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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

In my area, Great Blue Herons stay with us all winter, but Great Egrets (Ardea alba) are present only during the warm months. It is therefore a treat to spot one of these elegant white birds that always remind of ballet dancers.

I visited Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge on Wednesday to search for dragonflies at a small pond there. As is often the case at this time of the year, I had my trusty 180mm macro lens on my camera, a lens that has proven to be quite suitable for the dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies that I expected to encounter.

A passerby alerted me to the presence of a “white heron” in a large adjacent wetland area, so I decided to check it out. This area is totally inaccessible on foot and is viewable only from a small observation deck. When I reached the deck and climbed one of the benches, I was able to spot the egret in the distance in an area full of water lilies and other aquatic vegetation.

My lens was not long enough for me to get a close-up shot of the egret, so I concentrated on composing the environmental portrait that is the first image below. I like the way the brilliant white color of the egret allows it to stand out despite the clutter of all of that vegetation. I took the second shot when the egret began to walk and was able to capture the extended neck of an egret in motion. The egrets reflection in the water was a nice bonus.

These two images help to remind me of the value of  taking photos with whatever camera gear I happen to have in my hands, no matter how modest or ill-suited to the subject it may seem. My friends sometimes ask me what kind of cameras they should buy and my usual response is that they should get one that they will use. Shoot with what you have and don’t worry about it—you may surprise and delight yourself at how well you are able to capture the moment.

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It has been several months since I last checked on the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I made a visit there on Monday to check on the eaglets. The young eagles that I found still hanging around the nest are definitely no longer babies, though most people would not yet recognize them as Bald Eagles—it takes almost five years for them to acquire their distinctive white heads and tails.

I am pretty sure that these two eaglets are now capable of flight, though they remained in place on the branches overlooking the nest the entire time that I observed them. For the first time in quite some time I had my 150-600mm lens on my camera that allowed me to zoom in on each of the eaglets and then zoom back for the final shot to give you an idea of how close they were to the nest.

The bedraggled plumage makes it look like it was really windy, but in fact there was no wind when I captured the images. The eaglets clearly have a lot of work to do on their grooming before they are ready to take their place as one of our national symbols.

I did not see any adult Bald Eagles until much later in the day when I spotted one in another part of the wildlife refuge. Although the eaglets appear to be more or less full grown in terms of size, I question the degree to which they are self-sufficient and suspect that they are still dependent on their parents to provide them with food. As their flying skills improve, the eagles will almost certainly venture out farther and farther and it will become correspondingly more difficult for me to spot them.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Unlike Great Blue Herons, which remain throughout the winter, “our” Great Egrets (Ardea alba) overwinter in warmer places. Great Egrets may have returned weeks or even months ago, but it was only on Monday that I spotted my first ones of the year, while I was exploring Huntley Meadows Park, a marshland refuge not far from where I live. This park used to be my favorite place for wildlife photography, but it became so popular that it is frequently crowded, and for that reason I visit it now only occasionally.

As I approached a small viewing platform overlooking the central wetland area, I could see four Great Egrets, including one that was fairly close to the shore. I was mostly looking for dragonflies, butterflies that day, so I had my 180mm macro lens on my camera and a 24-105mm zoom lens in my bag. I was hoping that the close-in egret would remain in place, so I would have a chance of getting  a shot with my macro lens, but the large white bird took off as I approached.

I had anticipated that this would happen, and managed to capture a few shots of the egret in flight. I was fortunate that the egret flew only a short distance to a nearby pile of branches and remained there, allowing me time to compose some additional shots.

Although I would have liked to have gotten closer to the action with a longer lens, I am pretty happy with the shots that I got, which highlight the habitat as well as the beautiful bird. I love the feathery wingspan in the first photo as the egret was preparing to land. In the second photo, you can see that the long feathers of the egret’s breeding plumage if you click on the image to see the details better.

Whenever people ask me about camera gear, I encourage them to use whatever they have, rather than staying a home and lamenting that they do not have. Make the best use possible of what you have—I try to apply that lesson in other aspects of my life and not just in photography.

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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I have not seen many baby birds this spring, so it was exciting to spot this little Canada Goose family last week swimming together in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are so common where I live that many people consider them to be a nuisance, but I love to observe and photograph them.

