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Posts Tagged ‘Sialia sialis’

To crop or not to crop? Quite often I will crop my photos of small birds so that the bird is more prominent in the frame. This is especially the case when the background is cluttered.

Last Thursday, I captured an image of a male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) in which the background was not at all cluttered. The bluebird was perched on a the skeleton-like branches of a small tree. The composition of my image was more or less as you see in the first shot below, with the tree centered in the frame and lots of “white space” surrounding the subject.

What do you think? I cropped the same image closer for the second image below, with the bird now larger in the frame and pushed to the right a bit, almost following the “rule-of-thirds” guidelines. Do you like the second image better?

As a final experiment, I did a square crop that retained some of the symmetry of the first image, but chopped the branches off on both sides. From an artistic perspective, I like the first image best, but suspect that the third image might be the most popular with the majority of viewers.

So do you have a preference for one image over the others? Does the aspect ration make a difference for you? In case you are curious, the aspect ratios of the three photos were 3:2, 5:4, and 1:1. Different social media platforms display images differently, so the same photo might have a different “feel” when posted on different platforms. I know, for example, that Facebook will sometimes add a color border to the sides of some of my images or display the image with a crop.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I wish that I could say that I planned this cool image of an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) in flight, but the truth is that I did not even know that I had taken a shot like this until I was reviewing my shots this morning from yesterday’s visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Most of the time when I am photographing birds, even those that are perched, I shoot in short bursts to try to capture different head and wing positions. In this case, the bluebird must have taken off as I was depressing the shutter button. In most situations like this, the resulting image is out of focus or shows only the back side of the departing bird.

Yesterday, however, I was very lucky and the bluebird flew to the side and remained more or less in focus. In wildlife photography, luck almost always plays some role in getting good images—yesterday it played a major role.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Bluebirds always make me happy and I will rarely pass up an opportunity to photograph one—I simply love that complementary color combination of blue and orange. I was doubly delighted on Tuesday to capture this image of an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) perched on branches that formed a natural frame that highlighted his beauty.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When there is an abundance of berries, how does a bird decide which one to eat first? I thought that a bird would select the one that was closest to it. However, when I watched an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) last Friday in a patch of sumac at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I realized that it had a different criterion for selecting berries.

I captured this little sequence of photos that showed a bluebird reaching down and carefully selecting a single berry that met its unstated criteria. After holding the berry in its beak momentarily, the bluebird swallowed the berry and, judging from the final berry, seemed to enjoy its flavor before choosing another one.

I am absolutely delighted to see bluebirds at this time of the year, when the number of birds has been steadily decreasing. These little birds, along with Northern Cardinals, add a burst of color during the long, gray days of the winter months.

bluebird

Bluebird

Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to take photographs of large powerful raptors, like the Bald Eagle and the Red-tailed Hawk that I featured recently in blog postings. However, I am equally happy to capture images of the small birds that I often hear, but have trouble spotting. This past Monday I spotted these little birds as I wandered about at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. None of the shots are particularly spectacular, but I find that there is incredible beauty in the details of these little birds.
I can’t help but be reminded of some of the words of a hymn that we occasionally sing at church called “All Things Bright and Beautiful” that was written by Cecil Frances Alexander.
“All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.”
You may be familiar with some of these birds, but in case you need a reminder, they are an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis); a Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa); a Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata); and a Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis).
Eastern Bluebird
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Carolina Chickadee
© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Generally I prefer to photography my wildlife subjects in natural surrounding and often try to frame my shots so that they do not include manmade elements. During a recent visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I inadvertently spooked a small bird, which looks to me to be a juvenile Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), and I watched as it flew to a tall wooden post. I looked at it as a mixed blessing, because I had a clear view of the bird, even though the perch was manmade.

I captured this image when the bluebird turned its head to look at me. I really like the way that the composition of this modest little image turned out. I remember moving a bit to make sure that the sky was in the background, but hadn’t really counted on the background being as pleasantly blurred as it is. The wires and other hardware attached to the post add some additional visual interest to the foreground without being too distracting.

 

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As winter progresses, the sumac plants are slowly being picked clean by the birds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, but there are still plenty of berries that attract several species, including one of my favorites, Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis).  Each time that I visit the refuge, I make sure to check out the patches of sumac at several different locations and last Tuesday I was delighted to spot some colorful bluebirds at one of them.

