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Posts Tagged ‘Canon SX50’

It seems like we are at a time in the year when the number of birds has increased. I can hear them everywhere when I walk along the wooded trails of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The problem, though, is that most the leaves are still on the trees, so I am having huge problems spotting the birds and if I can’t see them, I can’t photograph them.

Earlier this week, I heard the familiar knocking sound of a woodpecker at work. I could see some movement in a tree amidst the foliage. I tracked the movement until suddenly the woodpecker popped into the open for a brief moment as it reached the top of the dead tree. I was able to capture this one shot of what appears to be a male Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)—only males have the red patch of feathers on the back of their heads. (The Hairy Woodpecker is similar in appearance to the Downy Woodpecker, but is larger and has a longer bill—the angle of this shot makes it tough for me to be absolutely certain of my identification.)

Downy Woodpeckers are the smallest woodpeckers in Northern America, but what they lack in size, they seem to make up in energy. They always seem to be super energetic and industrious and are one of the birds that I am able to spot throughout most the entire year.

downy woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa), but haven’t seen any for quite some time. I was therefore really happy when I spotted this pair swimming in the distance in a  creek at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week.

The male Wood Duck, as shown in the first image, is one of the most colorful and distinctively patterned birds in our area—there is no other bird that looks even vaguely similar. The duck stopped swimming for just a moment and I was able to capture this shot of him getting a drink of water.

The female Wood Duck shown in the second image is not quite as colorful as her male counterpart, but has an equally distinctive look with her windswept “hair” and prominent white eye ring.

wood duck

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week, I stumbled upon this cute little Southeastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum subrubrum). It looks like the little turtle had attempted to withdraw its head into its shell, but it does not quite fit.

I’ve only spotted this species of turtle, also known an Eastern Mud Turtle, a few times, so I decided to do a little research. Among other things, I learned on the website of the Virginia Herpetological Society that Southeastern Mud Turtles are ominvores, eating, among other things, insects, crustaceans, mollusks, amphibians, carrion, and aquatic vegetation.

Here are a few more fun facts about these turtles from the same website: “Southeastern Mud Turtles are bottom walkers, spending most of their active time in water on the bottom. A substantial but unknown portion of their annual activity period is terrestrial. They seldom bask. Southeastern mud turtles are pugnacious when caught and many will try to bite, causing a minor wound from the curved beak.”

I am glad that I felt no desire to pick up the turtle.

Southeastern Mud Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although we are well into autumn, there are still dragonflies around, including some stunning Russet-tipped Clubtail dragonflies (Stylurus plagiatus) that I spotted earlier this week at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge. As you can see from the photos Russet-tipped Clubtails like to perch on somewhat exposed leaves, which makes them a bit easier to spot than some species of dragonflies, though they are not common in my experience

I was able to capture images of Russet-tipped Clubtails (there were at least two individuals that I saw, both males) on several leafy perches in a tree overhanging a pond. My angle of view and the direction of the light gave each of these images a very different feel, primarily because of the way that the background was captured.

Depended on my mood, any one of these three images can be my favorite. Is there one that particularly appeals to you?

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Russet-tipped Clubtail

Russet-tipped Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this little Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) all by itself on Wednesday morning at the far end of Painted Turtle Pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He must have been feeling a little lonely, however, and tried to strike up a conversation with the mallard decoy that is a permanent feature at this pond. The mallard remained silent.

I was trying to capture a shot of the Ruddy Duck by itself, as in the second image, but I like the eye contact in the first image so much that I decided to make it my lead photo for the posting. The shot simply makes me smile.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Autumn is a prime season for migration. It is almost impossible to ignore the sounds of the Canada Geese as they pass overhead and thousands of other birds pass by unheard, heading south to warmer locations.

Some dragonflies migrate too and at this time of the year it is not unusual to see some of them patrolling high in the air. A good number of dragonflies spend a lot of time perching, and they tend to be easiest to photograph. Other dragonflies, like the species that migrate, spend most of their time in flight. Their stamina is amazing and your patience has to be equally amazing if you try to wait for them to land to photograph them. The alternative is to try to photograph them in flight.

Yesterday I spotted a couple of Wandering Gliders (Pantala flavescens) flying patrols over a small pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Wandering Gliders are the most widespread dragonflies on the planet and have an almost worldwide distribution.

I watched the Wandering Gliders for a while to see if I could figure out the patterns that they were flying. Gradually I realized that they often would pass by a certain part of the shore  and hover a little and that became my target zone. With my Canon SX50 superzoom camera in hand, I visually tracked the dragonflies in the air and attempted to photograph them. Mostly I was unsuccessful, but I did get a few decent shots.

In the first shot below, the sharpest that I was able to manage, the Wandering Glider was flying above eye level, so the beautiful blue sky served as a backdrop. In the second image, the dragonfly was flying below eye level and the ripples in the water create a beautiful pattern in the background. When I consider the two images, I am torn between two competing impulses—technically the first shot is superior, but artistically the second shot appeals to me more. Fortunately, I don’t have to choose one over the other and can post both of them.

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

© 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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