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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 70-300mm telephoto zoom lens’

I woke up this morning feeling a bit like the beavers in the lodge I photographed yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. They were snug and warm in their little house, surrounded by a world of snow and ice, with plenty of food at hand.

As for me, there is well over a foot of drifted snow on the ground and more is still falling. Eventually I will need to get as busy as the proverbial beaver and remove some of the snow, but for now at least, it’s nice to enjoy it from the comfortable insides of my warm and cozy house.

beaver lodge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Early this morning the skies over Huntley Meadows Park were glowing red, adding a beautiful pinkish tinge to the icy landscape. The calm before the storm.

Weather forecasters predict that the Washington D.C. metropolitan area will be hit with a major blizzard starting later today, with a total snow accumulation of two feet (61 cm) or more.  The area will undoubtedly be paralyzed for at least several days.calm1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How do birds manage to survive when it is so cold outside? I asked myself that question early yesterday morning as I walked along the exposed boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. The wind was blowing hard and the temperature was about 20 degrees F (minus 7 degrees C).

The landscape was empty and desolate and seemed to have little to offer as potential sources of food. Suddenly I noticed a small group of sparrows.  They would fly to a spot together and then individually forage among the dried out plants, including those sticking out of the ice. After a short period of frenetic activity, they would move on to another spot.

Initially, I knelt and tried to get some shots of the sparrows that were standing on the ice and reaching up into the vegetation. A bit later, I was able to capture some images of a sparrow perched on some plants in a more exposed position.

I am not really sure what kind of sparrows these are. Earlier in the day I saw some sparrows that I could identify as White-throated Sparrows, but these birds seem to have a different set of markings. After looking at my guidebooks, I have concluded that these may be Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) and would welcome comments from more experienced birders on the identification, especially if I have misidentified the birds.

How do these little birds survive during the winter? From what I can see, they do their part by working hard as they forage for food and God provides for their needs.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early this morning, it was really cold and windy and most of the birds and animals showed great common sense in staying in sheltered spots. This little sparrow, however, seemed to be having a good time hopping, skipping, and skating across the frozen pond.

sparrow

solitude2_blog

sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It’s hard for me to imagine life on a farm, having spent most of my life in the suburbs. I consider myself lucky to be able to distinguish a cow from a horse, but don’t ask me to tell a llama from an alpaca.

I got a little taste of farm life on Christmas Eve day when I accompanied a family member as she went about accomplishing a seemingly endless list of chores associated with the care of the farm animals.

Here are some of the fascinating faces of the farm that I encountered that day.

cows1_blog

cows2_blog

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horse1_blog

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As many of you know, I recently entered some photos in a local photo competition and was fortunate to be awarded second place for one of them. I was a little surprised by the one that was selected, because, quite frankly, it was not my favorite one of the group.

The more that I though about it, the more I realized how difficult it must be to be a judge, especially in an area like photography in which there is both a technical and an artistic component.

Why do we like what we like?

I’ve never used a poll in a posting before, but thought that in this case it might be interesting to learn which one of my four entries is your favorite. I am not really asking you to judge which one is “best,” but am looking more for a sense of which one you like most. You can use whatever criteria you like and I would be thrilled if you gave a few words about your choice.

As you can see, I chose a diverse set of subjects to appeal to a variety of tastes. There are two birds—a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis); one insect—a Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum ambiguum); and one mammal—a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes).

If I have set this up correctly, you can click on any image and scroll through each of them in full size. After viewing them all, select your favorite and register your vote. As I mentioned earlier, I’d be really happy if you left a few words about your choice. (I think the poll might let you vote multiple times if you have trouble choosing, but am not 100 percent certain, given that I am not familiar with the polling component.) NOTE: If you open the posting in Reader, you may need to click on the Title to get to the actual posting and to the poll.

Thanks. Merry Christmas in advance for those celebrating Christmas and best wishes as we move toward the start of a new year.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A year ago today my heart was breaking as I informed readers that the injured Bald Eagle at my local marshland park had been euthanized. It was a really difficult posting for me to write, particularly because I had been so hopeful the previous day’s blog posting when I described the heroic rescue of the eagle.

