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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 150-600mm telephoto’

This past week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge I observed two large birds consuming large fish using very different techniques. The first, a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), carefully positioned the fish and then swallowed it in a single big gulp.

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), pictured below, used a much slower and methodical approach, tearing small chunks off of the fish. It takes a lot of bites to finish off a fish in this way. In between bites, the osprey would often look around to make sure no other bird was approaching and attempting to steal its catch.

When it needed to tug extra hard on the fish, the osprey would sometimes extend its wings in what I assume was an effort to stay balanced and keep from falling out of the tree. I believe that is what was going on at the moment when I captured this image.

Osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On a recent early morning trip to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a broken-off branch below what appears to be an active eagle nest. Perhaps this was the male keeping watch or possibly the female taking a break. The nest is so high up and deep that it is difficult to determine if another eagle was sitting on the nest.

Despite my best efforts at stealth, the eagle detected my presence as I tried to move further down the trail to get a better angle, but I was able to get these shots as the eagle was preparing to take off. In the middle shot, I did a less severe crop than on the other two in order to give you an idea of how closely the eagle was perched to the nest—the sticks in the upper portion of the image are the bottom of the nest.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Peering through the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Monday, I spotted several large birds at the edge of the water. I thought they might be eagles or ospreys, but they turned out to be Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) that appeared to be foraging as the tide was going out.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do you relax by hanging from a bar in the pull-up position? No, I don’t either, but this Mocha Emerald dragonfly (Somatochlora linearis) chose to do so on Monday when I spotted it at Huntley Meadows Park.

A couple of things really stand out whenever I am lucky enough to spot one of these beautiful dragonflies. Unlike many dragonflies, Mocha Emeralds don’t appear to like direct sunlight—they seem to hang out at small shaded streams, where the shadows and shade make photography difficult. Secondly, they often seem to hang vertically, which emphasizes their extraordinarily long slender bodies. Somehow they remind me of the super skinny young male models that many designers seem to favor, clothing them in garments that those of us with more normal physiques would never ever fit into—unlike those models, we have waists and hips.

Mocha Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am not completely certain what these two muskrats (Ondatra zibethicus) were doing on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. It may have been only grooming, but to me it looks like muskrat love.

muskrat love

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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On the same day that I saw the Common Whitetail dragonfly that I featured yesterday in my blog posting, I was thrilled to have the chance to photograph an uncommon dragonfly, a male Stream Cruiser (Didymops transversa). I had never before seen a Stream Cruiser, but local dragonfly expert and fellow photographer Walter Sanford had observed them in the past at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge and offered to guide me.

It’s somewhat of an understatement to say that Stream Cruisers are hard to spot. The are not very big (about 2.2 inches (56-60mm) in length), they are skittish, and they often perch on the stems of low vegetation. During the hours that we searched for them, I observed a couple of probable Stream Cruisers in the air, but lost them in the blur of the vegetation and never saw a single one land. Walter saw the first one of the day, a female, and posted an awesome photograph of the beautiful dragonfly in a blog posting yesterday. Unfortunately for me, I was unable to make it to the dragonfly’s location before she flew away. Walter spotted a few more Stream Cruisers during the day, but each time I couldn’t get there quickly enough to see one.

I was beginning to think that I was going to end up empty-handed for the day when Walter called out that he had spotted a male perched in the underbrush. This Stream Cruiser was cooperative enough to stay perched as I rushed to try to get a shot. I had my Tamron 180mm macro lens on my camera at that moment. The dragonfly and the stem on which it was perched were so small in the viewfinder that my camera’s autofocus would not lock on my subject, so I had to resort to focusing manually. Dragonflies have so many fine details that it is really hard to tell when they are in focus. This image was the best I could get after cropping the initial shot quite a bit.

Stream Cruiser

I decided to push my luck and see if I could get a better shot with my Tamron 150-600mm lens that I use primarily to photograph birds. Amazingly the dragonfly stayed put while I changed lenses. Once again I had to focus manually, which is an even bigger problem with this lens, because the focus ring is located really close to the lens mount. It’s hard to hold the camera steady and focus manually at the same time.

Here’s an image that I shot at 600mm. I managed to get the eye pretty sharp and to capture some of the details of the dragonfly’s incredibly long legs, but the depth of field was so shallow that the abdomen is out of focus. Normally I will try to move around the subject to be as parallel as I can be, but in this case I stayed fixed at one spot and remained as immobile as I could.

Stream Cruiser

It is really nice to start off this dragonfly season with a new species. If you want to learn more about the Stream Cruiser dragonfly, check out this page from the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website (and stay tuned for Walter’s shots of this dragonfly that should appear tomorrow morning in his blog).

