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Posts Tagged ‘Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge’

Can dragonflies smile? It sure looked like this male Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) was flashing me a toothy grin when I spotted him last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Perhaps it was just my imagination, running away with me.

smiling dragonfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Although Calico Pennant dragonflies (Celithemis elisa) are quite small, about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length, they pack a lot of color into their tiny bodies and wings. Adult females have bright yellow markings, as shown in the first photo, and wonderful designs on their wings that appear to be outlined in gold when the sun hits them from the right angle. Adult males have bright red markings that look almost like little hearts and have similarly detailed patches on their wings, although the pattern and colors are different from those of the females.

What about the dragonfly in the third photo? Its coloration is similar to that of the adult female, but it is in fact a juvenile male that will eventually turn red. How can I tell it is a male? If you look closely at the tips of the abdomen (the “tail”) in all three images, you will note that the terminal appendages are similar in the final two photos and are different from those in the first photo. Normally I will try to rely on those anatomical features when trying to tell the gender of a subject, because in quite a large number of dragonfly species, juvenile males and females have the same coloration.

I spotted all three of these Calico Pennant dragonflies during a visit last Friday to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite places to spend time with my camera. This refuge was one of the few facilities in our area to remain open during the stay-home period and got a bit too crowded for my taste. Now that other parks have reopened, the number of visitors has dropped to much lower levels and I am able to enjoy the solitude of nature once again.

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

Calico Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There was only a single water lily in bloom at a pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last week, but its beauty brightened the entire area and brought a smile to my face. Water lilies are one of the reasons why Claude Monet is one of my favorite painters.

Monet did some 250 oil paintings of water lilies (“Nymphéas” in French), many depicting the garden at his home in Giverny, and they were the main focus of his artistic production during the last thirty years of his like, according to Wikipedia.

 

water lily

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Skipper butterflies are common and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) are common too, but what a lovely combination they made when I spotted them together on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

skipper and susan

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was really happy that I was able to track this Swamp Darner dragonfly (Epiaeschna heros) after it zoomed by me yesterday afternoon at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When I finally caught up to it, the large dragonfly was hanging vertically, high in a tree among the leaves, leisurely munching on its bee lunch in the shade.

Yes, I recognize that bees play an important role as pollinators and highlighted that in yesterday’s posting. Bees, however, also serve as a food source for other creatures higher up on the food chain—they are all part of the circle of life.

Swamp Darners are among the largest dragonflies in our area, about 3.4 inches (86 mm) in length. I really like the description that Kevin Munroe provided of Swamp Darners on the wonderful Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website. “I often tell people on dragonfly walks that if they see a rhino with wings, it’s a swamp darner. Slight exaggeration, perhaps, but they are pretty impressive. June is their month and the best time to see them, as they cruise, slow and purposefully, over shallow, swampy pools, or hunt high over nearby meadows.”

 

Swamp Darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It has been a month since I visited the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where I spotted an eaglet on 19 May and wrote a posting entitled “One little eaglet.” Yesterday I traveled to the refuge to check on the baby eagle and was a little surprised to find that the authorities had removed the barriers that had blocked access to the nesting area, which is adjacent to a trail. Did this mean that the eaglet had fledged and the family had left the nest?

I was happy to discover that the eaglet was still there, has grown considerably in size over the past month, and was sitting tall at one edge of the nest. The leaf coverage has also grown, making it pretty tough to get an unobstructed view of the little eagle. The vegetation also hid the presence of one of the parent eagles that flew away to a nearby grove of trees when I approached.

It is somehow reassuring to see that the cycle of life has continued undisturbed as our lives have been turned upside down by the global pandemic. I celebrate the new life of this young eagle and all of the other creatures who have begun their lives this spring and wish them success as they learn to navigate the challenges of their lives.

 

Bald Eagle eaglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This is the time of the year when warblers are moving through the area in which I live and bird photographers have been congregating at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, a local hotspot for warblers and other birds that, unlike many other parks, has been open during this shutdown. Not wanting to risk contact with so many people, I have been avoiding this refuge for the most part, even though it is my favorite place to take photos.

Last week, though, I made a trip to the wildlife refuge on a weekday morning when the weather was less than optimal. As I had hoped, the weather kept most of the other photographers away and I was able to visit some of my favorite spots. I checked out several osprey nests, hoping to see some baby ospreys. The ospreys were no longer sitting on any of the nests, but I could not tell if there were baby ospreys in them or not.