The emotions are still pretty intense, despite the passage of time. I felt something really special when I was privileged to look into the eyes of the eagle at close range, a bird that somehow retained a sense of majesty despite the pain she was obviously feeling.

I don’t often re-blog my own postings, but today, I want to remember and treasure the moments that I chronicled. (If you want to know more details about the experience, there are links in the text below).

Text of my posting from 5 November 2014:

We all like to believe in happy endings, but unlike fairy tales, real life does not always turn out that way. I was saddened this afternoon to learn that the female Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that was rescued on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park had to be euthanized.

The dislocation of her elbow was chronic and so severe that eventual release was not a possibility.  The doctors at The Wildlife Center of Virginia determined that humane euthanasia was the best treatment.

I was happy that the work of the Fairfax County Animal Control Services officer that I chronicled in an earlier posting were featured today in the on-line editions of local media, including the Washington Post, WJLA (ABC television), WTOP radio, and Inside NOVA. The sad ending in no way diminishes my respect and thanks to Officer Kathy Prucnal for her extraordinary efforts to rescue the injured eagle.

This photo that I took during the rescue is how I want to remember the female Bald Eagle, appearing strong and alert.

RIP, beautiful eagle.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a trip to the National Zoo earlier this week, I was walking around in heat of the summer sun, unlike most of the animals, who were relaxing in the shade or finding other ways to cool off.

This female lion was dozing in the shade and would periodically raise her head and look in our direction with sleepy eyes.

lion

This tiger decided to swim a bit in the water of the moat at the front edge of its enclosure. I couldn’t tell how deep the water was—at times it looked like the tiger was merely walking in the water and not actually swimming.

tiger

This cheetah seemed a little agitated and was not relaxing. It was walking back and forth along the fence line that separated its enclosure from the adjacent cheetah enclosure.

cheetah

I’ll probably never go on a safari and see these beautiful creatures in the wild, but my trip to the National Zoo in Washington D.C. afforded me a glimpse of their power and their majesty. I am happy that the National Zoo is active in efforts to ensure the preservation of endangered species, in particular the cheetah. Check out this article for more information about those efforts.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I haven’t seen very many Monarch Butterflies (Danaus plexippus) the last few years, so I was thrilled when I spotted this one yesterday at the outdoor butterfly garden at the National Zoo.

I chased after it as it flew from plant to plant, hoping that it would come to rest withing range of my camera. Once the Monarch had landed I circled around until I was on the same plane as the butterfly and got this shot. Fortunately I was close enough that I was able to fill the frame with the beautiful Monarch and a small amount of the flower on which it was feeding—this is an uncropped image.

It was midday and the lighting was a little harsh, but it did help illuminate the wing from an angle and showcase the butterfly’s spectacular colors.

I did take some photos of some of the animals at the National Zoo, which I will present in another posting, but thought I’d start with the Monarch Butterfly, an unexpected bonus of my brief visit to the zoo.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Safe inside the confines of an enormous lily pad, this little frog calmly watched the crowds of people last weekend in Washington D.C. at the Lotus and Water Lily Festival at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens.

frog on a lily pad

You can’t help but noticed that this is not your average lily pad. I believe that it is a tropical variety that comes from the Amazon River basin of the genus Victoria, possibly Amazonica victoria. According to Wikipedia, the leaves of this species can grow as large as 10 feet in diameter (3 meters), although this one was probably less than three feet (one meter) in size. Clearly it had no problem supporting the weight of the little frog.

