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Posts Tagged ‘North American Beaver’

Last Monday I was thrilled to spot this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) slowly swimming by me in the early morning light at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was able to follow the beaver along the shore for several minutes before it disappeared with a big splash, as you can see in the final photo that show the beaver’s distinctive tail, the last part of the beaver to enter the water.

The limited light caused me to shoot at slower shutter speeds than the situation actually demanded, but the slight blurriness somehow enhances the dreamlike feeling of the time around sunrise. I checked the data on the final shot and was a little shocked to see that I took it with a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second. Somehow I was able to capture a decent composition and an almost abstract-style image—the image that you see is also uncropped.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to those of you who are celebrating the holiday. I grew up outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where St. Patrick’s Day is a big deal, including a large parade that, alas, had to be canceled this year.

beaver

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you feel like you are progressing in photography? Have your skills improved as you have bought newer and more expensive gear? How do you know?

Periodically a notice pops up in my Facebook timeline reminding me of a posting that I made on that date in a previous year. I post at least one photo daily and I have no idea how the Facebook algorithm decides when to present me with a memory and, if so, which one to use.

This morning, Facebook reminded me of the image below of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I posted seven years ago. Wow—seven years ago is in the distant past, only six months or so after I had started to get more serious about my photography. At that time I was shooting with a Canon Rebel XT, an entry-level 8.0 megapixel DSLR, and my “long” lens was a 55-250mm zoom lens.

It is almost a cliché for photographers to state that gear does not matter, but I think that this image demonstrates that there is a truth in that cliché. I have more experience now and better gear, but I would be hard for me to take a better shot today. Nothing is more important than being there, as all wildlife photographers know well. The informal motto of the Postal Service seems to apply to us as well— “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Click on this link if you would like to see the original posting from 2013 (and judge for yourself if my style of posting has changed). For fun, I added a second beaver photo that I posted the following day, January 29, 2013—here’s a link to the original posting.

I don’t know about you, but I rarely take the opportunity to look back at my older images. Perhaps I should do some more often.

 

beaver

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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During one of my recent early morning forays to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was thrilled to spot several beavers. I had seen plenty of gnawed off trees in the area around this pond, so I knew that there had to be some beavers nearby. You generally have to be really lucky to see one, because they are mostly nocturnal creatures.

There were three beavers when I initially spotted them swimming towards me. Two of them seemed to sense my presence as they got a little closer and dove underwater. One kept approaching and I was able to capture the first image, a head shot  of a handsome North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). The second image shows the beaver as it was swimming and gives you a better sense of the environment in which it was found.

beaver

beaver

© 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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As I was looking over some images from about a month ago, I realized that I had not posted any views of this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) that I spotted swimming off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge one early morning. At that hour we both were moving pretty slowly—one of us on land and the other in the water.

As the beaver altered its course , the light falling on its face and body changed, occasionally catching a bit of sunlight from the just-risen sun. I love the way that the water was tinged with light blue and pink and how the mostly still water picked up the reflections of the swimming beaver.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Why do I like to get up really early in the morning, striving to arrive at my destination just as the sun is rising? There is something special about the sights and sounds and even the smell of the early morning. At a time when many people are still snuggled in their warm beds, many wild creatures are already active.

It’s a real challenge, though, to pinpoint that activity and it is even harder to photograph it. Even when I am not able to get a shot, however, I am often filled with a sense of awe and reverence as I share the start of the day with all of these amazing creatures.

When things come together, it is truly magical, and I had one of those experiences this past weekend. I was seated on a fallen tree at the edge of a remote beaver pond at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite spot in the park. I had been sitting there for a while, almost entranced by the reflections in the water, when I suddenly spotted the unmistakable wake of a swimming beaver.

This North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) appeared to be swimming laps in the middle of the pond. The beaver would head a certain direction for a little while and then would turn and swim back in the other direction, moving back and forth, in and out of the shadows and the reflections. Time seemed to slow down. I leaned forward slightly and tried to get as low as I could, but did not make any abrupt movements for fear of spooking the beaver.

