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Archive for the ‘new year’ Category

It has been several years since we had a substantial snowfall in our area. Last winter we had a total accumulation of 5.4 inches (14 cm) of snow and the year before that we had a total of only 0.6 inches (15 mm). This storm started as rain at night and then turned into a steady snowfall of wet snow throughout the morning and early afternoon. One of my neighbors measured the total amount of snow we received at 10 inches (25 cm).

Not surprisingly, schools were closed for the day as were the federal and local governments—the road crews in this area are simply not equipped to removed this large a quantity of snow. Eventually people emerged from their cozy homes to dig themselves out. I live in densely-packed a townhouse community and one of our biggest challenges when it snows is finding a place to pile the snow.

About half of the cars in the neighborhood are now cleared and the roads have been plowed—the first photo shows my little KIA Soul with its blanket of snow that I have removed. However, temperatures overnight dipped to 19 degrees (minus 7 degrees C) and the roads are an icy mess this morning. Schools have another snow day and recovery will continue.

Unlike in some areas, we were fortunate not to lose power. However, the weight of the heavy snow caused numerous tree branches to fall—several large branches from pine trees fell into my back yard, but did not cause any damage. Additional, a large pine tree toppled over behind my townhouse as shown in the final photo. Luckily it fell away from the houses and managed not to hit any fences or cars, though it is now blocking a sidewalk.

I think I am going to stay put most of today and not venture out on the icy roads with my car. The temperatures are forecast to rise to the freezing point around noon and I may try to venture out with my camera and see if any of the neighborhood wildlife creatures are active. I’m be careful, though, because I am very conscious of the fact that the winter snow can be dangerous as well as being beautiful.

snow

snow

snow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I featured my five most-viewed posts in 2021, all of which were published in previous years. Today I decided to show you photos from my five most-viewed posts in 2021 that were actually written in 2021. In many ways, these photos are a better representation of my me and my blog than yesterday’s set of images.

What do I mean? As I noted yesterday, most of the views for my older posts probably came from someone doing a Google search for a particular subject or combination of words. My posts popped up in their results because of the words in the posts themselves and the keywords that I have associated with the posts. I like the way that my posts take on a life of their own after they are published, but there is a kind of randomness to the process.

Most of my views for the postings below almost certainly came from folks who currently follow my blog and viewed the posts within the first few days after they were written. These viewers, many of whom I now consider my friends, are much more likely to read the entire text of the posts and to provide detailed comments. I really value that sense of engagement and the feeling of community that this process builds, which has been of even greater importance than ever during the ongoing pandemic.

In terms of the quality of the photos and the variety of the subjects, I like today’s images a lot. Many people know of my fondness for dragonflies and I am tickled to see that two images of dragonflies made the cut. Those two images (and the other three as well) show of some of the skills and creativity that I strive to apply to my photography—they are not merely documentary shots.

I encourage you to click on the titles of the individual postings to visit or re-visit the original posts. If you, you will discover that most of these postings contain a lot a lot “me”—my personal philosophy, priorities, and personality. You can see that approach in my use of titles like “Hope and happiness” and “To everything there is a season.”

I should warn you, though, that these postings might be a little longer than some of my other posts. WordPress tells me that my average post for 2021 had 204 words, and these five may be longer than that. When I sit down to write a posting, I tend to use a stream-of-consciousness style. I compose as I am thinking, letting my mind run in whatever direction it happens to go. As a result, I may ramble a bit or go off on tangents, but the results are often a direct reflection of the genuine me.

It is snowing our right now, our first snow of the season and we are forecast to get up to 10 inches (25 cm) of snow. In many ways, this is a White Christmas for us. I attend an Episcopal church and we begin our celebration on Christmas Eve, followed by the Twelve Days of Christmas, leading up to the Epiphany, when the Magi appeared. If I remember the lyrics right, today my true love should bring “ten lords a-leaping.” Hopefully my day (and yours too) will be more peaceful than that and we will all have a silent night.

