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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 50D’

Chickadees are masters at staying hidden. These little birds seem to enjoy hanging out in the shadowy branches, where their lack of bright colors makes them hard to spot. It is amazing how often we tend to focus on colors to make something “pop” out of a scene.

I spotted this Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge when it perched momentarily on an open branch. I really like the way the image turned out—a pleasant little portrait with a simple composition and limited color palette. 

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do certain bird elicit an involuntary emotional response from you when you see them? Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) invariably make me feel happy—I can’t help but smile when I see one of these “bluebirds of happiness,” like the ones that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I have wonderful memories of watching The Wizard of Oz as a child and many times since then. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Dorothy (Judy Garland) sings “Over the Rainbow.” I love to think of a place where the dreams that you dare really do come true, somehow symbolized by bluebirds flying.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why, oh, why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh, why can’t I?”

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold, cloudy, and windy last week when I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—it definitely is beginning to feel like winter. I had bundled up, wearing a hooded jacket and gloves in an effort to stay warm.

On days like this, I often marvel at the ability of wild creatures to survive in harsh weather conditions. I was a little surprised when I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nestled into the inner branches of a tree. Quite often when I see eagles, they are perched at the top of trees, majestically surveying their kingdom from on high.

This eagle, however, seemed to be hunched over a bit with its feathers puffed up, perched lower in the tree. The eagle’s feet with their massive talons were tucked in under the feathers, presumably to help them stay warm.

Vegetation kept me from getting very close to the eagle and I really did not want to disturb the eagle from its comfortable perch. So I framed my shots from a somewhat awkward angle, content that I had even spotted this handsome bird.

As I was preparing to move on, I noticed the eagle beginning to shift around a little. I correctly guessed that the eagle was preparing to take off, but did not react quickly enough to capture the action. I was still focused on the branch and when the eagle spread its wings and took to the air, I clipped its wings, not realizing in that split second that I had zoomed in too closely.

Still, I am pretty happy with the second shot below and the way that it caught the eagle in mid-air. There is a dynamic feel in this kind of action shot that is impossible to capture when a bird remains perched. The degree of difficulty though is significantly magnified when motion is involved, so I tend to judge myself a little less critically when photographing moving subjects, like this puffy bald eagle, vice static subjects.

Bald Eagle

 

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even when the winter days are dark and gray and clouds cover the sky, I can usually spot some sparrows foraging about on the ground or in the trees. I used to throw all of the sparrow into the the category of “little brown birds,” but over time I have begun to be able to identify some of the individual sparrow species.

I spotted this sparrow last week as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and am pretty confident that it is a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia). I really like the streaky pattern on its chest feathers and the warm red-brown color on its head.

Normally I won’t try to get a head-on shot of a bird, because it tends to distort their features, but I like the way that I was able to capture the intensity of the sparrow as it glared at me when I was capturing the first image—it did not seem very happy with my presence. The second pose is a more traditional bird image from the same perch after the sparrow lowered its head and turned to the side.

I will usually try to take multiple photos in a sequence when a bird is perched like this, because, I have learned, birds change their positions really quickly and very frequently. I never know when I might be able to capture a more interesting pose as the bird shifts about, so I often keep shooting—it is amazing how many shots I end up of empty perches when my finger triggers the shutter a split second after the bird has flown away.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled when I spotted a flock of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, because I consider them to be one of the coolest-looking birds in our area. I love their rakish masks, punk-style crests, and yellow-tipped tails. I do not see them very often, but when I do, the Cedar Waxwings tend to be part of a large group.

The Cedar Waxwings moved from tree to tree, devouring berries as they went along. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Cedar Waxwing is one of the few North American birds that specializes in eating fruit and it can survive on fruit alone for several months. However, “Because they eat so much fruit, Cedar Waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol.”

I was hoping to get some shots of these voracious birds in action, but they stayed high in the trees and were mostly hidden from view by branches. I am pretty happy, though, with the shots that I was able to get of these beautiful birds.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I was growing up in Massachusetts, I always looked considered the appearance of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius) to be a harbinger of spring. In my mind’s eye I think of robins pecking about in the grass, pulling fat little worms out of the ground.

In Northern Virginia, where I now live, I am likely to see robins throughout the entire  year. This past Thursday I spotted a large flock of them at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Robins always seem warm and familiar to me and never fail to bring a smile to my face, in part because they bring to mind the song “When The Red Red Robin Comes Bob Bob Bobbin’ Along.” Check out this YouTube link to a wonderful version of that song by Al Jolson.

As we approach the start of winter, robins and many other birds start to eat increasingly larger amounts of fruits and sees, which is good, because it would be tough for them to find worms or insects. The robin featured in these photos was feasting on some berries. They kind of look like wild grapes, but I definitely do not know plants well enough to know if that is what they actually were. In any case, the robin seemed to be really enjoying them.

American Robin

American Robin

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Many of the birds that I try to photograph are skittish, but the Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) may take the prize for being the most skittish. The kingfisher is amazingly energetic and exceptionally alert and will frequently fly away before I am even aware of its presence. As it zooms out of sight, the kingfisher will often make a distinctive rattling call, almost like it is taunting me.

Yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted the distinctive silhouette of a kingfisher perched on branch overlooking the water. The small bird was a good distance away, but as I peered through my telephoto lens, I could tell that it had caught a fish and was busily subduing the fish—a kingfisher will pound its prey against its perch before swallowing it head first.

I was faced with a dilemma. Should I try to get a distant shot, knowing that I might scare the bird away, or should I try to move closer for a better shot and risk not getting any shots at all? In this case, I chose the safer approach and took this long range shot. The kingfisher did not fly away while I was taking the shot, but when I took  few steps down the trail towards it, the kingfisher immediately took to the air.

I am pretty happy with the image that I was able to capture. If you click on the photo, you will see that I was able to capture some of the detail of this beautiful little bird and even some details of the hapless fish.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Although there are quite a few Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, they tend to pretty elusive and I never quite know when I will encounter one. I spotted two large turkeys on Monday and was happy to be able to snap off a few shots before they disappeared into the underbrush.

The “beard” of this turkey is quite impressive in its length, so it is most likely a mature male—as is the case with humans, most female wild turkeys do not have beards. A turkey’s beard grows throughout its life and can reach a length of over 12 inches (30 cm).

Apparently you can also tell the age of a male wild turkey by the size of its spurs, the pointy protrusions on the lower portion of a turkey’s legs. If you click on the second image, you can get a better look at this turkey’s spurs that are quite prominent, again signifying that this is a mature male, probably at least a couple of years old.

Wild Turkey

Wild Turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It was relatively warm on Monday and there was occasional sunshine, so I ventured out to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to see if I could find any late season dragonflies. I came up empty-handed when it came to dragonflies, but was quite surprised when I spotted this snake sunning itself along one of the trails at the refuge. I figured that all of the snakes in the area would have already begun their long winter naps.

Several years ago I learned that snakes do not actually hibernate, but enter into a similar state known as brumation where they become less active and their metabolism slows down tremendously and they sleep for long periods of time. They will, however, wake up to forage for food and water and if a sudden warm snap occurs and temperatures rise for a few days at a time. When the weather cools back down, they will go back into their brumation state once again.

I have never been very good in identifying dark-colored snakes in my area. I think that this might be a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), but there is also a chance that it might be a Northern Black Racer (Coluber constrictor constrictor) or an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis). Whatever the case, I like the way that I was able to capture the different textures of the environment and the snake in this mini-portrait.

The weather has turned cold again, with the possibility of snow showers today. I am pretty sure that this snake has gone back to sleep by now, waiting for the next warm spell to reappear.

 

snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold and gray the last time that I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge two weeks ago. I was bundled up to try to stay warm and some of the small number of birds that I did see had fluffed up their feathers. Others, like this small flock of Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) were huddled together on the branches of a distant dead tree.

There was not a lot of light and the birds appear almost as silhouettes in this image. The image has a stark, bare quality to it that captures well the bleakness of the moment. Although we are technically not yet in winter, this day offered a foretaste of the colorless days to come.