It is really difficult to put into words what I was feeling as I observed the swimming beaver and I hope this image helps to convey a sense of the encounter. Eventually the beaver swam off and I continued on my way, filled with a sense of calm and inner peace.

Why do I like to get up early? The knowledge and the hope that special moments like this may await me are sufficient motivation for me.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What predators at Huntley Meadows Park are powerful enough to kill an adult beaver? Could this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) have died of natural causes? Why was its body more than half a mile from the water?

The bright orange incisors and the large flat tail make identification of the body easy, but the cause of death is a mystery. A trail runner pointed out the carcass to me shortly after I spotted a Black Vulture this past weekend, which explains why the vulture was hanging around. (Check out my earlier posting Black Vulture in a tree to see photos of this somewhat creepy bird.)

It was interesting to see the reactions of different park visitors to these questions when I posted them to a community Facebook page. Some immediately assumed that coyotes, which have been spotted in the park, were responsibleand focused on the size and ferocity of these predators. Others spoke of disease or about the complex social structures of the beavers and how teenage beavers are kicked out of the lodge at a certain point in time and forced to fend for themselves.

Some readers simply used emojis, including one with tears. Somehow the loss of this industrious herbivore with human-like paws touches many of us deeply, reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of our own lives.

R.I.P., beautiful creature of God.

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The beavers at Huntley Meadows Park have been remarkably elusive this winter, so I was excited to see this one on Monday as it swam by in the beautiful early morning light.

There are several beaver lodges in the park where I have spotted North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) in the past, but it is hard to know for sure which ones are currently active. Occasionally I will come to the park really early or stay late, hoping to spot a beaver, but this is the first one that I have spotted in many months. With a little luck I will be able to see one a bit closer than this one, which quite a distance away when I photographed it.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Periodically I will arrive at Huntley Meadows Park early in the morning, hoping to catch a glimpse of one of the local beavers, but I haven’t seen one in quite some time. It’s very obvious, though, that North American beavers (Castor canadensis) are present and active, because their lodge, built in part on the boardwalk, keeps getting bigger every time that I see it.

Gradually the beavers are taking over more and more of a bench on the boardwalk. I noticed this morning, when I took this photo, that there is barely room now to sit down on the end of the bench. In the past, park employees have had to remove some mud when the lodge extended too far across the boardwalk and it looks like that has been the case this  year too.

I’m fully expecting to see one of these days that the bench has been totally engulfed by the beavers and incorporated into their architectural plans. At that moment I will know for certain that the beavers have taken over.

beaver lodge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I wander about in Huntley Meadows Park, I see lots of signs that winter is on its way, including this tree that I encountered in what seemed to be the middle of the woods. Clearly the beavers have been as busy as, well, beavers. I am hoping to be able to capture them in action in the upcoming months.

If you read this blog frequently, you probably noticed that this image is quite different from my “normal” wildlife close-ups. When I stumbled upon this tree on which a beaver had been gnawing, I was struck by the interplay of light and shadows. As I framed this shot, which is uncropped here, I was trying to capture the almost monochromatic look of the scene in a very simple composition. I’m pretty pleased by the different textures that I was also able to capture in the shot.

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The National Zoo in Washington D.C. is a wonderful place to explore and has the added bonus of having no admission fee. On Monday I wandered around the zoo for several hours, visiting some of my favorite animals and taking a lot of photos.

Here are some of my initial favorite images: a lioness, a cheetah, a beaver, and an elephant.

lioness at National Zoo

cheetah at National Zoo

beaver at National Zoo

elephant at National Zoo

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early Friday morning I heard a gnawing sound coming from under the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park. I watched and waited and eventually the head of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) broke the surface of the water. The beaver chewed on sticks for a few minutes a short distance away from me and then disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.

This encounter took place just before 7:00 in the morning when it was just getting light. Although I had my tripod with me, I figured that setting it up would require so much movement that I would scare away the beaver. Knowing I wanted to get as low an angle as I could, I slowly sat down on the boardwalk, which was elevated above the water by about two feet (61 cm), and rested my telephoto zoom lens on my camera bag for stability.

