Archive for the ‘wildlife’ Category

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.

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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.


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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.


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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.

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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.


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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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