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Posts Tagged ‘Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge’

On a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I stumbled upon a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) at the edge of a pond that was in the final stages of the process of emergence. The first photo shows the dragonfly only seconds after it popped open its wings for the first time—note how shiny and clear the fragile wings are at this stage. The second photo shows the dragonfly a few minutes earlier, when its wings were still closed and its markings were just beginning to appear.

The dragonfly remained in place for a few minutes as its wings began to harden. It then made a short fluttering flight to some nearby vegetation, a safer and less exposed location to rest and complete its amazing metamorphosis.

 

 

Common Baskettail

 

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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If you want a fun photographic challenge, try to photograph a dragonfly in flight. It is definitely a test of your skill and patience to track and photograph a subject this small (about 1.6 inches (41 mm) in this case) while it is flying past you. I captured this image of a male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Longtime readers of this blog know that I will try to photograph dragonflies in flight at least several times every season. Some dragonfly species, like this one, will hover a little at times, which gives me a slightly better chance of getting a shot that is in focus. My camera does not focus quickly and accurately enough for me to use autofocus, so I end up focusing manually most of the time.

This shot is unusual in that I managed to freeze all of the motion of the wings—most of the time the wings are blurry. If you click on the image to see it in higher resolution, you will also note the way that the Common Baskettail (and many other species) folds its legs up under its “chest” (technically it is called the “thorax”) while flying to minimize wind resistance.

For those of you who might be curious, I ended up cropping the original image significantly, because I took the photograph with “only” my 180 mm macro lens and the dragonfly was flying over the water—I would have to have been in the water to get any closer.

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was quite surprised and delighted to spot a male Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I thought I would have to wait another couple of weeks to find one of these tiny dragonflies that are only 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length, but perhaps our recent warm weather prompted this dragonfly to emerge early.

The Calico Pennant is one of a small group of dragonflies known as “pennants.” As you can see from these two images, pennant dragonflies like to perch on the very tips of flimsy stalks of vegetation where they are whipped about by the slightest breezes like pennants in the wind.

Calico Pennant

 

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I photographed this dragonfly on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I had no doubt in my mind that it was a Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura).  I had seen dragonflies of this species several times near that area of the refuge, including once earlier this year. Besides, what else could it be?

I got a quick response to that question when I posted a photo to the Virginia Odonata group, a Facebook forum devoted to dragonflies and damselflies. One viewer suggested that it looked more to him like a Slender Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca costalis) than a Common Baskettail. Eventually several experts weighed in and also opined that it looked like a male Slender Baskettail, though one acknowledged that it was difficult to make a definitive call based on my photos that he judged to be “suboptimal.”

So how do you tell the species apart? Slender Baskettails tend to have a narrower waist and are relatively slimmer, but the only way to know for sure is by the length of the cerci, the dark black terminal appendages at the tip of the abdomen (the “tail”). The cerci are longer on male Slender Baskettails than on Common Baskettails. (If you want to know more about dragonfly terminal appendages, check out a posting by fellow dragonfly enthusiast Walter Sanford entitled Dragonfly terminal appendages (male, female).)

The folks who suggested that this dragonfly is a Slender Baskettail did so on the basis of my photos, but that is not really a reliable method, because the angle and lighting can distort perceptions. How do you know for sure? One expert stated that “you can really only ID them by measuring the cerci which I do of a specimen under a microscope.” I may be a little geeky when it comes to dragonflies, but I am not about to measure a specimen’s anatomical parts with a microscope.

I am left therefore with a bit of a scientific mystery. Is it a Slender Baskettail or a Common Baskettail dragonfly? It might be a bit of heresy to some, but it does not really matter to me. I was simply happy to capture these cool photos of a beautiful creature.

Shakespeare’s words about a rose in “Romeo and Juliet” could easily be applied here, “A rose (or a dragonfly) by any other name would smell (or look) as sweet.”

 

Slender Baskettail

Slender Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I was thrilled yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot my first Blue Corporal dragonfly (Ladona deplanata) of the season. This little dragonfly—about 1.4 inches (36 mm) in length—is one of the earliest dragonflies to reappear each spring in my area and was one of my target species for the day.

If you look carefully at the upper part of the thorax (the “shoulders”) you can see the two light-colored stripes, the traditional military insignia for a corporal, that are responsible for the name of this species. Blue Corporals most often perch flat on the ground, which can make them really hard to spot when they land. In this case, the ground was so cluttered with dried reeds that I could barely detect the dragonfly’s wings. (You can see the wings more easily if you click on the image to enlarge it.)