I checked the EXIF data for these shots and they were all taken with camera settings of about ISO 1600, f/7.1, 1/15 second, and a focal length of 552mm. Not surprisingly, when the beaver was actually moving, the shutter speeds were too slow to stop the motion, but I did manage to get some shots that were reasonably sharp.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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A dark head broke the surface of the water just after sunrise yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park and the animal slowly and silently swam by me. Was it a beaver or a muskrat? It looks like a Norther American Beaver (Castor canadensis) to me, but I never got a look at its tail—the tail would have provided definitive proof of the animal’s identity.

The many gnawed off tree stumps testify to the presence of beavers in several lodges in the park, but the beavers themselves have remained remarkably elusive. Muskrats are active in the same areas and many park visitors have spotted them in action during the daylight hours.

Beaver or muskrat? What do you think?

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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WordPress tells me I posted 851 photos during 2015 in 395 blog posts. I’ve forgotten many of those photos, but I want to share ten of my favorites with you today as we start the new year.

I used a very unscientific approach in selecting them—I simply chose ones that I really liked without looking at numbers of likes or views or comments. So often I am focused on getting new shots that I sometimes forget how wide a spectrum of subjects I like to shoot. These images remind me of my varied approaches and techniques.

I didn’t include any of the fox photos or contest entries that I featured recently, figuring that you were already familiar with them. I should note that this selection of favorites is representative and not exhaustive—there are probably some awesome shots that I have neglected to include. I haven’t tried to put the images in any kind of rank order, but if forced to choose, my favorite image of the year is probably the first one, the Green Heron with a kind of Rembrandt lighting.

Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me so much in 2015. Best wishes for a wonderful 2016.

Green Heron

Ebony Jewelwing

Great Spangled Fritillary

Banded Pennant

Green Heron

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

Blue Dasher

Osprey

Bald Eagle

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was almost dark yesterday (and getting darker) at Huntley Meadows Park when I saw the head of a beaver break the surface of the water. It’s been quite some time since I last saw a beaver, so I was thrilled, and even managed to get a few shots by cranking up the settings on my camera.

There are several beaver lodges at the park and the resident North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) have been really busy the last few months getting ready for winter. Every time that I visit the park, I see that that more mud has been applied to the lodges and the brush pile adjacent to the lodges, which server as a larder during the winter, keep getting bigger.

Despite all of this activity, the beavers have remained remarkably elusive and I have not spotted them a single time in recent months during my early morning visits to the park. Yesterday I went to the park late in the day and was able to finally see one.

My DSLR is a little long in the tooth and its max ISO setting is 3200. I had never set it that high, because of fears of unacceptable grain in the images, but boldly set it there yesterday. I was shooting in aperture priority at f/7.1 (wide open for my telephoto lens when fully extended is f/6.3) and I was shocked to see that my shutter speeds for my shots were either 1/4 or 1/8 of a second. Fortunately my lens has image stabilization, but it’s actually a little surprising that my images were not completely blurry when shooting at 600mm with a 1/8 second shutter speed.

This shooting situation definitely pushed the limits of my camera, but I am happy that I was able to get some recognizable images of a beaver swimming at dusk. As we move deeper into the winter, I will be looking to capture some more shots of our resident beavers, hopefully in better light.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I don’t take photos of people very often but it seems like there are some informal rules including not photographing a subject who is eating and not photographing someone who is bending over. Fortunately those “rules” do not apply when photographing wildlife.

In the first shot, the North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) at my local marsh seemed to be glancing up at me mid-chew, having sensed my presence. I can’t tell if the beaver is shy or irritated, but I am happy that I was able to capture some of the details of the beaver’s “hands.” The beaver probably was aware that he had some leaves stuck between his teeth, but, as a friend, I probably would have mentioned it to him if he was going to go out in public.

In the second shot, the beaver’s posterior is facing the camera and I don’t want to be indelicate, but that part of the beaver’s anatomy looks huge. I can’t imagine what I would have said if the beaver had turned to me and asked, “Does this pose make my butt look big?” Perhaps I could have responded honestly to the question, but most guys know that is best not to respond at all if a female human poses that same question.

