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Posts Tagged ‘Alexandria VA’

My dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer has some crazy-looking colorful flowers in her garden, like this one, which I think is some kind of double Tiger Lily. The not-yet-opened petals in the center of the flower at this stage of development remind me of the tentacles of an octopus. I love the way the fence in the background turned out, with all of the colorful bokeh balls in parallel columns.

tiger lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was pretty early this morning when I walked over to the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, but a bee was already busy on one of her lavender plants. A shot like this is easy to get with my 180mm macro lens, which lets me stand back farther from my subject. However, I happened to have a much shorter 60mm macro lens on my camera, which meant that I had to be almost on top of the bee. The bee was focused on the flower and did not seem to be bothered by my presence.

bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s amazing the things that show up in my photos that I did not notice when taking the shot, like this little beetle in the center of a striking lily that I photographed recently in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Cindy likes to call them “bonus bugs.” According to our rules, any bugs that you see when capturing a shot don’t “count” towards a bonus.

I do not have enough information to identify the insect. At first I thought it might be a cucumber beetle, but the pattern does not quite match the ones I have seen before. Cindy suggested that it might possibly be a carpet beetle. I also checked out a lot of different types of scarab beetles, but eventually decided that I was ok with not knowing the identity of the bonus bug.

I have included the second photo as a bonus. My original purpose in photographing the lily was to capture its beauty and unusual coloration and the second shot accomplished that goal. I carefully focused on the stamens (and particularly the anthers) and allowed the rest of the flower to fall out of focus. If I had not looked at the first photos, I might not have noticed the fuzzy shape of the bonus bug in the second image, but it is definitely there.

lily

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you draw attention to the main subject in your photograph? One effective way is to choose a camera setting that will give you a shallow depth of field, so that only the subject is in sharp focus and the rest of the image is blurred. Another way is to ensure that the colors and texture of the background contrast with those of the subject.

I used both of these techniques yesterday morning when I spotted this metallic green sweat bee (g. Agapostemon) on one of the Shasta daisies growing in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. I love these little bees with their large speckled eyes and shiny green bodies and got as close to this one as I dared with my Canon 60mm macro lens.

I opened the aperture of the lens all the way to f/2.8 to let in lots of light and to achieve the narrowest possible depth of field. That is why the center of the daisy falls so quickly out of focus. As I was composing the shot, the flower reminded me of an egg that had been fried “sunny-side up” and I chose an angle that emphasized that look. (In case you are curious about the other camera settings, the ISO was 800 and the shutter speed was 1/800 sec.)

There is nothing super special about this image, but it is a fun little photo taken close to home that reminds me that beauty is everywhere. A series of creative choices in camera settings and composition by the photographer can often help to draw a viewer’s attention to that beauty. (I encourage you to click on the image to get a better view of the beautiful details of the little green bee.)

green sweat bee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was delighted on Monday to see that Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) is now flowering at Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge. Butterflies really seem to like all varieties of milkweed and I was thrilled to photograph several different species that were feeding on these fabulous flowers, including a Spicebush Swallowtail(Papilio troilus) in the first image; an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) in the second image; and in the final image, a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus), a smaller skipper that I cannot identify, and a bee.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Silver-spotted Skipper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Unlike Great Blue Herons, which remain throughout the winter, “our” Great Egrets (Ardea alba) overwinter in warmer places. Great Egrets may have returned weeks or even months ago, but it was only on Monday that I spotted my first ones of the year, while I was exploring Huntley Meadows Park, a marshland refuge not far from where I live. This park used to be my favorite place for wildlife photography, but it became so popular that it is frequently crowded, and for that reason I visit it now only occasionally.

As I approached a small viewing platform overlooking the central wetland area, I could see four Great Egrets, including one that was fairly close to the shore. I was mostly looking for dragonflies, butterflies that day, so I had my 180mm macro lens on my camera and a 24-105mm zoom lens in my bag. I was hoping that the close-in egret would remain in place, so I would have a chance of getting  a shot with my macro lens, but the large white bird took off as I approached.

