Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Finding wildlife to photograph in early January in Brussels, Belgium is pretty tough. There are very few hours of daylight at this time of the year and the skies are mostly covered with gray clouds during the day (when it is not actually raining). During a quick trip to the botanical gardens in Brussels this morning, I spotted a few birds and was able to capture shots of a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and a male Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).

The moorhen was swimming and my camera took the shot at 1/13 of a second, which means that the focus is not super sharp, but I like the soft, impressionist feel of the image. The mallard was more or less stationary as he groomed himself at the edge of the pond, but seemed to be keeping an eye on me.

I am here in Brussels for a brief business trip and as is usually the case on such trips, I like to try to fit in a little wildlife photography, even in the center of a city.

Common Moorhen


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Thanks to all of you for your overwhelming positive responses to a recent posting Some favorite photos of 2018 that showcased some of last year’s photos that I really like. Check out that posting if you have not seen it yet.

Interesting enough, not a single one of them was from my most-viewed posts of the year. How many views do you regularly get for one of your blog postings? One of my average postings tends to get about 60-80 hits. It is a rare and happy occasion for me to get as many as 100 views for any posting.

Here are links to my five most-viewed postings of 2018 and an indication of how many views they received in 2018 and since they were originally published. You’ll probably notice that four of them were taken in 2013 or earlier. Somehow these postings apparently appear in searches in Google and other search engines and that is how viewers find their way to my blog.

The photos below are ok, but they are certainly not among my favorite or best photos. A review of these statistics reinforces in me the notion that “views” are not a very accurate measuring tool for deciding if a posting or a photo is “good.”

Here is one fun fact about my blog—Red-footed Cannibalfly has been my most-viewed posting for the fourth year in a row. Who knew that so many people were fascinated by this fearsome insect?

Take a look at that posting (or any the others below) by clicking on the highlighted title. Maybe you will be able to discover for me the secret behind their relative popularity.

Red-footed Cannibalfly (31 August 2013) 366 views in 2018 (2457 views since published)

red-footed cannibalfly

Fuzzy white caterpillar (3 August 2013) 341 views in 2018 (1209 views since published)

fuzzy white caterpillar

Blue-eyed garter snake (9 May 2016) 218 views in 2018 (503 views since published)

garter snake

Yellow Garden Orbweaver with a Grasshopper (29 August 2012) 166 views in 2018 (214 views since published)

Insects gone wild (29 May 2013) 125 views in 2018 (901 views since published)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Most of the year I tend to see individual Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but recently I have been seeing them in pairs, like this couple that I spotted last week perched on a nesting platform for ospreys at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It will soon be time to occupy a nearby nest.

If you look closely at the two eagles, you will notice that one that the one on the left is smaller in size—I believe that is the male. I do not know if this is the same couple, but an eagle couple successfully raised two eaglets in a nest in a tree that is not that far away from this platform, which housed an active osprey nest last year.

bald eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Read Full Post »

At this time of the year my peaceful pursuit of photos is often punctuated with the sound of shotgun blasts as I walk along the trails parallel to the water at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—it is duck hunting season. As you might suspect, duck hunting is not permitted on the territory of the wildlife refuge itself, but there is a series of duck blinds not far from the shore.

Some hunters simply take their boats and occupy the blinds, while others take the additional step of putting out duck decoys. In previous years I was fooled into taking photos of the decoys, thinking they were real ducks, but my decoy identification skills seem to have improved.

Here are a couple of photos of one of the blinds to give you an idea of what they look out and how close they are to the shore. I took the final shot of a group of hunters as they slowly motored by me. I don’t know the hunting rules, but I don’t think that they can hunt from a moving boat.

I am not against hunting per se, but I am definitely a bit edgy when I hear shots fired not far from where I am walking and will definitely welcome the eventual end of the hunting season.

duck blind

duck blind

duck hunting

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I’ve read that a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) makes a distinctive cat-like mewing sound, but I don’t recall ever having heard a catbird make any sound whatsoever. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gray Catbirds can also copy the sounds of other species and string them together to make their own song that can last as long as ten minutes.

Even without hearing its song, I was able to spot this Gray Catbird earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is most often the case with catbirds, this one was in thick vegetation, but I did manage to get a relatively clear shot of its head and body.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Read Full Post »

The long sloping shape of the bills of these ducks in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge indicated to me that they are Canvasbacks ducks (Aythya valisineria). Most of the time I rely primarily on colors when trying to identify birds, but during the non-breeding season, many ducks share the same subdued colors, especially when viewed from a distance. This was a rare case when a single distinctive characteristic—in this case the bill—was enough for me to identify the birds with a reasonable degree of confidence.

According to Wikipedia, the duck’s common name is based on early European inhabitants of North America’s assertion that its back was a canvas-like color. In other languages it is just a white-backed duck; for example in French, morillon à dos blanc, or in Spanish, pato lomo blanco.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

During the winter months you sometimes have to search a little harder to find birds, but they are definitely still with us. When I caught a glimpse of this bird’s rust-colored feathers earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I assumed it was an American Robin.

When I zoomed in, however, I was thrilled to see like that the bird was an Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). Towhees share many of the same colors with the robins, but they are arranged in a completely different way. I think that towhees are supposed to be relatively common, although I personally do not see them very often.

I love to play with words and “towhee” for some reason is fun to say out loud. Try it yourself—it is virtually guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Eastern Towhee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »