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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

This Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was slowly striding through the shallow water at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I spotted him yesterday afternoon. He seemed to have a swagger in his step, showing off like he was walking on a catwalk and knew how handsome he looked. I really liked his pose and posture and the cool reflection in the water was a nice bonus.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During a visit in late January to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was thrilled to spot a female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). The kingfisher was perched relatively in the brush a pretty good distance away and surprisingly did not seem to be aware of my presence. Normally kingfishers are really skittish and often fly away before I am within the range of my camera.

This kingfisher seemed to be a little distracted by a helicopter that was flying overhead and kept glancing upwards, as you can see in the second photo. The chestnut-colored stripe on the breast of the bird helps me to identify it as a female, because males have no such stripe.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the times when I see a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple, one or more of the eagles is partially hidden from view. I spotted these two eagles in a sweetgum tree during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was delighted to see that I had an unobstructed view of both of them. Equally important for me was the fact that they were both at approximately the same distance from me, which meant that I could get them both in focus.

The eagles were alert and appeared to be surveying the landscape. I do not know for sure, but I suspect that the eagle on the right is the female, which tend to be larger in size than the male counterparts.

Bald Eagle couple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During a recent visit to Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden in my area, I spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that looked extra fluffy. I suspect that the heron had just fluffed up its feathers in an effort to stay warm.

Despite the cold weather, the heron was standing in the shallow water of a small, man-made pond, attempting to catch something to eat. The heron seemed to be carefully tracking some prey and plunged its beak into the water several times. During the time that I was observing it, however, the heron was unsuccessful in its fishing efforts.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the way that the coloration of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) is an almost perfect match for the environment where I spotted it last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Great Blue Herons are one of my most frequently photographed  subjects, especially during the winter months, and I am always looking for unique ways to capture images of them. From a technical perspective, this image is far from perfect, but its aesthetic appeal really pleases my eye—in addition to the colors, I really like the variety of textures in the photo..

Have a wonderful weekend.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I initially hesitated to post another sequence of shots of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) takeoff, given that I posted a similar set of photos in yesterday’s blog posting. However, I never tire of seeing eagles and I hope that you agree with me. Unlike yesterday’s eagle that flew downward and away from me, the eagle in these shots had a more level flight path and I was able to capture a couple of images as it zoomed past me.

Eagles are a tough subject to photograph because of the extreme contrast between the white feathers on their heads and the dark feathers on their bodies. If the exposure is too far off from what it should be, it is easy to blow out the highlights on the head or to have super deep shadows on the body, both of which lead to a loss of details. When I took these shots, the light was pretty bright, creating shadows that further complicated my efforts.

None of these images is quite as sharp as I would like them to have been, but I am pretty happy with the overall results. Eagles are special and I consider any day when I spot one to be a good day. Capturing shots of one is a bonus.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I am observing a perched Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), I look for signs that it is preparing to take off. Sometimes there are little clues, like a flex of the wings or a slight movement of the feet, but quite often there is no warning. Usually I have my camera on a monopod, so my arms do not get fatigued as I try to stay ready and focused.

When the eagle actually takes to the air I have to track the movement and anticipate the direction in which the eagle will fly so that I can keep my subject within the frame. In the second image, for example, the eagle could have flown up into the air, but instead, as you can see in the third image, the eagle flew downwards. I was a little slow in following the bird and in the next frame, which I did not post, only half of the eagle was visible.

During a typical visit to the wildlife refuge, I am fortunate if I have one or two encounters of this sort, so I feel a little pressure to take advantage of each opportunity. There are so many variables over which I have no control that success is far from being guaranteed. No matter how good my shots may be, I am always convinced that I can get better ones, which helps to motivate me to go out again and again with my camera.

Technology is always advancing and some of the newer cameras have amazing capabilities to track moving subjects and stay focused on their eyes. Recently I watched a video on YouTube entitled “What is the SKILL and TALENT of a Wildlife Photographer” in which Scott Keys, a wildlife photographer, discussed the relative importance of personality traits, skill, talent, and gear in getting good photos. I highly recommend that you watch this video if you have ever thought about this issue.

Scott and I both agree that the most important of these four is the personality—you need to be patient and persistent, observant and aware in order to maximize the number of opportunities to get “the shot.” Knowledge and practice, which is how I would define skill, would be next in priority order for me. Gear would be in third or even fourth place and talent, i.e. God-given ability, occupying the remaining slot.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the quirky, almost abstract feel of this image of a Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I captured last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The cardinal was foraging at water’s edge in the debris left behind by the receding tide.

One of the things that I most like about this shot is the contrast between the warmth of the color of the cardinal and the cool colors of the background. That contrast really helps the cardinal to “pop,” although male cardinals stand out in almost any circumstance during the winter, when gray tones seem to dominate and bright colors are exceedingly rare.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It can be a real challenge to get shots of tiny little songbirds, like this Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. These kinglets are only about 4 inches (10 cm) in length and move about continuously in the vegetation. I love the description of them on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website, “A tiny bird seemingly overflowing with energy, the Ruby-crowned Kinglet forages almost frantically through lower branches of shrubs and trees. Its habit of constantly flicking its wings is a key identification clue.”

Generally I strive to isolate my subject from the background, but that is virtually impossible with this species, which rarely seems to perch in the open. In this case, I took over a dozen shots of the kinglet and this was the only one that came out ok.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not posted for several day, which is somewhat unusual for me—I try to do a blog posting every day. This weekend, however, I drove to Massachusetts, about 600 miles (965 km) each way, for a family funeral. During my time there, I chose to disconnect myself from the internet and am only now catching up on my e-mail and blog postings.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled on Tuesday to capture this image of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) as it flew by me, low over the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I love the way that the heron was stretched out, almost as straight as an arrow in flight.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although it may seem a little strange to make a trip to a garden to photograph flowers, I set off for Green Spring Gardens, a county-run historic garden last Friday. I suspected that snowdrops (g. Galanthus) would be in bloom and I was not disappointed. I spotted several large clusters of these small white flowers scattered throughout the garden beds.

Some years you can find snowdrops peeking out of a covering of snow, but we have not yet had any snow this winter. Instead I found the snowdrops poking out of the reddish-brown ground cover of fallen leaves and pine needles. I did not have my macro lens with me, but managed to get some decent close-up shots with my Tamron 18-400mm lens as well as an overview of one of the patches of snowdrops that I encountered.

When spring comes, I hope to see the somewhat similar-looking snowflake flower (g. Leucojum). The way that I usually tell them apart is to look at the individual petals. The snowdrop petals are pure white, but the petal of each of the snowflake flowers has a little green dot.

 

snowdrop

snowdrop

snowdrop

snowdrops

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the winter weather warms up a little and there is abundant sunlight, turtles will sometimes come up out of the mud at the bottom of the pond to bask in the sun. Last Friday I made a short visit to Green Spring Gardens, a historic county-run garden in Northern Virginia, and spotted this turtle at the edge of a small pond. I think it may be a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), although the turtle was so far away and covered in mud that I am not sure of the identification.

Turtles enter into a period of dormancy know as “brumation” when the weather gets cold. According to the ReptileKnowHow website, “When red-eared sliders brumate, they do not eat or defecate and they remain almost completely motionless for long periods. Their metabolic rate reduces to a minimum, reducing all vital functions – even breathing to the strictly necessary.” I don’t know all of the technical differences between hibernation and brumation, but I believe that the former term is reserved for warm-blooded creatures and the latter term for cold-blooded ones.

winter turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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My head was spinning a little as I tried to track a small bird that was moving up and down and around and around a tree last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. At first I thought it might be a woodpecker, but when I finally got a good look at it, I realized that it was a White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis).

In the past, most nuthatches that I have seen were moving downwards on a tree trunk, but this one was moving upwards most of the time that I was observing it. I was happy to be able to capture some shots of the nuthatch in action.  Eventually I even managed to capture the “traditional” nuthatch pose in the final photo in which the nuthatch is perched upside-down with its head craned upward and backward.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is hard to read body language in humans and almost impossible to do so with other species. It is still fun, though, to engage in a bit of anthropomorphism and imagine what was going on between the two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The two eagles were sitting closely together on a single branch of a sweetgum tree and are almost certainly a couple. Despite their physical closeness, there seems to be a psychological distance between the two and the eagle on the right has its back turned to its partner. I can’t tell if the eagle on the right is angry or disappointed, but it appears to me to be pouting a bit. What ever the case, I sense a certain amount of tension between the two.

What do you think is going on in this image? I’d love to hear your creative thoughts about the eagle interaction.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) had to extend its wings for balance as it reached down to grab a berry on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A second or so the catbird seemed to be planning its angle of attack on the berry as you can see in the second photo below. I am always amazed at the degree to which a bird can calibrate its actions to keep from falling off of a branch on which it is perched.

Judging from the range maps in my bird guides, Gray Catbirds are in my area throughout the year, but I rarely see one. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The Gray Catbird belongs to the genus Dumetella, which means “small thicket.” And that’s exactly where you should go look for this little skulker.” As you may be able to tell from the photos, the catbird remained pretty well-hidden in the vegetation and I consider myself lucky to have gotten these relatively unobstructed shots of the bird.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The weather had warmed up enough that by Wednesday all of the ice had melted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This made things a bit easier for the Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted patiently fishing in the shallow waters of one of the small ponds at the refuge.

Although he did not catch any large fish while I was observing him, he did catch a number of small ones, including the one that I captured in this sequence of photos.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For several years I have keeping an eye on two Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One of them is adjacent to several trails, so each year the authorities close portions of those trails to keep the nesting eagles from being disturbed. This year, an additional area was closed and a sign was posted indicating eagle nesting activity.

I knew more or less where the new nest was located, but I had trouble spotting it from the trails that are still open. On Wednesday, I was delighted to spot an eagle in the nest, as you can see in the first photo below. A second eagle was keeping watch over the nest from a nearby tree and I managed to get the second shot by zooming out with my Tamron 150-600mm telephoto lens.

There was quite a bit of vegetation between me and the tree where the new nest is located, so I had to move about a lot to get a relatively unobstructed view of the nest. I suspect that the nest will be completely hidden when leaves reappear in a few months. Until then, I will continue to observe the new nest with a hope of seeing some eaglets. The incubation period is about 36 days for bald eagle eggs, but I do not think that any eggs have yet been laid.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Male Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris) are rather odd ducks. They have an unusual pointed head and striking yellow eyes. However, they have a striped pattern on their bills that make them pretty easy to identify. Although they paddle about a lot like dabbling ducks, they will periodically dive to the bottom to eat submerged plants and aquatic invertebrates.

Despite their name, it is unusual to be able to see the chestnut collar on a Ring-necked Duck’s black neck. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the ring is “not a good field mark to use for identifying the bird, but it jumped out to the nineteenth century biologists that described the species using dead specimens.”

Like several other species that I have featured recently, this Ring-necked Duck was part of a small flock that I spotted swimming about in a small suburban pond not far from where I live. Sometimes in the winter I will make a quick visit to this pond when I to experience nature, but don’t have the time to devote to a trip to the larger wildlife refuges in my area.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) are distant dark-colored waterbirds. However, when the lighting is right, you can sometimes get a good look at their orange-colored faces and their striking blue eyes.

As you can see from these two images that I captured yesterday at a small suburban pond, cormorants tend to ride low in the water. It sounds strange for a bird that spends its time in the water, but the feathers of a cormorant are not completely waterproof and can become waterlogged. That is why you can sometimes spot cormorants perched with their wings spread open in an effort to dry them out.

Double-crested Cormorant

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The water in our rivers in Northern Virginia does not freeze over very often, but late in December we had a spell of really cold weather. When I arrived at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge the temperature was well below freezing, but I was bundled up pretty well so it did not bother me much. The landscape seemed particularly stark in the early morning light as I captured several different images, concentrating on showing the icy waters.

These are definitely not the typical kind of shots that I normally shoot, but decided that it was worthwhile to capture the feel of that frigid winter morning.

winter landscape

winter landscape

winter landscape

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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One of the tiniest birds that I see in the winter months is the Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Corthylio calendula). Birds of this species so small—about  3.5-4.3 in (9-11 cm) in length—and frenetic that it is rare for me to get an unobstructed view of one.

Even rarer, though, is a look at the ruby “crown,” which is usually hidden. If you look really closely at the top of the kinglet’s head in the first photo you can see a trace of red, but nothing more. The second shot provides a good look at the body of a kinglet with its head buried in the vegetation.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ruby-crowned Kinglets are “restless, acrobatic birds that move quickly through foliage, typically at lower and middle levels. They flick their wings almost constantly as they go.” Despite their energetic behavior, they do not need much food. “Metabolic studies on Ruby-crowned Kinglets suggest that these tiny birds use only about 10 calories (technically, kilocalories) per day.” Yikes!

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is wonderful to capture images of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in action, but most of the time when I spot one, the eagle is merely perching in a tree. Although the eagle is immobile, it is clearly keeping an eye on what is going on and is ready to spring into the air without warning.

Here are a couple of shots of perched eagle from a couple of recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Northern Virginia, about 15 miles (24 km) from where I live. The images are not spectacular or prize-worthy, but I nonetheless feel a special thrill whenever I see a Bald Eagle and doubly so when I manage to take a photo of it.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) is probably the most skittish bird that I try to photograph. No matter how hard I try to sneak up on one, it always seems to fly away before I can get close. Quite often I hear the kingfisher’s distinctive rattling call and never even see the bird.

The first image is a long-distance shot of one from last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The kingfisher is relatively small in the frame, but I love the pattern of the branches in the shot.

The second image shows a female Belted Kingfisher perched on a metal post sticking out of the water on Monday at the same wildlife refuge. Generally I prefer natural vice man-made perches, but in this case I like the little “forest” of metal posts and their beautiful reflections in the water. How do I know that it is a female? Only female Belted Kingfishers have the chestnut-colored stripe on their breasts, one of the few cases in bird world in which the female is more colorful than the male.

Belted Kingfisher

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Monday, I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting in the large nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and my first thought was that the eagle couple had already begun to sit on eggs in the nest. When I thought about it for a moment, though, I realized that was probably not the case—when one of the eagles is incubating an egg, it tends to sit really low in the nest and is hidden from view. This eagle seemed to be perched rather high in the nest and flew away from it a few moments after I spotted it.

I was pretty happy to be able to compose this shot so that the eagle is clearly visible and you can get a sense of the massive size of the nest. I worry sometimes that the weight of the nest will cause it to collapse during a rain or wind storm, but it has held up remarkably well during the five or so years that I have been watching it.

It shouldn’t be too long before actual incubation begins. According to the journeynorth.org website, the incubation period is 24-36 days. “Adults share incubation duties. Nest exchanges may occur after only an hour but usually take several hours between exchanges. Frequently the incoming adult brings a new branch or fresh vegetation for the nest, then the incubating adult carefully stands and takes off while the other settles over the eggs and rakes nesting material up against its body.”

Additionally the adult eagles have to also need to turn the eggs about once an hour to ensure that the eggs are evenly heated and that the embryos don’t stick to the insides of the shells. Be sure to check out the linked website for more fascinating facts about the process of bald eagle incubation.

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) are among the strangest-looking waterbirds that I see on a regular basis.  Their heads are large and blocky, their bills are short and thick, and their tails are tiny. I love the description of the species found on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that states, “The Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks”—an apt descriptor for these birds, whose feet are indeed located near their rear ends. This body plan, a common feature of many diving birds, helps grebes propel themselves through water. Lobed (not webbed) toes further assist with swimming. Pied-billed Grebes pay for their aquatic prowess on land, where they walk awkwardly.”

Pied-billed Grebes seem to be in motion almost all of the time in repeated cycles of swimming and diving. Generally I spot these kind of grebes in deeper waters, out of the range of my telephoto zoom, but this Pied-billed Grebe was swimming a bit closer to shore than the others and I was able to capture this image during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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To crop or not to crop? Quite often I will crop my photos of small birds so that the bird is more prominent in the frame. This is especially the case when the background is cluttered.