Readers who follow my photography know that I love to try to get in close to my subjects, irrespective of whether I am shooting with a telephoto lens or a macro lens, and this was no exception. There was a waist-high wire fence around the cement pond in which the water lilies were growing, so I had some limitations in framing my shots, but did manage to get this shot of the frog looking over the edge of lily pad.

frog on a lily pad

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Yesterday I visited Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. for the annual Lotus and Water Lily Festival and I was thrilled to be able to get some of my favorite kind of dragonfly images—dragonflies perched on the buds of colorful flowers. Generally I manage to get shots only of the Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis), but this time I was also able to get a shot of a Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) on a lotus flower bud.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher on purple water lily bud

Slaty Skimmer

Slaty Skimmer on lotus bud

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher on water lily bud

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Dragonflies are colorful and flowers are colorful too, but it’s rare that I get to see the two of them together. I was thus thrilled when fellow photographer Cindy Dyer spotted a colorful Blue Dasher dragonfly (Pachydiplax longipennis) perching on a beautiful purple water lily during our recent trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in the District of Columbia.

I took some initial shots with the 180mm macro lens that I had on my camera at that moment, but wasn’t really able to fill the frame with my subject and the background was a little distracting. (The second photo below was one of those first shots and it does a pretty good job of highlighting the water lily, but the dragonfly is merely an added bonus.) I couldn’t physically move any closer, because the water lilies were in a cement pond, surrounded by a three foot high wire fence.

I decided to change to a longer lens, though I sincerely doubted that the dragonfly would stay in place. Almost all of the times that I have done a rapid lens change in the field, the subject has departed before I was ready to shot. In this case, however, I got lucky and the Blue Dasher held his perch long enough for me to get a few shots with my 70-300mm lens.

I simply love the color combination of the different shades of blue of the dragonfly and the purple and yellow of the water lily.

Blue Dasher

Blue Dasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Like most guys, I have trouble remembering anniversaries, so it is a good thing that WordPress sent me a reminder that three years ago today I started my blog. I still recall my feelings of doubt and uncertainty when my mentor and muse Cindy Dyer sat me down in front of a computer and told me that I was starting a blog. We had just finished reviewing and editing some shots that I had taken earlier in the day at Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Cindy helped me through the mechanics of setting up the blog and shortly thereafter I made my first posting, Blue Dasher dragonfly.

Once I started, I couldn’t stop. I grew to look forward to writing the postings and taking photos to feature. As of right now, I’ve made 1638 postings and had 78743 views—that’s a lot of words and a lot of photos.

I was struck from the outset by the sense of community and mutual support that exists in the blogging world and there is a small group of fellow photographers with whom I feel a particular affinity, including Sue, Gary, Leanne, Ed, Lyle, Emily, Allen, and Chris. The amount of encouragement that I receive from them and countless others is overwhelming. Closer to home, Cindy continues to be a constant source of inspiration and instruction and Walter and I help to push each other as we explore remote areas of our favorite marshland park.

When I started this blog, I didn’t really think of myself as a photographer. I was taking a lot of photos and knew that I was improving, but there was a kind of psychological barrier that kept me from thinking in those terms. Now, I can confidently say that I am a photographer.

My journey into photography has been full of highlights, but two moments from 2014 really stand out. In November, I witnessed the rescue of a bald eagle at my local marsh and my photos and links to my blog posting were featured on the websites of several Washington D.C. media outlets, resulting in a total of 3344 views of my posting Rescue of an injured Bald Eagle. A short time before that incident, I was really honored when I was featured in an Introductions post by noted Australian photographer Leanne Cole.

If you have read this far, you may be wondering about my reference to “cannibals” in the title of this posting. What do cannibals have to do with my blog? Well, if I set aside the abnormally high number of views of my eagle rescue post, for the longest time my most popular post was one with the innocuous title of Fuzzy white caterpillar. There is not a whole lot special about the prose or the photos, but it has had 489 views to date.

Earlier this week the caterpillar was passed in the stats by my post Red-footed Cannibalfly, with 492 views to date—the cannibals have taken over the lead. As a guy, I feel happier that a more macho sounding insect is now leading the field of “normal” posts. As far as I can tell, the post’s popularity is a function of the search engines. The post was not particularly popular when it first appeared and has only 36 likes. Now, though, it even shows up on the first page of Google results if you type in “Red-footed Cannibalfly.”