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It was below freezing and windy yesterday morning when I headed out with my camera. I didn’t expect to see many birds and was a little surprised when I kept running across Northern Mockingbirds (Mimus polyglottos). They are pretty common where I live, but I just have not seen very many of them this winter.

The first one that I spotted was huddled inside a bush with its feathers all puffed up, probably in an effort to keep warm.

Northern Mockingbird

Another one seemed to be trying to warm up by facing the sun.

Northern Mockingbird

A final mockingbird seemed undeterred by the wind that was ruffling its feathers and boldly sang out a happy song, greeting the arrival of the new day.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A new alcoholic beverage? No, in this case, the title of my blog posting is literal.

When I first spotted this Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) on Monday, I thought it was wading in the water. Looking more closely, I realized it was standing on the rocks, giving us a really good view of its dark, webbed feet.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Recently I posted an image of a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) that prompted one reader to comment that the grebe looked like a “poorly drawn duck.” Now I’ll admit that the shape and proportions of a grebe are a bit unusual, but I was sure that with the right angle and lighting I could manage to take a beauty portrait of this little bird. I’m not sure that I succeeded fully, but I don’t feel at all uncomfortable characterizing the bird in this image as a “pretty grebe.”

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I first caught sight of this bird in the distance, I thought it might be a Red-shouldered Hawk, but I may have gotten lucky and captured some shots of a Merlin (Falco columbarius) this morning at Huntley Meadows Park. The past few months there have been repeated sightings of a pair of these falcons, but I personally have seen one of them on only two occasions. After so many recent days of cloud-filled skies, it was nice to have some sunshine and blue skies today, though the temperature was right around the freezing mark when I set out in the pre-dawn darkness.

UPDATE: One of my Facebook viewers has suggested that this looks to him to be an immature Red-tailed Hawk. As you can see, bird identification is not one of my strengths.

 

Merlin

Merlin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been hearing the cries of Red-shouldered Hawks (Buteo lineatus) frequently at my local marshland park, but I have had a lot of trouble spotting them. At this time in the autumn there are still lots of leaves on the trees that obscure my view. Gradually some of the leaves are starting to change colors and fall from the trees, but that process takes place a bit later here in Northern Virginia than in more northern areas of the United States.

As I was walking along the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park on Saturday morning, I saw a brightly colored object at the top of a tree. Looking through my telephoto lens, I was thrilled to see that it was a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that was out on a limb, giving me an almost unobstructed line of sight for a shot. In most of my shots, the hawk was looking away, but I was thrilled to be able to get a few shots in which one of the hawk’s eyes is visible. The bright blue sky and the red leaves surrounding the hawk were a nice bonus.

Res-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Water levels are pretty low in some areas of the wetlands at my favorite marshland park, providing a perfect habitat for some visiting shore birds. On Friday at Huntley Meadows Park I spotted a number of tiny shore birds including this one that I am pretty sure is a Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus).

Semipalmated Plover

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’ll often try to get shots of butterflies with their wings wide open, but when they turn sideward, you can sometimes get an equally spectacular view of them slowly sipping nectar. I can’t identify the flower, but the butterfly definitely is an Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) that I chased about this past weekend at Green Spring Gardens.

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I spotted this beautiful little butterfly while wandering through the woods at Huntley Meadows Park this morning. I think it might be an Appalachian Brown (Satyrodes appalachia), although there are a surprisingly large number of brown butterflies with eyespots, which complicates identification.

The woods were pretty dark in the area in which I first spotted the butterfly. However, luck was with me and the butterfly landed on a log that was in the sunlight. I tried to get as low as I could to get this shot, which is why you see the green moss in the foreground.

Update: One of my Facebook readers pointed out that this is probably a Northern Pearly-eye (Enodia anthedon), not an Appalachian Brown. My butterfly identification definitely need some more work.

Appalachian Brown

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With the return of the sun, butterflies have started to reappear, like this handsome Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) that I spotted yesterday afternoon at Huntley Meadows Park.

It’s been gloomy and rainy for most of the past few weeks, so it was a particular joy when the sun was shining brightly yesterday. As I wandered through the woods and fields of my favorite park, butterflies flitted by a number of times, including several Red Admirals. Most of them kept moving and I was unable to capture them with my camera, but one of them perched a few times and gave me a chance to get some shots.

I’ve posted two of my favorite shots. The first is a little unconventional—the butterfly is upside down on a fallen log and I love the way it looks a bit like a heart. The second shot is a little more conventional, but it has a dynamic quality in the half-open wings and overall pose and I love the background blur.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the feeling of the early morning, when the world is awash in pale colors and the birds are just starting to wake up. It’s a magical feeling for me sometimes, and the mist in the air last Monday only enhanced that effect.

How do you capture a moment like that? I don’t shoot a lot of landscape photos, but I can understand how some photographers are driven to find the right mix of compositional elements to pass on to others the emotional impact of a particular scene.