If you take wildlife photos, you too probably have a collection of “butt shots” of animals and birds that were running or flying away or simply sending an unsubtle message that they did not want to be bothered by a photographer. One of my favorite photographers and bloggers, Lyle Krahn, periodically does an entire humorous posting of wildlife shots devoted to this genre. Be sure to check out his The Inauguaral Butt Collection.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Early yesterday morning I was thrilled when I saw one of the beavers at Huntley Meadows Park swimming around the beaver pond. My joy was compounded when the beaver climbed out of the water to grab a little breakfast.

North American beavers (Castor canadensis) are primarily nocturnal, so it’s difficult to get a glimpse of them during a time of the day when there is sufficient light to be photograph them. Previously I had seen a beaver at this pond in the early hours of the morning, but this is the first time that I have seen one of them climb over the logs block off one end of the beaver pond.

I am particularly happy that the first photo provides a good look at both the beaver’s very distinctive tail and its face. Most of the time that I was observing the beaver, I got a good look at only the tail end, which is interesting, but not especially photogenic.

In the second shot, the beaver is swimming away from the lodge with a small bunch of sticks. Was the beaver carrying them to another lodge? Is there a picnic somewhere else along the shore? It just seemed a bit strange for me to see the beaver heading off into the distance at a time when I assumed he would be getting ready for his long daytime snooze.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was going over my photos of my recent encounter with a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis), I was struck by the beautiful quality and color of the early morning light. Sure, it was cool to be able to get some close-up shots of the beaver swimming around, but the light was equally spectacular.

I’ve tried to convey in these two images a sense of the golden glow that surrounded us during the magical moments I shared with this beaver, though somehow the colors seem to get a bit desaturated when I move the image into WordPress.

Check out my previous posting to see more images of this beautiful beaver.

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One early morning this past weekend I spent a few magical morning moments with this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis)  at Huntley Meadows Park during that short period of time when the light is golden and extraordinarily beautiful.

There is a beaver pond in a fairly remote area of the park that is my favorite spot in the park. In the past, I have observed an otter, a fox, a racoon, deer, and multiple bald eagles and hawks from that spot, but until a week ago, I had never observed the beavers that live there. A week ago, in the early morning hours I was pleased to see a beaver swimming away from the lodge and then back to it. I got some ok shots on that occasion, but decided I’d return to that spot again to see if I would get lucky again.

On Saturday, I returned and stood and waited as I drank in the beauty of the location. There is something really peaceful and special about those early morning moments. Suddenly a beaver’s head broke the surface of the water and a beaver began to swim slowly around in circles. The beaver seemed to be simply enjoying itself.

I crouched down and began to take photos. The light was beautiful, though not abundant, and my subject was moving, so I struggled a little to get the right settings. At one point, the beaver started swimming right at me and grew larger and larger in my viewfinder to the point that I actually stood up and startled the beaver. The beaver dove under the water, bur soon resurfaced and continued its swim.

Time seemed to stand still and I don’t really know how long my encounter with the beaver lasted, but eventually the beaver went under water and returned to its lodge.

I am still sorting through my photos, but wanted to share a couple of my initial favorites. Perhaps you will see some more of them in a future posting. (I am also including a shot of the beaver’s lodge to give you an idea of the surroundings.)

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

beaver lodge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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About eighteen months ago the beavers at my local marsh moved out of the lodge right under the boardwalk to a more inaccessible location. Since then I’ve tried several times to catch sight of them at dusk and at dawn, but have been largely unsuccessful.

However, this past Monday I got lucky when one of the resident North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) appeared an hour or so before sunset and chewed on some sticks for a short time before returning to the warmth of its lodge.

I waited and waited as the sun dropped lower on the horizon to see if any other members of the beaver family would make an appearance. Eventually another beaver emerged and started swimming around the small area of open water outside of the lodge—most of the rest of the pond was still frozen. The limited light made it difficult to capture a shot of the swimming beaver and in the third shot it almost looks like the shadowy beaver is swimming in the clouds.

Unfortunately the beaver had to end its swim prematurely when it was dive bombed by a small flock of ducks that had spotted the open water and decided it was the perfect place to make a landing. Alas, I did not get shots of the beaver’s reaction—I suspect that the beaver was a bit surprised to be attacked from the air.