Peering through the branches near one nest, I spotted this perched Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a fish in its talons. The osprey was at the stage of consumption when quite often it will take the remaining portion to its mate. I never did see its mate, but was happy to capture this shot before the osprey flew away.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Last week I featured an actual mud turtle, but today’s muddy turtles  are actually Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) that appear to have been painted with a coating of mud. The last few months we have had a lot of unusually cool weather, and I think the turtles have been spending a lot of time in the mud at the bottom of the ponds. Last week the weather improve  and there were turtles in all kinds of places at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge trying to absorb the warmth of the sun.

The pose of the first two turtles brings to mind a well-known scene from the movie Titanic in which Jack and Rose (Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet) were standing at the railing at the prow of the ship. I must confess that I spent 4+ hours watching the movie on television last Sunday night, which may be why the scene is so fresh in my mind. Yeah, I’m a bit of a romantic.

I encountered the second Painted Turtle as it was slowly making its way across a trail at the wildlife refuge. In addition to noting the large amount of fresh mud still on its shell, I was delighted by the way the two little leaf fragments on its shell matched the yellow markings on its neck.
Painted Turtle

Painted Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Tuesday I spotted these rather scruffy-looking non-breeding male Indigo Buntings (Passerina cyanea) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. One viewer in a birding forum on Facebook commented, “He won’t get a date looking like that.”

I sort of expected all male Indigo Buntings to have a color that rivals or surpasses that of a male Eastern Bluebird—I had never before encountered the mottled coloration of a non-breeding male. For the sake of comparison, I have included as a final photograph an image that I captured in August 2017 of a breeding male Indigo Bunting on a sunflower. Click this link if you would like to see the final photo in the context of the original posting in which it was one of the featured images.

 

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

Indigo Bunting

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Tuesday I spotted this beautiful female Calico Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa) during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  I always love to see the wonderfully patterned wings of this dragonfly species and the first shot provides a good view of the wing details, especially if you click on the image to enlarge it.

In the second image, I focused primarily on the dragonfly’s head and body and the wings are mostly out of focus. I love the way that you can see the dragonfly’s tiny feet and the tenuous grasp they have on the fuzzy plant stem from which the dragonfly is hanging.

Calico Pennant

calico pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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No matter how many times that I see an Eastern Mud Turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum), I am always shocked by the disproportionately large size of its head. When I spotted this one on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I remember wondering if it was physically possible for the turtle to withdraw its head into its shell. The turtle was standing in the middle of a wide trail, apparently in the process of crossing the trail. Although the mud turtle seemed to be fully aware of my presence, it appeared to be totally unfazed and merely gave me a sidewards glance as it waited for me to pass.

Given the circumstances in which we now live, I think we all could use some of the patience and imperturbability of this little creature.

 

 

Eastern Mud Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) at a prominent nesting site at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were late this year in nesting and I feared that they might not have any babies. I was therefore thrilled yesterday to discover that there is now an eaglet in the nest when I returned to that part of the refuge for the first time in a couple of months.

Authorities at the refuge set up barriers to keep the nesting eagles from being disturbed, so I had to observe the nest from a long way off. When I first arrived at the barrier yesterday, I could not tell if there were any eaglets. However, I noted that one of the parent eagles was perched on a limb above and to the right of the nest. In the past, I learned that when eaglets start to grow, there is no longer any room for a parent in the nest, so having one parent keeping guard near the nest was a positive sign.

I waited and waited and eventually the other parent eagle flew in and perched on a limb above and to the left of the nest. I was peering though my fully-extended telephoto zoom lens and noticed a dark shape pop up in the middle of the nest shortly after the second parent arrived. When I looked at my shots afterwards, I confirmed that there was an eaglet in the nest.

In the first shot, it looks like the eaglet was calling to its parent, although I did not hear a sound, or maybe was indicating it was hungry. I pulled back my zoom lens to its widest setting for the second shot, in which you can see both eagle parents and the eaglet in the nest in the center (you may want to click on the image to see more details).

I think that there is only one eaglet this year, though I can’t be absolutely certain. In past years there have been either one of two eaglets in this nest. Now that I know that there is a new little eaglet, I will probably try to return to the site to monitor its progress over the upcoming weeks and months.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year there are still so few dragonflies around that I will try to photograph almost every single one that I see. Sometimes that involves photographing them when they are flying, as I showed in a posting earlier today. At other times, I am forced to shoot them when they are a long way away, as was this case with the male Common Whitetail dragonfly (Plathemis lydia) in the photo below.