So what’s ahead? I hope to be able to keep improving my writing and my photography. I have certain aspirational shots in my mind of different subjects or different locations.

Yesterday, when I was taking photos of water lilies with Cindy Dyer, I mentioned that I had always imagined taking a shot a frog on a lily pad, but had never even seen a frog perching on one. A short time later, Cindy excitedly pointed out a partially submerged frog on a lily pad and I managed to snap a couple of shots before he dove into the water. (Check out Cindy’s blog posting to see her beautiful shot of this frog.) Dreams do come true.

Thanks again to all my readers and supporters, whose encouragement has helped motivate and sustain me this past three years. I look forward to sharing my journey with my fellow travelers.

 

Frog on a lily pad

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday morning I made a quick trip to Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens in Washington D.C. with fellow photographer Cindy Dyer to check out the water lilies and lotuses. Many of the pathways in the park are flooded or muddy, thanks to a significant amount of recent rain. Wet feet, however, were a small price to pay to see so many beautiful flowers, including the two spectacular pink water lilies that I am featuring today.

Stay tuned for more water lily and lotus images later this week.

pink water lily

pink water lily

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As an American, I feel a special affinity for the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), our national bird and one of our most visible national symbols. Eight months ago, I was privileged to witness the rescue of an injured bald eagle at my local marshland park and captured some of the best photos that I have ever taken.

This photo, which appeared originally on 4 November last year, seems particularly appropriate today, reminding that our liberty requires constant vigilance and that brave men and women across the globe are on duty today safeguarding that freedom.

If you would like to see additional photos or learn more of the eagle rescue, check out my earlier posting. That posting has been my most popular one ever, thanks in part to the fact that several media outlets used my photos in their on-line coverage and provided links to my blog. Unfortunately, this story ended tragically and the eagle’s injuries turned out to be so severe that this majestic bird was euthanized.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I can’t get over the beauty of the dragonflies, especially this early in the season. On Monday, I spotted this beautiful male Painted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula semifasciata) at a tiny pool (which was really more like a puddle) at my local marshland park.

The colors and pattern of the wings make this species quite distinctive and pretty easy to identify. The striking beauty of the Painted Skimmer has also attracted the attention of several other photographers in this area.

I personally love to see how others choose to photograph similar subjects. If you want to see more beautiful images of Painted Skimmers, check out recent postings by Walter Sanford and Joel Eagle. Each of us was presented with a similar dragonfly in different circumstances and made a series of creative choices to produce our individual portraits of this almost magical creature.

Painted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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New dragonflies continue to emerge as we move deeper into spring and yesterday I spotted my first Twelve-spotted Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula pulchella) of the season, a strikingly beautiful young male. It’s easy to tell that this one is a male because the female does not have the white spots. Local dragonfly expert and fellow photographer and blogger, Walter Sanford, commented to me that, “This guy is a “freshie.” His abdomen will turn white with pruinescence when he matures.”

I am a curious guy and I started to wonder how you are supposed to count the spots to get to the twelve in this species’ name. Do the white ones count? Do the interconnected brown ones in the middle count as one or as two? Who decides?

This is not as simple as it seems and this species is sometimes known as the Ten-spotted Skimmer. Really? A bugguide.net article explains it this way:

“Once upon a time, this was the Ten-spot(ted) Skimmer, and formerly appeared in most books under that common name. To make it so, the basal spot of opposite wings was counted as one spot crossing the thorax (and so it appears at a glance, especially when they are flying or seen from a distance). Some authors rationalize it as counting the cloudy white spots on the wings, but that’s only good for mature males, and it often doesn’t work (there are often only eight white spots, the two at the base of the hind wing either missing or having been rubbed off).”

Confused? Hopefully we all can agree on the distinctive beauty of the species.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more of these dragonflies, although I learned yesterday from Kevin Munroe’s wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website that it is unusual to see more than a few of them at any one site. Apparently the Twelve-spotted Skimmers are a bit more picky about their habitat needs than many of the other skimmers in our area.