Since I took this photo, I have been to the West Coast and back. I still have some photos from my time there that I plan to post here, but decided to post this image today in an effort to reground myself on the East Coast. I am also planning to go out today with my camera and hope to capture some more cheery images than this one. Who knows, maybe I will even find a late season dragonfly.

Have a wonderful week.

Mourning Doves

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled to spot this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) last Saturday as it sheltered in the vegetation at the edge of a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Initially I took a photo from a distance, but then followed the trail along the edge of the pond and managed to get some closer shots.

Most of the time, Great Blue Herons seem stoic and impassive, but this one showed a lot of personality, especially in the first image. When I asked him to smile for the close-ups, though, he decided he wanted a more serious, dignified look, as you can see in the final two photos. I liked the resulting images and the think the heron would have been happy too.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In everything, give thanks. I am thankful today for friends and family and for all creatures great and small, including this male Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I photographed last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I will return home in early December and I can’t exclude the possibility that this will be the last dragonfly that I see this season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the early days of the pandemic, the bathrooms at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were closed. I think that there was a fear of possible virus transmission and possibly because people were stealing the toilet paper rolls because of the widespread shortage at the time. Earlier this year the bathrooms were reopened with a warning sign that stated that you should use them at your own risk, because they were being cleaned only once a week—I wonder if I should post the same signs at my house.

In the last few months they rebuilt the vault toilets of the facility near the central parking area. I was delighted when I arrived one day recently to see a group of teenagers painting a brightly-colored mural on the bathroom facility. I love the quirky, illustrative style of the wild creatures and the building puts a big smile on my face every time that I drive past it.

For those of you following my blog regularly, I need to warn you that my posting schedule will be irregular this week and next week. I am currently visiting family outside of Seattle, Washington and may or may not have the change to do a lot of wildlife photography. So far, the only wildlife I have experiencing are their three dogs in the house and the chickens and duck in their backyard.

For those of you celebrating Thanksgiving Day tomorrow, I wish you all of the best. Even if you are not celebrating this American holiday, it is a good thing to pause and give thanks for all of your blessings in your life, no matter how large or how small.

Life is so precious and so fleeting—we should never take it for granted. Beauty is everywhere and even the functional can be made beautiful.

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cool and breezy last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and most birds seemed to be out of sight, seeking shelter to stay warm. I was thrilled therefore when I managed to spot this pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched together on a distant tree.

I suspect that this is an eagle couple and the two eagles appeared to be carrying on a spirited discussion. Although it is hard to be certain of their genders, female eagles tend to be larger than their male counterparts, so I suspect that the eagle on the right is the female one.

Bald Eagles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A large raft of American Coots (Fulica americana) has been hanging out recently in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The coots stay together pretty closely and have remained out in the deep waters, so getting a close-up shot of a single coot has proven to be impossible.

I have tried a number of different approaches to capturing a sense of this group of active water birds and here are some of the resulting images. The first image gives the viewer a feeling of the chaotic activity at the center of the group as one coot flaps its wings. The second image focuses on the coot in the foreground, facing in the opposite direction from most of the others in the foreground. The final photo is a more panoramic shot and includes more of the environment—I especially love the pops of color in it provided by the floating fallen leaves.

American Coots

American Coots

American Coots

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold and breezy yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and most of the birds seemed to have taken shelter and were hidden from view. There were large rafts of some kind of ducks visible in the distance on the bay, so periodically I would look out at the water, hoping that some bold bird had ventured close enough for me to identify it.

As I was scanning the surroundings, my eyes detected a bit of motion and I caught a glimpse of this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). Normally I see herons in the water or occasionally perched in a tree. This heron, however, was perched atop a duck hunting blind a short distance from the shore. In some years this blind has been used by ospreys for nesting, so there always seems to be sticks piled on the roof that you can see behind the heron.

I am not sure why the heron chose this particular location, but maybe it felt secure and sheltered there. I noted that the heron was perched on one leg and recalled that herons will sometimes tuck the other leg underneath its feathers to keep it warm.

I was careful not to disturb the heron from its chosen spot while I grabbed a few shots and then I moved slowly down the trail in search of additional subjects to photograph.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was walking through a grassy field on Thursday at Huntley Meadows Park, I inadvertently disturbed a grasshopper that flew to a nearby tree. It had been weeks since I had last seen a grasshopper, so I searched carefully for the insect and was happy when I managed to locate it on the trunk of the tree.