The final shot shows the beaver lodge, which can be seen through the bushes from the boardwalk. Fortunately there is a nearby two-story observation deck that overlooks the pond and gives a clearer line of sight to the lodge. It was from that deck that I was able to take these shots.

beaver2_march_blog

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Which of your images are unusual or distinctive enough that you genuinely feel like they are “once in a lifetime” photos?

Of course, all photos are unique captures of a subject at a particular moment. As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus is reported to have said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice.”

Somehow, though, it seems like we could capture similar images in many cases if we returned to the same locations under similar conditions and were patient and persistent enough.

As I celebrate my two year blog anniversary this week, I’ve been doing a few retrospective re-postings of favorite posts from the earliest days and am continuing in that vein today with some photos of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) breaking through the ice of a beaver pond from below on a winter day early in 2013.

A lot of things had to work together perfectly for me to get these images and it’s hard to imagine that confluence of factors ever happening again for me. The photos and the accompanying prose help to document that very special moment.

Besides the uniqueness of that moment, there is something particularly enjoyable about posting icy winter photos as we continue to suffer through a seemingly endless cycle of hot, humid summer weather. I hope that you feel as refreshed as I do when viewing these images.

Complete text of original posting Breaking through the ice from below on 30 January 2013:

The beaver had disappeared from the small open water area of the ice-covered beaver pond.  Wondering if he would resurface, I stood in silent readiness with my camera still in my hand.

My eyes were focused on one area of the pond, but my ears detected a sound emanating from another location near the edge of the pond. Somehow I knew instantly what was about to happen—the beaver was about to achieve a breakthrough. The light had faded a bit and I couldn’t see well enough to focus perfectly, but I aimed at the source of the sound and got this shot of the beaver poking his head through a newly-created hole in the ice. From this perspective, it looks like the beaver is pretty small.

breakthrough1_blog

As I watched, the beaver placed his front paws on the ice, which appeared to be able to support his weight, and gradually pulled his body out of the water. Naturally, the small hole became a lot bigger as his large body came increasingly into view.

breakthrough4_blogbreakthrough2_blogAfter the beaver was completely out of the water, he bent down over the opening that he had just created. Perhaps he was trying to decide if he needed to enlarge it further or was trying to free a tasty-looking stick from the ice. It almost looks to me, though, that he is peering into the water, wondering if one of his fellow beavers is going to be popping up to join him.

breakthrough3_blog

The beaver did not linger long at the new location. After a few seconds on the “outside,” he dove back into the icy waters of the pond.

There are few moments in life that are truly “once-in-a-lifetime” experiences, ones that would be impossible to replicate, but I have the sense that this was one of them. So many things had to work together to make these photos happen—the timing, the location, and the ice, to name a few.

It is supposed to get up to 70 degrees (21 degrees C) today and the ice will almost certainly be gone by the time I am able to return to the marsh this weekend. Perhaps I will get to observe the beavers eating or working or playing or maybe they will remain in the lodge. In either case, I can be happy, knowing that we shared a really special moment together.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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How do you decide which of your photos are your favorite ones? Do you rely on technical criteria, like sharpness, or do you rely more on the overall artistic impression? Do your memories of shooting an image factor into your calculations? Do WordPress statistics play any role in your thinking?

As I noted yesterday, my blog’s second anniversary, I am taking a brief pause from posting new photos to think about the blog and my photographic journey over the last two years. During this period, I though I would re-post some of my favorite postings. I am posting them in their entirety, because I think that my prose enhances the appeal of my blog (and I find that I enjoy the creative experience of expressing myself in my words as well as in my images).

I tend to photograph a lot of insects in the summer and birds in the winter, but some of my most memorable images come from my infrequent encounters with mammals, like this tender moment that I shared with a beaver family last summer that was visible one day during the daylight hours.

In response to my initial questions, I tend to give my greatest priority to the overall artistic impression and give little weight to WordPress statistics. Some of my best photos have relatively few views, while I have a few unexceptional images that have a lot of views.