I love to watch the bluebirds zooming in and out of the stalks of sumac. Much of the time they have their heads down, mostly blocked from view, but occasionally I will get a clear shot of one when it lifts its head. I especially like the pose in the first photo, in which the bluebird has its head cocked to the side, giving us a wonderful view of its profile. In the second image, I like the way that you can see the blurry second bird in the background, which, based on its coloration, could be the mate of the male in the foreground.

Best wishes to you all for a Happy Valentine’s Day, however you choose to celebrate (or not to celebrate) this day—may your day be filled with love and with joy.

 

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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If I had to list my favorite birds, Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) would certainly be near the top of the list. The color combination of blue and orange is so striking and so beautiful that it delights me every time that I am blessed to spot a bluebird. Without fail, I also recall a comment I received several years ago from a young reader, Benjamin, who noted that the birds had as much orange as blue in their feathers and wondered why they were not called Orange Bluebirds. Why indeed?

I already posted a few bluebird photos from a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last week, but decided that there were a few more that I just had to share. When the subjects are this photogenic, it is so much fun to see how many different “looks” I can get by varying my shooting angle and composition. I love how each of these there photos has a distinctively different background and “feel.”

Do you have favorite birds too? It should come as no surprise to those of you who follow this blog regularly, that Bald Eagles are probably at the top of my list.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I was absolutely delighted to spot a small flock of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The bright, cheery blue of their feathers never fails to bring a smile to my face, especially during the long gray days of winter.

The bluebirds spent a lot of their time foraging in a field of what I think is sumac. I may be totally wrong about the plant and would welcome a correction. Whatever the case, the bluebirds really liked it. Most of the time they foraged as individuals or as pair, but occasionally a small group of them would work in the same area, as you can see in the first image.

It was a challenge to photograph these pretty little birds because they were quite a distance away. Most of the time when they bent over to pluck a berry, they disappeared from sight.

On occasion I was able to isolate a bird and create a portrait of the bluebird. The second and third images show two different approaches that I used, with the final shot showing much more of the overall environment rather than the details of the subject. From my perspective, both images work well, albeit in different ways.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I finally managed to venture out of my snowy neighborhood for a visit to my favorite photography destination these past few years, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There were lots of birds—mostly sparrows—pecking about on the trails that had been exposed by the sunshine and warming of the days since the big snowfall.

I was absolutely delighted when I saw a flash of brilliant blue among the drab sparrows on the ground and tracked the Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) to some nearby vegetation. There is something really specially about seeing bright colors during the wintertime, when the world often seems colorless and monochromatic. With lots of snow still on the ground, the intensity of the colors of cardinals and bluebirds seems to be magnified even more.

I was able to capture an image of the bluebird as it perched for a moment before returning to foraging. Later in the day, while I was exploring the edge of an open field, I spotted another bluebird in the distance. He was perched high on a slender stalk and seemed to be calling out to his friends or maybe to his partner.

I zoomed in as much as I could, but the little bird still filled only a small part of the frame. However, I really like the way that the final image turned out. The minimalist composition really helps to draw the viewer’s eye to the bluebird and its expressive cry. The vast expanse of white space in the shot helps to emphasize the sense of isolation that this bird may have been feeling.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Do certain bird elicit an involuntary emotional response from you when you see them? Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) invariably make me feel happy—I can’t help but smile when I see one of these “bluebirds of happiness,” like the ones that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I have wonderful memories of watching The Wizard of Oz as a child and many times since then. One of my favorite moments in the movie is when Dorothy (Judy Garland) sings “Over the Rainbow.” I love to think of a place where the dreams that you dare really do come true, somehow symbolized by bluebirds flying.

“Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why, oh, why can’t I?
If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh, why can’t I?”

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My spirits are instantly lifted whenever I see an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis), like this handsome male that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Many of the bluebirds that I have seen in recent years have been a bit dull blue in color, but the blue of this bird was positively electric—it was startling how bright and vibrant it was. I definitely felt recharged after my encounter with this little bird.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted this handsome Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and surprisingly he was willing to pose for me—normally bluebirds fly off as soon as I move close to them with my camera.

