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Posts Tagged ‘beaver’

Last Monday I was thrilled to spot this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) slowly swimming by me in the early morning light at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was able to follow the beaver along the shore for several minutes before it disappeared with a big splash, as you can see in the final photo that show the beaver’s distinctive tail, the last part of the beaver to enter the water.

The limited light caused me to shoot at slower shutter speeds than the situation actually demanded, but the slight blurriness somehow enhances the dreamlike feeling of the time around sunrise. I checked the data on the final shot and was a little shocked to see that I took it with a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second. Somehow I was able to capture a decent composition and an almost abstract-style image—the image that you see is also uncropped.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who are celebrating the holiday. I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal, including a large parade that, alas, had to be canceled this year.

beaver

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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During one of my recent early morning forays to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was thrilled to spot several beavers. I had seen plenty of gnawed off trees in the area around this pond, so I knew that there had to be some beavers nearby. You generally have to be really lucky to see one, because they are mostly nocturnal creatures.

There were three beavers when I initially spotted them swimming towards me. Two of them seemed to sense my presence as they got a little closer and dove underwater. One kept approaching and I was able to capture the first image, a head shot  of a handsome North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). The second image shows the beaver as it was swimming and gives you a better sense of the environment in which it was found.

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Beavers are nocturnal creatures and consequently the best times to see them generally are at dawn and at dusk. Dragonflies, on the other hand, mostly like bright sunlight and they are often most visible during the hottest part of the day.

When I was walking around the small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge yesterday morning around 10:00, therefore, I was expecting to see dragonflies. Imagine my shock when some motion in the water caught my eye and I spotted a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) lazily swimming by parallel to the shore on which I was standing.

The light on the water was amazing and gave it a golden glow, as you can see in the first image. The beaver made a gentle u-turn and I was able to capture the ripples and the wake it created in the second image. The beaver was then swimming  toward the light and that is why you can see some of the details of the eye in that second image.

I then decided to switch from my DSLR with my 180mm macro lens that I used for the first two shots to my Canon SX50 superzoom camera. The third image is framed just as it came out of the camera with no cropping and it lets you see some of the texture of the beaver’s fur and the little hairs that stick out of its face. I also love the way the patterns of the water look in this image.

This little incident was a reminder to be eternally vigilant. Wild creatures don’t always follow the rules and may turn up in unexpected places at unanticipated times.

beaver

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was looking over some images from about a month ago, I realized that I had not posted any views of this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I spotted swimming off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge one early morning. At that hour we both were moving pretty slowly—one of us on land and the other in the water.

As the beaver altered its course , the light falling on its face and body changed, occasionally catching a bit of sunlight from the just-risen sun. I love the way that the water was tinged with light blue and pink and how the mostly still water picked up the reflections of the swimming beaver.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why do I like to get up really early in the morning, striving to arrive at my destination just as the sun is rising? There is something special about the sights and sounds and even the smell of the early morning. At a time when many people are still snuggled in their warm beds, many wild creatures are already active.

It’s a real challenge, though, to pinpoint that activity and it is even harder to photograph it. Even when I am not able to get a shot, however, I am often filled with a sense of awe and reverence as I share the start of the day with all of these amazing creatures.

When things come together, it is truly magical, and I had one of those experiences this past weekend. I was seated on a fallen tree at the edge of a remote beaver pond at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite spot in the park. I had been sitting there for a while, almost entranced by the reflections in the water, when I suddenly spotted the unmistakable wake of a swimming beaver.

This North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) appeared to be swimming laps in the middle of the pond. The beaver would head a certain direction for a little while and then would turn and swim back in the other direction, moving back and forth, in and out of the shadows and the reflections. Time seemed to slow down. I leaned forward slightly and tried to get as low as I could, but did not make any abrupt movements for fear of spooking the beaver.

It is really difficult to put into words what I was feeling as I observed the swimming beaver and I hope this image helps to convey a sense of the encounter. Eventually the beaver swam off and I continued on my way, filled with a sense of calm and inner peace.

Why do I like to get up early? The knowledge and the hope that special moments like this may await me are sufficient motivation for me.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What predators at Huntley Meadows Park are powerful enough to kill an adult beaver? Could this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) have died of natural causes? Why was its body more than half a mile from the water?

The bright orange incisors and the large flat tail make identification of the body easy, but the cause of death is a mystery. A trail runner pointed out the carcass to me shortly after I spotted a Black Vulture this past weekend, which explains why the vulture was hanging around. (Check out my earlier posting Black Vulture in a tree to see photos of this somewhat creepy bird.)

It was interesting to see the reactions of different park visitors to these questions when I posted them to a community Facebook page. Some immediately assumed that coyotes, which have been spotted in the park, were responsibleand focused on the size and ferocity of these predators. Others spoke of disease or about the complex social structures of the beavers and how teenage beavers are kicked out of the lodge at a certain point in time and forced to fend for themselves.

Some readers simply used emojis, including one with tears. Somehow the loss of this industrious herbivore with human-like paws touches many of us deeply, reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of our own lives.

R.I.P., beautiful creature of God.

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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