I had already made one loop around Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge looking primarily for insects and decided to switch to my telephoto zoom lens and focus on looking for birds during a second loop. When I was walking past a small pond, however, I spotted the dragonfly flying over the water. I could tell that it was a Common Whitetail, a species that perches fairly often, so I decided to see if it would land.

Eventually the dragonfly perched atop some thick vegetation not far from the water’s edge. Unfortunately the area between the two of us was marshy and there was no way that I could get any closer. Even with the lens cranked out to its longest length (600mm), the dragonfly filled only a small portion of the frame.

I decided to try to treat the shot like a landscape and include the water of the pond in the background and the curling stem on which the dragonfly was perched in the foreground. I am pretty happy with the way the shot turned out, a kind of environmental portrait of the Common Whitetail dragonfly.

Common Whitetail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do you like to challenge yourself? I like to try to photograph moving subjects. It is not easy, even when it is a large bird like a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), but it is even more difficult when it is a small dragonfly, like this Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) that I photographed last Wednesday at Ococoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The dragonfly was patrolling over a small pond and at certain moments would hover for a split second before continuing. It took quite a few attempts, but eventually I was able to capture this image, which is cropped from a much larger image that came out of my camera.

Different photographers use different techniques to capture shots of flying dragonflies. I personally use my 180mm macro lens and focus manually, because the autofocus on the lens is notoriously slow and has trouble achieving focus with such a small subject. Every year I try this same challenge, often multiple times, so with a little luck and a lot of patience and persistence, I hope to be able to do more postings of dragonflies in flight in the upcoming months.

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever stopped to look closely at grasshoppers? They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. I spotted this elongated one with fluted, unicorn-like antennae this past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I knew that I had seen one like this before, but could not recall its name. After some research, I rediscovered that it is the colorfully-named Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper (Leptysma marginicollis).

If you try chasing grasshoppers, you will discover that they often stay in place after the first hop, giving you a chance to examine them for a moment before they hop away.

So whether you are in your backyard or in a park, be sure to check out the grasshoppers. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the earliest dragonflies to emerge in the spring in our area is the Blue Corporal (Ladona deplanata). Adult males are bluish in color and both the male and the female have two white stripes on their thoraxes in an area that you might think of as their shoulders. In the military of the United States, the rank insignia for corporals is two stripes, which accounts for that portion of the common name for the species.

The dragonfly in the first photo is a female Blue Corporal. She will remain that tan color for her entire life. If you look closely at the very tip of her abdomen (the “tail”) and compare it with the same area of the dragonfly in the second image, you can probably see some physiological differences. This is often the best way to tell the gender of a dragonfly.

The dragonfly in the second photo is a newly emerged male Blue Corporal, a stage known as teneral. During this stage, the wings are very clear and shiny and are very fragile. As the male matures, he will gradually turn bluish in color. His corporal stripes may turn light blue and eventually fade away.

You probably noted that the male Blue Corporal is perched flat on the ground—this is the most frequent perching position for this species. I was a little surprised that the female in the first photo was perching vertically a few inches above the ground, but I am not complaining, because it gave me a better chance to get a photo of her wings.

It is still a bit early in the season for dragonflies, so I was really happy to spot these two on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge is still open and there were a number of other cars in the parking lot when I arrived. All of the other visitors, though, seemed to be either birding or walking in other areas of the refuge, leaving me the chance to muck about at the edge of a small pond all by myself, safely distanced from human contact.

Blue Corporal

Blue Corporal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I am not sure what kind of insect this male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) had caught, but he seemed pretty proud of himself yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When I first spotted him, the bluebird was perched on the roof of a nesting box. I suspect that there may be a female and possibly babies inside the nesting box and the male was serving as a deliveryman. 

As I moved slightly to try to get a better angle, the bluebird flew to a nearby tree, still holding the worm/caterpillar in its mouth. I quickly realized that he did not like me being around , so I took a quick shot of him in the tree and left him in peace to complete his delivery.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first got interested in photographing birds, Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) were one of my favorites. They were large, easy to find, and cooperative subjects. Rather than fly away when they sensed my presence, they would often remain in place. That tendency, I learned, was both a blessing and a curse. It is easier to photograph a bird when it is stationary, but eventually I wanted to capture action and Great Blue Herons, I learned, have endless patience—they can stay motionless for a really long time before they strike, often longer than I was willing to wait.