I had anticipated that this would happen, and managed to capture a few shots of the egret in flight. I was fortunate that the egret flew only a short distance to a nearby pile of branches and remained there, allowing me time to compose some additional shots.

Although I would have liked to have gotten closer to the action with a longer lens, I am pretty happy with the shots that I got, which highlight the habitat as well as the beautiful bird. I love the feathery wingspan in the first photo as the egret was preparing to land. In the second photo, you can see that the long feathers of the egret’s breeding plumage if you click on the image to see the details better.

Whenever people ask me about camera gear, I encourage them to use whatever they have, rather than staying a home and lamenting that they do not have. Make the best use possible of what you have—I try to apply that lesson in other aspects of my life and not just in photography.

Great Egret

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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I was happy yesterday to spot several Common Sanddragon dragonflies (Progomphus obscurus) while exploring a creek that runs through a small suburban park in Fairfax County, only a few miles from where I live. Unlike many other dragonflies that like areas with vegetation, this species prefers sunny, shallow creeks with sandy or gravelly banks.

Quite often Common Sanddragons will perch flat on the sand or with their abdomens raised a little or even a lot, as shown in the third image. The third image is quite unusual, because it shows a Common Sanddragon perched off of the ground and away from the water. When I first spotted the dragonfly perched on that dead branch, I had to look really closely to convince myself that it was in fact a Common Sanddragon. Fortunately, male Common Sanddragons have bright terminal appendages, known as cerci, at the tip of their abdomens that make them easy to identify.

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

Common Sanddragon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the spectacular colors of the Asiatic lilies that are now blooming in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. These brilliant colors, which look almost neon in their intensity, were especially welcome yesterday, when it was gray and rainy the entire day.

Asiatic lily

Asiatic lily

Asiatic lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Many of the irises have withered in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, but her lilies are now starting to open, like this beauty that I photographed early on Sunday morning. It is hot and humid today, so I did not feel much like venturing outside with my camera. Instead I decided to share this burst of bright color.

Have a wonderful Monday.

lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The newspapers in our area are full of apocalyptic stories about Brood X periodical cicadas (Magicicada septendecim) that are starting to emerge in my neighborhood and in other parts of the United States after a seventeen-year stint underground. I have not seen many live cicadas, but there are dozens of discarded exoskeletons on my backyard fence and in my front yard tree, a few of which you can see in the second and third photos. I am not paranoid, but it does feel like they are surrounding me.

On Tuesday I photographed one cicada that was in the process of emerging. If you look closely at the first photo you will note that the cicada’s wings are not yet fully formed. They will eventually lengthen and become transparent. So far the cicadas have remained silent, but before long I expect to hear their deafening chorus, as the males compete to attract females by belting out their mating calls.

Yesterday the Washington Post had a story with the sensationalist title A fungus could turn some cicadas into sex-crazed ‘salt shakers of death.’  According to the authors of this article, “Yellow-white fungus grows inside the cicadas, filling their insides and pushing out against their abdomens. One by one, the rings that compose the back halves of their bodies slough off and fall to the ground. Driven by a chemical compound in the fungus — and now lacking butts and genitals — the bugs try to mate like crazy. Some researchers call these infected cicadas “flying salt shakers of death.” And they’re lurking among Brood X.” There is even a warning in the article, “Despite the amphetamine’s ability to control cicadas, no one should expect to feel a high from eating a fungus-infected insect.”

Yes, things are a little crazy here as we await the full-scale onslaught of the cicadas. I will try do an update posting in the upcoming weeks with more photos of these brooding, red-eyed insect invaders.

 

cicada

cicada

cicada

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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More bearded irises? Yes, I decided to do another posting on the colorful bearded irises in the garden of my neighbor and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. We are probably near the peak period right now and there is a wide variety of irises  in bloom. There is only a stem or two of some of the irises that I photographed, each with several blooms, but there is also one patch, shown in the final photo, where there are at least several dozen irises of the same type concentrated in one area.

One of the challenges of photographing these irises is that the background tends to get very cluttered. I have tried to blur the background by choosing my angle of view and camera settings, and the results are ok.

