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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

I am not sure what is so special about the small pond in Kingstowne, a suburban development not far from where I live, but every year about this time a group of Ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) shows up and generally spends the winter there. There are not too many other local places where I find this particular duck species.

I know that Ring-necked ducks are diving ducks rather then dabbling ducks like Mallards and I wonder if the depth of the water in the pond is the determining factor in their decision. I am always happy each year to see the golden eyes, striped bills, and odd-shaped heads of these Ring-necked ducks.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus), the most colorful woodpeckers in our area, prefer to eat ants and other insects. Now that the weather had gotten colder and insects are scarcer, they have switched their diet to include more berries and seeds.

Earlier this week I spotted this male Northern Flicker (males have moustaches and females do not) foraging among the clumps of poison ivy berries in a tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The photos give you a sense of the wonderful colors and patterns on the body of this incredible bird.

I didn’t get to see the insides of the wings of this particular flicker, but Northern Flickers on the East Coast have beautiful yellow-shafted feathers on the underside of their wings and tails. On the West Coast, Northern Flickers have red moustaches and red shafts on the underside of their wings and tails.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Leaves are now falling from the trees, making my walks though the woods increasingly crunchy. I feel like I am announcing my presence to all of the birds as I approach them. This little Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) lifted its head for a moment to check me out, then returned to its foraging among the fallen leaves, probably having decided that I did not represent a threat.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) swim like ducks and dive like ducks, it only takes a quick look at one to see that they definitely are not ducks. The shape of the bill and of the body are quite different from those of a duck. I’ve always found the overall look the Pied-billed Grebe to be so unusual that it looks almost cartoonish to me.

I spotted this grebe yesterday in a small suburban pond not far from where I live. This little bird repeatedly was diving underwater. presumably in search of food, though I never saw him catch anything. If you look closely at the photos, you can see droplets of water on the body of the grebe and, in some cases, on his face.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s sometimes said that the camera adds pounds to a subject, so maybe these Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) that I saw last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge are not quite as chubby as they appear at first glance.

I was trying to be funny, but it actually is true that the focal length of a lens can affect the features of a subject. Most of you have probably seen how a fish-eye lens can make a face look bloated in the middle and stretched out on the edges. Other lenses can produce less dramatic effects. Generally it is believed that you get the most flattering portrait of a human subject with a lens of 85mm to 135mm. Here’s a link to an interesting article at businessinsider.com that shows a series of images of a face that were shot with lenses from 20mm to 200mm.

In this case, I think the birds are taking advantage of the abundant food sources while they are still around. Some of these warblers may be continuing their journeys southward, but others may choose to spend part of the winter with us.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What’s the price of freedom? Today in the United States it is Veterans Day, a day we set aside to honor all of the selfless men and women who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces, often enduring considerable sacrifice and separation for our common benefit.

In many other places in the world, today is celebrated as Armistice Day and 2018 is special because it marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, the war that many hoped would be the war to end all wars. The world is still a dangerous place and military forces, I believe, are a necessary element in ensuring national security.

I served for twenty years in the United States Army, so this posting is as much personal as it is patriotic. I have lived through periods of time when veterans have been reviled and other times when they have been honored.

I hope that you can join me today in thanking and saluting all veterans for their service and it is my sincere prayer that your sense of gratitude will continue long after the parades are over and the celebration are completed.

(I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and since it is one of the symbols of the United States, it seemed appropriate to feature the Bald Eagle in this posting.)

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Downy Woodpeckers (Dryobates pubescens) are the smallest woodpeckers in North America.  They more than make up for their lack of size, however, with their inexhaustible energy. Their constant motion makes them fun to watch, but a challenge to photograph.

I spotted this male Downy Woodpecker earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. How do I know that it is a male? The males of this species have a little patch of red on the back of their heads and in each of these photos you get a small peek at the red on the head.

 

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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