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Acrobatic squirrel

I was watching an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it hung upside down and nibbled on the buds of a tree when suddenly its back legs lost their grip. The squirrel was dangling from its front paws only when I snapped this shot.

Initially the squirrel continued to chew on the bud it was holding. Realizing perhaps the precariousness of its position, it eventually stopped eating and successfully scrambled back up into the tree.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

First spring tulip

During growing season I keep a close eye on the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, since I have no gardening skills at all. On Tuesday I took a few shots of one of the cute little red tulips that opened just a few days ago, the first tulips of this spring that I have spotted.

Unlike most tulips, which tend to be spherical in shape, the blooms of these tulips are slender and angular. As I look at the second photo, for example, I see a series of triangles.

Cindy has a new raised bed in the back yard of her townhouse that looks like it has more tulips, judging from the leaves that have popped up from the soil. It will be a surprise for us all when they emerge, because neither she nor her husband can recall what specific varieties they planted last fall.

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Springtime chickadee

I tend to be a bit obsessive about trying to get my subject in sharp focus when capturing wildlife images. So I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, when I saw that the focus in this shot of a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was a bit soft. I was quite a distance away when I saw this little bird moving about in the tree branches on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to snap off only a couple of shots before it flew away.

The more I looked at this image, the more I have come to like it. There is something really pleasing about the bird’s upward-facing pose; the lighting around the chickadee; the out-of-focus background; the simple structure of the branches; and especially the spots of bright spring color in the flowering tree. This image conveys to me an overall feeling of the beauty of the emerging spring.

This type of shot also serves to remind me that photography is as much about art as it is about science, that it is ok to break whatever “rules” I choose to impose on myself. Beauty can be found in sharp, detailed photos, what I normally strive to create, but it can also be found in “artsy,” impressionistic images like this one.

What do you think? Does the soft focus on this chickadee bother you?

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Springtime butterfly

Yesterday was a beautiful spring day and I finally managed to photograph my first butterfly of the year, a Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) that I spotted in the underbrush at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Within the past two weeks I have had several sightings of larger butterflies that overwinter as adults, including the Mourning Cloak and the Question Mark/Eastern Comma butterflies, but was unable to capture images of them.

This little butterfly almost certainly emerged recently from a chrysalis and is a female, judging from the two black spots on each of the forewings (males have a single spot on each forewing). Cabbage White butterflies, known by many different names, originated in Europe and have now spread to many parts of the world including Australia and New Zealand, according to Wikipedia.

I look at the butterfly as a beautiful little creature, but in its caterpillar form it is considered to be a dangerous agricultural pest that is responsible for large-scale damage to the cruciferous plants on which it voraciously feeds. As adults, however, Cabbage Whites butterflies feed on nectar from many flowers, including dandelions, red clover, asters, mint, and strawberries and do not cause any damage.

 

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

No guarantees

Wildlife photography is full of uncertainty—there are no guarantees of success. When I go out with my camera, I never know if I will find any subjects to photograph.

I stay alert and almost always something will appear, like this beautiful female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I spotted a week ago at Occoquan Regional Park.

Beauty is everywhere—sometimes you just have to look a little harder to find it.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Some of the newly-returned Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were busy on Friday building or renovating their nests. In past years I have seen ospreys make nests in a wide range of locations, both natural as well as man-made. This osprey was ferrying out sticks to a nest on a distant channel marker in the bay, where its mate waited patiently for each new delivery.

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Muskrat in March

I turned my head instinctively when I heard a splash in the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge? What had made the splash? There were no logs on which a turtle might have been sunning, so I assumed it was one of the many diving ducks that have spent the winter with us. I watched and waited for the duck to resurface so that I could identify its species.

Imagine my surprise when a furry rather than feathered head broke the surface of the water from below. I only had to hesitate a second before I decided that it was a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) rather than a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). Why? It was midday and beavers are generally active only at dawn and dusk; the animal was really small and beavers tend to be a lot bigger in size; and I had a really good look at the tail that was a long, thin “rattail” and not flat like a beaver’s tail.