We started off with a formal pose against a solid backdrop and then moved on to a more casual pose. We were both really happy with the final images—he plans to use them on his social media, especially Twitter.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love all kinds of Christmas songs whether they be traditional carols, secular songs, or contemporary hits. One of my favorites is Winter Wonderland, though I must confess that it sometimes leaves me confused. The second verse says, “Gone away is the bluebird, here to stay is a new bird. He sings a love song as we go along, walking in a winter wonderland.” The bluebirds have not in fact gone away—I saw Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) multiple times this past Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I love these cheerful, colorful little birds and hope that they are here to stay as I walk about in my own winter wonderland.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The leaves have mostly fallen from the trees and the weather is now overcast most of the time, it seems. If you use the meteorological calendar, winter has already arrived—if you use the astronomical calendar, you have a few more weeks to wait until the December solstice.

During this somewhat bleak period of the year, I particularly cherish those moments when I stumble upon some bright colors in nature, like those of this male Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) that I spotted on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The brilliant blue and orange colors of this little bird never fail to bring a smile to my face.

My encounter with this little bird was unfortunately brief. The second shot shows my initial view of the bluebird and the background is a bit too cluttered for my taste. The first photo shows how a small change in my shooting position helped me to get a somewhat clearer view of my subject.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) was totally focused on a single remaining berry when I spotted it last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The “prize” seems modest, but this little bird was determined. I believe it was successful in achieving its goal.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It is a bit of a cliché, but I have to admit that bluebirds really do make me feel happy. I was therefore absolutely delighted to spot a small flock of them flitting in and out of the vegetation on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The rusty color on the breasts of these Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) fit in well with the fall foliage palette.

These three images show different approaches I used in trying to capture images of these beautiful little birds. Sometimes I tried to take shots when the blue birds were almost imbedded in the vegetation; sometimes I tried to get an unobstructed angle with the natural landscape providing a visual backdrop for the bird; and sometimes I tried to isolate the bird and use an uncluttered background such as the sky in the final photo.

I am not sure that any of these three approaches is necessarily better than the others. Instead I personally like the visual variety that comes from using somewhat different approaches when shooting a subject. What do you think?

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© 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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The world seems to have gone crazy recently, so I look for any signs of happiness and positivity that I can find, like this beautiful Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) that I spotted on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The relatively subdued coloration of this bird suggests to me that this is a female bluebird.

Bluebirds are traditionally associated with happiness. It is my hope and prayer that somehow amidst the chaos of cancelled plans and possible quarantines, you will be able to pause and find a few moments to be thankful for what you do have.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A strong wind was blowing last Thursday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds that I usually observe were absent from view, probably using common sense to take shelter from the blustery wind. As I was returning almost empty-handed to my car, I spotted several Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) perched low on the roof of a covered picnic area.

Generally I try to avoid including manmade structures in my wildlife photos, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get. I really like the way that I was able to capture some of the feather details of this male Eastern Bluebird. If you look closely, you can see the bird’s windblown feathers, a look that is cultivated by some stylish humans, who often rely on “product” to achieve the effect rather than on the actual wind.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year pops of bright color are especially welcome, so I was thrilled on Thursday to see some Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in a sumac patch at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes when I see bluebirds their colors seem muted, but the blue color of these birds was dazzling, especially for the males in the first two shots. I think the bluebird in the final shot is a female, judging from its coloration.

As always, you can see more detail if you click on the images, which I especially recommend for the first image, because you will see that the bluebird has a tiny sumac berry in its bill.

 

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I spotted this pair of Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) perched on a nesting box at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The female appeared to have nesting materials in her bill and seemed ready to build a nest. The only problem is that this nesting box, I believe, is currently being used by some Tree Swallows.

I don’t know for sure if this is the place where the bluebirds plan to make their nest and I never did see either of the bluebirds enter the nesting box. However, a short time later I spotted the male bluebird with nesting material in his bill, so it is quite likely that they are determined to construct a nest somewhere nearby.

Eastern Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) that I have seen in 2019 have been females, which have more subdued colors than their male counterparts. I was happy recently when I finally captured an image of one of the flashy male bluebirds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

In my experience, bluebirds have a universal appeal—virtually everyone finds them to be beautiful.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last year several of my most popular postings featured Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis). In response to one of those postings, one of my youngest followers, Benjamin, asked his grandmother why they were not called Orange Bluebirds, because the birds’ bodies seemed to have as much orange as blue. I appreciate all of the comments that viewers make, but that one comment has particularly stuck with me and it comes to mind whenever I see a bluebird.

