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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

I kept hearing loud singing coming from the top of the trees on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but had trouble locating the source of the singing. Leaves are now covering the trees, complicating my efforts to spot small songbirds. Eventually I managed to locate the birds and they turned out to be Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea).

Once again I was amazed by the deep blue coloration of the male Indigo Buntings—its intensity never fails to startle me. The bold color of the Indigo Buntings, sometimes nicknamed “blue canaries,” was matched by the cheerfulness of their songs. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Male Indigo Buntings whistle a bright, lively song of sharp, clear, high-pitched notes that lasts about 2 seconds. They are voluble, singing as many as 200 songs per hour at dawn and keeping up a pace of about one per minute for the rest of the day.” Check out this link to hear samples of some of the songs of Indigo Buntings.

I was amazed to discover about how Indigo Buntings learn to sing. According the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Indigo Buntings learn their songs as youngsters, from nearby males but not from their fathers. Buntings a few hundred yards apart generally sing different songs, while those in the same “song neighborhood” share nearly identical songs. A local song may persist up to 20 years, gradually changing as new singers add novel variations.” Wow!

I believe that Indigo Buntings will be with us all summer and I hope to get some shots at closer range. I have fond memories of the first time I photographed a male Indigo Bunting in August 2017 as he perched on the drooping head of a sunflower—check out the posting entitled Indigo Bunting and Monarch.

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Monday I spotted my first Green Heron (Butorides virescens) of the season at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Unlike Great Blue Herons that remain with us all winter, Green Herons migrate to warmer places in the fall and return to our area in the spring and spend the summers with us.

When I first spotted the heron, it was perched in a tree, as shown in the final photo. I passed by the heron, stopped a short distance away, and waited. Eventually the heron grew comfortable with my presence (or chose to ignore me) and hopped down out of the tree. Recent heavy rains had caused a pond to overflow onto a road and I was happy to be able to get some shots as the heron poked about in the shallow waters at the edge of the road.

I crouched as low as I could and waited for the heron to move into one of the patches of light. The little moved slowly and deliberately, gradually Green moving into the dense undergrowth where I had trouble tracking it. It was a cool encounter with one of my favorite birds—in my experience Green Herons show a lot of personality than other herons.

Green Herons are also one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Green Herons “often create fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish.” I have not yet seen this kind of behavior, but try to be particularly alert whenever I spot a Green Heron. It would be easier for me to recognize the behavior if the Green Heron used something more distinctive, like a little fishing pole.

Green Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A speedy little Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) was perched on a paved path at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens last Saturday and I captured this first image as it was taking off. The shot is a little blurry, but I love the the really cool shadow that the swallow was casting onto the ground. The second image shows the same swallow just before it took off and give you a better view of the coloration and markings of a Barn Swallow.

When I first spotted the birds in the final photo, I thought they might also be Barn Swallows, but when I took a closer look and did a little research, I determined that the bird on the outside of the nest was a male Purple Martin (Progne subis) and the one with her head poking out was a female Purple Martin. As far as I can recall, this is the first time that I have photographed this bird species, which is the largest swallow in our area.

Barn Swallow

Barn Swallow

Purple Martin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Most warblers forage in the forest canopy and I have to strain my neck to search for them. Palm Warblers (Setophaga palmarum), however, mainly forage on open ground or in low vegetation.  When I saw a flash of yellow in some low bushes last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I therefore suspected that it might be a Palm Warbler.

I watched and waited and eventually the bird hopped up onto a branch and I managed to get a clear shot of it. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure that it was a Palm Warbler, but the color and markings looked about right and I could see the rust-colored cap on its head, another identification feature for a Pine Warbler. Some experts in a Facebook forum confirmed that “my” bird is indeed  a Palm Warbler.

The warblers are with us for only a limited period of time in the spring before they continue their migration northward, so I don’t know how many more times I will have a chance to photograph them. At this time of the year, though, colorful flowers are popping up and insects are reappearing, so I won’t suffer from a lack of subjects when the wablers depart.