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon) sensed my presence at the edge of a pond this weekend at Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, it began to swim right at me. As the snake grew larger and larger in my viewfinder, I assumed it would veer off. I was wrong. The snake actually came out of the water and I captured this first shot of the triumphant snake who forced me to back away.

Northern Watersnake

Initially the snake was swimming lazily in the shallow water of the pond, seemingly basking in the warm of the midday sun.

Northern Watersnake

Suddenly the snake turned its head and looked straight at me. It did not look amused.

Northern Watersnake

The snake started to flick its forked tongue and began to swim rapidly through the vegetation that separated us.

Northern Watersnake

A part of my brain certainly understood that the snake was not as close as it looked in my telephoto zoom lens, but a more instinctive, primordial part of the brain kicked in when the snake started to fill the viewfinder. I know that this kind of snake is not poisonous and that I had nothing to fear, those rational thoughts were crowded out by the emotional responses that screamed at me that I needed to back away.

I honestly did not expect the snake to come out of the water and it happened so fast that I am not sure how it did it. The snake seemed to propel itself out of the water in a jump. Once it was on terra firma, the snake assumed the confrontational pose that you see in the first photo.

This round goes to the snake.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What is the most difficult subject that you attempt to capture with your camera? Is it a certain moment when the lighting is perfect or perhaps an elusive, exotic creature in a distant location?

For me, the unicorns that I chase come in the form of dragonflies. I have an irrepressible desire to try to take photos of dragonflies while they are in mid-air. Sometimes the dragonflies will cooperate a bit and hover briefly over the water, but much of the time they are in constant motion as they zig and zag over the water in an often unpredictable pattern.

Yesterday I traveled with some fellow photographers to Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, primarily to photograph flowers. Not surprisingly for those who know me, I got distracted and focused much of my attention on searching for insects.

Toward the end of a gorgeous spring day, I finally spotted a dragonfly patrolling over a section of a small pond. I moved closer and tried to track it in my camera’s viewfinder. Over the winter, I’ve practiced tracking birds in flight and can usually keep them in the viewfinder—the challenge is to keep them in focus. With dragonflies, however, it’s a challenge to even keep them in the viewfinder and auto focus is a virtual impossibility.

Has anyone ever challenged you to pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time? That’s how I feel as I try to track a moving dragonfly and focus manually at the same time. I ended up with some out-of-focus ghostly images of the dragonfly or empty frames with a view of the water.

I managed to capture a single image that I really liked of what appears to be a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosaura).  There is some motion blur, but you can see some of the beautiful details and colors of the dragonfly. (Check out a recent posting that I did to see an image of a perching Common Baskettail dragonfly at my local marshland park in late April.)

I don’t always check the EXIF data for my images, but I was curious to see what the settings were that produced this image. I was shocked to see the information, because I realized that I had neglected to change the settings of my camera when I moved from shooting a stationary subject in the sun to chasing a moving subject that was flying in and out of the shadows over the water.

The camera was set to ISO 100, f/11, 275mm (on a 70-300mm zoom lens) and 1/40 sec. Needless to say, that is not the shutter speed that I would have used if I had been paying more attention, but somehow it worked out ok. I was shooting in aperture-priority mode, as I do most of the time, and I probably should have been shooting at ISO 800, which would have given me a faster shutter speed. The bonus, though, of the low ISO was that I got a cleaner image that I could adjust more aggressively.

As we move into summer, I’ll continue my quest to capture other dragonflies in flight. For the moment, I am content with yesterday’s image, but fully recognize that a huge amount of luck was involved in capturing it.

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Shortly after I spotted some deer on a little ridge immediately in front of me, they started to run toward the treeline. Without thinking about my camera settings, I pressed the shutter button, hoping to capture the action. If I had been paying more attention, I would have realized that a shutter speed of 1/100th of  a second would not freeze the motion, especially when shooting at the far end of my 70-300mm lens.