Earlier this spring I noticed that a Canada Goose had established a nest on top of one of the wooden duck blinds and I wonder if these little goslings were hatched in that nest. Whatever the case, springtime is such a wonderful time to celebrate new life in all of its forms—and you have to admit that those three baby geese are really cute.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Great Blue Herons remain in my area throughout the winter, but the much smaller Green Herons (Butorides virescens) depart in the autumn for warmer locations. It is always exciting for me when these colorful little herons return in the spring. Green Herons have always struck me as having more outgoing personalities than the more stoic Great Blue Heron and I love to watch them.

Normally I see them down at water level, often partially hidden by the vegetation, which makes them a challenge to photograph. Last week during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, however, I spotted a Green Heron that had chosen a higher perch that allowed me to get an unobstructed shot. I really like the heron’s pose as it alertly surveyed the surrounding area.
Green Heron

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When I saw an osprey couple trying to build a nest earlier this spring on a channel marker in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the building site seemed way too small. Amazingly the ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) found a way to add an overhanging extension that seems to defy gravity. The couple seemed comfortable in the nest, which appear to be capable of easily holding their weight.

A neighboring osprey couple had the opposite problem—they had too much space. The ospreys used only half of the space for their nest and could easily have shared the other half with another couple, but I think that ospreys like to keep their neighbors at arm’s length, or maybe it would be better to say “at wing’s length.”

osprey nest

osprey nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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As some of you know, I have been monitoring two Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests this spring at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This past month I have devoted most of my photography time to dragonflies, so yesterday I grabbed my long lens and headed off to the refuge, hoping to see some baby eagles. One of the nests is huge and has high walls, so it is hard to know what, if anything, is going on inside it.

I waited and waited and finally the head of an eaglet popped up over the edge of the nest. As I reviewed the first photo, I noticed that there is another eaglet on the other side of the tree trunk, just a little lower. (You may need to click on the image to spot the second eaglet.) Both of the baby birds were facing the tree trunk and I soon learned why.

It turns out that one of there was an adult eagle behind the tree trunk. In the second image, it looks like the adult eagle, whose only visible part was its beak, was giving a bite of food to one eaglet while its sibling looked out from the other side of the tree trunk and did not seem very happy about the situation.

In the final shot, you get a better look at the adult eagle and a partial view of one of the eaglets. I now know for sure that there are at least two eaglets in that nest—some years there have been three eaglets. As the eaglets get older, I hope they will be more active and curious and that will allow me to get some better shots of them.

eaglet

eaglet

bald eagle

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Perhaps these Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were singing or maybe they were trying to scare off incoming osprey, but most importantly they were doing it together as a couple on a shared perch when I spotted them on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge at a moment when the skies were completely overcast.

Bald Eagles

 

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Both members of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple were active on Monday in and around the big nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—neither of them appeared to be sitting continuously in the nest.  Perhaps there are eaglets already, though the nest is so deep I could not see any little heads.

I captured this image as one of the eagles was making its final approach to land on the nest. I really like the position of the wings that help the eagle slow its forward progress and the way that the light coming from the side was illuminating the tail feathers.

I will be continuing to monitor this nest and the other one at the wildlife refuge for signs of baby eagles and hopefully will have the chance to capture some shots of them soon.

bald eagle

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One of the coolest spring birds in our area is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), a tiny bird that is only slightly larger than a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I spotted this one last week in the trees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has a distinctive call, so it is easy to know when one is around. Finding the bird, though, can be a real challenge because they are small, energetic, and spend a lot of time high in the trees. The trees are really starting to leaf out now, which adds another level of complexity to the challenge.

Several years ago I spotted a gnatcatcher’s nest (see my 2018 posting Gnatcatcher nest) and I am hoping to find one again this year. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers make their nests in a way that seems almost magical, using lichens and spiderwebs.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although it has been almost a week since I last posted an image of a bird, let me reassure you that I have not given up on them. At this time of the year, however, my attention is divided and I am just as likely to be hunting for tiny subjects with my macro lens as I am to be scanning the increasing leafy trees through my long telephoto zoom lens. When I start walking (and I do a lot of walking), I have to decide which lens I will initially put on my camera and that will largely dictate where I will look for subjects.

On Thursday, I went back to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to look for birds and was delighted to spot a small flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). Sometimes the turkeys that I see appear relatively small, but some of the members of this flock seemed enormous, like the one in the first photo. The turkeys were picking about at the edge of the trail on which I was walking and slowly made their way into the undergrowth as I approached. The motion was fast enough, though, that one of the turkey’s legs is blurred in the second photo.