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this colorful Prairie Warbler (Setophaga discolor) as it was singing high in a tree on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the time I spot birds like this when they fly to a new perch, but this warbler stubbornly refused to move. I stared and stared at the tree, desperately trying to locate the source of the song that the bird was singing over and over again.

I finally located the warbler in the crook of a branch. I was looking upward at such an acute angle that I mostly got a view of the underside of the bird, but eventually I captured the first image in which the warbler was singing. Prairie Warblers have an unusual rising song that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology described in these words, “The Prairie Warbler sings a distinctive, rising and accelerating song with a buzzy quality, zee-zee-zee-zee-zee-zeeeee.” If you click on this link, you can listen to several sound samples of the songs of the Prairie Warbler.

I do not know how much longer the migratory warblers will be in my area, but I hope to have another chance to see some of these joyous little birds. I am still not confident in my identification skills for warblers, so there is a chance that I am wrong about this being a Prairie Warbler, but its beauty is undeniable.

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I could hear a bird singing in a tree on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but I had trouble finding it. Eventually I spotted some movement and was able to track the bird, but it remained mostly hidden. I saw some flashes of yellow and assumed that it was some sort of warbler. I finally managed to get decent shot of it and was anxious to check out my birding guide to see what it was.

When I looked through the warbler section of the book, none of the images seemed to match “my bird.” What else could it be? Suddenly I remembered that a couple of other local photographers had mentioned seeing vireo at this refuge. Could this be a vireo?

The overall coloration and the stunning eye convinced me that this is almost certainly a White-eyed Vireo (Vireo griseus), a new species for me. This is definitely one of the coolest looking birds that I have seen in a long time. I love the wash of pale yellow on its breast and the darker yellow around its bill. If you click on the image and look carefully at the bill, you will see that it is slightly hooked, which is not the case with warblers.

I went to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to learn a bit more about the behavior of this species—”White-eyed Vireos hop among branches and make short flights between shrubs, making sure to stay well hidden in the process. Males sing from the edges of understory vegetation all day long, even during the heat of the day.” I still have trouble geolocating a bird on the basis of sound, but can use all the help I can get.

I am currently alternating between looking for birds and looking for dragonflies. At this time of the year, they are found in vastly different habitats, so I have to make a decision when I set out in my car. I am absolutely thrilled that I have already had some success with both birds and dragonflies this spring and look forward to new discoveries.

White-eyed Vireo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I featured a warbler that was so brightly colored that it was impossible to miss. Today’s warbler is the complete opposite—it was so nondescript and so well hidden that it was almost impossible to see and initially I could not even identify it from my photos.

My eyes detected some motion high in a pine tree on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I stopped. I had set my long lens on a monopod, so my arms did not get tired as I strained to make out the bird that was moving about among the pine needles and the pine cones, though my neck quickly became sore. It looked like the bird was feeding on little seeds, so it would stop momentarily from time to time, giving me a change to find it in my viewfinder and acquire focus.

None of my shots was spectacular, but I was able to capture enough details of the bird’s body that some experts in a Facebook birding group identified it as a Pine Warbler (Setophaga pinus). Not only were they able to identify the species of the bird, they determined that it was a first year female on the basis of its markings and coloration. I am always amazed when confronted with that level of expertise.

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I set aside my macro lens and put my telephoto zoom lens back on my camera.  Over the past week, I have seen some amazing photos by local photographers of a variety of colorful warblers that migrate through our area in the spring and the fall and I felt compelled to try to photograph them. I must confess, though, that I have never had much success photographing warblers. I can often hear these little birds, but have trouble locating them in the tops of the trees—they seem to be teasing me as they flit about and sing their songs.