When I reviewed my images on my computer, it was pretty obvious what had happened without even looking at the EXIF data. Many of the shots were blurry, but I really liked this image. Instinctively I had panned as I had tracked the deer, blurring the background, and I managed to capture the deer with its hind legs in the air. In many ways, this slightly out of focus shot captures a sense of motion even better than if I had been able to freeze the action by using a higher shutter speed.

I try to be conscious about the settings on my camera at any given moment, but I am happy in this case that my inattention caused the wrong settings to be just right.

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On an unusually warm date late in November I came upon a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) fishing at my local marshland park. In similar situations I will often stop and wait for a little while to see if I can capture a shot of the heron catching a fish, but generally the heron is more patient that I am and I leave empty-handed.

This time, however, I felt unusually patient and I set up my tripod and waited. The sun was bright and was coming from the left, the direction in which the heron was initially facing. It is tough for me to remain continuously alert when waiting for an extended period of time and I did not react quickly enough to get a shot of the heron pulling the fish out of the water. I recovered rapidly and got some interesting shots of the heron with the fish that it had just caught.

Great Blue Heron

Not seeing eye-to-eye

 

Great Blue Heron

Expelling a drop of water

One of the biggest challenges for the heron is manipulating the fish so that it can be swallowed in a single gulp. Each time that the heron shakes and jiggles the fish, it runs the risk of dropping it. In this case, the heron turned away from the sun and began its maneuvers. It took some time to get the fish into position. In the last two shots, you can see the final steps of the process as the heron dips the fish in the water, presumably to make it slide down the throat more easily, and them flips the fish into the air a final time.

Great Blue Heron

Initial adjustments

Great Blue Heron

Moving into position

Great Blue Heron

Dipping the fish

Great Blue Heron

Final flip

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the sun went down and a sliver of the moon appeared at Huntley Meadows Park, a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) made a last attempt to catch a fish in the dwindling light.

Great Blue Heron

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Waxing crescent moon (thanks to Walter Sanford for the identification)

Waxing crescent moon (thanks to Walter Sanford for the identification)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I recently experienced a sharp increase in the number of views of my blog and went from 628 to 4723 views in a single week.  One of my posts has had an amazing 3235 views to date. What happened? Have I learned a secret to boosting my viewer statistics?

As you might have guessed from the photos that I have reprised below, the post in question is my 4 November posting Rescue of an Injured Bald Eagle. Within my WordPress world, the post was reasonably successful and sixty viewers “liked” it, but that’s not enough to account for the boost.

The most important key to getting more viewers, I think, is finding viewers from outside of WordPress. I sometimes cross-post on Facebook account and in a few Facebook groups to which I belong and will get some additional views, but generally only a few.

I’ve looked back at all that transpired and here is the “formula” that led to my “success.” First, take photos of an event that is newsworthy, has broad appeal, and preferably has police involvement. The police departments, it seems, are always looking for good news stories, and I sent copies of my photos to the officer who made the rescue. The Fairfax County Police Department posted my photos (with attribution) on their blog on 5 November and included a link to my blog posting. This got the ball rolling, it seems.

The next step is to enlist the aid of the mass media in publicizing your blog and keep them updated. I suspect that news outlets troll the police sites for stories and suddenly I started receiving requests from reporters to use the photos in the on-line versions of their television or radio stations—I don’t think the photos appeared in print. I gave approval each time that I was asked, but requested attribution by name and, if possible, a link back to my blog.

The local Fox station and the local NBC station were the most cooperative and did articles that used my photos, excerpts from the text of my blog, and included links to my blog. The Fox article brought in more than 750 viewers and the NBC article brought in over 100 viewers. WTOP, a local news radio station, was similarly cooperative. I made sure to keep these reporters in the loop when I first received information that the eagle was euthanized and all they did updates on the story.

What about the others? Several news outlets, most notably The Washington Post, used my photos with attribution, though they did not request permission or link back to my blog in any way. It was really cool to see the Post use one of my photos in articles on 5 November and 6 November, but it had no effect on my blog statistics. The local ABC station WJLA also gave attribution when they used my photo in an article. I ran across a couple of instances in which my photos were used and they were attributed to “a park visitor” or to the police department.