Cindy has come up with a more elegant solution—she photographs them in situ against a black velvet-like background, which requires the assistance of another person to hold the background in place. Usually her husband Michael is drafted, but yesterday in the late afternoon I was an emergency fill-in when the late day light spontaneously prompted her to photograph the irises that were blooming outside of her yard around an electrical junction box. The final photo is one that Cindy took with her iPhone of me in “action.”

What kind of results do you get with this process? Check out Cindy’s blog postings Bearded iris blooming in my garden and Bearded iris (taken last year) to see some samples of the stunning studio-like portraits of these flowers that Cindy has taken.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

photo assistant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Raindrops on flowers are among my favorite things. Yes, I am a huge fan of The Sound of Music and as soon as I see drops of rain on the petals of a flower—it doesn’t have to be roses—Julie Andrews starts singing in my mind the memorable song “My Favorite Things” that begins with the words, “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens…”

I captured these iris images yesterday morning in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer during a break in the rain. Right now there are probably at least thirty irises of various colors in the process of blooming in her wonderful garden, an endless source of delight for me when I feel a need to take some photos or just desire to lift my spirits.

“I simply remember my favorite things and then I don’t feel so bad.”

bearded iris

bearded iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although I don’t have my own garden, I am blessed to have a neighbor and friend, Cindy Dyer, who loves to plant photogenic flowers, like these beautiful bearded irises that are now in bloom. Cindy is a self-employed photographer and graphic designer who I consider to be my photography mentor and muse. She and her husband Michael make up the rest of my “pod” that has helped to sustain me through this past pandemic year.

What else does Cindy do? Here is a little extract from the “Stuff About Me” page of her blog.

“Oil and acrylic painting, photography (portraits, glamour shots, nature, macro, floral/botanical, travel), cement leaf casting, crocheting hats like crazy come winter time (what else can a gardener do when it’s cold out?), needle felting, sewing, murals, faux painting, Polaroid transfers (if it’s something crafty, I’ve probably at least tried it once), biblioholic (any topic, you name it—we probably have at least one book on the subject…don’t even begin to guess how many gardening books I’ve amassed!), animal lover—currently three cats…”

You can get a look at some of Cindy’s photography and writing on her blog at cindydyer.wordpress.com. If you want a real treat, though, you should check out the slide show of her portfolio at cindydyer.zenfolio.com, where your eyes will be delighted as you see an amazing series of stunning images.

bearded iris

bearded iris

bearded iris

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Are you the kind of person who sees shapes in the clouds? If so, then perhaps you too may see the shape of a fire-breathing dragon in this amazing parrot tulip that I photographed yesterday in the garden of my dear friend Cindy Dyer.  As more of Cindy’s parrot tulips pop open I am becoming convinced that these are the craziest flowers that I have encountered, with all kinds of wild shapes and colors.

I am equally convinced that we all need a little whimsy, fantasy, and child-like fascination in our daily lives. As adults we tend to take ourselves too seriously too often. Wouldn’t it be cool to see the world afresh as a child does, full of excitement and imagination?

Keep your eyes open today—you too might unexpectedly encounter a fire-breathing dragon or equally fanciful creature.

parrot tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Here’s another beautiful tulip that I spotted yesterday morning in the garden of my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, an elegant variety known as the Lady Jane (Tulipa clusiana var. ‘Lady Jane’) . The pink speckles in the background are fallen petals from her crabapple tree.

As I returned back to my townhouse, I could not help but notice that my front yard was carpeted in pretty pink petals from my crabapple tree, thanks to the gentle wind and light rain in the early morning. I felt like I should be lighting candles and pouring champagne—clearly all of those lovely petals meant that I was loved. Yes, I am an unapologetic romantic.

Lady Jane tulip

petals

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Tulips come in many varieties and my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer, who is also my photography mentor, likes to find photogenic ones to plant. For several weeks I have been keeping an eye on her garden, waiting and wondering what type and color tulips would emerge from the green growth that was slowing pushing upward.