Last Thursday, I captured an image of a male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) in which the background was not at all cluttered. The bluebird was perched on a the skeleton-like branches of a small tree. The composition of my image was more or less as you see in the first shot below, with the tree centered in the frame and lots of “white space” surrounding the subject.

What do you think? I cropped the same image closer for the second image below, with the bird now larger in the frame and pushed to the right a bit, almost following the “rule-of-thirds” guidelines. Do you like the second image better?

As a final experiment, I did a square crop that retained some of the symmetry of the first image, but chopped the branches off on both sides. From an artistic perspective, I like the first image best, but suspect that the third image might be the most popular with the majority of viewers.

So do you have a preference for one image over the others? Does the aspect ration make a difference for you? In case you are curious, the aspect ratios of the three photos were 3:2, 5:4, and 1:1. Different social media platforms display images differently, so the same photo might have a different “feel” when posted on different platforms. I know, for example, that Facebook will sometimes add a color border to the sides of some of my images or display the image with a crop.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Quite often I will spot a perched Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched in the distance when I am on certain trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The trail runs parallel to the waters of the bay and eagles like to perch in the high trees overlooking the water. My challenge is to get close enough to the eagle to get a decent shot without spooking the eagle.

Normally I will creep forward slowly, stopping periodically to get a shot. As I am moving forward, I am very conscious of the fact that the eagle may take off at any moment, but it is not easy to predict the direction of the takeoff. Sometimes eagles will fly upwards when they take off and other times they will drop from the branches like a rock. I feel a bit like a goalie in soccer match when an opposing player is taking a penalty shot as I look for clues that will allow me to predict the eagle’s timing and direction of its takeoff.

Last Thursday, I spotted an eagle perched at the top of a tree. As I approached the eagle, it grew larger in my camera’s viewfinder, though it still filled only a relatively small part of it. Suddenly the eagle took off. As it flapped its mighty wings, the eagle increased in size and rose into the air. As you can see, I clipped one of its wings when I captured the first image below. I had only a split second to react and I did ok, but there was definitely room for improvement.

Later in the day, I spotted another bald eagle high in a tree overhanging the trail. I had quite a bit of trouble getting a shot of it, because the sun was directly in my eyes. I tried to walk underneath the eagle to get the sun to my back, but the eagle spotted me and I snapped off the second shot below as it was taking off. Technically speaking it is not a very good shot, but I really like the way that I captured the underside of the eagle that was almost directly overhead and the light shining through the tail feathers is pretty cool.

When it comes to reaction time and eyesight, a bald eagle clearly has me beat, but that does not discourage me. Some of the time, the eagles are distracted or inattentive and I manage to capture action shots of them. I am blessed to live in an area with a good number of eagles and I never tire of photographing them.  Hopefully you enjoy seeing photos like these ones, especially if you don’t see eagles very often.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first spotted a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched high in a tree on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I noticed that its head was bowed. I figured that it was either praying or napping, probably the latter.

The heron raised its head a little and opened its eyes when I got closer, but apparently it decided that I was not a threat. Gradually the heron’s head started to drop and it drifted off to sleep again. As you can see in the final photo, herons sleep with their eyes closed (or at least that is what it looks like they do).

Sweet dreams, handsome heron.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Carolina Wrens (Thryothorus ludovicianus) are one of the birds that I hear a lot more often than I see. Most of the time these little birds are flitting about in the vegetation and leaf litter near the ground and and I am lucky to get a glimpse of one of them.

On Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a handsome Carolina Wren hopped up on a branch right in front of me and perched for a moment. I was thrilled to capture this little portrait of the wren that shows the beautiful markings on its wings and its distinctive white eye stripe.

Carolina Wren

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) can be quite cranky when they are disturbed and they will often make a loud squawking sound to signal their displeasure. Last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I inadvertently spooked this heron and he made sure to indicate vocally that he was not happy to relocate as he flew past me.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) have such a distinctive look that I can usually identify them—many other sparrows are so similar in appearance that it is hard for me to identify them. Their little white “beards” always make me think of Santa Claus, but the bright yellow markings near their eyes are my favorite feature.

I photographed these two individuals during recent visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. White-throated Sparrows are winter visitors to our area that return north in the spring.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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