I am hoping to be able to capture some images of springtime warblers and of baby eaglets, but the transition has already begun from mostly telephoto shots to mostly macro shots—it is part of my seasonal transition.

wild tukey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to stroll along the shore—the rhythmic sound of the waves relaxes me and often puts me into a contemplative frame of mind. When I spotted this crow on a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t help but think that the crow too was lost in its thoughts and enjoying the same therapeutic benefits of a stroll at the water’s edge.

I must confess that I do not know my crows very well. I assume that this is an American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), but realize that it might instead be a Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus). From what I have read, even experts sometimes have trouble visually distinguishing between the two species, though Fish Crows are substantially smaller than American Crows. Apparently some people can tell them apart by their calls, but this crow was silent, so I too will remain silent and simply identify the strolling bird as a crow.


crow

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It was cool and windy yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and most of the birds seemed to be taking refuge from the elements. I was therefore especially thrilled to spot and photograph my first warbler of the season, this Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica).

This is the time of the year when a lot of colorful warblers pass through our area on their northward migration. Many of the warbler stay for only a short time, so it is a hit-or-miss proposition for me to find them. This is also the time of the year when the trees are budding, flowering and pushing out new leaves. All of this new growth is beautiful, but it makes it harder for me to spot the little birds as they flit about, often at the tops of the trees.

We had some spring-like temperatures a week ago and I was walking around in a T-shirt or at most a sweatshirt. Yesterday, though, the day started with temperatures below freezing and eventually made it up to only 47 degrees (8 degrees C) with almost constant winds of 15 miles per hour making it feel much colder. I dug out my heavier coat, insulated boots, and thermal underwear and was comfortable walking about, though most of the wildlife seemed to have taken the much more commonsense approach of simply staying sheltered.

Yellow-throated Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I tend to be a bit obsessive about trying to get my subject in sharp focus when capturing wildlife images. So I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, when I saw that the focus in this shot of a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was a bit soft. I was quite a distance away when I saw this little bird moving about in the tree branches on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to snap off only a couple of shots before it flew away.

The more I looked at this image, the more I have come to like it. There is something really pleasing about the bird’s upward-facing pose; the lighting around the chickadee; the out-of-focus background; the simple structure of the branches; and especially the spots of bright spring color in the flowering tree. This image conveys to me an overall feeling of the beauty of the emerging spring.

This type of shot also serves to remind me that photography is as much about art as it is about science, that it is ok to break whatever “rules” I choose to impose on myself. Beauty can be found in sharp, detailed photos, what I normally strive to create, but it can also be found in “artsy,” impressionistic images like this one.

What do you think? Does the soft focus on this chickadee bother you?

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Wildlife photography is full of uncertainty—there are no guarantees of success. When I go out with my camera, I never know if I will find any subjects to photograph.

I stay alert and almost always something will appear, like this beautiful female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I spotted a week ago at Occoquan Regional Park.

Beauty is everywhere—sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find it.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the newly-returned Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were busy on Friday building or renovating their nests. In past years I have seen ospreys make nests in a wide range of locations, both natural as well as man-made. This osprey was ferrying out sticks to a nest on a distant channel marker in the bay, where its mate waited patiently for each new delivery.

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes the colors in a photo draw me in as much as the actual subject, as is the case with this image of a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Regional Park.

The soft shades of brown and gray harmoniously create a mood that I really like. Even the wispy, dried grasses in the foreground, which might have bothered me under most circumstances, add a nice texture and organic feel to this in situ portrait.

Northern Mockingbird

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Some people find Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) to be creepy, but I think they are handsome in their own way and fill a useful function in keeping our roads at least partially free from carrion. I spotted quite a few Turkey Vultures on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some clustered on the ground and some circling in the skies.

The two vultures in the first photo were part of a group of five that were spread across a trail near the partial remains of what looks to have been some kind of animal. I did not want to disturb them, so I gave them a wide berth and continued on my way after capturing the image.

I had no such worry with the vulture in the second shot that was effortless soaring overhead and did not seem disturbed at all by my presence. It probably was my imagination, but at times it seems like the vulture was tracking me. I think I watched too many cowboy movies as a child in which a lost cowboy stumbled through the desert as vultures circled overhead, waiting for him to die.

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds return silently in the spring and you have to search hard to find them. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), on the other hand, make their presence known as they soar overhead, often calling out in their loud, high-pitched voices that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology compared to “the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove.”

I spotted only a few ospreys yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some of which I managed to photograph, but know from experience that they are only the advance guard of a larger group of osprey that will arrive soon and begin to build or repair their nests. As you may notice in the second photo, trees in our area are being to produce buds and it won’t be long before leaves begin to complicate my efforts to spot birds.

Osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was early in the morning when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Utterly fascinated, I watched the eagle methodically preening, moving from one area of its body to another, adjusting the feathers and removing some small wispy ones. When you are a national symbol, I guess you have to try to look majestic at all times.

This particular eagle was pretty relaxed and I managed to walk almost underneath the overhanging branch without disturbing it. If you look carefully at the final photo, you can tell that I was shooting almost straight up in order to get the shot. Remarkably the eagle remained in place when I continued on my way down the trail. I would like to be able to claim that I was really stealthy in my movements, but I think it was more likely that the eagle was simply willing to tolerate my presence, of which he was undoubtedly aware.

Bald Eagle

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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It was great on Tuesday to see that some Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One was even checking out the local real estate market and was shocked at how expensive housing rentals are in this area.

In the wild, Tree Swallows nest in tree cavities, but they seem to adapt readily to using nesting boxes, like the one in the final photo. At this spot of the refuge there are two nesting boxes and each year there seems to be a competition between Tree Swallows and Easter Bluebirds for their use.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Tree Swallows winter farther north than any other American swallows and return to their nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. They can eat plant foods as well as their normal insect prey, which helps them survive the cold snaps and wintry weather of early spring.”

Welcome back, beautiful little swallows.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

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I do not know about the reactions of the lady turkeys, but I was mighty impressed by the display of this male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) early yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A lot of male birds go to great lengths to impress and attract females during the early spring, but this wild turkey’s presentation might take the prize for being so flamboyant and ostentatious. I guess he has truly embraced the motto, “Go big or go home.”

Wild Turkey

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When you look through the photos on my blog, you might get the mistaken impression that I have some magical power over birds, because your view of them is rarely obstructed by branches. I have a confession to make—those photos are not accurate representations of the way that I see birds most of the time. Today’s image of a beautiful little Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) provides a more typical view of the way that I see birds in the wild as they move about in the thickets and underbrush foraging for food, rarely providing me with a good look.

Despite all of the branches that blocked my view, I managed to capture quite a lot of the kinglet’s details in this shot, including a sliver of its golden “crown,” a close look at its legs and feet as the small bird was hanging from a leaf, and some of the texture of the layers of feathers. I highly encourage you to click on the image to get a better looks at these wonderful detail. As you look at this bird, keep in mind that it is one of the smallest songbirds in my area, with a length of 3.1-4.3 in (8-11 cm) and a weight of 0.1-0.3 oz (4-8 g), according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I am fond of saying that beauty is everywhere, and I believe that to be true. Sometimes, though, you might not see it at first glance. If you slow down and look beyond those things that threaten to block your view, you may discover beauty hidden among the branches.

 

Golden-crowned Kinglet

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How good are you at identifying a bird by its silhouette? When you are shooting directly into the light, one of the challenges of photographing a bird is that many of the details, or even all of them, disappear into the shadows—you often have to rely more on the shapes than the colors to identify the bird.

I could not see the eyes or any of the facial features of this bird that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but its long bill and distinctive “punk rock” head feathers made it relatively easy to identify it as a Male Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), a type of diving duck that I see only occasionally. For the record, the white collar also helped in making the identification.

Red-breasted Mergansers are one of the bird species that spend their winters with us. I suspect that it will not be long before they depart for more more northern locations for the breeding season.

 

Red-breasted Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For the last six weeks or so, I have been monitoring two Bald Eagle couples (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they have repaired and renovated two different nests. On Saturday morning I made my way to one of them and was delighted to see an eagle sitting low in the nest. I cannot be completely certain, but I think that the eagle is sitting on one or more eggs. If true, the eaglets should hatch in about 35 days or so.

This relatively small nest was damaged last summer when it looks like one of the supporting branches broke off and half of the nest fell to the ground. I observed some of the reconstructions efforts and documented it in an early February posting called Rebuilding the nest. It looks to me like the nest has grown considerably in size since that time.

This nest is located in a sycamore tree just off one of the major trails at the wildlife refuge. Each year the authorities block off all of the nearby roads to allow the eagles to nest in peace. The final photo shows the tree in which the nest is located and the current barrier across the trail from which I took the first photo. A telephoto lens tends to compress distances, so it is hard to judge exactly how far away the tree is from the barrier—I estimate that it is about a hundred yards (91 meters).

