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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

Last week I featured an actual mud turtle, but today’s muddy turtles  are actually Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) that appear to have been painted with a coating of mud. The last few months we have had a lot of unusually cool weather, and I think the turtles have been spending a lot of time in the mud at the bottom of the ponds. Last week the weather improve  and there were turtles in all kinds of places at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge trying to absorb the warmth of the sun.

The pose of the first two turtles brings to mind a well-known scene from the movie Titanic in which Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) were standing at the railing at the prow of the ship. I must confess that I spent 4+ hours watching the movie on television last Sunday night, which may be why the scene is so fresh in my mind. Yeah, I’m a bit of a romantic.

I encountered the second Painted Turtle as it was slowly making its way across a trail at the wildlife refuge. In addition to noting the large amount of fresh mud still on its shell, I was delighted by the way the two little leaf fragments on its shell matched the yellow markings on its neck.
Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday I spotted this small turtle as it was crossing one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is not a species that I see very often, but I think it is an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum) Appropriately enough its back half appears to be covered in mud.

I generally think of turtles as being slow-moving, but this one was scrambling so quickly across the trail that it was a challenge to keep in within the camera’s viewfinder after I had zoomed in all the way with my telephoto lens. In case you are curious, Eastern Mud Turtles are only about four inches in length (10 cm).

 

Eastern Mud Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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There are at least two Bald Eagle nests (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the location where I take many of my wildlife photos. One of them is located adjacent to a popular trail and most years the authorities close nearby trails during eagle nesting season. There has been a lot of construction at the refuge over the past few months and, although I saw an eagle couple at that nesting site on several occasions, it looks like they may not have occupied that nest this year (and the trails have not been closed).

The second nest, pictured below, is in a more remote location—it is visible through the trees from one of the trails, but is surrounded by dense vegetation, so the eagles are more insulated from human activity. On a recent visit to the refuge, I was pleased to spot both members of an eagle couple in the nest. I am pretty sure that the eagle on the left is the male, because male eagles tend to be considerably smaller than their female counterparts.

With a bit of luck I hope to be able to spot some eaglets here in the upcoming months, although I noted last year that it is a real challenge to do so, because the wall of this large nest appear to be quite high and effectively hide the eagles from view.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although the old proverb asserts that “birds of a feather flock together,” I have learned the value of examining groups of floating birds, because they often include multiple species. I was examining one such group last week in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when I spotted an obvious outlier, a duck that was larger and more brightly colored than the rest. I am pretty sure that this is a male Canvasback duck (Aythya valisineria), a species that I do not see very often and still have not seen at close range.

Canvasback duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A strong wind was blowing last Thursday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds that I usually observe were absent from view, probably using common sense to take shelter from the blustery wind. As I was returning almost empty-handed to my car, I spotted several Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) perched low on the roof of a covered picnic area.

Generally I try to avoid including manmade structures in my wildlife photos, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. I really like the way that I was able to capture some of the feather details of this male Eastern Bluebird. If you look closely, you can see the bird’s windblown feathers, a look that is cultivated by some stylish humans, who often rely on “product” to achieve the effect rather than on the actual wind.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I do not know much about fashion, but I am pretty sure that I could not pull off wearing an outfit that combined stripes and dots. Somehow, though, the combination works well for this male Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) that I spotted yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  This Northern Flicker goes even further by adding a bright red crescent across the back of his head.

Unlike most other woodpeckers that are content to wear black and white and maybe a little bit of red, this Northern Flicker comes across as a bold, colorful, and stylish. I wonder why we don’t have similarly-colored penguins.

 

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I feel lucky when I am able to capture an unobstructed shot of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula). I feel doubly fortunate when I manage to get a shot of the tiny red “crown” that is responsible for the bird’s name. Last week I spotted this Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “the male’s brilliant ruby crown patch usually stays hidden—your best chance to see it is to find an excited male singing in spring or summer.” I have seen some photos of Ruby-crowned Kinglets with their red feathers standing on end like a Mohawk hairstyle, but I have not yet seen that phenomenon in person. Spring is almost here, though, and I will keep my eyes open to see if I can spot an excited male singing kinglet. (I recommend that you repeat the words “singing kinglet” several times and you will almost certainly end up with a smile on your face.)

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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