I came across the photos, with attribution, in several local community news sites and in a couple of other Fox site as well. The euthanization decision was carried by the Associated Press, but, alas, they did not use a photo.

I think I understand better now how I had such an increase in viewers, but I realize that the experience is not easily replicable and the results were short-lived. After the temporary spike in views, I have returned to more normal levels. I enjoyed the brief moment in the spotlight and learned a lot about how stories enter into the news cycle, but I am content to return to my smaller world of walking the trails, in search of new photographic adventure.

 

Bald Eagle rescue

Bald Eagle rescue

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I’ve been in denial about the change of seasons. Two weeks ago it was warm and I was still photographing insects.  The sub-freezing temperatures the last couple of days have been a reminder to me that it’s time to put my macro lenses on the shelf and reach for my telephoto lenses.

Walking through my local marshland park this past Monday, I couldn’t help but notice that the ducks are starting to arrive. During the fall and winter, the park hosts a variety of different ducks (along with quite a few Canada Geese). Some of them are there for a brief stay and then continue their journeys to more distant destinations. Others remain for an extended period of time.

Among the early birds are these Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), whose distinctively-shaped bills and colorful bodies make them hard to miss. They were paddling across the largest pond in the park, past a brush pile, when I captured this image. I didn’t notice it when I took the shot, but I really like the way that you can see some Canada Geese swimming in the distance.Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The weather recently has turned cold and heavily overcast with intermittent rain. The chill in the air reminds me that winter is coming and apparently the beavers at my local marshland park have been receiving the same signals.

One of my favorite places in the park is a small beaver pond in a remote area of the park. It is peaceful and quiet and there are some fallen logs on which I like to sit and just watch and listen.

As the summer progressed I grew increasingly uncertain about the inhabitants. Were they still there or had they moved? It looked like the dam that held in the water had been neglected and parts of it were deteriorating.

I am sill not certain that they are still in the lodge that you see in the second photo, but in the area surrounding that lodge, I’ve come across incontrovertible evidence that beavers have been busy—several dozen small and medium trees that have been removed and the toothmarks look fresh.

I’ll be keeping my eyes open for additional signs that the lodge is occupied or that another one is being built nearby as I return to this spot.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have seen these signs for a couple of months at my local marshland park and haven’t given them much thought. Yesterday, however, as I was wandering through a remote area of the park, I came across an above ground metal tree stand and the muscles between my shoulder blades began to involuntarily twitch a little.

My first thought was to climb up into the stand to check out the view from the higher vantage point. I resisted that impulse and began to wonder if I was risking my safety by traveling as often as I do off of the beaten path. Technically speaking, no part of the park is closed, but I must confess that I was not on an “established trail.”

This park is in a suburban area and one of the problems we face is an overpopulation of deer. Huntley Meadows Park explains the reason for the deer management program in these words:

“Over-populated deer herds eat large amounts of native vegetation, having a seriously negative effect on forest ecosystems. Native fruits, seeds, flowers and leaves essential as food sources for other wildlife are drastically reduced, or even eliminated. A park Huntley’s size should have approximately 60 White-tailed Deer-our most recent surveys indicate a herd of over 150. These over-populated herds are caused by the removal of deer’s natural predators (wolves, mountain lions, American Indians, etc.), and also the abundance of “free” food found in suburban yards. Archery hunters help replace absent predator populations and reduce deer numbers to more natural levels-this encourages a healthier forest ecosystem, with more plant and animal diversity.”
I probably will not curtail my photographic explorations, but I plan to be a little more cautious than I have been up until now—and I might even start wearing a hat or a vest that is bright orange.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We all like to believe in happy endings, but unlike fairy tales, real life does not always turn out that way. I was saddened this afternoon to learn that the female Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that was rescued on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park had to be euthanized.

The dislocation of her elbow was chronic and so severe that eventual release was not a possibility.  The doctors at The Wildlife Center of Virginia determined that humane euthanasia was the best treatment.