In the past most of the muskrats that I have seen swimming have kept their tails in the water, often using it for propulsion. Maybe this muskrat was simply treading water, watching me as I watched it. It has been a long time since I have seen a muskrat, so this sighting was a nice treat for me.

Muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I was totally fascinated by the shapes and colors of this tiny flower that has started to bloom in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Cindy told me it was a type of Grape Hyacinth, which confused me a little, because all of the grape hyacinths that I had previously seen were shaped more like grapes than little bells.

I searched on-line and eventually discovered that this flower is Muscari azureum, a species also referred to as Pseudomuscari azureum or Hyacinthella azurea. According to gardenia.net, “Muscari azureum is a lovely, compact china-blue grape hyacinth, with bell-shaped flowers that are not constricted at the mouth. Therefore it looks more plump and fuller than others.”

It was a challenge for me to photograph these flowers because they are so small and grow so close to the ground. Additionally the rather naked early spring garden soil in which the flowers were growing does not make a very photogenic backdrop. I used a macro lens to get close to the flowers for the first two shots in order to isolate them somewhat from the background and focus the viewer’s attention on the intricate details of the flowers.

For the final image, I backed up a little to give you a view of the overall scene and the challenges I described above. As you can probably tell, the two flowers at the far left of the frame were the ones that were featured in the first two photos.

 

Muscari azureum

Muscari azureum

Muscari azureum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Mockingbird in March

Sometimes the colors in a photo draw me in as much as the actual subject, as is the case with this image of a Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Regional Park.

The soft shades of brown and gray harmoniously create a mood that I really like. Even the wispy, dried grasses in the foreground, which might have bothered me under most circumstances, add a nice texture and organic feel to this in situ portrait.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Some people find Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) to be creepy, but I think they are handsome in their own way and fill a useful function in keeping our roads at least partially free from carrion. I spotted quite a few Turkey Vultures on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some clustered on the ground and some circling in the skies.

The two vultures in the first photo were part of a group of five that were spread across a trail near the partial remains of what looks to have been some kind of animal. I did not want to disturb them, so I gave them a wide berth and continued on my way after capturing the image.

I had no such worry with the vulture in the second shot that was effortless soaring overhead and did not seem disturbed at all by my presence. It probably was my imagination, but at times it seems like the vulture was tracking me. I think I watched too many cowboy movies as a child in which a lost cowboy stumbled through the desert as vultures circled overhead, waiting for him to die.

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Some birds return silently in the spring and you have to search hard to find them. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), on the other hand, make their presence known as they soar overhead, often calling out in their loud, high-pitched voices that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology compared to “the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove.”

I spotted only a few ospreys yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some of which I managed to photograph, but know from experience that they are only the advance guard of a larger group of osprey that will arrive soon and begin to build or repair their nests. As you may notice in the second photo, trees in our area are being to produce buds and it won’t be long before leaves begin to complicate my efforts to spot birds.

Osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Snowdrop in March

My neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer has a new raised flower bed in her back yard and the first flowers to appear in it are some tiny Snowdrops (g. Galanthus), including this one that I photographed on Friday. For me there is something really beautiful about the simple shape and restrained colors of this little flower. I have seen snowdrops appear much earlier at other locations, including in 2012 when I photographed some in bloom in late December—see my blog posting entitled Winter Snowdrops.

snowdrop

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

First crocuses

I do not have my own garden, but my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer has a wonderful one that I visit often during the growing season. I was thrilled on Friday to see that one of her crocuses is blooming, the first one that I have seen this year. A second crocus had not yet opened, but I was so excited to see these colorful signs of spring that I photographed it too.