I will continue to keep an eye on this nest and hopefully will manage to get a glimpse of some eaglets in the upcoming months. Last year I believe that there was only a single eaglet (check out my May 2020 posting entitled One little eaglet), although in past years there were often two eaglets (check out this April 2018 posting called Baby bald eagles for a look at two adorable little eaglets).

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I really enjoy posting photos here on my blog because I have the freedom to post multiple images and spend as much time and text as I want talking about them—most other forms of social media have implicit or explicit limits on the content. I post a subset of my blog content on my personal Facebook page and in several Facebook groups.

Many of these Facebook groups are very specialized and are full of experts. I actually prefer to post to groups that are aimed more towards generalists who have a broad interest in nature and wildlife. One of my favorites is called “Nature Lovers of Virginia” and I was thrilled when one of my recent photos of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was selected as the banner photo for the group for the month of March. The enclosed photo shows the banner photo as it looks in Facebook.

I take photos mostly for my own enjoyment, but do love to share them with others. It is a nice plus to get a little recognition from time to time.

banner image

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes you cannot get your subject to cooperate in posing and sometimes it simply does not matter, especially when you are focused primarily on capturing the mood of the moment, rather than the anatomical details of the wildlife creature.

On a recent early-morning trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted a distant Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched in a tree. The heron was facing away from me and appeared to be basking in the sun, trying to warm up a little after what had been a frigid night. The morning light was beautiful as it illuminated the interlocking grid of branches—in many ways that light became the main subject of this image.

There is a kind of abstract feel to this image that I really like, though it is quite different from most of the photos that I normally take. Somehow it recaptures for me the serenity of that early-morning encounter in a way that a detailed close-up shot would not have been able to do.

Great Blue Heron

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Do you remember what it was like to be so totally in love that you wanted to be physically close to the other person every single moment of every single hour? That was the first thought that came to mind when I spotted these two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) close together in a tree last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I tend to think of eagles as being fierce, powerful, and independent, but this image suggests that they also have a tender, vulnerable side as well.

Look into the eyes of the eagle on the right, which I believe is the male. Doesn’t he look like he is totally smitten, wide-eyed and in love? This stage of total infatuation often happens when you are young, though it can strike you at any time in your life. It brings to mind a playground chant of my youth that was designed to embarrass the persons named in the song. Do you remember the song?

Imagine these two eagles were named Chris and Mike. It would go like this:

Chris and Mike
Sitting in a tree
K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then comes baby
In a baby carriage!

Can you imagine an eagle with a baby carriage? Let your creative imagination run wild. If I had skills as a cartoonist, it would be fun to make a drawing with this eagle couple pushing a baby carriage. Alas, I have no such skills, but would encourage any of you who possess those skills to take on the challenge.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The early morning sun was still low on the horizon last Tuesday when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The light at this time of the day is so warm, soft, and beautiful that I desperately wanted to get a shot of the eagle.

There was, however, one big problem—the eagle was looking away from me and the view of the back of its head was not very attractive. So I watched and waited and watched some more. Finally, the eagle made a quick glance over its shoulder, smiled, and seemed to ask if I was now satisfied. I was.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I rounded a curve in a trail on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a flash of white at ground level further down the trail. My eyes immediately registered the fact that it was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but my mind seemed to have trouble processing the presence of an eagle in this incongruous location. What was it doing there?

The second and third images suggest that I inadvertently interrupted the eagle as it was consuming its breakfast. I cannot identify the eagle’s prey, but it does not look like a fish to me. If you click on the images you can get a closer look at the remains of the prey and maybe you can tell what it is/was. Perhaps it was one of the many ducks that I could see on the waters of the bay that is visible through the vegetation.

As you can tell from the final photo, the eagle took off as soon as it sensed my presence, taking with it the remains of his meal. I never get tired of visiting this wildlife refuge as often as I can. There is an old adage that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, so some might consider me to be a little crazy. The truth, however, is that each wildlife encounter is a unique combination of environmental factors and subject behavior, so each time there are new possibilities and opportunities to capture views of nature’s endless diversity.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) migrate to my area for the winter, but I rarely see one, probably because they spend most of their time foraging out of sight in the underbrush. When I first spotted this one last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was in the shadows and its shape made me think it was an American Robin, another member of the thrush family. However, when it hopped onto this branch and was better illuminated, the spotted breast and lighter coloration made it really obvious that this was not a robin.

I was a little disappointed that I did not hear this little bird sing. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “the Hermit Thrush’s beautiful, haunting song begins with a sustained whistle and ends with softer, echo-like tones.”

Hermit Thrush

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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