Text of the original blog posting that first appeared on 18 July 2013:

Last Friday, after some violent thunderstorms, I visited my local marshland park, where the staff alerted me that three beavers were sleeping on a patch of dry land near their lodge, which apparently had flooded. The three North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) were all snuggled together and reminded me a little of puppies. I am working up some more images, but thought that I would give a sneak preview of coming attractions.

beaver6_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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On New Year’s Day, as I was hiking with a fellow photographer to one of my favorite spots at the local marsh, she spotted this skull, flipped upside down on a mossy log. Had it been placed on the log by a fellow hiker or had it been abandoned there by another animal?

Judging from the length of the one remaining tooth, it looks like this is a skull of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). There is no way for me to tell how this animal died, but the tooth marks around the eye socket suggest that something has been gnawing on the skull.

We both took some photographs of the skull and then hurried along, hoping to see a live beaver at its lodge. We  saw the lodge, but, alas, did not see a living beaver that day.

skull1_blogskull2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The beavers have moved out of the lodge right under the boardwalk that made it possible for me to get relatively close-up shots of them last winter. This weekend I was determined to get a photo of them and had to wait until it was almost dark to catch sight of one of them swimming in the distance. There was just enough light to focus and I had to crank up the ISO to 1600 (with the resulting increase in noise), but I was able to get a recognizable image.

This completes an incredible week for me of photographing mammals in the wilds of my suburban marshland oasis—I managed to get shots of an otter, a raccoon, a fox, and a beaver. I also saw a few deer, but didn’t get any photos of them. What’s next? I have been told that we have coyotes in the park, but I refuse to follow the advice I heard that the best way to draw in the coyote is to go walking in the park with a small dog after dark. Meanwhile, I can only hope that I am fortunate enough to see the same animals again and get better shots.

beaver_dusk2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I am at my local marsh near sundown, I like to hang around near the beaver lodge to see if I can spot the beavers. Often I can hear them gnawing on branches, but rarely do I get an unobstructed view of one of them.

This past weekend, though, I managed to be at the right spot at the right time and got this shot of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). It seemed smaller than the other one I saw that evening, so I wonder if this is a young one.

The light was fading as I took these shots and I had to push my ISO past 1000. Even so, the shutter speed was below 1/30 second, so I was happy that my camera was already on my tripod. I was kneeling on the boardwalk as I took these shots and was afraid that other people would approach and scare the beaver away. I was really happy when an approaching family with several small children saw what I was doing and sat down on the boardwalk and quietly watched the beaver in action.

beaver_chewing2_blogbeaver_chewing1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the light was starting to fade this past Monday, I made one final trip along the boardwalk at my local marshland park and suddenly heard some loud chewing sounds coming from the cattails. Although I couldn’t immediately locate the source of the noise, I suspected that one or more of the beavers was out and about.

Slowly I crept forward until finally I caught sight of a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis), vigorously chewing on cattail stalks. My camera was already attached to my tripod, which was a good thing, because the shutter speed was pretty slow, even when I cranked up the ISO. I didn’t have a really clear line of sight to the beaver and the best that I could manage was the second shot below.

After a short while, some other folks came walking by on the boardwalk and spooked the beaver. The beaver stopped what it was doing, grabbed a piece of a stalk in its mouth, and began to swim in my direction. I did not have much time to react, because there was not much distance between the beaver and me.

The third image shows the beaver as it was headed toward me. I decided not to crop the photo to give you an idea of how close I actually was to the beaver. I was shooting with my Tamron 180mm macro lens for these shots, so I had a moderate amount of telephoto capability.

The first image, which is also uncropped, shows my final view of the beaver before it dove and swam away under the boardwalk. Those of us of a certain generation can’t help but think of the Drifters’ song when we hear those words “under the boardwalk,” sparking memories of the days of summers past.

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To conclude my mini-series on the three local beavers who were temporarily flooded out of their lodge, I am posting an extreme close-up of one of them sleeping and a shot in which I zoomed out enough to show the entire body of a sleeping beaver.

This first shot is probably my favorite of the entire series. The beaver, of course, is really cute, but the slightly open mouth gives it an extra little whimsical touch of personality.