I walked around a lot and eventually had several encounters with Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Some warblers have markings and colors that allow them to be camouflaged in the foliage, but the plumage of a Prothonotary Warbler is such a bright yellow that it is impossible for one to hide.

These warblers never seem to sit still for very long and they move quickly from branch to branch. I was happy that I was able to track them reasonably well, considering that I had my zoom lens extended to its maximum length. It takes some practice to be able to see something with your eye and then be able to point the lens in the proper direction.

I exceeded my expectations in getting these shots and also managed to photograph several other bird species that I will probably be featuring in future postings. Today I will probably switch back to my macro lens and focus again on insects. The transitional seasons definitely keep me busy as I try to keep an eye on close-in subjects and those that are farther away.

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

Prothonotary Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From a distance Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) often appear to be black, but often you can spot their distinctive yellow eyes. When you get closer, especially when the lighting is good, you discover that the grackles are covered with an array of multi-colored iridescent feathers.

On Friday I spotted this grackle while I was exploring Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, Virginia with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer. The grackle was poking around at the edge of the water of a small pond and moving about a lot. I had to maneuver around to get a clear shot of the bird, which was a bit of challenge, because overhanging vegetation partially obstructed my view.

Eventually I was able to capture this image. I had my macro lens on my camera at the time, but fortunately its focal length of 180mm means that it also works as a short telephoto lens. I often tell people that it is best to take a photo with whatever camera gear you have in your hand when a situation arises, even if it does not appear to be the ideal option. If I had stopped to change lenses—I had a longer lens in my backpack—I am pretty sure I would missed this fun little shot of the grackle.

Grackle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) were really vocal and active last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  Most often, though, the ospreys were flying out of range of my lenses, so getting shots of them was a bit of a challenge.

Eventually I manage to get a shot of some  perched ospreys. In the first and third photos, the osprey appeared to have a fish that it kept hidden from me. Perhaps it had had a recent experience with an eagle trying to steal its catch and consequently was hyper-possessive now. I think that attitude also explains why the bird was in a defensive, crouched position and would look around before taking a bite of the unseen fish.

The middle photo shows an osprey on a nest that is being constructed on a channel marker in the waters off of the wildlife refuge. In the past,I have photographed much larger nests on this same buoy—check out my blog posting entitle Defying gravity from last year to see a photo of a previous iteration of a nest at this spot.

In the last few days some local photographers have posted photos of warblers at this wildlife refuge, so I will be looking for small birds as well as the larger, more visible ones like these ospreys. Insect activity is beginning to pick up too, so it looks like April will be a busy time for me and my camera.

osprey

Osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I love seeing the differences between juvenile and adult Bald Eagles—the coloration and markings of the eagles change dramatically over time. Earlier this week I did a posting called Two eagles that showed two juvenile eagles perched in a tree. One of them was quite young and the other was almost an adult. It was really easy to see the differences between the two stages of development, with only the older one showing the distinctive white head feathers.

Today I am featuring in-flight photos of two eagles that I spotted last Monday while exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first photo shows a juvenile Bald Eagle that looks to be about two to three years old. The head appears to be dark and the there is a mottled mixture of white and brown feathers. The second image shows a mature Bald Eagle with a white head and uniformly dark feathers.

It is an awesome experience for me when eagles fly almost directly over me and I love trying to get shots of them. I never fail to be impressed by their amazing wingspans, which can reach more than seven feet (213 cm).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times when I photograph an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), the bird appears to be long and lanky. The angle at which I photographed this osprey, however, distorted its proportions, making it seem more short and squat than normal. The spherical head and the osprey’s exaggerated expression of curiosity and surprise help to make this image feel comical and cartoonish—I can’t help but smile every time that I look at the photo.

There are quite a few ospreys now at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and quite soon they will be working on their nests. I hope to be able to capture some shots of that activity. Now that we have moved into April, I will start to switch some of my focus to searching for dragonflies. With a bit of luck, I will see my first dragonflies of the year with a week or two.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to aerial skills, Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) are some of the most agile fliers that I have ever observed. On Monday I watched in awe and amazement as a small group of tree swallows swooped and zoomed over the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The flight of these tiny birds was graceful and mesmerizing, full of acrobatic twists and turns.