Although I carefully composed my shot, I did not have high expectations for it—it was a simple shot with a simple composition. I was stunned when I reviewed the image on my computer at how well it turned out. I love the way I was able to capture the texture of the tree bark and of the grasshopper, though I must confess that the background on the right hand side of the image may be my favorite element of the image.

One of the joys of photography for me is the discovering images like this, appealing images in which the separate components work together to create a harmonious whole. If someone had asked me when I first returned home from the shoot if I had captured any good images, I probably would have responded negatively—I would have been wrong.

Have a wonderful weekend.

grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I am out taking photos at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I often hear helicopters passing overhead. Generally the helicopters are green in color and probably belong to the US Army aviation unit at nearby Fort Belvoir.

I was a little surprised last week, though, when I spotted the a distinctive “White Top” helicopter, which meant that it probably belongs to the unit that provides helicopter support to the President, the Marine Helicopter Squadron One “Nighthawks.” The unit is based primarily in Quantico, Virginia, further south along the Potomac River from where I was located. This helicopter seemed to be by itself, which makes it very unlikely that it was Marine One, the designation given to the helicopter carrying the President.

“As a security measure, Marine One always flies in a group of as many as five identical helicopters. One helicopter carries the president, while the others serve as decoys. Upon take-off these helicopters shift in formation to obscure the location of the president. This has been referred to as a “presidential shell game,” according to Wikipedia.

Helicopters often make me think of dragonflies, because of their general shape and aerial flight capabilities. I recently went to see the new “Dune” movie and was totally blown away by the “ornithopters” that play a centrol role in the movie—they look even more like dragonflies than a “normal” helicopter does.

According to an article on motorbiscuit.com, “Director Denis Villeneuve instructed the team to base them on dragonflies while still making the military vehicles appear “muscular.” As a result, the aircraft look like part helicopter gunship, party huge insect.” For the record, I really enjoyed the “Dune” movie, which combines some of the storytelling of the Matrix and Star Wars movies with the stunning desert cinematography of “Lawrence of Arabia.”

presidential helicopter

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There was a lot of bird activity on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge both in the air and on the water. Unfortunately most of the action took place well out of the optimal range of my camera, so I had to be content with capturing long distance photos.

Flocks of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) periodically announced their presence as they passed by. A large flock of crows was equally vocal as it harassed a pair of Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched peacefully in a distant tree. Only the shy little Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps) were silent as they paddled about, periodically diving in search of food.

I spent several hours walking about, listening and observing, enjoying the fresh air and the beauty of natural surroundings, unconcerned that I was not able to capture amazing photos during this outing. That is the uncertain fate of a nature photographer. To borrow a line from Paul in his letter to the Philippians, I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

I returned home from this walk in the wild feeling renewed and refreshed—that was my biggest reward.

Canada Geese

Bald Eagle

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We may be down to a single active dragonfly species in my area. Yesterday I went out with my camera to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite location for wildlife photography the last few years, and found only Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum)—the Wandering Gliders seem to have departed from the areas where I had seen them previously during the last few weeks.

The good news is that I saw multiple Autumn Meadowhawks, so the population seems to be still strong. I was planning to return to the refuge tomorrow, when temperatures are supposed to soar to 73 degrees (23 degrees C), but just noted that the refuge is closed all day for one of the annual managed deer hunts. I may have to go to another location to see if the warmer temperatures coax any stragglers or survivors from other dragonfly species to make a final curtain call.

I captured these three photos of Autumn Meadowhawks last week and really like them for different reasons. In the first photo, I love the way that the color and shape of the leaf stems match the body of the dragonfly. In the second shot, I was thrilled to be able to include the sky in the composition when the dragonfly chose a high perch—I also am quite fascinated by the interplay of light and shadows in the image and the shapes that they help to create.

The simple, stark composition of the final shot appeals to me a lot. The monochromatic color palette of the branch and the background really help to draw a viewer’s eyes to the handsome male Autumn Meadowhawk and his bright red coloration really pops.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Fall foliage color are now past their peak in the mountains and fallen leaves are increasing littering the lawns and the streets of the suburbs where I live. Today I thought I would share a few more foliage photos from my trip to Shenandoah National Park earlier this month before those memories are swept away with those fallen leaves.