The second shots shows one of the beavers sound asleep, curled up in a ball, leaning against a stump. At the moment of the shot, the beavers were not snuggling as much as they would do a bit later (as in the first photo). I like the way in which you can see the beaver’s feet and tail in this image.

If you missed the earlier postings on my amazing close-up encounter with the three sleeping North American Beavers (Castor canadensis), check out my earlier postings—Snuggling beaver and Restive beaver. If you want to see a higher resolution view of the images (the first one has lots of fine details), click on the photos.

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Have you ever watched an animal sleep? I used to watch my dog sleep. He slept soundly, but sometimes a sound or a smell or a dream would wake him up. He would look around a little to reassure himself that all was well and then would put down his head and go back to sleep.

Yesterday, I did a posting on a trio of North American beavers (Castor canadensis) that had been temporarily flooded out of their lodge and were sleeping on dry land a short distance from their home. The general response to the photo in that posting was that the beaver seemed peaceful and content (and cute!) when sleeping.

Today, I am posting a few photos of the occasions when one of the beavers woke up and looked around, much like my dog used to do.  This is actually not the same beaver that was featured yesterday, although part of this beaver was visible in the photo yesterday. This beaver was the one on which the other beaver was leaning as it snuggled.

The first photo shows a pretty alert beaver, leaning on a stump around which the beavers were sleeping. I like the details that you can see of the fur and of the front paw. I was on a boardwalk at my local marshland park when I took these photos and was looking slightly down at the beavers. I was so close that I did not even have to use the full length of my zoom lens and, for example, shot the first photo with my lens at a focal length of 135mm.

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The second shot is somewhat similar to the first, but it shows part of the beaver’s tail. It was interesting to see how the beaver’s tail was tucked under the beaver when it was sleeping. I somehow had always assumed the tail was rigid—it seems to be reasonably flexible.

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The final image today is not quite as sharp as the first two, but I like it because of the way that it shows both a front and back paw, as well as the tail. The beaver also has a tousled look and somehow unfocused eyes, looking a lot like most of us do when we first wake up.

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I am still going over my photos and may post a few more, so stay tuned. I feel really lucky that I was able to see these beavers in this kind of situation in the wild and managed to capture it well enough in photos to be able to share part of the experience with all of you.

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Last Friday, after some violent thunderstorms, I visited my local marshland park, where the staff alerted me that three beavers were sleeping on a patch of dry land near their lodge, which apparently had flooded. The three North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) were all snuggled together and reminded me a little of puppies. I am working up some more images, but thought that I would give a sneak preview of coming attractions.

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To supplement their diets, the beavers at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. get crunchy vegetables like carrots and corn.

I had the chance to watch them eat this past weekend and took some fun photos of one of the beavers munching away on part of an ear of corn. This beaver, a female named Willow, was able to manipulate the corn really easily with her front paws and seemed to enjoy each bite as she slowly consumed the entire piece of corn.

I watched some videos on photographing animals at a zoo before this shoot and followed some of the tips, like shooting close-ups and paying attention to backgrounds. I did not, however, switch to shutter-priority mode, as suggested, but kept the camera in aperture-priority mode. I may have lost a few shots, because the shutter speed was too slow, but I was able to get decent results by using a more familiar approach.

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If you look carefully at this photo you can see why I am able to take photos of the local beavers—when I am standing on the boardwalk I am virtually on top of their lodge in the center of the beaver pond.

About 18 months ago, the county replaced the boardwalk surface at Huntley Meadows Park with a synthetic material and shortly thereafter the beavers relocated themselves from another area of the park. I am not sure how the beavers decided on this spot, but they took over one of the benches on the boardwalk and integrated it into their architectural plans. This fall I followed their progress as they added mud and branches to the lodge and built up the walls surrounding the beaver pond.

The entrance to the lodge seems to be underneath the board walk itself and the recent photos I have taken of the beavers and muskrats have been in the pond area to the right. This is also one of my favorite spots for photographing geese and ducks taking off and landing and, during the summer, for getting shots of dragonflies, frogs, and turtles.

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