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Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

This immature Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) certainly was aware of my presence on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, judging by the intensity of the stare it directed toward me. I am guessing that the eagle is about three years old—it takes almost five years for its head feathers to turn completely white and for its beak to turn yellow. At this stage of development, bald eagles look a little scruffy and have not yet acquired the majestic look that I associate with this species.

If you are interested in seeing images of the developmental stages of the bald eagle, check out this posting from onthewingphotography.com that shows an eagle’s age progression from one to five years old.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sunny days have been relatively rare this winter, so it is almost a special occasion when we do have one. Although it is nice to capture images of rare subjects on those special days, it is equally pleasurable to photograph the common species, like this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The additional light from the sun helps to make the heron’s wonderful colors “pop” much more than they do on gray cloudy days.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past week I was thrilled to spot a Northern Harrier (Circus hudsonius) on two separate occasions at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Northern Harriers are slim, long-tailed hawks. One of the things that distinguish these raptors from others is that, “unlike other hawks, they rely heavily on their sense of hearing to capture prey,” which is why they often fly low and slowly over the ground, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology .

During my first encounter, the harrier was flying low over a field. The first photo below gives you an idea of how close to the ground the bird was flying. It reminded me of my military training and the concept of “nap-of-the-earth” flight, a very low-altitude flight course used by military aircraft to avoid enemy detection and attack in a high-threat environment.

A few day later I spotted a Northern Harrier in the same general location. This time the harrier was soaring high above my head. I could not tell for sure if it was hunting, but it sure seemed to be keeping watch over things on the ground and appeared to be looking right at me.

I am not sure how much longer this harrier will be hanging around, so I will be returning to the same location within the next few days with a hope of another encounter with a harrier.

 

Northern Harrier

Northern Harrier

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled on Thursday when a small flock of Tundra Swans (Cygnus columbianus) flew overhead while I was at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It is rare for me to see swans of any kind in this area. When I spotted the formation approaching, I initially thought they were Canada Geese, but as they got closer I could tell that they looked different and sounded different.

Tundra Swan

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s tough to get a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) to smile. This was the best we could manage during our portrait session on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) are tiny, but they can be mighty fierce. This one that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to be sending me a definite  “Don’t mess with me” message with its intense glare in my direction.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first spotted this bird perched on a distant piece of floating driftwood, I assumed that it was a cormorant. The more I looked at it, though, the more I thought that the body proportions were wrong for a cormorant.

I was a bit shocked when I zoomed in and discovered that it was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). Why was the eagle perched like this? Was it looking for a moment of solitude?

Somehow the solitary eagle reminded me of a shipwrecked sailor, adrift in the vast expanses of the ocean.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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