As I was walking along the boardwalk at my favorite marshland park, I was drawn to this male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) perched on a railing leading to an observation platform. Normally I try not to include man-made elements in my wildlife shots, but in this case the railing faded out into an almost indistinct set of lines and shapes. Far in the distance, there is a suggestion of the trees and the water. With its bright shoulder patches, dark color, and sharper details, the blackbird provides an element of contrast with the rest of the scene.

Sometimes it’s fun to chase after more exotic subjects, like the owlet that I saw recently, but at other times I am content to try to capture the feeling of a moment, like this blackbird on a misty morning.

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Do dabbling ducks double date? It sure looked like that was the case earlier this week when I spotted a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) couple and a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple swimming away from a larger group of mostly mallards for a few quiet moments together. I grew up in a family with eight siblings, so I can really understand their pursuit of peace and privacy. 

It’s almost springtime and many of the birds are searching for mates. Usually it’s the males that put on elaborate displayes, but I think the female “Hoodie” here was the one that went all out to impress her date with an elaborate hairstyle.

duck dating

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For a few magical moments Monday morning the sun was shining through the trees at Huntley Meadows Park with a gorgeous golden light. At first I was a little disappointed that there were no birds or animals for me to photograph, but gradually I was drawn deeper and deeper into the simple abstract beauty of the trees themselves.

The varied colors, shapes, and textures of this intimate landscape enveloped me and filled me with a kind of reverent awe and inner sense of peace. I would have liked to freeze that moment and experience it in slow motion, but all too quickly the golden light faded and reality returned.

golden1_29Feb_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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There were a lot of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) coming and going at Huntley Meadows Park early yesterday morning. This one was descending rapidly and coming in so fast that it looked like the goose was going to land right on me.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Recently, while exploring the streams in the remote back areas of Huntley Meadows Park, I have heard the unmistakable call of a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) several times. Yesterday, on a warm spring-like day, I finally got a clear view of this beautiful female.

As I have mentioned before in some earlier postings, Belted Kingfishers are unusual in the bird world—the females are more colorful than the males. Females have a blue and a chestnut band across their white breasts and the males have only a blue band.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was wandering about Huntley Meadows Park this morning, I came upon the remains of an Eastern Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina) that quite obviously did not survive the winter. It looks to have been in place for quite some time not far from the water’s edge of a stream in a remote area of the park.

I don’t know if a predator consumed its flesh, but it looks like a lot of the bones were scattered around the skull of the turtle, as you can see in the first photo. I move the shell to nearby location to get shots of the the top and underside and also took a close-up shot of the skull.

Snapping Turtle

Snapping Turtle remains in situ

Snapping Turtle

Detailed view of the top of the shell

Snapping Turtle

Detailed view of the underside of the shell

Snapping Turtle

Detailed view of the skull

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last Saturday, the final day of the 5+ month deer hunting season at Huntley Meadows Park, I was startled to see the unmistakable shape of deer antlers on the ground a short distance away from where I was standing. As I moved closer, I saw that it was only some kind of decoy used by the hunters.

deer decoy

Looking up, I realized I was at the base of an unoccupied tree stand. I felt a little safer knowing that there were no archers in the stand at that moment.

tree stand

I understand the problems caused in our area by an overpopulation of White-tailed Deer and the reason for the extended hunting season. Still, I am somewhat amused by the lengths to which the county goes to avoid using words like “hunting” or “killing.” Instead, they refer to the “archery program” and “deer management.” Deer management? I have visions of a deer CEO.

deer3_20Feb_blog

On Monday the 22nd, I returned to the park and was surprised to see that least some of the tree stands were still present. I am sure that someone will eventually come to retrieve the stands, but I am going remain alert, just in case one of the stands happens to be occupied despite the stated end of the deer hunting season.

deer stand

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some days it seems like the birds are conspiring against me. They are so skittish that they fly away long before I am within range or they hide behind a wall of branches, where I can hear them but cannot see them clearly.

In moments like that, a male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) often comes to rescue me from my despair. These birds are so bold and defiant that they refuse to hide. Instead, they find the most prominent perch and sing out as loudly as possible, showing off for rivals and potential mates.

This past Monday was one of those days when I was having trouble finding subjects to photograph. Suddenly a blackbird appeared and flew to the highest branch of a nearby small tree. Undeterred by my presence, he looked in my direction and seemed to smile. After a moment, he burst forth in singing while continuing to look at me, as though he were saying, “This one’s for you.”

Red-winged Blackbird

bb2_22feb_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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We visit our local parks and wildlife refuges for a short while and return home, forgetting sometimes that many of the creatures we observed live and die within the confines of these small (or not so small) areas. As I wander through Huntley Meadows Park, I see signs of this entire circle of life. Lives have ended and, as we move into spring, new lives are beginning.