While I was driving along Skyline Drive in the national park, I was repeatedly struck by the “skeleton trees.” That is my term for the bare white trees that I often saw interspersed with their leafy counterparts—they somehow reminded me of the ribs of a skeleton.

I could not determine if my skeleton trees were dead or had simply lost their leaves, but did not spending too much time pondering that question. Instead, I concentrated on capturing a sense of their stark beauty. The first photo is definitely my favorite of the three—I remember spending a lot of time trying to compose the image very carefully, a kind of luxury for me that I do not usually get when taking wildlife photos.

I am not quite ready to bid farewell to autumn, but there are definitely signs that winter is on its way. I’m hanging on tenaciously to the final month of autumn, enjoying the remaining bits of fall color.

skeleton tree

skeleton tree

skeleton tree

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I noted in a recent posting, there appear to be only two active dragonfly species remaining in my area—Wandering Gliders and Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum). Today I decided to feature some shots of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies that I spotted last week during a visit to Huntley Meadows Park, a local marshland refuge.

Quite often Autumn Meadowhawks perch flat on the ground which makes it easy for me to get shots of them. However, those shots tend to be relatively uninteresting from an artistic point of view. I am always on the lookout for those dragonflies that choose more photogenic perches, especially those that include colorful fall foliage.

I was quite fortunate that the Autumn Meadowhawks were cooperative last week in helping me to capture images that matched my “artistic vision,” which does not always happen in wildlife photography. Wildlife photography has so many variables over which I have little or not control, including the weather, the lighting, the environment, and the subjects themselves. Success is certainly not guaranteed, but I have found that patience, persistence, knowledge, and a bit of skill can often help to tip the odds a bit in my favor.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Throughout this autumn season I have frequently seen large wasp-like insects as I have explored Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Often I would catch a glimpse of red color as one flew by and I would think that it was an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly, which has a bright red body. Once I got a better look at my target, I could easily see that it was not a dragonfly.

What was it? Earlier this month I finally get a decent photo of the insect and began my search to identify it. I have come to the conclusion that it is probably a European Hornet (Vespa crabro). As the name suggests, this species originated in Europe and was first reported in North America about 1840 in New York. SInce then it has spread to most of the eastern United States, according to an article by North Carolina State University.

The first thing I noticed about European Hornets is that they are big, over an inch (25 mm) in length for workers and 1. 5 inches (38 mm) for queens. Fortunately they do not appear to be very aggressive, so I have never had to worry about being stung by one, although I must admit that I keep a healthy distance from them. In fact, I took the photo below with my telephoto zoom lens fully extended to its maximum focal length of 600 mm.

In the fall all of the workers die and the only individuals that survive are fertilized queens. The queens overwinter in protected places, such as under the bark of fallen trees, and construct new nests the following spring.

European Hornet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am happy to see that some butterflies are still with us as we move deeper into November. Eastern Comma butterflies (Polygonia interrogationis), like the one in first photo, overwinter as adults, rather than as eggs or pupae as most butterflies do, so there is a chance that I will continue to see them for a while longer if the weather does not get too bad.

Common Buckeyes (Junonia coenia), like the one in the second photo, cannot tolerate cold temperatures. Some of them, according to Wikipedia, migrate to the south for the winter and then return when the weather warms up in the spring.

I was most surprised this week to spot the Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) in the final photo—it had been a month or so since I had last seen a Black Swallowtail. This species spends the winter in the chrysalis stage, and adults emerge in the spring to seek out host plants.

We are nearing the end of the butterfly season, but I am delighted to share my walks in nature with these fragile little creatures for a little while longer.

Eastern Comma

Common Buckeye

Black Swallowtail

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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On Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I watched this Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) try to balance itself on the tip of a small, broken-off branch. The bird teetered and tottered and extended its wings for balance before it finally gave up and flew to a less precarious perch.

