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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

I have seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch fish so big that I was sure that they would not be able to swallow them, but I don’t think I have ever seen one catch fish as small as the ones this heron was pulling out of the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The Great Blue Heron was standing on the shore rather than in deeper water. As I watched,  the heron periodically would catch and swallow one of these tiny fish and then return to scanning the water. It struck me that it would need to catch a lot of these little fish to make a satisfying meal.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the autumn, various species of warblers fly through our area as they migrate south and I spent a large amount of time this past Friday trying to get shots of what I believe were mostly Palm Warblers (Setophaga palmarum). Warblers in general are tough for me to identify, even in the spring when the colors and patterns on the birds are bright and distinctive. At this time of the year, however, all of the colors and patterns are muted and many species look really similar to me.

Palm Warblers are a little easier to spot than most warblers to identify, because they often can be found pecking away on the ground rather than in trees, as you can see in the second shot. Although I usually strive to get unobstructed shots of my subject, the first image is my clear favorite of the three in this posting. The branch in the foreground that partially blocks the bird helps in the composition, I think, and reinforces the sense of the elusiveness and caution of this little warbler.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am always shocked by the length of the tails of Yellow-billed Cuckoos (Coccyzus americanus), like this one that I spotted on Friday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is pretty rare for me to get an almost unobstructed view of a cuckoo—usually they either fly away as I approach or are hidden in the foliage.

In the second shot, the cuckoo had shifted its body and the the new perspective has the effect of making the tail look a bit shorter and the body a bit chunkier.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was startled on Friday when exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to hear a loud roaring noise overhead. I looked up and saw a large group of vintage aircraft flying in formation. Even though I zoomed out as far as I could with my 150-600mm lens, I could not fit all of the aircraft within the frame until they were flying away.

According to a press release from the Culpeper Air Fest, in an operation known as the Potomac Flight, a group of World War II aircraft on Friday, 12 October did a flyover down the Potomac River from Culpeper Regional Airport over the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery to honor Disabled American Veterans as a tribute to the services and sacrifices veterans have made for our freedom. Those of us who live in the Washington DC area know that the airspace over the capital region is tightly controlled and I can only imagine all of the bureaucratic impediments that had to be overcome to make this overflight possible.

I am not very good at identifying vintage aircraft, but the press release cited above indicated the overflight would include T-6 Texans and a C-47 aircraft.

Potomac Flight 2018

Potomac Flight 2018

Potomac Flight 2018

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I was really struck  by the contrast in color and texture between this cluster of large milkweed bugs (Oncopeltus fasciatus) and the milkweed on which they were perched at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge during a visit earlier this week.

The color combination seems appropriate for a Christmas card, though the subject matter would be considered untraditional, to say the least, and might not be met with enthusiasm by all recipients.

milkweed bugs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It seems like we are at a time in the year when the number of birds has increased. I can hear them everywhere when I walk along the wooded trails of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The problem, though, is that most the leaves are still on the trees, so I am having huge problems spotting the birds and if I can’t see them, I can’t photograph them.

Earlier this week, I heard the familiar knocking sound of a woodpecker at work. I could see some movement in a tree amidst the foliage. I tracked the movement until suddenly the woodpecker popped into the open for a brief moment as it reached the top of the dead tree. I was able to capture this one shot of what appears to be a male Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)—only males have the red patch of feathers on the back of their heads. (The Hairy Woodpecker is similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, but is larger and has a longer bill—the angle of this shot makes it tough for me to be absolutely certain of my identification.)

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers in Northern America, but what they lack in size, they seem to make up in energy. They always seem to be super energetic and industrious and are one of the birds that I am able to spot throughout most the entire year.

downy woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa), but haven’t seen any for quite some time. I was therefore really happy when I spotted this pair swimming in the distance in a  creek at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week.

The male Wood Duck, as shown in the first image, is one of the most colorful and distinctively patterned birds in our area—there is no other bird that looks even vaguely similar. The duck stopped swimming for just a moment and I was able to capture this shot of him getting a drink of water.

The female Wood Duck shown in the second image is not quite as colorful as her male counterpart, but has an equally distinctive look with her windswept “hair” and prominent white eye ring.

wood duck

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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