During the colder months of the year I shoot almost exclusively with a long telephoto zoom lens. For these images, however, I switched to a 60mm macro lens, a sign of the changing seasons—during the summer months my favorite lens is my 180mm macro lens. As the leaves start to reappear to on the trees, I will be photographing fewer birds and will be focusing on smaller, close-in subjects like butterflies and dragonflies, hopefully within a month or so.

crocus

crocus

crocus

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Preening eagle

It was early in the morning when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Utterly fascinated, I watched the eagle methodically preening, moving from one area of its body to another, adjusting the feathers and removing some small wispy ones. When you are a national symbol, I guess you have to try to look majestic at all times.

This particular eagle was pretty relaxed and I managed to walk almost underneath the overhanging branch without disturbing it. If you look carefully at the final photo, you can tell that I was shooting almost straight up in order to get the shot. Remarkably the eagle remained in place when I continued on my way down the trail. I would like to be able to claim that I was really stealthy in my movements, but I think it was more likely that the eagle was simply willing to tolerate my presence, of which he was undoubtedly aware.

Bald Eagle

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Early morning bunny

Frost covered the ground early on Tuesday morning when I arrived at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first creature that I spotted was an Eastern Cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) foraging in the wintery grass that has not yet turned green. The sunlight was soft and low, making the bunny glow.

It was a wonderfully gentle way to begin a new day.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

It was great on Tuesday to see that some Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One was even checking out the local real estate market and was shocked at how expensive housing rentals are in this area.

In the wild, Tree Swallows nest in tree cavities, but they seem to adapt readily to using nesting boxes, like the one in the final photo. At this spot of the refuge there are two nesting boxes and each year there seems to be a competition between Tree Swallows and Easter Bluebirds for their use.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Tree Swallows winter farther north than any other American swallows and return to their nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. They can eat plant foods as well as their normal insect prey, which helps them survive the cold snaps and wintry weather of early spring.”

Welcome back, beautiful little swallows.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Really wild turkey

I do not know about the reactions of the lady turkeys, but I was mighty impressed by the display of this male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) early yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A lot of male birds go to great lengths to impress and attract females during the early spring, but this wild turkey’s presentation might take the prize for being so flamboyant and ostentatious. I guess he has truly embraced the motto, “Go big or go home.”

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

When you look through the photos on my blog, you might get the mistaken impression that I have some magical power over birds, because your view of them is rarely obstructed by branches. I have a confession to make—those photos are not accurate representations of the way that I see birds most of the time. Today’s image of a beautiful little Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) provides a more typical view of the way that I see birds in the wild as they move about in the thickets and underbrush foraging for food, rarely providing me with a good look.

Despite all of the branches that blocked my view, I managed to capture quite a lot of the kinglet’s details in this shot, including a sliver of its golden “crown,” a close look at its legs and feet as the small bird was hanging from a leaf, and some of the texture of the layers of feathers. I highly encourage you to click on the image to get a better looks at these wonderful detail. As you look at this bird, keep in mind that it is one of the smallest songbirds in my area, with a length of 3.1-4.3 in (8-11 cm) and a weight of 0.1-0.3 oz (4-8 g), according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I am fond of saying that beauty is everywhere, and I believe that to be true. Sometimes, though, you might not see it at first glance. If you slow down and look beyond those things that threaten to block your view, you may discover beauty hidden among the branches.

 

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

How good are you at identifying a bird by its silhouette? When you are shooting directly into the light, one of the challenges of photographing a bird is that many of the details, or even all of them, disappear into the shadows—you often have to rely more on the shapes than the colors to identify the bird.

I could not see the eyes or any of the facial features of this bird that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but its long bill and distinctive “punk rock” head feathers made it relatively easy to identify it as a Male Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), a type of diving duck that I see only occasionally. For the record, the white collar also helped in making the identification.

Red-breasted Mergansers are one of the bird species that spend their winters with us. I suspect that it will not be long before they depart for more more northern locations for the breeding season.

