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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

When I first spotted two small dark shapes in the the waters of Occoquan Bay, I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. As I zoomed in and saw that it was two birds, I assumed that they were cormorants or some similar bird. When the birds changed position and the sun reflected off their white heads, I was shocked to realize that it was two adult Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a floating log.

The photo is a little deceptive because it makes it look like the foreground is a beach. The tide was fairly low when I took this shot and the shallower water was covered with some kind of floating debris—it was definitely not solid ground.

Why were the eagles on the log? I thought that maybe they were feeding, but when I scanned the log, I could not see any evidence of a fish. It looks to me like this is a couple, with the larger female on the left, that is involved in some kind of marital dispute. She seems to be telling her mate something and he seems to be a bit cowed and defensive.

What do you the conversation is about between these two eagles?

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From  a distance I noticed a flash of yellow moving from a tree to a patch of flowers. The flight was too fast for a butterfly, and when I moved a bit closer I spotted, as I had suspected, an American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). Judging from its coloration, I think it may be a juvenile, though I must admit that after a summer of chasing insects, my bird identification skills are a little rusty. The goldfinch was somewhat skittish and uncooperative, but I was able to capture these two images that I decided to share them with you all.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have not seen as many Green Herons (Butorides virescens) this year as in previous years, so I was happy to spot one this past Tuesday during a quick trip to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in nearby Vienna, Virginia.

Green Herons are smaller and squatter than the more commonly seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Normally I see Green Herons at water’s edge, because their shorter legs do not allow them to wade into deeper water, and they are often partially hidden from view by vegetation. This Green Heron, though, had placed itself at the edge of a drainage system in the middle of a small pond, which is why I was able to get an unobstructed shot of this handsome bird.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was excited to spot this Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) during a short visit yesterday to Meadowlark Botanical Gardens with some friends. The hummingbird was feeding on some distant orange jewelweed flowers (Impatiens capensis) and I was using a macro lens at that moment, so I was especially thrilled when I managed to capture this image.

I do not see hummingbirds very often, so it really is a treat for me to see one in action. It is absolutely mesmerizing to watch these little birds frenetically flying among the flowers, stopping from time to time to sip the nectar from one of them. Tracking the moving hummingbird was definitely a challenge with my 180mm macro lens. Strangely enough, though, I probably had an easier time in doing so with this lens than if I had been using my much longer telephoto zoom lens—it can be tough trying to track, focus, and zoom simultaneously when handholding a long lens.

This image is a significant crop of the original image, but the detail holds up fairly well, all things considered. Does equipment matter? It matters to some extent, but you can often get decent results by simply taking the shots with whatever camera and lens that you have at hand.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was searching for butterflies last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a flash of brilliant yellow suddenly crossed my field of view. It took a moment for me to figure out what it was and then I realized that several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) were diving into a field of Black-eyed Susan wildflowers (Rudbeckia hirta).

I waited for a long time, hoping in vain that the goldfinches would perch in the open on the flowers nearest me, but mostly they stayed buried deep in the vegetation. Here are a couple of long-distance shots that give you a sense of my experience with these colorful little birds.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I inadvertently spooked a Great Egret (Ardea alba) last week while exploring a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I thought that it was going to fly away, but instead it opted to perch in a nearby tree. The sun was really bright as I tried to track the bird in my camera’s viewfinder, so many of my shots were overexposed. As the bird was settling in among the tree branches, I was able to capture this shot.  I really like this shot because of the egret’s wing  positions that are  so  unusual  and  graceful.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) spotted me about the same time as I spotted it and immediately took to the sky with its half-eaten fish yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Fortunately I had heard the osprey’s cry a few seconds earlier and was able to capture this image as it prepared for takeoff. Like another shot that I posted recently of an osprey, this image was captured using my 180mm macro lens.

This osprey was definitely not interested in sharing its freshly caught fish with me. If I want sushi, I’ll have to find it on my own.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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