It was a real challenge, though, to take photos of birds that are so small and so fast. I was especially happy when I managed to capture the first image that shows a pair of swallows with their wings fully extended. The second shot shows a swallow gliding low over the water—the shape of the bird reminds me of a stealth aircraft skimming low over the earth to avoid being detected by radar.

I did not realize that Tree Swallows had returned to our area. There are several nesting boxes at this wildlife refuge that Tree Swallows regularly use, so I will have to check them out soon.  Sometimes there is a competition between Tree Swallows and Eastern Bluebirds for the nesting boxes. I am not sure how they decide who will get to use the boxes, but somehow they figure it out. Tree Swallows

tree swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was excited to spot quite a few Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It was especially cool because the eagles that I observed were at different stages of development. Bald Eagles are mostly brown in color when they are born and it takes almost five years for them to mature and develop the white feathers on their head that we associate with Bald Eagles.

The eagle on the left in both of the photos is a really young one. I initially thought it might be a fledging that was born this year, but it seems too early for one to have already reached this stage of development. Perhaps this eagle is a year old, judging from its coloration and markings.

I thought that the other eagle was the same one in both photos, but the markings in the first photo show some dark feather on the head and some mottled coloration on the body that seems to me missing on the adult bald eagle in the second photo. I would guess that the “other” eagle in the first photo is about four years old.

 

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t see Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris) very often, so I was happy to spot this little group of them last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although this looks like a ménage à trois situation with a male duck in the middle of two females, there actually was another male who was out of the frame when I took this photo. Ring-necked Ducks are a migratory species that overwinters with us and I suspect that these ducks will soon be leaving our area for more northern locations.

Ring-necked Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I feel compelled to throw back my head and sing at the top of my lungs, as this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was doing when I spotted it last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It might be somewhat of an exaggeration to call it “singing”—the eagle was calling out to its mate, I believe, in a somewhat unmelodious way, but it was a cool experience nonetheless.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology had the following description of a bald eagle’s calls, “For such a powerful bird, the Bald Eagle emits surprisingly weak-sounding calls—usually a series of high-pitched whistling or piping notes.” Check out this link to a Cornell Lab webpage that has several sound samples of an eagle’s call. According to a National Public Radio report, Hollywood movies often dub over an eagle’s call with a Red-tailed Hawk’s cry, which is much more majestic, so you may be surprised to hear what a bald eagle actually sounds like.

bald eagle

bald eagle

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There was a lot of activity on Tuesday at the large Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I still cannot determine if any eaglets have hatched, but several times I observed an eagle fly into the nest or fly out of it. The nest is so deep that an eagle is often hidden from view when sitting on an egg—the only way to know for sure that an eagle is present is when one of them arrives or departs.

The eagle in the first photo was arriving and had spread its wings to slow down its speed and forward momentum. In the second photo, an eagle that was in nest had popped its head up and was looking towards a nearby tree where its mate was perched. After the eagle had reassured itself that everything was ready, the two eagles executed a changing of the guard ceremony—the eagle in the nest flew away and the perched eagle took its place. I captured the third image just as the eagle was taking off from its perch to take its turn watching over the nest.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

bald eagle

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I would not necessarily call this Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) handsome, but I am happy with the way that I was able to capture a bit of the bird’s personality in this close-up portrait shot. I spotted this vulture last week as it perched low in a tree just off the edge of a trail that I was following at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Some people are freaked out by the fact that vultures eat carrion, but most people acknowledge that these scavengers play a valuable role in our ecosystems. I am ok with a turkey vulture’s dietary choices, though I would probably refuse to join a turkey vulture in a meal if one of them made such an offer.