Blue Corporal

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I was thrilled yesterday to spot this Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis) as I was wandering about in Occoquan Regional Park. This fascinating insect looks a lot like a bumblebee, but acts a lot like a hummingbird and hovers when it is feeding. Unlike a hummingbird that has a long pointed beak, members of this species have a long proboscis that they curl up when it is not in use, as you can see in the first photo.

The active little moth was very focused on the tiny violets and did not seem bothered by my presence, so I was able to move in quite close for these shots. However, the moth did not linger long on any flower, so I had to move quickly. I do not know how fast the moth was moving its wings, but the shutter speed for these photos was as high as 1/2000 of a second and there was still some wing blur. In case you are curious, Snowberry Clearwing Moths are about 1.25-2.0 inches (32–51 mm) in length.

 

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

Snowberry Clearwing Moth

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spent most of my time looking for birds during a trip last week to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I managed to capture the images of the bald eagles that I featured yesterday. The day had started off cool and overcast, more suitable for birds than for dragonflies, but when the sun finally broke through in the late afternoon, I decided to swing by a small pond on my walk back to the parking lot on the off chance that I might find a dragonfly.

My hunch paid off when I spotted this female Ashy Clubtail dragonfly (Phanogomphus lividus) perched low to the ground. At that moment I had my Tamron 150-600mm lens attached to my camera and that presented a challenge, because its minimum focusing distance is 8.9 feet (2.70 meters), so I had to back up. At that distance it is hard to locate and focus on a subject that is only 2 inches (50 mm) in length. Fortunately I have been in this situation before and I steadied myself, focused manually, and captured the first image before the dragonfly flew away.

Having established that there there was at least one dragonfly in the area, I switched to my Tamron 180mm macro lens, my preferred lens for dragonflies, and continued my search. A few minutes later I spotted another female Ashy Clubtail when it flew up into some low hanging vegetation and I captured the second image. There is a good chance that this was the same individual that I photographed earlier—both of them are pale in color, suggesting that they had only recently emerged from their larval state.

As I moved a little closer for the final shot, the dragonfly closed its wings overhead, reverting briefly to an earlier stage when it was in the process of emerging. I have seen this happen before when a newly emerged dragonfly, sometimes referred to as a teneral, flew for the first time and its wings were still in a very fragile state. At this point, I decided to stop shooting, fearful that I might spook this newly emerged dragonfly into flying at a time when she clearly needed to rest.

If you are unfamiliar with the amazing process that a dragonfly goes through in transforming itself from a water-dwelling nymph to an aerial acrobat, check out my blog posting called Metamorphosis of a dragonfly that documents the entire process in a series of photos.

Ashy Clubtail

Ashy Clubtail

Ashy Clubtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Perhaps these Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) were singing or maybe they were trying to scare off incoming osprey, but most importantly they were doing it together as a couple on a shared perch when I spotted them on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge at a moment when the skies were completely overcast.

Bald Eagles

 

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Both members of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple were active on Monday in and around the big nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—neither of them appeared to be sitting continuously in the nest.  Perhaps there are eaglets already, though the nest is so deep I could not see any little heads.

I captured this image as one of the eagles was making its final approach to land on the nest. I really like the position of the wings that help the eagle slow its forward progress and the way that the light coming from the side was illuminating the tail feathers.

I will be continuing to monitor this nest and the other one at the wildlife refuge for signs of baby eagles and hopefully will have the chance to capture some shots of them soon.

bald eagle

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I was pleasantly surprised last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to spot a few Zebra Swallowtail butterflies (Eurytides marcellus), including this one that posed momentarily for me. Generally this butterfly species is associated with the pawpaw tree, on which its larvae feed exclusively, but this one apparently spotted something of interest in the dry vegetation at the edge of the trail and decided to investigate it.

It is so exciting to see familiar spring species begin to reappear one-by-one.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the coolest spring birds in our area is the Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea), a tiny bird that is only slightly larger than a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I spotted this one last week in the trees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher has a distinctive call, so it is easy to know when one is around. Finding the bird, though, can be a real challenge because they are small, energetic, and spend a lot of time high in the trees. The trees are really starting to leaf out now, which adds another level of complexity to the challenge.

Several years ago I spotted a gnatcatcher’s nest (see my 2018 posting Gnatcatcher nest) and I am hoping to find one again this year. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers make their nests in a way that seems almost magical, using lichens and spiderwebs.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although it has been almost a week since I last posted an image of a bird, let me reassure you that I have not given up on them. At this time of the year, however, my attention is divided and I am just as likely to be hunting for tiny subjects with my macro lens as I am to be scanning the increasing leafy trees through my long telephoto zoom lens. When I start walking (and I do a lot of walking), I have to decide which lens I will initially put on my camera and that will largely dictate where I will look for subjects.