Hope and happiness: 213 views, originally published—22 January 2021

Northern Cardinal

Nine year anniversary: 189 views, originally published—7 July 2021

Gray Petaltail

Early morning fox: 142 views, originally published—6 February 2021

Red Fox

A kaleidoscope of butterflies: 138 views, originally published—6 April 2021

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

To everything there is a season: 134 views, originally published—11 October 2021

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How to you measure success in your life and in your activities? When I was still working, I was repeatedly told that “impact” was more important than raw numbers. When it came time for a performance evaluation, however, raw numbers inevitably came into play because they are quantifiable, while “impact” was much harder to measure. So many of our managers tended to focus on things that were easily measured rather than on what was important.

WordPress provides lots of data for those of us writing blogs on this platform. In 2021, for example, the data show that I published 425 blog posts with a total of 86,891 words and 54,680 views. Is that good? How do you answer that question? What is the best metric to use? To whom do you compare yourself?

For me, 2021 was a successful year. Despite the ongoing pandemic, I got to see lots of cool things in nature and had plenty of wonderful photographic opportunities. I had some great interactions with readers and sparked some fascinating discussions. In case you are curious about the numbers, in 2020 I published 436 posts and had 53,156 views, so my total views in 2021 were a little higher despite a slighter smaller number of posts.

I take WordPress stats with a grain of salt, however, because I am never sure how they are calculated. What counts as a “view,” for example? Some readers view the posts in the Reader portion of the WordPress feed, while others click through to the blog itself. Do they both count, or only those in the latter group?

I am always intrigued at the end of the year to see which posts were viewed the most often. As is usually the case, none of my most viewed posts in 2021 were written during that year. Here are my top five most viewed posts this past year with indications of the number of views in 2021, the total lifetime views for the post, and the date of its original publication. I have extracted a photo from each of the posts to give you an idea of the content and added links to the title of each post that you can click to read the original posting in its full “glory” and original context.

As I view these images, I am struck by several things. First of all, it is obvious to me that these are far from being my best photos. They are cool records of some interesting encounters, but they are not the kind of images that I would enter into a contest. Additionally I note that most of the shots were taken quite a while ago.

What do these images have in common? It seems to me that the titles of all of these posts are fairly generic and are the kinds of search terms that someone might enter into Google. Your results may vary, but when I enter “groundhog in a tree” in Google, for example, my blog post is the first entry in the search results and my photo below is the first image shown. Do you get the same results?

Nobody knows for sure how the Google algorithms work, but it seems to me that I might have inadvertently “cracked” the code this year, and the result was 1,055 views of my groundhog post from two years ago out of a total of 54,680 views this past year for the entire blog.

Don’t worry, though, I can almost guarantee that I am not going to switch to totally generic titles for my posts. As is the case with the text of the postings, I sometimes like to have titles that are quirky, humorous, or have lame puns in them.

I will probably do at least one more retrospective posting soon with a look at some of the most viewed or best postings of 2021 that were actually written in 2021. Stay tuned for that post and in the meantime those of you who still use checks can start practicing writing “2022”—I am sure that I will have trouble writing dates for at least the next few weeks.

Groundhog in a tree ; 1055 views (total lifetime views: 1157); originally published—11 April 2019

groundhog

Blue-eyed garter snake ; 791 views (total lifetime views: 2211); originally published— 9 May 2016

garter snake

Fuzzy white caterpillar ; 511 views (total lifetime views: 2758); originally published— 3 August 2013

fuzzy white caterpillar

Tiny orange butterfly ; 374 views (total lifetime views: 822); originally published— 17 September 2013

tiny orange butterfly

Male and female garden spiders ; 367 views (total lifetime views: 462); originally published— 12 August 2020

Argiope aurantia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It is a cool, rainy morning here as I sit here, trying to think about what I want to say as I begin the new year. I planned on watching the ball fall at Times Square at midnight, but dozed off on the sofa and missed the moment—I guess that is a sign that I am getting old.

