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Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Even when the weather is bad and other birds are hunkered down, sparrows are invariably active. Most of the time they are at ground level, but occasionally one will perch a bit higher off of the ground and give me a chance to get a decent shot.

That was the case this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, when a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) took a break and posed for me briefly on the end of a log. I liked the composition when I took the shot and decided to post it without any cropping. I also couldn’t help noticing as I was working on the image that the sparrow’s colors are almost a perfect match for those in the background.

Sparrows are really special to me too because both on my parents loved His Eye Is On The Sparrow, a hymn that reminds us that God cares for each one of us. That is a message I think we all can use right now, at a time when so many of us are stressed out over the situation in our respective countries and in the world in general.

Song Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I finally made my way out into the wilds of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge for the first time following our recent snowfall. The wildlife refuge is open despite the partial federal government shutdown, but I was pretty sure that the access road had not been plowed, so I waited a few day for road conditions to improve.

It was heavily overcast for much of the day and the wildlife seemed to have hunkered down. Sightings were pretty scarce, so I was really happy when I spotted this duck. It was already a good distance away from me and I think it sensed my presence about the same time as I saw it and started swimming away immediately. I had a pretty good idea that this was a female Common Merganser duck (Mergus merganser) and some friendly folks on a Facebook forum confirmed the identification.

As far as I know, this is the first time that I have spotted this species—I am more used to seeing the Hooded Merganser, whose female sports a similar hairstyle to that of the Common Merganser.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Today I decided to feature two of the smallest birds that I spotted in the trees in my neighborhood after our recent snowfall. The first one is a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), a little bird that is in the same family as the chickadee. The second one, I believe, is a House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus), a bird that I don’t recall having seen before. I was really drawn to its red coloration and learned from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that the red of a male House Finch comes from pigments contained in its food during molt (birds can’t make bright red or yellow colors directly).

tufted titmouse

housefinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Female Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) do not stand out as much as their bright red male counterparts, but their beauty is at a minimum comparable, albeit in a more dignified and understated way. The male cardinal is like a loud, raucous call, while the female is more like a soft, seductive whisper.

female Northern Cardinal

female Northern Cardinal

female Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the cute little birds that I saw in the snow in my neighborhood earlier this week was this Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis). I can’t help but smile at the bird’s pose, which gives the image a really whimsical,almost cartoonish feel.

Dark-eyed Junco

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Many of you know that I love dragonflies. I actively search for them not only in Northern Virginia, where I live, but also on work trips to Belgium and Austria. Liz, a fellow blogger from New Zealand, knows that I suffer from dragonfly withdrawal during the winter and posted this image to help me deal with my symptoms. Be sure to check out the other cool postings on her blog, Exploring Colour and also The Wandering Moa, a blog on hiking in New Zealand that was the source of this image of a really cool dragonfly.

Exploring Colour

dsc03279Click on the photo to enlarge (you may need to click again for full-size). Photo used with permission from The Wandering Moa

Apparently spelt “humongous” for Americans. I admit I’ve got some particular readers in mind as I post this: Mike Powell who photographs dragonflies in Virginia USA and young Benjamin who follows Mike’s blog and with the help of his Gram enthusiastically inspects all the detail of Mike’s photos.

Just two days ago I found a New Zealand blog newly started in early January – The Wandering Moa. Lili published a post about her first alpine tramp (serious hike) and her story included the encounter with this fabulous dragonfly as she was walking through an area of native beech forest. She kindly granted me permission to share the photo. The orange triangle is the standard plastic symbol used to mark walking tracks here. This is one massive dragonfly!

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Images of a bright red cardinal in the brilliant white snow—some might view such shots as a bit cliché, but I view them instead as iconic. I ventured out into my neighborhood earlier this week after the snow had stopped falling and was thrilled to find a small group of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis). They spent most of their time buried in the branches, but eventually I was able to capture some unobstructed images of some male cardinals.

Although I like the details of the second shot, the first shot really draws me in by presenting a better depiction of the snowy environment. In some parts of the country this is a typical winter scene, but here in Northern Virginia, this is the biggest snow storm we have had since 2016, so it was pretty unusual to have this kind of photo opportunity.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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