I was happy that the work of the Fairfax County Animal Control Services officer that I chronicled in an earlier posting were featured today in the on-line editions of local media, including the Washington Post, WJLA (ABC television), WTOP radio, and Inside NOVA. The sad ending in no way diminishes my respect and thanks to Officer Kathy Prucnal for her extraordinary efforts to rescue the injured eagle.

This photo that I took during the rescue is how I want to remember the female Bald Eagle, appearing strong and alert.

RIP, beautiful eagle.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I received an update from the Animal Control Officer who rescued the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) featured in yesterday’s posting and the prognosis looks positive.

The eagle had a low heart rate, according to the attending veterinarian, likely from pesticide poisoning, and they treated it with atropine. The eagle, an 8 pound (3.6 kg) female, also had a dislocated joint in one wing, which is treatable as well. It is likely they will be able to release her after some rehabilitation at a specialized facility in southern VA, which I assume is The Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, Virginia.

I took the first photo when the eagle was trying to swim away while being rescued. The image is not quite as sharp as the photos from yesterday, but I just love the reflection of the eagle in the water as it struggles to swim. This was in a wooded area of Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite venue for photography, that is now flooded as part of a wetland restoration project. The second photo shows the eagle as it was when I first came upon it, perched on a pile of brush, unable to fly away.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

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Would you be willing to chase an injured adult Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with nothing more than a blanket in your hands? Yesterday, I was privileged to observe a very brave officer of the Fairfax County Animal Control Services capture an injured eagle at my local marshland park.

The eagle was perched on a brush pile in a flooded forest area of the marsh. From time to time it would hop to a new position, but did not seem able to fly away. Several parkgoers had alerted the park authorities of the situation and I came upon the situation shortly before the animal control officer arrived.

When the officer began to chase it, the eagle hopped away and then tried to swim away, stopping for a moment to look in my direction from behind a tree. Eventually, when an unidentified parkgoer helped to block a potential exit route for the eagle, the officer was able to capture the eagle.

As the officer was carrying the eagle, wrapped up in a blanket, to a small vehicle, I circled around on the path as fast as I could, hoping to get a closer look at the eagle. The officer was accommodating and briefly unwrapped the blanket and I got an amazing close-up look at this majestic bird. She was also willing to pose for me and I took a photo that I sent to her to help her remember her amazing actions.

I managed to get a final look at the eagle after it had been transferred to the animal control vehicle. The officer unwrapped the eagle so that the man who had assisted in the rescue could get a look at it. The eagle seemed to have settled down a bit and appeared to be resting comfortably. It was impossible to determine the cause and the extent of the eagle’s injuries, but the officer assured me that the county has excellent rehabilitation facilities for injured raptors. If I am able to get progress reports on the eagle’s recovery, I’ll be sure to keep you all informed.

Bald Eagle

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Some people love them and some people hate them, but there is no question that the arrival of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) signals the transition to a new season.

Yes, they are loud and often obnoxious. Yes, they are numerous and sometimes crowd out other species. Yes, their droppings are nasty and slippery. Despite all of that, I enjoy watching and photographing Canada Geese in the air and on the water.

There were only a dozen or so geese at my local marsh this past weekend, but I am well aware of the fact that this is only an advance party for the hundreds of geese that will move through this area, with some of them choosing to remain here for extended periods of time.  From the perspective of my blog, this is the first posting of the season dedicated to Canada Geese, but certainly not the last.

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A new month started quietly, with few animals, birds, or insects visible on a cold. overcast day. I walked around my local marsh for a couple of hours and experienced nature in a series of small encounters, signs of the changing season.

A lone swallow sang softly in a tree; (CORRECTION: A sharp-eyed reader noted this is a female or immature Red-winged Blackbird)

A mallow flower bloomed unexpectedly in the water;

A squirrel peeked out from behind some branches;

The trees showcased their muted autumn colors; and

An advance party of Canada Geese came in for a landing.

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