild turkey. I suspect that many of you will find her posting as fascinating as I did, so be sure to click on the View Original Post in order to see her entire posting.

Be sure also to check out other postings on her wonderful blog. Sue is one of my most faithful followers and was one of the first to comment on my earliest postings more than seven years ago.

Back Yard Biology

It’s that time again, when tom Turkeys begin to strut their stuff in the backyard.  The other day, a FB friend/fellow wildlife photographer posted a shot of a tom turkey (https://michaelqpowell.com/2020/03/22/panic-or-calm/) that looked quite a bit different than the one I have been seeing in my backyard.  I thought it looked younger, but I wondered how one can tell the age of male wild Turkey.  So, I googled that thought, and it turns out it’s not a hard thing to do (assuming you can judge lengths somewhat accurately).

The key things to look for are the length of the beard (the hair-like structures — which are modified feathers) hanging down from its breast), the color of the tip of the beard, and the length of the spurs on the back of the lower-most part of its leg next to the foot (the tarsometatarsus to be exact).

It’s still early in…

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Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) reacted in different ways yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when they detected my presence. One turkey seemed to panic, put down its head, and sprinted to the other side, while the other calmly strode across the trail. Both reached the other side safely. Was this the turkey version of social distancing?

How do you react in the face of a perceived threat? These days, this question is not merely an academic one—it is part of our daily lives. I think we all experience moments of panic, but we can choose not to let those feelings overwhelm us. Stay safe and healthy within the limits imposed on you by the current crisis and be sure to take care of yourselves.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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