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Posts Tagged ‘gray catbird’

Yesterday I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my favorite local venue for wildlife photography, for the first time in almost a month. It was a beautiful summer day for a walk in nature, with temperatures and humidity lower than usual for this area. I was thrilled to be able to capture a few modest images of birds, which is a bit unusual for me during the summer, when most of the time I am more likely to hear birds hidden in the foliage than actually see them.

The first image shows a rather fluffy-looking Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis). This is probably my favorite shot of the day, because the pose is more dynamic than most perched bird images. The little catbird seems to have a lot of personality and energy.

I was delighted to photograph a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched above the large eagle nest at the refuge. I composed the second shot to include some of the clouds that, in my view, add some visual interest to otherwise solid blue sky background. No matter how many times I see a Bald Eagle, it is always special for me.

The final image is a long distance shot of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris). When I first spotted the hummingbird, I thought it was a butterfly as it flitted about among the flowers. When it finally registered on my brain that it was a hummingbird, I clicked off a series of shots, without much hope of getting a usable image. I was pleasantly surprised when several of the shots had the hummingbird relatively in focus. I selected this particular image because it shows the hummingbird hovering and because its wing positions reminded me of a butterfly.

It was exciting this month to be on the road, seeing different parts of the country and photographing some different subjects, but it was comforting to return to the familiar confines of a location that is a refuge for me in all senses of the word—it felt like I had returned home.

Gray Catbird

Bald Eagle

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My idea of a perfect bird shot during this autumn season would be to capture a pretty bird perfectly posed against a background of colorful foliage. Alas, things don’t often work out that well in the real world, so I have to make the best of what I am able to find.

In this case, it was a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) that I spotted during a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The feathers of this catbird are muted in color, as are the colors of the dying leaves that surround it. Nonetheless, I like this rather pleasing portrait of a bird that has a vocal repertoire equal to that of a mockingbird.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I seem to be having problems recently getting unobstructed views of small birds. Although the leaves are falling from the trees at an increasingly rapid rate, there are still plenty of them to block my view. I have to admit, however, that the colors and texture of the fall foliage can sometimes provide additional visual interest to a shot of a perched bird.

I spotted this Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The catbird’s direct look suggests that he had spotted me too. Normally I do no photograph birds head-on like this, but in this case I like the way that it gives the catbird a comical, almost cartoonish look.

I like to shoot whatever captures my attention and have a hopeful expectation that the images will turn out ok. I have found that most often when I shoot what I like, I like what I shoot.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’ve read that a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) makes a distinctive cat-like mewing sound, but I don’t recall ever having heard a catbird make any sound whatsoever. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gray Catbirds can also copy the sounds of other species and string them together to make their own song that can last as long as ten minutes.

Even without hearing its song, I was able to spot this Gray Catbird earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is most often the case with catbirds, this one was in thick vegetation, but I did manage to get a relatively clear shot of its head and body.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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My bird books say that Gray Catbirds (Dumetella carolinensis), like this one that I spotted on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, make catlike mewing sounds, which accounts for the name. When I initially heard this bird, it was making a variety of different sounds, none of which sounded like a cat, and I thought it was a Northern Mockingbird. It was only when I zoomed in and saw that the bird had less distinctive markings than those of a mockingbird that I realized that it was a different species. Catbirds do, however, belong to the same family Mimidae (also known as mimic thrushes) as Northern Mockingbirds and Brown Thrashers, like the one that I featured in a recent posting.

When I was growing up, I remember hearing the expression “sitting in the catbird seat” and I learned that it meant being in an enviable or advantageous position. I never really wondered, though, what this had to do with a catbird and only today did I search for the origins of the expression. According to the website phrases.org.uk, “Catbirds seek out the highest perches in trees to sing and display. The allusion to that is most likely to be the derivation of the term. It may also be the source of an earlier term with much the same meaning – ‘sitting pretty‘.”

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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