On Thursday, I went back to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to look for birds and was delighted to spot a small flock of Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo). Sometimes the turkeys that I see appear relatively small, but some of the members of this flock seemed enormous, like the one in the first photo. The turkeys were picking about at the edge of the trail on which I was walking and slowly made their way into the undergrowth as I approached. The motion was fast enough, though, that one of the turkey’s legs is blurred in the second photo.

I am hoping to be able to capture some images of springtime warblers and of baby eaglets, but the transition has already begun from mostly telephoto shots to mostly macro shots—it is part of my seasonal transition.

wild tukey

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to stroll along the shore—the rhythmic sound of the waves relaxes me and often puts me into a contemplative frame of mind. When I spotted this crow on a recent trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I couldn’t help but think that the crow too was lost in its thoughts and enjoying the same therapeutic benefits of a stroll at the water’s edge.

I must confess that I do not know my crows very well. I assume that this is an American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), but realize that it might instead be a Fish Crow (Corvus ossifragus). From what I have read, even experts sometimes have trouble visually distinguishing between the two species, though Fish Crows are substantially smaller than American Crows. Apparently some people can tell them apart by their calls, but this crow was silent, so I too will remain silent and simply identify the strolling bird as a crow.


crow

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It was cool and windy yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and most of the birds seemed to be taking refuge from the elements. I was therefore especially thrilled to spot and photograph my first warbler of the season, this Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica).

This is the time of the year when a lot of colorful warblers pass through our area on their northward migration. Many of the warbler stay for only a short time, so it is a hit-or-miss proposition for me to find them. This is also the time of the year when the trees are budding, flowering and pushing out new leaves. All of this new growth is beautiful, but it makes it harder for me to spot the little birds as they flit about, often at the tops of the trees.

We had some spring-like temperatures a week ago and I was walking around in a T-shirt or at most a sweatshirt. Yesterday, though, the day started with temperatures below freezing and eventually made it up to only 47 degrees (8 degrees C) with almost constant winds of 15 miles per hour making it feel much colder. I dug out my heavier coat, insulated boots, and thermal underwear and was comfortable walking about, though most of the wildlife seemed to have taken the much more commonsense approach of simply staying sheltered.

Yellow-throated Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The warm weather on Friday brought out a lot of turtles at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, including this group of Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta). I too enjoyed soaking up the sun, but felt more of a need to distance myself from other members of my species than these turtles did.

In terms of photography, I love the way that the red stripes on the turtles’ neck really stand out in an image made up of mainly muted colors. I thought of removing the leaf in the background, but decided that I liked the touch of whimsy that it added to the image.

Painted Turtles

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I spotted this Eastern Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta picta) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I immediately thought how apt a visual metaphor it was for our lives this past year. Surrounded by its protective shell, the turtle tentatively looked out at a hostile world, wondering if it was safe to stick out its neck and move forward.

It is still not completely safe, but conditions appear to be improving somewhat in many parts of the world. Yesterday I had my second Pfizer-BioNTech vaccination shot and I hope that as many people as possible will choose to get vaccinated when they have the chance.

In the meantime, we owe it to each other to continue to wear our masks, to wash our hands, and to practice social distancing. None of us really like these restrictions, but they will protect us as we await the day when we can all come out of our shells.

Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was watching an Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it hung upside down and nibbled on the buds of a tree when suddenly its back legs lost their grip. The squirrel was dangling from its front paws only when I snapped this shot.

Initially the squirrel continued to chew on the bud it was holding. Realizing perhaps the precariousness of its position, it eventually stopped eating and successfully scrambled back up into the tree.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I tend to be a bit obsessive about trying to get my subject in sharp focus when capturing wildlife images. So I was a little disappointed, but not surprised, when I saw that the focus in this shot of a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) was a bit soft. I was quite a distance away when I saw this little bird moving about in the tree branches on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and I was able to snap off only a couple of shots before it flew away.

The more I looked at this image, the more I have come to like it. There is something really pleasing about the bird’s upward-facing pose; the lighting around the chickadee; the out-of-focus background; the simple structure of the branches; and especially the spots of bright spring color in the flowering tree. This image conveys to me an overall feeling of the beauty of the emerging spring.

This type of shot also serves to remind me that photography is as much about art as it is about science, that it is ok to break whatever “rules” I choose to impose on myself. Beauty can be found in sharp, detailed photos, what I normally strive to create, but it can also be found in “artsy,” impressionistic images like this one.

