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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

When this immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) fixed its eyes on me on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and flew straight toward me, I couldn’t help but feel a little concerned. As it turned out, the young eagle was simply soaring and veered away—and my heartbeat eventually returned to a normal rate.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds are stealthy and fly silently through the skies. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) would not fit into that category. They like to announce their presence for all to hear, like this pair that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they were coming in for a landing.

Unlike at the airport, there was no need for a loudspeaker to announce this landing.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you take photos only when the weather conditions are optimal? If I followed that rule, I’d be staying at home most of the time. This winter in particular, it seems like I am at work on all of the days with good weather. So often I will choose to go out with my camera when I am free and not when the weather is good.

One particular morning last week it was really foggy and visibility was extremely limited. The subjects that I could see were hazy and indistinct, utterly lacking in contrast. It’s hard to know how what camera setting to use in situations like those.

I was at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite spot this winter for wildlife photography, and as usual I managed to spot some Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). It is always a challenge to photograph the eagles, because they tend to perch a good distance away from the trails that I follow and they are often quite skittish.

In this case, the difficulties were magnified, because of the heavy fog/mist. I ended up processing the images that I captured in a number of different ways, attempting at times to enhance the contrast or eliminate some of the fog, with varying degrees of success.

Here are a few of my favorite shots of the eagles in the mist.

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The skies were heavily overcast on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so colors didn’t “pop” at all. However, I really like the almost monochromatic feel of this image I captured of a young Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), with just the slightest bit of yellow showing around its talons.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Thanks to some helpful folks in the Facebook forum “What’s this bird,” I learned that this little duck-like bird that I spotted on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge is a Horned Grebe (Podiceps auritus). I have seen several other kinds of grebes before, but this was a first-time sighting of this particular species.

When I looked at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology page for this species, I was a little shocked to see how different this bird looks when in breeding plumage. “Breeding adults have black heads with rich golden tufts, black back, and cinnamon neck, breast, and sides.” Wow! That would be quite a sight to see, but, alas, it looks like Horned Grebes do not breed in my area and are only visitors here for the winter.

Horned Grebe

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday morning I was thrilled to see this American Kestrel (Falco sparverius)  at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I had never before seen this little falcon, but its coloration and markings are awfully distinctive, so I had a pretty good idea what it was.

I was really struck by the small size of this bird, as compared with the Bald Eagles and vultures that I had seen earlier in the day. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the American Kestrel is about the size and shape of a mourning dove and is the smallest falcon in North America.

As you can tell from the background, it was heavily overcast when I took this shot, so the colors do not pop as much as they would in bright sunlight. One of my viewers on Facebook also noted that this is a female and, as is the case with most bird species, the colors of a female American Kestrel are more muted than those of her male counterpart.

I remember well the location of the tree in which the kestrel was perched, so I will add that location to my already long list of places to check when I visit this wildlife refuge, which has proven to have a pretty amazing variety of species to observe.

American Kestrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What kind of bird would be a perfect match for a gloomy, fog-filled day? I might suggest that this Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus) that I spotted this past weekend at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge would fit the bill admirably.

There was something shadowy, mysterious, and a little creepy about this large dark bird as it perched low in a tree and looked right at me through the fog. I felt a little shiver as I looked up at the vulture, but maybe it was just reaction to the cool temperature.

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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