I am feeling pensive right now as I think about the year that has just concluded and wonder what the new year will hold for me. I decided to share some photos that I took last week at the little pond that I featured yesterday. I was utterly fascinated by the reflections of some of the trees at the edge of the pond and the textures that appeared in the ripples on the surface of the water.

Normally I have much more of an identifiable main subject when I am taking a photo, but in those moments I was mesmerized, feeling a little bit like I was looking at a Monet painting. Sometimes I get into an “artsy” trance of sorts and I have no idea how long I stood there with my camera pointing down at the water on the opposite shore.

A few people passed by, but fortunately did not pose the sometimes annoying question that I am frequently asked about what I was photographing. I often have to bite my tongue and not reply with the words resounding in my head—”I was trying to photograph a bird that you spooked with your noisy arrival.” In this case, there was no live subject to scare away, but it would have destroyed my meditative concentration.

I have to admit that I am a little selfish when it comes to sharing my wildlife experience in person with others—I prefer to enjoy the beauty of nature in solitude. I often avoid locations that have abundant wildlife, if I know there will be crowds of photographers. As I like to tell my friends, I was avoiding people long before it became popular during this pandemic.

I will probably do some kind of more organized retrospective look at the postings of this past year in the next few days. For today, though, I wanted to share some musings and reflections.

Best wishes to all of you for a happy and healthy New Year.


ripples

ripples

ripples

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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And so the new year begins. In many ways I feel like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, alert and wide-eyed, but hunkered down alone on the sidelines, cautiously waiting until it is safe to engage more fully.

The Great Blue Heron in the second image was the final bird I photographed in 2020—I captured this image yesterday afternoon. This heron appeared to be fishing, standing motionless for a long time, watching and waiting and hoping. Perhaps there is a lesson for us here as well as we begin 2021. Patience has been in somewhat short supply this past year and we could all use more of it this year.

Happy New Year to all of you and to your loved ones.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Happy New Year to all of my family and friends. Best wishes for a wonderful 2020, full of fun and adventures.

This is a shot of the colorful little bantam rooster that served as my alarm clock this past weekend. As I sought to photograph him, he climbed atop a woodpile on the front porch of the house and made a short series of vocalizations. As I noted in an earlier posting, I am essentially a city boy, so I have no idea how long and loud a sound has to be for the rooster to be considered to be “crowing.”

bantam rooster

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of you know that I normally post every day—in 2018 I think that I missed only 12 days.  I used to be really obsessive about this and would get anxious if I didn’t have an image to post. Over time, though,I have mellowed a bit and so I am not at all concerned that I write a posting on New Year’s Day.

I have been in a contemplative mood ever since I did the retrospective look at some of my favorite photos from last year. As I looked back I simultaneously looked forward. I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but my hopes and plans for this new year can be summed up in two words “more” and “better.”

Those two words are non-specific and subjective, but for me, that is the nature of my approach to photography. I strive to spend as much time as I can in the wild, opportunistically looking for subjects. When situations present themselves, I try to react as quickly and creatively as I can.

That was the case earlier today when I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the partial federal government shutdown, the wildlife refuge is still open. It was a cool and gray day, and there was not too much activity. I was therefore thrilled when I spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) feverishly pecking away at a distant tree.

The woodpecker kept its head down as it circled the branch, but finally paused for a moment when it was upright and I was able to capture this shot. Although the woodpecker is relatively common, the organic shapes of the branches really caught my eye.

I’m ok with shooting familiar subjects over and over again. What about you? Some people like to live “widely,” seeing lots of different things in different places, while others prefer to live “deeply,” seeing the same places in different ways and in different seasons. I tend to be in the latter group, but recognize that each person has his/her own comfort zone.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As another year in my journey through photography comes to a close, I decided to share a few of my favorite photos of the past year. I initially planned to choose one image for each month and that was doable for the first few months of the year. Once I moved into the prime seasons for shooting, though, there were so many good photos I couldn’t select a single one, so I chose multiples for those months and ended up with these thirty photos.