 

Red-breasted Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

In the nest

For the last six weeks or so, I have been monitoring two Bald Eagle couples (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they have repaired and renovated two different nests. On Saturday morning I made my way to one of them and was delighted to see an eagle sitting low in the nest. I cannot be completely certain, but I think that the eagle is sitting on one or more eggs. If true, the eaglets should hatch in about 35 days or so.

This relatively small nest was damaged last summer when it looks like one of the supporting branches broke off and half of the nest fell to the ground. I observed some of the reconstructions efforts and documented it in an early February posting called Rebuilding the nest. It looks to me like the nest has grown considerably in size since that time.

This nest is located in a sycamore tree just off one of the major trails at the wildlife refuge. Each year the authorities block off all of the nearby roads to allow the eagles to nest in peace. The final photo shows the tree in which the nest is located and the current barrier across the trail from which I took the first photo. A telephoto lens tends to compress distances, so it is hard to judge exactly how far away the tree is from the barrier—I estimate that it is about a hundred yards (91 meters).

I will continue to keep an eye on this nest and hopefully will manage to get a glimpse of some eaglets in the upcoming months. Last year I believe that there was only a single eaglet (check out my May 2020 posting entitled One little eaglet), although in past years there were often two eaglets (check out this April 2018 posting called Baby bald eagles for a look at two adorable little eaglets).

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Banner boy

I really enjoy posting photos here on my blog because I have the freedom to post multiple images and spend as much time and text as I want talking about them—most other forms of social media have implicit or explicit limits on the content. I post a subset of my blog content on my personal Facebook page and in several Facebook groups.

Many of these Facebook groups are very specialized and are full of experts. I actually prefer to post to groups that are aimed more towards generalists who have a broad interest in nature and wildlife. One of my favorites is called “Nature Lovers of Virginia” and I was thrilled when one of my recent photos of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was selected as the banner photo for the group for the month of March. The enclosed photo shows the banner photo as it looks in Facebook.

I take photos mostly for my own enjoyment, but do love to share them with others. It is a nice plus to get a little recognition from time to time.

banner image

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Early-morning mood

Sometimes you cannot get your subject to cooperate in posing and sometimes it simply does not matter, especially when you are focused primarily on capturing the mood of the moment, rather than the anatomical details of the wildlife creature.

On a recent early-morning trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted a distant Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) perched in a tree. The heron was facing away from me and appeared to be basking in the sun, trying to warm up a little after what had been a frigid night. The morning light was beautiful as it illuminated the interlocking grid of branches—in many ways that light became the main subject of this image.

There is a kind of abstract feel to this image that I really like, though it is quite different from most of the photos that I normally take. Somehow it recaptures for me the serenity of that early-morning encounter in a way that a detailed close-up shot would not have been able to do.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Sitting in a tree

Do you remember what it was like to be so totally in love that you wanted to be physically close to the other person every single moment of every single hour? That was the first thought that came to mind when I spotted these two Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) close together in a tree last Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I tend to think of eagles as being fierce, powerful, and independent, but this image suggests that they also have a tender, vulnerable side as well.

Look into the eyes of the eagle on the right, which I believe is the male. Doesn’t he look like he is totally smitten, wide-eyed and in love? This stage of total infatuation often happens when you are young, though it can strike you at any time in your life. It brings to mind a playground chant of my youth that was designed to embarrass the persons named in the song. Do you remember the song?

Imagine these two eagles were named Chris and Mike. It would go like this:

Chris and Mike
Sitting in a tree
K-I-S-S-I-N-G!
First comes love
Then comes marriage
Then comes baby
In a baby carriage!

Can you imagine an eagle with a baby carriage? Let your creative imagination run wild. If I had skills as a cartoonist, it would be fun to make a drawing with this eagle couple pushing a baby carriage. Alas, I have no such skills, but would encourage any of you who possess those skills to take on the challenge.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Soft morning light

The early morning sun was still low on the horizon last Tuesday when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The light at this time of the day is so warm, soft, and beautiful that I desperately wanted to get a shot of the eagle.