What do you think? Does the soft focus on this chickadee bother you?

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday was a beautiful spring day and I finally managed to photograph my first butterfly of the year, a Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) that I spotted in the underbrush at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Within the past two weeks I have had several sightings of larger butterflies that overwinter as adults, including the Mourning Cloak and the Question Mark/Eastern Comma butterflies, but was unable to capture images of them.

This little butterfly almost certainly emerged recently from a chrysalis and is a female, judging from the two black spots on each of the forewings (males have a single spot on each forewing). Cabbage White butterflies, known by many different names, originated in Europe and have now spread to many parts of the world including Australia and New Zealand, according to Wikipedia.

I look at the butterfly as a beautiful little creature, but in its caterpillar form it is considered to be a dangerous agricultural pest that is responsible for large-scale damage to the cruciferous plants on which it voraciously feeds. As adults, however, Cabbage Whites butterflies feed on nectar from many flowers, including dandelions, red clover, asters, mint, and strawberries and do not cause any damage.

 

Cabbage White

Cabbage White

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some of the newly-returned Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were busy on Friday building or renovating their nests. In past years I have seen ospreys make nests in a wide range of locations, both natural as well as man-made. This osprey was ferrying out sticks to a nest on a distant channel marker in the bay, where its mate waited patiently for each new delivery.

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I turned my head instinctively when I heard a splash in the water yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge? What had made the splash? There were no logs on which a turtle might have been sunning, so I assumed it was one of the many diving ducks that have spent the winter with us. I watched and waited for the duck to resurface so that I could identify its species.

Imagine my surprise when a furry rather than feathered head broke the surface of the water from below. I only had to hesitate a second before I decided that it was a muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) rather than a North American Beaver (Castor canadensis). Why? It was midday and beavers are generally active only at dawn and dusk; the animal was really small and beavers tend to be a lot bigger in size; and I had a really good look at the tail that was a long, thin “rattail” and not flat like a beaver’s tail.

In the past most of the muskrats that I have seen swimming have kept their tails in the water, often using it for propulsion. Maybe this muskrat was simply treading water, watching me as I watched it. It has been a long time since I have seen a muskrat, so this sighting was a nice treat for me.

Muskrat

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Some people find Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) to be creepy, but I think they are handsome in their own way and fill a useful function in keeping our roads at least partially free from carrion. I spotted quite a few Turkey Vultures on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some clustered on the ground and some circling in the skies.

The two vultures in the first photo were part of a group of five that were spread across a trail near the partial remains of what looks to have been some kind of animal. I did not want to disturb them, so I gave them a wide berth and continued on my way after capturing the image.

I had no such worry with the vulture in the second shot that was effortless soaring overhead and did not seem disturbed at all by my presence. It probably was my imagination, but at times it seems like the vulture was tracking me. I think I watched too many cowboy movies as a child in which a lost cowboy stumbled through the desert as vultures circled overhead, waiting for him to die.

Turkey Vultures

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds return silently in the spring and you have to search hard to find them. Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus), on the other hand, make their presence known as they soar overhead, often calling out in their loud, high-pitched voices that the Cornell Lab of Ornithology compared to “the sound of a whistling kettle taken rapidly off a stove.”

I spotted only a few ospreys yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, some of which I managed to photograph, but know from experience that they are only the advance guard of a larger group of osprey that will arrive soon and begin to build or repair their nests. As you may notice in the second photo, trees in our area are being to produce buds and it won’t be long before leaves begin to complicate my efforts to spot birds.

Osprey

osprey

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It was early in the morning when I spotted this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Utterly fascinated, I watched the eagle methodically preening, moving from one area of its body to another, adjusting the feathers and removing some small wispy ones. When you are a national symbol, I guess you have to try to look majestic at all times.

This particular eagle was pretty relaxed and I managed to walk almost underneath the overhanging branch without disturbing it. If you look carefully at the final photo, you can tell that I was shooting almost straight up in order to get the shot. Remarkably the eagle remained in place when I continued on my way down the trail. I would like to be able to claim that I was really stealthy in my movements, but I think it was more likely that the eagle was simply willing to tolerate my presence, of which he was undoubtedly aware.

Bald Eagle

 

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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Frost covered the ground early on Tuesday morning when I arrived at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The first creature that I spotted was an Eastern Cottontail rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) foraging in the wintery grass that has not yet turned green. The sunlight was soft and low, making the bunny glow.

It was a wonderfully gentle way to begin a new day.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

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It was great on Tuesday to see that some Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) have returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One was even checking out the local real estate market and was shocked at how expensive housing rentals are in this area.