If you want to see the images in a larger size, all you need to do is click on one of them and they will then be displayed in a slide show format.

Thanks so much to all of you who have followed my blog postings and supported and encouraged me in so many ways. It has been a wonderful year and I look forward to more photos and new adventures in the upcoming new year.

Happy New Year to you all and best wishes for a blessed 2019.

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t often shoot landscape images, but I was so taken with the stark beauty of the ice-covered world that I encountered on New Year’s Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I decided that I should attempt to capture a sense of the moment. I used the wide-angle capabilities of my Canon SX50 superzoom camera in the first two images below and shot the third one with the Tamron 150-600mm lens, the lens that I use on my Canon 50D for a significant number of my the photos featured on this blog.

icescape

icescape

icescape

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes when a bird fluffs up its feathers, its appearance changes enough that identification becomes more difficult than usual. That was certainly the case with this little Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) that I spotted on New Year’s Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The head and the tail looked normal for a Carolina Wren, but I had never before seen spots on the back of one.

Once again, experts in a Facebook forum came to my rescue and reassured me that this was normal behavior for a Carolina Wren. When they fluff up their feathers to roost at night, the spots are visible too, although in this case I suspect that the wren was merely trying to retain body heat in the bitter cold weather that we have been experiencing the last couple of weeks.

Carolina Wren

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this fluffy Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus)on New Year’s Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. In this frigid weather, all of the birds seem unusually round as they try to retain their body heat.

I don’t recall ever seeing a Hermit Thrush before, but when I did a search in my blog, I was surprised to discover that I had photographed one in December 2016 eating berries—here is a link to that posting. At that time I could not identify the species and asked for assistance. I guess I did not internalize the identification very well, for I ended up asking for help in a Facebook forum again.

It is funny how we associate certain words with memories from out childhoods. When I hear the word “Thrush,” I immediately think of the “enemy” organization in the television series “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” According to a page on the IMDb website, “In the series, the organization was merely called Thrush. Ace paperbacks, which published a series of paperback novels based on the show, had one installment in which Thrush stood for The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.”

This winter I am spending more time outdoors and it is exciting to discover how many birds and other little creatures are active, even in the most inclement, inhospitable weather. The challenge for me is to stay motivated and dressed warmly enough to be able to spot and photograph these little beauties, like this Hermit Thrush, that may have traveled south to winter with us.

Hermit Thrush

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How did you spend your New Year’s Day? When I arrived yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the sun had just risen. I was a bit shocked to see four other cars in the parking lot, given that it was only 7:30 in the morning. I trudged about the refuge all day (and have a bunch of photos to sort through) and as I departed at 6:00 pm, the full moon was rising.

It was a long, tiring day, but I can’t think of anything I would rather have been doing to start off the new year.  Just for fun, I’m also including the view from inside my car as I got ready to step out into the crisp morning air. I am not sure it was actually 5 degrees outside ( minus 15 degrees C), but that was what my car showed as the outside temperature. Eventually it “warmed up” to about 24 degrees (minus 5 C) during the day, though the occasional gusts of wind made it feel colder.

sunrise

moonrise

cold

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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So how are you feeling about the new year that has just begun? Are you feeling more like the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) on the left, agitated and out front, or more like the one on the right, mellow and content to remain in the background? (Photographed this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.)

I would never have thought of a bluebird when I thought of an “angry bird,” but it sure looked irritated or even angry about something. Perhaps it was a territoriality issue or a fellow bluebird had just cut him off in traffic without even signalling. Whatever the case, I love the intensity of the pose that I managed to capture.

I hope that this first day of the new year finds you at peace and optimistic. Best wishes to all of you for a blessed new year. 

Eastern Bluebirds

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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