There was, however, one big problem—the eagle was looking away from me and the view of the back of its head was not very attractive. So I watched and waited and watched some more. Finally, the eagle made a quick glance over its shoulder, smiled, and seemed to ask if I was now satisfied. I was.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Not-so-full Moon

Normally I try to photograph the moon when it is full, but early Tuesday morning the skies were so clear when I looked out my front door, that I couldn’t help but grab my camera and step outside to capture this image, one of the few times that I have taken an outdoor shot while wearing slippers.

I posted this image on Facebook and Steve Gingold, a fellow photographer and blogger, noted that, “the full moon is always great but a partial like this offers better detail with the sidelighting and you got some nice detail.”  Thanks, Steve.

Steve is a wonderful nature photographer who lives in New England—be sure to check out his blog at Steve Gingold Nature Photography Photography Blog, where at the moment he is featuring winter images full of snow and ice.

moon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

As I rounded a curve in a trail on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I saw a flash of white at ground level further down the trail. My eyes immediately registered the fact that it was a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but my mind seemed to have trouble processing the presence of an eagle in this incongruous location. What was it doing there?

The second and third images suggest that I inadvertently interrupted the eagle as it was consuming its breakfast. I cannot identify the eagle’s prey, but it does not look like a fish to me. If you click on the images you can get a closer look at the remains of the prey and maybe you can tell what it is/was. Perhaps it was one of the many ducks that I could see on the waters of the bay that is visible through the vegetation.

As you can tell from the final photo, the eagle took off as soon as it sensed my presence, taking with it the remains of his meal. I never get tired of visiting this wildlife refuge as often as I can. There is an old adage that insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, so some might consider me to be a little crazy. The truth, however, is that each wildlife encounter is a unique combination of environmental factors and subject behavior, so each time there are new possibilities and opportunities to capture views of nature’s endless diversity.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Hermit Thrush

Hermit Thrushes (Catharus guttatus) migrate to my area for the winter, but I rarely see one, probably because they spend most of their time foraging out of sight in the underbrush. When I first spotted this one last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, it was in the shadows and its shape made me think it was an American Robin, another member of the thrush family. However, when it hopped onto this branch and was better illuminated, the spotted breast and lighter coloration made it really obvious that this was not a robin.

I was a little disappointed that I did not hear this little bird sing. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “the Hermit Thrush’s beautiful, haunting song begins with a sustained whistle and ends with softer, echo-like tones.”

Hermit Thrush

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Punk rock cardinal

Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) often sport a Mohawk-style crest, but this female that I spotted last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge seemed to have applied some extra gel to make her “hair” stand tall. Her outlandish look and defiant attitude make me think of a punk rocker. I looked closely at her body, expecting to see tattoos and body piercings, but as far as I could tell, there were none.

Rock on, my little punk rock cardinal, rock on.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I joined a cult

Earlier this year I joined a mysterious organization known as the Cult of the Spiny Hog, an offshoot of The Hedgehog Poetry Press, a United Kingdom-based poetry publishing company. For over a year I had heard whispers of this mysterious group, with hints and rumors of its Illuminati-like status, so with a certain amount of trepidation I submitted my application and was accepted into the organization.

Last week I received a package with the “holy writings” of fellow members of the cult, the nine books of poetry that you see in the first photo. If you look carefully at each volume, you will spot the shadowy silhouette of a hedgehog, the mark of the cult. So far I have not been asked to have it tattooed on my body, but I do not exclude that being a future requirement. The second image shows the way the bundle was packaged, with a mysterious face looking out through the translucent paper and the seal of the cult. The final photo shows different versions of the cult’s signature mascot.

