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As I was exploring the Ammer River on Sunday afternoon, the day of my arrival in Germany, I spotted these two Common Merganser ducks (Mergus merganser). Initially they were sleeping with their heads tucked under their wings, but eventually they woke up and swam around a little and I was able to get some shots.

I am on a brief trip to Germany for work and am staying in the small Bavarian town on Oberammergau, in southern Germany. It is located in the mountains and at the moment has lots of snow. I did manage to get a few shots of the town and of the mountains on Sunday that I hope to feature later this week. Our work schedule looks to be pretty busy and I am not sure I will have the chance to get out again with my camera before I depart on Saturday.

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

Common Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Most of my readers know that I love to photograph Bald Eagles. (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). When I am lucky enough to catch one in flight, it usually is just as the eagle is leaving the tree or when it is high in the sky. About two weeks ago, I manage to capture this eagle from a different perspective as it flew by at a relatively low level. It is not the sharpest image I have ever taken, but there is something about the outstretched wings and the glimpse of the head under the wings that I really like.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

A possum in a tree

I have been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge dozens and dozens of times, but had never seen an opossum there until yesterday. I am pretty sure that I would not have seen this one almost hidden in the trees if fellow photographer Ricky Kresslein had not pointed it out to me. Initially I was incredulous, suspecting that he had misidentified a raccoon, but as soon as I looked closely at the animal, I realized he was right.

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the animal that I photographed, is the only marsupial found in North America north of Mexico. I had to double-check, but was able to confirm my remembrance that a marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala.

The connection to Australia and New Zealand is occasionally a source of some confusion, because the “possums” in those locations are entirely different species. Here in North American, “opossum” and “possum” are used interchangeably.

One of the most common references to this animal is the expression “playing possum.” In the literal sense, it refers to the Virginia Opossum’s reaction sometimes when threatened—it may roll over, become stiff, drool, breathe slowly and shallowly, and appear to be dead. In a more general sense, the expression has come to mean pretending to be dead or asleep to avoid having to deal with a problem.

Virginia Opossum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Duck Double Dating

These Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couples appeared to be on a double date when I spotted them earlier this week at a little suburban pond near where I live. It is now getting to be that time of the year when more and more birds are pairing off.

I took a lot of shots these ducks as they swam by and this is one of the few photos in which all four heads are visible and facing in the same direction. No matter whether you are  photographing animals, birds, or people, it is always a challenge to take a group photograph in which all subjects have pleasing poses..

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Another colorful dawn

Normally I plan my photo expeditions so that I arrive after the sun has already risen. After all, if I want to photograph wildlife subjects, I need to have enough light to be able to see them. Recently, however, I have been trying to get there before sunrise in order to capture images of the color in the sky. This is becoming a problem for me, because the gates of the wildlife refuge where I like to explore do not open until 7:00 in the morning and we have almost reached the point in the year where the sun rises even earlier than that.

On Tuesday, I arrived at Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge at about 7:05 and the color in the sky was amazing, a beautiful red color tinged the clouds. My view of the most colorful parts of the sky was blocked by trees, so I did my best to frame the sky with those trees. My the time I reached the water, the most saturated colors had disappeared, but in some directions I could still see some glorious pastel colors and I captured the second image. I love the abstract quality of that image, a depiction of nature at its simplest, a series of wonderful shapes and colors.

colorful dawn

colorful dawn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Bald Eagle in February

I watched and waited for an extended period of time yesterday as this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) groomed itself in a tree overlooking one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was pretty much in the open at the edge of the trail and did not dare to move forward for fear of spooking the eagle. Fortunately I had my camera and long telephoto zoom lens on a monopod, because I know from experience that I would not have been able to hold it pointed upwards for that long a period of time.

I tried to stay as alert and ready as I could, which can be quite a challenge after a while. Sometimes a bird will signal its intent to take off, but this eagle took off without a warning. Acting on instinct mostly, I managed to capture the first image when the eagle was just clearing the edge of the branches. In the second shot, I clipped off the edge of the wings, but decided to include it to give you an idea of the challenge of trying to track the speed a bird when it first takes off. The final image shows you what the eagle looked like when it was perched in the tree before the takeoff.

bald eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Puffy hawk

This Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) was so puffed up early last Saturday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge trying to stay warm that I couldn’t even see its feet—it was about 18 degrees (minus 8 degrees C) when I captured the image. The hawk seemed to be hunched over a bit and it looks like some of its lower feathers were draped over its feet.

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.