Somehow the little bird reminded me of my childhood, when I enjoyed tiptoeing along on sidewalk curbs, trying to maintain my balance. On rare occasions when I felt really bold, I’d try the same balancing act on low brick walls. At an early age I concluded that I was not destined for a career in the circus as a high-wire performer.

 

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My dragonfly season is slowing winding down. During the month of November, I have seen only two species of dragonflies—Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) and Autumn Meadowhawks (Sympetrum vicinum), but I have had multiple encounters with each species. Autumn Meadowhawks are usually the last dragonflies standing each year and there is a chance that I will see one in December.

Wandering Gliders, on the other hand, may disappear from the scene at any moment, so I am especially delighted whenever I spot one flying about, patrolling back and forth over a field. If I am lucky, I will see it perch on some vegetation when it comes down to earth for a rest and I will have a chance to get a shot. I took the first shot this past Tuesday, 9 November, at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge at a moment when I had my macro lens on my camera. I really like the way that I was able to capture the intricate patterns on the dragonfly’s body.

The two final photos are of a Wandering Glider that I spotted on the 1st of November. It is probably hard for you to tell, but I took these shots with my long telephoto zoom lens, which still managed to capture an amazing amount of detail, especially in the wings in the last image. I encourage you to click on the images to get a better look at those details.

It is raining today and the ground is littered with fallen leaves. As the trees are laid bare, I will have a better chance to spot some of the birds that I have been hearing recently, but have not seen.

For now, though, I am enjoying the waning moments of the season with my magical little dragonfly friends. Their time is not over until it is over.

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled to spot this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The eagle was perched high in a tree, as shown in the final photo and kept looking from side to side, as though it was looking for its mate. I am not sure if the eagle was aware of my presence, but all of the sudden it took off and flew away—I should know by now never to underestimate the acuity of an eagle’s vision.

I managed to capture the first shot below as the eagle was really stretching itself out just prior to takeoff. It is an unusual pose that I really like. A split second later I captured the shot of the eagle in flight. There were several other shots in between the first and second images, but I did not track the eagle accurately enough and the eagle’s wings were cut off in those shots.

It has been a while since I last got good shots of a Bald Eagle, so I was particularly happy when this photo opportunity arose.

Here in the US, today is Veterans Day, a day when we honor all those who have served in our armed forces. Elsewhere in the world, today is commemorated in many different ways, including as Armistice Day, the day when World War I ended. Wherever you happen to live, I hope that you never forget the the brave men and women who have served and are serving on your behalf, safeguarding your freedom—we owe them all a debt of gratitude.

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is a fun challenge to try to photograph tiny songbirds, like this Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) that I spotted last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Golden-crowned Kinglets are approximately 3-4 inches (80-100 mm) in length and weigh about 0.1-0.3 ounces (4 to 8 grams) and they move about continuously, often high in the trees.

If you look carefully just above the kinglet’s eye, you can get a tiny glimpse of yellow, a small portion of the yellow “crown” that gives this little bird its name.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was so close to this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that there was no way I could fit its entire body into a shot. I decided to zoom in on its head and captured this little portrait of the heron as it walked slowly through the water. Ever vigilant, the heron kept its eyes focused on the water, looking for signs of potential prey, and ignored me, though I am sure that it was aware of my presence.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I returned to Shenandoah National Park this past Friday to see how much the fall colors have progressed since my visit there three weeks ago—check out my post from October 17 entitled Shenandoah National Park to see my photos from the previous trip. There were some patches of brilliant color, though most of the colors were relatively muted. Over time, I have grown to appreciate all of the common shades of burnt orange, rust, and yellow that make the fiery reds and brilliant yellow stand out when they are present.

The drive along Skyline Drive, the road that runs through the length of the park mostly along a ridge, was relaxing and refreshing, with lots of overlooks to pull over and enjoy the scenery. The final photo gives you a feel for the road itself—most of the curves are gentle enough that I could enjoy the scenery even as I was driving, without fear of falling off a mountain.

fall foliage

fall foliage

 

Skyline Drive

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In the past I have seen Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) catch some incredibly large fish, but the tiny fish this heron caught on Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge may be the smallest prey that I have ever seen a heron catch.

Hopefully the fish was just an appetizer and not the main course.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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