How did this happen? How did I fall under the sway of this poetry organization? It began quite modestly when I subscribed to the blog of Irish poet, Damien B. Donnelly. A few months later I had the pleasure of meeting Damien in person in Paris in November 2019—you can read all about our encounter in my blog posting entitled Paris Portraits: Damien. If you too want to be throughly enchanted, check out this YouTube video called An Evening of Eating The Storms in which Damien debuted his poetry collection—it is an amazing performance.

Damien is an incredible poet and over time he and his fellow cult members have helped to reawaken in me a part of myself that had been dormant for decades. When I was in college, I immersed myself in French literature, spent my junior year studying in Paris, and made the totally impractical decision to major in French. As I now look back at those years, I hardly recognize that romantic dreamer as me. I am now beginning to dream again.

If you read my blog regularly, you have seen growing indications of poetry’s growing grip on my heart. In October 2020, I did a posting called National Poetry Day 2020 that talked about new poetry collections by Damien B. Donnelly, Gaynor Kane, and Katie Proctor, poets whose works I had read and seen performed at the Zoom poetry readings that I had started to attend regularly.

I knew that I was hooked in late December 2020 when I felt prompted by the pandemic to write a poem myself. I included it in a posting called Pandemic Poetry that also looked at a powerful collection of pandemic poetry by Gaynor Kane and Karen Mooney. One of the benefits of joining the cult is that I can submit poetry for free into the various competitions run by the publish, a step that I do not envision myself taking now, but can envision such a possibility in the future.

Why am I so smitten with poetry? If I reduced my answer to a single statement, I would have to say that it is because poetry speaks to my heart in a way that no other written or spoken words do. Contemporary poets express themselves in so many different ways and across such a wide range of subjects, that there is bound to be one that speaks to your heart—Amanda Gorman’s moving reading at the US inauguration opened the eyes of many Americans to the power of poetry.

I am not recruiting for the cult and I think there is a strict numerical limit on the number of members. However, I do encourage you to consider adding some poetry to your life. One of the easiest ways to to that is to listen to the weekly Eat The Storms podcast, in which the aforementioned Damien B. Donnelly hosts an hour-long show with poets and musicians performing from around the world. (The podcast is named after Damien’s debut poetry collection, which you can order directly from Damien at his website.)The podcast is already in its second season and new episodes come out each Saturday and are available on Anchor, Spotify, Podbean, Google, Apple, and other podcast platforms.

Here is a comment I left on the podcast’s website that gives you a feel for the scope of the poetry presentations in a single podcast—”Each of your podcast episodes, Damien, is an emotional rollercoaster as your poet friends explore a wide variety of themes in an amazing range of voices, both figuratively as well as literally (with accents from around the world). Where else could I letters to letters to Sylvia Plath juxtaposed with contemplations on Chagall; memories of Paris alongside perceptions from the parallel world of Wolf Planet; humankind’s fight with nature followed by personal memories from a Kodachrome image; greying mists of colorful memories with some black-and-white consequences of British archaeological discoveries? Those topics only touch the surface of this mind-expanding episode of this wonderful podcast.”

Let me end this posting with Damien’s signature closing line, “Stay bloody poetic.”

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

Hedgehog Poetry Press

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Fluffy-bottomed eagle

I am not sure why the bottom feathers of this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were in such disarray when I spotted it this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Clearly something had ruffled its feathers, perhaps some mating activity. Spring is in the air and the eagles should soon be sitting on eggs in their nests.

The pandemic has turned our lives upside down this past year—there is something hopeful and reassuring about observing the inexorable movement in the seasonal cycles of nature. New life will soon be springing up all around us in the Northern Hemisphere with the arrival of spring. I can hardly contain my excitement.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Irritated cardinal?

I couldn’t help but feel that this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) was irritated with me when he glared sideways at me as he momentarily ceased his pecking at water’s edge on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On the other hand, he might have simply been trying to pose in a way that minimized his double chin, about which he was very self-conscious. Have I committed a cardinal sin in my initial assessment?

What do you think? Have a wonderful weekend.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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