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some of the Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to be making early claims on the existing nests from last year, while others were simply perched on trees throughout the refuge. Mostly they kept their distance, though, so I had to be content with relatively distant shots of these recently returned raptors.

osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Quite a few ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) have returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I spent a lot of time last Thursday trying to photograph them. Most of my efforts were focused on trying to capture images of them in flight.

Ospreys will fly in circles over the water and occasionally will hover and glide a little as they search for prey, which makes it somewhat easier to focus on them than on many other birds. However, it’s still a pretty formidable challenge to get shots in which the eyes are visible and in focus and in which the wing positions are good.

For the first image, I did not react quickly enough to zoom out when the osprey flew overhead, so I clipped its wings in the photo. I think that it is nonetheless a cool shot that provides a good look at the feather details of the osprey and at its eye and beak.

In the second shot, I captured the osprey at a moment when it had its wings fully extended. I like the way that the osprey’s yellow eye really stands out in the image.

I am sure that I will get lots of chances to photograph ospreys in the upcoming months, but it is always exciting me to them again for the first time each year—another sign that the seasons are changing.

osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) tried to steal a fish from an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and chased it across the sky. It was quite an aerial dogfight. In the end, I think that the osprey dropped the fish and both birds ended up “empty-handed.”

Ospreys migrate away from my area for the winter and I was delighted to see that they had returned. I spotted at least a half-dozen or more ospreys and they were both active and vocal. Ospreys have high-pitched, distinctive voices that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology described in these words, ” Their calls can be given as a slow succession of chirps during flight or as an alarm call—or strung together into a series that rises in intensity and then falls away, similar to the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove.” Here is a link to a Cornell Lab webpage where you can listen to recordings of various osprey calls.

These three photos give you a general sense of the chase. In the first shot, you can definitely see the “prize,” the fish that the osprey had caught. In the second shot, the eagle has closed the distance separating it from the osprey. In the third shot, the osprey is doing its best to maneuver away from the eagle, but the eagle was able to match the osprey turn by turn. All of this took place over the water and eventually the two birds flew out of range.

eagle osprey chase

eagle osprey chase

eagle osprey chase

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) definitely had something to say when I spotted it last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think I may have been guilty of eavesdropping, though, because the eagle appeared to be calling out to its mate.

One of the things that I really like about this image is the way that I was able to capture a sense of the rough texture of both the bark on the tree and the feathers on the eagle’s body.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Perched high atop the vegetation, this Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) posed for me during a recent portrait session at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The mockingbird could not decide which side was its best side, so I took profile shots with the bird looking in both directions.

I think the bird liked the results and tweeted them on Twitter.

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was blessed to see multiple Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last Friday during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I am used to seeing two eagle couples that occupy the nests plus a few other from time to time. On this day, though, there seemed to be a whole lot more eagles than normal.

Seeing eagles is great, of course, but getting photos of them is not always easy. In the first photo, the eagle was flying almost directly over me and it is challenging to hold a long telephoto lens upright and track a moving subject. I am pretty happy with the way that this one turned out. If you click on the photo you can see the wonderful details of the eagle more closely, including what looks to a band on at least one leg and possibly on both of them—to me it looks like the eagle is flying with leg shackles.

In the second image, I captured an eagle as it was preparing to land on its nest. There was a lot of activity at that nest on that day, with both eagles flying in and out of that nest. It seems a bit early, but I wonder if there is a change that the eaglets have already hatched. The only way that I will know for sure that there are eaglets is if they pop their heads up. However, the nest is so deep that it will probably be a while before the eaglets are big and strong enough to be seen.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally when I see hawks, they are perched high in the trees, but last week I was fortunate to spot perched relatively low in some vegetation in a field at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When you have to shoot upwards at a sharp angle, you don’t miss a lot of details on the bodies of these beautiful birds—in this case I was able to shoot at a much lower angle at which I was almost eye to eye with the hawk.