In the wild, Tree Swallows nest in tree cavities, but they seem to adapt readily to using nesting boxes, like the one in the final photo. At this spot of the refuge there are two nesting boxes and each year there seems to be a competition between Tree Swallows and Easter Bluebirds for their use.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Tree Swallows winter farther north than any other American swallows and return to their nesting grounds long before other swallows come back. They can eat plant foods as well as their normal insect prey, which helps them survive the cold snaps and wintry weather of early spring.”

Welcome back, beautiful little swallows.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I do not know about the reactions of the lady turkeys, but I was mighty impressed by the display of this male Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) early yesterday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A lot of male birds go to great lengths to impress and attract females during the early spring, but this wild turkey’s presentation might take the prize for being so flamboyant and ostentatious. I guess he has truly embraced the motto, “Go big or go home.”

Wild Turkey

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When you look through the photos on my blog, you might get the mistaken impression that I have some magical power over birds, because your view of them is rarely obstructed by branches. I have a confession to make—those photos are not accurate representations of the way that I see birds most of the time. Today’s image of a beautiful little Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) provides a more typical view of the way that I see birds in the wild as they move about in the thickets and underbrush foraging for food, rarely providing me with a good look.

Despite all of the branches that blocked my view, I managed to capture quite a lot of the kinglet’s details in this shot, including a sliver of its golden “crown,” a close look at its legs and feet as the small bird was hanging from a leaf, and some of the texture of the layers of feathers. I highly encourage you to click on the image to get a better looks at these wonderful detail. As you look at this bird, keep in mind that it is one of the smallest songbirds in my area, with a length of 3.1-4.3 in (8-11 cm) and a weight of 0.1-0.3 oz (4-8 g), according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I am fond of saying that beauty is everywhere, and I believe that to be true. Sometimes, though, you might not see it at first glance. If you slow down and look beyond those things that threaten to block your view, you may discover beauty hidden among the branches.

 

Golden-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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How good are you at identifying a bird by its silhouette? When you are shooting directly into the light, one of the challenges of photographing a bird is that many of the details, or even all of them, disappear into the shadows—you often have to rely more on the shapes than the colors to identify the bird.

I could not see the eyes or any of the facial features of this bird that I spotted last Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but its long bill and distinctive “punk rock” head feathers made it relatively easy to identify it as a Male Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator), a type of diving duck that I see only occasionally. For the record, the white collar also helped in making the identification.

Red-breasted Mergansers are one of the bird species that spend their winters with us. I suspect that it will not be long before they depart for more more northern locations for the breeding season.

 

Red-breasted Merganser

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For the last six weeks or so, I have been monitoring two Bald Eagle couples (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as they have repaired and renovated two different nests. On Saturday morning I made my way to one of them and was delighted to see an eagle sitting low in the nest. I cannot be completely certain, but I think that the eagle is sitting on one or more eggs. If true, the eaglets should hatch in about 35 days or so.

This relatively small nest was damaged last summer when it looks like one of the supporting branches broke off and half of the nest fell to the ground. I observed some of the reconstructions efforts and documented it in an early February posting called Rebuilding the nest. It looks to me like the nest has grown considerably in size since that time.

This nest is located in a sycamore tree just off one of the major trails at the wildlife refuge. Each year the authorities block off all of the nearby roads to allow the eagles to nest in peace. The final photo shows the tree in which the nest is located and the current barrier across the trail from which I took the first photo. A telephoto lens tends to compress distances, so it is hard to judge exactly how far away the tree is from the barrier—I estimate that it is about a hundred yards (91 meters).

I will continue to keep an eye on this nest and hopefully will manage to get a glimpse of some eaglets in the upcoming months. Last year I believe that there was only a single eaglet (check out my May 2020 posting entitled One little eaglet), although in past years there were often two eaglets (check out this April 2018 posting called Baby bald eagles for a look at two adorable little eaglets).

Bald Eagle nest

Bald Eagle nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I really enjoy posting photos here on my blog because I have the freedom to post multiple images and spend as much time and text as I want talking about them—most other forms of social media have implicit or explicit limits on the content. I post a subset of my blog content on my personal Facebook page and in several Facebook groups.

Many of these Facebook groups are very specialized and are full of experts. I actually prefer to post to groups that are aimed more towards generalists who have a broad interest in nature and wildlife. One of my favorites is called “Nature Lovers of Virginia” and I was thrilled when one of my recent photos of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was selected as the banner photo for the group for the month of March. The enclosed photo shows the banner photo as it looks in Facebook.

I take photos mostly for my own enjoyment, but do love to share them with others. It is a nice plus to get a little recognition from time to time.

banner image

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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