I still love to see Great Blue Herons and spotted this one earlier this month during a trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The heron seemed restless and was slowly slogging its way through the vegetation. Perhaps it was hunting or maybe it was just relocating to another spot. In any case, it was wonderful to see and photograph one of my old familiar favorites.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year I often hear the distinctive singing of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (Polioptila caerulea), but I rarely get a clear view of these tiny birds. I like the way the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website describes these birds, “The nasal, wheezy, rambling song and insistent, squeaky calls are great first clues to finding them, particularly as these tiny birds can get lost in the generally taller habitats used in the eastern part of their range.” If you are interested in hearing samples of the different calls and songs of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, click this link to another part of the same website.

Once I have heard the singing, I begin to scan the foliage near the top of top of a tree and if I am lucky I will detect some motion. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers like to flick their tails from side to side to scare up insects and then the gnatcatchers chase after them. Strangely, though, gnats do not form a significant part of their diet. So, in addition to being small (about 4 inches (10 cm) in length), they are almost always moving—that makes it quite a challenge to photograph one.

I was therefore quite thrilled to capture this image last Friday of a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I had been tracking this bird for a while as it moved about from one patch of leaves to another and was more or less ready when it popped out of the foliage onto this small branch.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I never fail to be entranced by the striking blue eyes of a Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the time when I spot cormorants, they are in the deep waters and their eyes are too far away to be seen. Even when they are a bit closer, the eyes are often hidden by shadows.

On this occasion, however, the cormorant was in a small pond, so I was able to track it easily after I spotted it. On one of its dives the cormorant popped up within range of my camera and turned into the light for a moment before it submerged itself again, allowing me to get this shot with a clear view of its sparkling blue eyes.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It has been almost a month since I last checked in on the Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Last month they were busy collecting materials to build or repair their nests. Last Friday I spotted several nests that had grown considerably in size and the ospreys in the nests appeared to be sitting on their eggs.

I captured this image when one of the sitting ospreys had lifted her head to the sky, looking with hopeful expectation for her mate to return. Maybe he would be bringing her a fresh fish or perhaps he would be spelling her a bit from her maternal duties or could it be that she simply longer for his presence.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Does the pressure of confinement/isolation/social distancing weigh you down? I know that I definitely feel that way at times. What I found on Friday morning, though, was that I felt totally free and uninhibited when I was chasing after this Zebra Swallowtail butterfly (Protographium marcellus). From a distance I must have looked like a madman as I ran back and forth and in circles trying to stay close to this butterfly.

It was more than just hoping and passively waiting—I put all of my energy into my childlike desire to to get a closer look at this beautiful butterfly. Maybe one of the secrets to handling the stresses inherent in today’s crises is to seek pleasure in simple joyful activities, like chasing a butterfly.

Zebra Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Friday morning, the temperature was only 38 degrees F (3 degrees C), so I abandoned my macro lens, assuming that insects would not be active, and switched back to my telephoto zoom lens. I returned to my favorite location, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (OBNWR), to look for birds. This location is relatively remote and has few amenities, which means that it is rarely crowded—there have been times in the past when my car was the only one in the parking lot. Unlike many parks in our area, OBNWR remains open and it has become my place of refuge.

It has been almost a month or so since my last visit, so I was not sure which birds would be active. As you may have seen in yesterday’s posting, some warblers are now passing through our area. While it is nice to welcome these colorful visitors, I was perhaps even happier to spot some of my favorite year-round residents, the Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). There are at least two active eagle nests in the refuge and one of the volunteers there told me that there is already an eaglet in one of the nests.

I captured these two images not far from the nest with the eaglet, so it is quite possible that at least one of these eagles is a parent. The early morning sunshine was quite beautiful and I love the way that it illuminated the side of the eagle’s face in the first image. The second image gives you an idea of the amount of leaves now on the trees, which makes it difficult to spot birds, especially the smaller ones. Fortunately the white coloration of the bald eagles and ospreys and their large size makes it hard for them to hide completely.

It is reassuring to see that the cycle of life is continuing normally in nature even when our lives have been completely disrupted and most of us are confined and/or in isolation.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is warbler season now where I live. This can be a frustrating time of the year for me, because the arrival of these colorful migrating birds coincides with the re-leafing of the trees. I can hear the warblers and occasionally get a glimpse of their bright colors through the leaves, but it is rare for me to get a clear shot of one.

Yesterday, I was thrilled to capture this image of a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I started to track this bird as it was moving about in the foliage and was fortunate to be ready when it paused for a split second in the open. I did not plan this particular composition, but it worked out really nicely with the shapes of the branches on the right side of the image and the mostly out of focus leaves on the left.

This image speaks of spring to me. Happy Spring to those in the Northern Hemisphere and hopefully those experiencing autumn in the Southern Hemisphere will also enjoy the bright springtime colors.