This week some of those tulips finally burst open and I was delighted to see that they are Parrot tulips. Parrot tulips are whimsically-shaped, with uncontrolled ruffled edges that somehow make me think they have a bad case of “bed head.”

I captured these images on Friday, a gloomy day punctuated with periodic rain showers. The colors of the tulips are more subdued and do not “pop” as much as they do in the sunlight, but I like the moody feel of the images. The raindrops add a nice touch too—I love to photograph the drops of rain that bead up so beautifully on so many plants and flowers.

 

parrot tulip

parrot tulip

parrot tulips

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Our recent warm weather has brought out all kinds of creatures, like this Common Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) that I spotted on Wednesday at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. We do not have very many lizards in my area, so it is always a treat for me to spot one.

This skink blended in so well with the tree on which it was perched that I probably would not have spotted it if it had not moved. I love the way that the colors and texture of the skink’s body match the roughness of the tree’s bark, thereby creating a really harmonious color palette for the image.

 

Common Five-lined Skink

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When it comes to mating, many male insects are really aggressive—they will do everything they can to prevent their rivals from hooking us with a desirable female. I think that is what was going on in this image I captured on Sunday of three bees outside of a bee house in the garden of my friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. It looks to me that the top bee in this ménage à trois was trying to dislodge a rival and somehow gain access to the female. Yes, as the old song simply states, “birds do it, bees do it.”

Perhaps you have a better explanation of what was transpiring, like they were simply playing piggyback and wanted to see how strong the bottom bee was. What do you think? I encourage you to click on the image to see the details better.

I often tell you that I was not as close as it seems, because I generally shoot with a telephoto lens or a long macro lens. In this case, though, I was shooting with a 60mm macro lens and was only a few inches away from the “action” and had to dodge bees that were entering and exiting the tubes of the bee house.

bees

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love simple beauty, like that of a single tulip flower that opens in the sunlight to reveal its colorful center, and closes at night as if to protect its precious treasure. This red tulip was the first full-sized tulip to bloom in the garden of my friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer. I spotted it early on Easter morning when it was closed up, as shown in the second image. I was pleasantly surprised that afternoon to see that the tulip was open and I captured the first image.

I love this time of the year, when so much color is beginning to appear. Take the time this season to smell the roses—tulips do not seem to be particularly fragrant.

tulip

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I photographed this beautiful hellebore flower, sometimes referred to as a Lenten rose, early this Easter morning in the garden of my dear friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. Have a wonderful Sunday and don’t forget to stop and to look for the beauty that is everywhere around you.

hellebore

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Some of the tulips in the garden of my good friend Cindy Dyer are almost ready to bloom. Already we have a hint of the beauty that is to come—a preview of coming attractions. Many of the flowering trees in my neighborhood recently popped open, seemingly overnight, but others plants, like this tulip, force us to wait patiently for their fully beauty to be revealed.

Delayed gratification is supposed to be good for the soul, but sometimes I feel like a small child cooped up in a car on a long journey, incessantly repeating the same question—”Are we there yet?”

tulip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I never realized that grape hyacinths (g. Muscari) come in so many different colors and varieties. Here are some that I spotted yesterday morning in the garden of my good friend and neighbor Cindy Dyer. The coloration of the flower in the first photo is what I traditionally associate with grape hyacinths—it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that it looks like a little cluster of grapes. The ones in the second image are much paler and have a bluish rather than purplish tint.

Some of you may recall that I recently featured a grape hyacinth that was different in shape as well as color. If you have not seen that posting, check it out at Unusual grape hyacinths. We have had a lot of rain and warmer weather recently and I can’t to wait to see what pops up in Cindy’s garden next. I usually alert Cindy of newly-opened flowers well before she notices them, a system that Cindy has nicknamed “Powell’s Flower Forecasts.”

Happy Palm Sunday for those who are celebrating that Christian holy day today.

Grape Hyacinth

Grape Hyacinth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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How closely do you look at birds? There are some birds that are our easy for me to identify, often just by their shape. With other species, I rely on their coloration.