On the last day of February, I spotted several bluebirds at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, my first sighting of the species in 2019. I was pleased to capture this image that shows some of the subtle coloration of one of those bluebird, with wonderfully varying shades of blue and orange.

As I was poking about on the internet looking for information on bluebirds, I came across a sweet little song by Paul McCartney and Wings called Bluebird. The song was on the album Band on the Run—I remember the album, but don’t recall having heard the song. If you want to hear the song, check out this link to the song on YouTube. As a sneak preview to the song, here are the lyrics to the first couple of stanzas, as found on the website of The Paul McCartney Project.

“Late at night when the wind is still
I’ll come flying through your door
And you’ll know what love is for,
I’m a bluebird
I’m a bluebird
I’m a bluebird

Touch your lips with a magic kiss,
And you’ll be a bluebird too,
And you’ll know what love can do,
I’m a bluebird
I’m a bluebird
I’m a bluebird…”

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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From a distance I spotted a flash of white, high in the uppermost branches of a tree. It was vaguely bird-shaped, but I had to move closer to know for sure—I am often fooled by misshapen branches or clumps of leaves. Eventually I was able to determine that what I had seen were the white breast feathers of an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) grooming itself in the early morning sunshine.

I love bluebirds and they invariably bring a smile to my face, especially when I recall the words of Benjamin, a young viewer of my blog, who remarked that these birds should be called “orange bluebirds,” because they have as much orange as they do blue.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the tranquility of the early morning, especially when I am alone with nature. It fills me with a sense of inner peace and helps me to slow down and appreciate better the world around me.

It is difficult to convey that inner feeling in a single photo, but this image of an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) from last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge comes pretty close. The bluebird was perched on some reeds in the middle of a marshy field. There was no way that I was going to be able to move closer, but I was ok with that. I focused on capturing a sense of the bird and its autumn environment and I am pretty happy with the way that the shot turned out.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some days the birds seem to keep their distance from me, so I do my best to capture modest images of them in their environment, like this Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) that I spotted in a field last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I hesitated a little about posting this image, but I kept coming back to it when I thought about the shots that I wanted to share. I could enumerate technical reasons why this is a somewhat flawed photo, but there is something about the mood of the image that I find appealing. In the end, I decided to follow my basic approach of posting images that I like and letting others decide for themselves how they feel about the shots.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Initially I couldn’t figure out what large insect this Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) had captured on Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. When the bluebird turned to the side, however, I realized that it was a Handsome Meadow Katydid (Orchelimum pulchellum), one of my favorite insects. The bluebird beat the insect against the log on which it was perched, presumably to subdue the katydid or to break open its hard shell, before consuming it.

It is hard to truly appreciate the beauty of the multi-colored katydid from a distance, so I am including a close-up photo of a Handsome Meadow Katydid from a posting that I did in August 2013 that was entitled “Rainbow grasshopper.” Check out my thoughts and feelings in that post about one of my initial encounters with such a katydid.

Still, bluebirds have to eat too, so I experienced only a brief moment of sorrow at the demise of this beautiful little creature.

Eastern Bluebird

Handsome Meadow Katydid

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When the lighting is perfect, the blue and orange colors of an Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) are incredibly saturated and beautiful. Alas, lighting conditions were far from ideal when I spotted three bluebirds earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the bluebirds were elusive.

I was able to capture some images that give at least a hint of the beauty of the bluebirds, a species that I am always happy to see.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most colors in nature are so dull and dreary during the winter that it is actually startling to see the bright spring plumage of some birds, like this brilliant blue Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) that I encountered this past Friday. Some of the trees are now putting out buds and blossoms in my area of Northern Virginia and the blurry blotches of color that you see in the background are from one such tree.

Spring is almost here.

Eastern Bluerbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the youngest viewers of my blog is a boy named Benjamin. His grandmother likes to share my photos with him and he especially likes bluebirds. Upon viewing some images of them and seeing their colors, he innocently asked why they aren’t called Orange Bluebirds. Why not indeed? This post is especially for him.

I too love Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis) and am happy anytime I am able to catch a glimpse of their bright colors. Here are a couple of images of bluebirds that I spotted this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge (and there is plenty of orange to be seen).

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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