 

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When they are mating, many dragonflies adopt a very conspicuous heart-shaped “wheel” position, like this pair of Common Green Darner dragonflies (Anax junius) that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The process begins when the male, in this case the dragonfly with the blue abdomen, grabs a female by the back of her neck with claspers at the end of his abdomen that fit into species-specific grooves in the female. The two dragonflies are then hooked together, often for extended periods of time.

I couldn’t help but notice the sharp thorns on the branch that these dragonflies had selected for their encounter. Yikes—that is living life on the edge. After I took some photos, feeling a little like a voyeur, I decided to give the couple some privacy. When I circled back a short time time later, the dragonflies were gone, presumably having done their part to perpetuate the species.

common green darner

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It is still really early in the dragonfly season in my area, so each one that I am fortunate enough to spot is special to me. I was therefore thrilled to photograph this male Common Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca cynosura) on Monday as it was hanging vertically from the leaves of a small tree at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If you double-click on the image, you can see the dragonfly’s tiny feet with which it is clinging to the leaf.

Most of the times in the past when I have seen members of this species, they have been flying out of reach of my camera. According to the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website, Common Baskettails are hard to spot because they are small with mostly clear wings and spend much of their time hovering high over clearings, making them “probably our least seen “common” dragonfly.”

Common Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The sun had just risen when I arrived last Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. How, I wondered could I possibly capture my impressions of those wonderful moments as the new day was dawning?

I hastened to capture an image while the sun was still low on the horizon and grabbed the first photo below while standing at the edge of the parking lot. There was a soft mist lingering over the fields and in my second shot, I worked to capture the stillness and serenity that I was feeling.

When I finally arrived at the shore, the sky and the water seemed to be almost the same color with a narrow, darker strip of land separating the too. I immediately thought of the moody, minimalist landscape shots that Michael Scandling regularly features in AMAGA Photography Blog. Michael likes to coax each pixel into submission and I confess that I did not work on my final image as much as he would have, but it is a kind of homage to his wonderful work.

So there you have it, three distinctive images that together give you a sense of what I was seeing and feeling in the early morning hours, a time of day that is perfect for introspection and reflection.

sunrise at Occoquan Bay

sunrise at Occoquan Bay

sunrise at Occoquan Bay

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Sometimes Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) will renovate preexisting nests, but often they have to build one from scratch. This osprey couple that I spotted recently at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge was trying to build one in what seemed to be a rather precarious location.

I learned about the location of the nest only when I spotted an osprey flying by me with a stick in its talons. In my zeal to track the osprey, I neglected to pull back on my zoom lens, so I ended up cutting off its wing tips in the first image in which the osprey is delivering the stick. In the second image, you can see the nest-to-be as the osprey attempts to arrange the sticks. The final shot shows the osprey arriving at the nesting site with another stick. I like the way that the osprey almost hovered in order to land softly with its delivery.

I don’t know it the osprey couple will manage to jam enough sticks in the crook of the tree to be able to form a stable nest, but I will be sure to check their progress in future visits, as long as the wildlife refuge continues to stay open.

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Oh what a beautiful morning, oh what a beautiful day, I’ve got a beautiful feeling everything’s going my way.” I started my Thursday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge with this handsome Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) who seemed to be serenading me.

If you have ever heard the squawk of a Great Blue Heron, you know why it is best that there is no soundtrack. Instead, I recommend that you click on this link to a YouTube video of the song that I cited in my opening sentence from the classic 1955 movie “Oklahoma”—it is guaranteed to brighten your day.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Land prices are so high here in Northern Virginia that you have to be creative. Yesterday I spotted this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) couple building their tiny house on one of the boundary channel markers off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

The osprey perched in the back, which I believe is the female, remained in place while the other osprey flew off to forage for building materials. Sometimes they were only small twigs, but occasional the male osprey would return with a fairly long branch, as in the second photo. In the third shot, the male osprey has successfully landed with the long branch, but has not yet let go of it.

Multiple osprey couples are busily constructing nests all of “my” wildlife refuge and I hope to be able to share some images of their constructions sites.

 

Osprey

Osprey

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even though we were at more than an acceptable social distance, this Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) seemed to be communicating a message to me with its direct eye contact on Saturday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge—something like, “Please leave so I can continue working on my nest.”

Most of the time I will try to avoid photographing a bird head-on, because it has the potential to distort its features a lot. With this osprey, though, I think it worked out pretty well, perhaps because of the size and shape of its head.

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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