Then there are sparrows, which force me to look very carefully for subtle differences in the markings on their bodies in order to identify them. I thought that House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were relatively easy to identify—I can readily tell that the bird in the second image is a House Sparrow, but what about the one in the first photo?

The markings on its the head are a different color and the bill is definitely lighter in color. The light orangish pink at the bill makes it look like the bird has lips. So, what kind of sparrow is it? It too is a House Sparrow, possibly a male like the one in the second shot. At different phases of their developments, the plumage of birds changes, which adds another level of complexity to bird identification.

So when I spot a bird, I have to take into consideration, its gender, age, and phase of development as well as the season of the year, habitat, and the geographic location. It sometimes feels like a miracle when I am able to identify any bird correctly.

House Sparrow

House Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I walked about in my neighborhood on Friday, I was reminded that we share our living spaces with some wonderful creatures, like this beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) that I spotted perched high in a tree. Fortunately I had my long lens on my camera and was able to capture these images. The first two images are cropped to give you a better view of the hawk, but I included the final photo to let you see the wonderful structure of the branches surrounding my subject.

People sometimes get a little freaked out by the the length of the telephoto zoom lens when it is fully extended, so I am usually reluctant to use it in a residential area—I do not anyone to accuse me of being a peeping Tom. I reserve that kind of voyeuristic behavior for wildlife.

In this case, I had stayed inside for too long because of snow and ice and felt an uncontrollable need for a photographic “fix.” Yeah, I am kind of addicted to my photography and have a codependent relationship with my camera.

Red-shouldered Hawk

 

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Do you have trouble getting your ducks in a row? Following a snow storm earlier this month, my photography mentor and neighbor Cindy Dyer and I played around in the snow with a device that makes snowballs in the shape of little ducks and arranged them atop her fence.

Cindy, her husband Michael, and I have made up our own little pod during this pandemic.  Cindy, Michael, and their three cats (Lobo, Queso, and Pixel) have helped keep me from going completely bonkers during our time of isolation. Zoom and other virtual communications means are good, but they can never completely replace physical contact with other humans or pets.

Humor helps too. When I walked through my neighborhood the day after the storm, I looked for subjects that were whimsical or simply made me smile, like the snowman with its leafy earrings and the butterfly in the snow. If you look at its nose, it is not hard to tell that the snowman is a celeried employee.

Many of you know that I have been attending a short virtual church service, called Compline in the Episcopal church, each weekday night at eight o’clock in the evening. It is a short service that, among other things, allows us to share our moments of thanksgiving and our personal prayer requests out loud or by typing them in the chat feature. After the service, we talk for a bit to see how everyone is doing and it has become traditional for me to share a daily Dad joke. If I forget, someone will usually remind me. What?

For Christmas, some dear friends sent me a daily calendar of bad Dad jokes, the kind of jokes that always elicit a combination of laughs and groans. It is a curious juxtaposition to tell jokes in the context of a church meeting, but it is a sign of how close we have become with each other—we can cry together and we can laugh together, sharing our unfiltered feelings.

How bad are the jokes? Here is a recent favorite, “I just bought a thesaurus and when I got home I discovered that all of the pages were blank. I have no words to describe how angry I am.” Sorry.

Happy Mardi Gras.

ducks in a row

snowman

butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I spotted this Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) high in the trees in my neighborhood on a day when my travels were grounded by the snow and the ice. Normally you know when there is a blue jay is in the area because their calls are really loud, but this one was surprisingly silent.

I was fascinated to read on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website that, “The Blue Jay frequently mimics the calls of hawks, especially the Red-shouldered Hawk. These calls may provide information to other jays that a hawk is around, or may be used to deceive other species into believing a hawk is present.” I think that my neighborhood blue jays have deceived me on multiple occasions when I searched in vain for a hawk upon hearing one of its distinctive calls.

If you look closely at the feet of this bird you may notice that they are not in contact with any of the branches. There also does not appear to be any wing movement, so perhaps the blue jay was practicing its levitation skills. While that is certainly possible, I believe that the blue jay may simply have been hopping to another spot on the branch and did not want to bother with flapping its wings.

Blue Jay

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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