Whenever I come across skeletal remains, a clump of feathers, or other evidence of the death of a bird or an animal, I cannot help but wonder how the creature met its demise. Was it a predator, old age, sickness, or starvation? Life can be harsh in the wild, especially in the winter.

As far as I can tell, the animal in the first photo is a raccoon (Procyon lotor). Several months ago a fellow photographer mentioned that he had seen the dead body of a raccoon inside a hollow in the trunk of a fallen tree. I thought that predators would have dismembered the body by now, but instead it seems to be slowly decomposing in its sheltered position.

The skull is the second photo is that of a White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus). Other body parts of the deer were scattered about in the same area where I spotted the skull. There are concerns that the deer population is too high for the park to support, so there is a chance this deer died from starvation.

I know that these photos, especially the first one, are pretty graphic and apologize in advance to those who may have found them to be excessively disturbing.

raccoon

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How do you generate volume when you sing? I remember being told to breathe from the diaphragm, but this male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) seemed to think that spreading his wings helped him to be heard yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I don’t know if this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) qualifies as an “angry bird,” but he sure did not seem happy to see me this morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

Maybe he was cold and hungry or got off on the wrong side of the bed this morning. In any case, I couldn’t coax a smile out of him.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes a Great Blue Heron’s catch is big enough for a main course, but sometimes it’s only an appetizer. The good news is that appetizers are really easy for a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) to swallow.

I included the second photo, which sequentially was taken before the first one, because I like the expression on the heron’s face. The heron seems to be both amused and embarrassed at the small size of the fish.

It’s obvious, though, that the heron does not have a catch-and-release policy if the fish is not of a certain minimum size.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love to wander through remote areas of Huntley Meadows Park, often following meandering streams. Each time is different, as the level of the water, the varying light, and the changing vegetation alter my perceptions of the landscape.

The park is a freshwater wetland of over 1500 acres with meadows, ponds, streams, and woods that provide a habitat for the wide range of insects, birds, and animals that I often feature on this blog. I am always conscious of the beauty of my surroundings, but generally have either a telephoto zoom or a macro lens on my camera, so photographing the landscape is not something that I do very often.

I was drawn to the twists and turns of this section of one of my favorite streams after a significant rainfall earlier this month. It was relatively early in the morning and there were still shadows in some areas. I captured some images of the scene with the “short” end of my 150-600mm lens and this is my favorite of the group. I definitely need to work more on visualizing landscape shots, but am happy with this initial effort.

Barnyard Run

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Like a tightrope walker, this American Robin (Turdus migratorius) inched its way along a narrow vine at Huntley Meadows Park, its eyes focused on the prize that awaited it at the other end. Periodically the robin used its wings for balance and moved forward until it reached a steady position almost within reach of the berries.

With a quick thrust forward of its head, the robin was able to snatch one of the low-hanging fruits. When I left it, the robin seemed to be enjoying its prize with a smile on its face.

American Robin

American Robin

American Robin

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Although the temperature was 20 degrees (minus 7 degrees C) and the wind was blowing yesterday afternoon, I got fooled into thinking the bright sunshine would warm me up a bit. Most of the creatures at the marsh were absent from view, probably trying to keep warm in sheltered locations.

I was excited, therefore, when I head the unmistakable sound of a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus) at work nearby as I was walking along a path. No other woodpeckers in our area can match the volume of a Pileated Woodpecker when it is burying its bill into a tree.

I managed to locate the woodpecker and was a little disappointed that it was high in a tree in a location where it was obscured by lots of branches. Eventually the woodpecker climbed higher in the tree and I was able to get a few relatively unobstructed shots, although I had to take them at a pretty sharp angle.

My favorite shot is the one in which the woodpecker looks like it is stalking a prey at the top of the tree. Its eyes are fixed on the target and it seems to be trying to sneak up on it. In reality, I have no idea what the woodpecker was doing, but it made for an unusual pose.

pil1_13Feb_blog

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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My good friend and photography mentor, Cindy Dyer, is spreading the news about the two-page photo spread of some of my recent photos that ran in a local community newspaper. What she doesn’t note is that she is a source of constant support, encouragement, and inspiration for my photography as well as for my blog. Thanks, Cindy.

Cindy Dyer's Blog

Congratulations to my dear friend Michael Powell for getting his photos published in a spread in the local Mt. Vernon Voice newspaper. He was out shooting at Huntley Meadows one cold morning and the co-editor of the publication happened to be there. He asked him if he would like his work to be featured in the newspaper. He had a two page spread available to fill and Michael had to get him photos pronto. Nice showcase for your work, grasshopper! You can see more of Michael’s work on his blog at https://michaelqpowell.wordpress.com/.

Michael Mt Vernon Voice

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