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Posts Tagged ‘Canon SX50’

As I was searching for butterflies last week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, a flash of brilliant yellow suddenly crossed my field of view. It took a moment for me to figure out what it was and then I realized that several American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) were diving into a field of Black-eyed Susan wildflowers (Rudbeckia hirta).

I waited for a long time, hoping in vain that the goldfinches would perch in the open on the flowers nearest me, but mostly they stayed buried deep in the vegetation. Here are a couple of long-distance shots that give you a sense of my experience with these colorful little birds.

 

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Like dragonflies, there are many species of nature photographers—some prefer to perch in one location for long periods of time, waiting for the action to come to them, while others are in constant motion, aggressively seeking potential prey. As most of you probably suspect, I put myself primarily in the latter group and spend a lot of time walking when I am out in the wild with my camera.

Last week I visited Prince William Forest Park, a hilly, tree-covered oasis that is the largest protected natural area in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region at over 16,000 acres, according to Wikipedia. I have explored this park on numerous occasions and one of my favorite activities is walking on the trails that run parallel to creeks that run trough the park. Normally when I am doing so, I am scouring the shorelines looking for dragonflies and other wildlife.

This time, though, I was in a contemplative mood and was repeatedly struck by the interplay of the light and shadows and by the textures and sounds created by the flowing water. I obviously can’t convey the sounds in still photos, but here are a few photos that capture some of my impressions from my walk along Quantico Creek that day.

I realize that these are quite different from my usual photos and are a bit more “artsy.” It’s fun for me to mix things up a bit from time to time and attempt to photograph some different subjects.

Quantico Creek

Quantico Creek

leaf

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Dragonflies perch in a lot of different ways. Some perch at the top of vegetation, some perch in the middle, and some, like this Unicorn Clubtail dragonfly (Arigomphus villosipes) like to perch low to the ground or, in this case, to the surface of the water. I don’t see Unicorn Clubtails very often, so I was excited to see this one on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in a marshy pond filled with lily pads.

I had two cameras with me when I encountered the dragonfly. The second image below shows the view from my DSLR with a 180mm macro lens. I really like the way that the shot gives you a sense of the environment and when I was processing the image I paid as much attention to the surroundings as I did to the dragonfly.

My Canon SX50 let me zoom in a lot closer to the dragonfly, as you can see in the first shot, and captured more details of the dragonfly. I like aspects of both images and think that together they provided complementary views of this wonderful dragonfly. You can’t really see it in these shots, but members of this species have a little protrusion in between their eyes, which prompted someone to name them “unicorns.”

 

Unicorn Clubtail

unicorn clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was thrilled on Tuesday to get a glimpse of several juvenile Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I think that they are the eaglets that were born earlier this year and now it looks like they are almost fully grown. It will take a few more years, however, before they acquire the white feathers on their heads that make them look like they are bald.

The first eaglet was hanging out in the nest when I first spotted it, as you can see in the first shot. There is so much vegetation now that it is hard to see the nest, but I know that it is there. I wasn’t quite ready when the eagle took off so my second shot is a little blurry. I decided to included it, because it provides a pretty cool look at the feathers of this already majestic bird.

The final shot is of what I assume is one of the siblings of the eaglet in the first two shots. Based on a conversation that I had with one of the volunteers at the wildlife refuge, there may have been three eaglets at this nest this year (and two in a nest in another part of the refuge).

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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During the hot, humid days of mid-summer, I often hear the sounds of birds, but rarely see them. Although I may be out in the blazing sun, most of the birds seem to use common sense and take shelter in the shade of the trees.

Last week as I was exploring Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, I heard the unmistakable call of a kingfisher and caught a glimpse of it skimming across the water of a small pond. I was a bit surprised when it chose briefly to perch in a small tree overhanging the water. I was a long way away, but had a clear line of sight and captured this image of the female Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon). I can tell that it is a female because I can see a reddish-colored band across its chest that the male lacks.

Many of you know that I photograph birds more frequently during the winter months, when insects disappear and the lack of foliage makes it easier to spot the birds. Throughout the year, however, I try to be ready in case a bird decides to be cooperative and poses for me.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled last Friday to spot this Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Growing up in a suburb of Boston, I remember visiting the Boston Public Garden and riding in the famous pedal-powered Swan Boats there. As a result, the mere sighting of a swan is enough to trigger fond memories of my childhood.

Readers of my generation (and maybe even younger folks) may recall that the Swan Boats were featured prominently in the beloved book “Make Way for Ducklings.” I was a little surprised to learn from Wikipedia that the Swan Boats have been in operation since 1877.

“Robert Paget first created the Swan Boats in the Public Garden in 1877, after seeing the opera Lohengrin with his wife Julia Paget. Inspired by the knight’s gallant rescue of the damsel by riding a swan across the lake, Paget decided to capitalize on the recent popularity of the bicycle and combine the two, designing a two-pontooned boat with two wooden benches and a brass seat on top of a paddlebox concealed by a swan. The driver would sit inside the swan and pedal passengers around the pond.”

One of the amazing things is that the Swan Boats have remained virtually unchanged since that time.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early Friday morning I spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) at Horn Pond in Woburn, Massachusetts. Although the bird’s facial features were in the shadows, I was happy to be able to capture its distinctive hooked beak in this silhouetted view.

As many of you know, I try to find opportunities to capture nature images even when I am traveling. On Thursday I drove from Virginia to Massachusetts to attend a surprise 60th birthday party on Friday evening for one of my brothers. Although I was somewhat worn out from the drive, which took almost 12 hours thanks to numerous road construction projects and rush hour traffic in Boston, I was out on the trails of Horn Pond by 6:30 in the morning. In many ways immersing myself in nature helps to recharge my batteries as much as sleep does.

A few seconds after I spotted the cormorant, it sensed my presence and flew away. I was anticipating that it might do so and was able to capture this shot just as the bird was starting to take off.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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