The hawk, which I am pretty sure is a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) was quite tolerant of my presence and allowed me to get shots from several different angles before it flew away. The middle image in particular suggests that it was well aware of my presence, but did not view me as a threat. I really like the way that I was able to capture the different colors and patterns in the feathers on the various parts of this hawk’s body.

If you compare the three shots, you can see how a subtle movement of a bird’s head or body position can alter the feel of the image in much the same way that a change in facial expression does with human subjects. The major difference, of course, is that you have a bit more control over your subject when it is a person. I must admit, though, that I sometimes try to telepathically instruct a wild subject, but it rarely seems to work.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“This bud’s for you.” A Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) seemed happy that buds are finally starting to appear on the trees on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “In winter, the Carolina Chickadee’s diet is about half plant, half animal. The rest of the year about 80–90 percent of their diet is animal (mostly insects and spiders).”

Progress is uneven, but it looks like spring inexorably is on the way.

Carolina Chickadee

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was sporting a spiky punk rock hairstyle when I spotted her on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Female cardinals do not have as many bright red feathers as their male counterparts, but I find them to be equally striking and arguably even more beautiful.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There are signs that spring is on the way, but progress is slow and the bright spring blossoms and flowers have not yet appeared. The grey of winter continue to dominate, so it is especially energizing to spot brilliant colors, like those of this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I am more than ready for the return of spring as February comes to a close. It won’t be long, I am sure, before I see my first crocuses and daffodils—I am keeping my eyes open for them.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I can’t help but feel feel powerless and impotent as the brave Ukrainian people continue their heroic defense against Putin’s brutal invasion. Like this Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, many of us feel like we all are doing all we can by hanging on tightly, trying to stay focused and seeking ways to support Ukraine.

As human beings, we cannot afford to remain indifferent. Our leaders are pursuing various options and I call on you all to keep Ukraine in your thoughts and prayers.

Song Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never fail to be impressed by the beauty and majesty of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), like this one that I spotted a week ago at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This eagle had chosen a high branch as its perch and appeared to be surveying the situation from on high.

As I noted yesterday, I continue to be deeply disturbed and shaken by Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. I’ll pose to you the same question that I posted last night on Facebook and make the same request—that we pray for the Ukrainian people, who are suffering in so many different way, and that we pray for peace to prevail.

“Would you selflessly be willing to take up arms to defend your country, your freedom, and your way of life against an aggressor that invades your territory and seeks to destroy your nation? I feel nothing but admiration and respect for the brave Ukrainians who continue to fight with courage and determination against overwhelming odds. Please join me in praying for all Ukrainians as their country continues to be attacked by Putin’s forces.”

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I had already spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting on a small nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (see the final photo in my recent posting Out on a limb). However, until Wednesday  I had been unable to determine if the eagles had started to sit on eggs in the much larger and prominent nesting sight. That nest is so large and deep that a nesting eagle is hidden from view most of the time.

We had unusually warm weather on Wednesday, so I felt compelled to leave my house with my camera and towards my favorite site for wildlife photography. As I walked past my normal viewing site for the nest, I wasn’t surprised that I could not see an eagle in it.  As I continued to walk down the trail, however, I continued to keep my eye on the nest as I continued to walk down the trail. My view was partially blocked by trees, but looking through the trees, I suddenly spotted a small white head sticking out of the nest.

I don’t know if the warmer weather prompted the eagle to sit up higher in the nest than during cold weather, when the eagle would tend to hunker down to keep the eggs warm. Whatever the case, I welcomed this confirmation that the eagles were in the nest. The first image shows that the eagle was quite alert and keeping and eye on things. The second image helps to give you all a sense of the massive size of this nest.

As I write this posting, my heart is breaking as I continue to watch horrific events unfolding in Ukraine. I would simply ask that you pray for the brave Ukrainian people who are fighting and, in many cases, dying to defend themselves and their country.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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