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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 150-600mm’

I was delighted and a bit surprised on Monday to spot this Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  thought the Monarchs had all left the area by now to head to warmer locations. When I posted this photo is a Facebook forum, I learned that viewers also have been spotting occasional Monarchs recently in other parts of Virginia.

Although the calendar tells us that we are well into autumn, we are still reminded from time to time of the beauty of the summer days that are gradually fading from our consciousness. Time moves on inexorably.

Monarch butterfly

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What marks the arrival of autumn for you? Is it the colorful fall foliage or perhaps the shortening of the daylight hours and the arrival of cooler weather? For me, the reappearance of Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies (Sympetrum vicinum) is one of the surest signs of the change in the seasons.

It seems like I have had to wait longer this year than in the past, but I am finally starting to see these small reddish-orange dragonflies as I walk the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. On Monday I spotted my first male Autumn Meadowhawks of the season, as shown in the first two photos below. The coloration of the males is startlingly bright, but you actually have to look hard to spot them, because they are only 1.3 inches (33 mm) long and often perch on low vegetation or on the ground itself.

The final image showcases the two-toned look of a female Autumn Meadowhawk. She seems to be glancing over at me and smiling, confident in her radiant beauty, her warm coloration a beautiful reflection of the autumn season.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The weather is turning cooler, but there are still some hardy dragonflies around, like this beautiful female Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) that I spotted last Thursday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, perched high on a branch as she basked in the autumn sunshine.

Most of the time when I see an Autumn Meadowhawk it is perched on the ground, so it was a treat to see this one on an elevated perch that gave me a really good look at the shape of her tiny body—Autumn Meadowhawks are only about 1.3 inches (33 mm) in length. This dragonfly species is generally the last one that I see each year and several years I have seen Autumn Meadowhawks in December. From my perspective, the dragonfly season is still far from being over.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Not all who wander are lost.” Have you ever seen that slogan? It is so popular with van dwellers and RVers that it is almost a cliché, yet there is a real truth to that simple statement.

In fact, “wandering” is often my preferred method for encountering wildlife subjects to photograph. I like to wander along the trails (or sometimes off of the trail) and opportunistically scan my surroundings, watching and waiting for something to catch my eye.

I guess that is one of the reasons why I love the name of the Wandering Glider dragonfly (Pantala flavescens), a globetrotting species that is considered to be the most widespread dragonfly in the world, with a good population on every continent except Antarctica. According to Wikipedia, Wandering Gliders, also known as “Globe Skimmers,” make an annual multigenerational journey of some about 11,200 miles(18,000 km); to complete the migration, individual dragonflies fly more than 3,730 miles (6,000 km)—one of the farthest known migrations of all insect species.

This past Thursday, I was delighted to spot Wandering Gliders on multiple occasions as I was wandering about in Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was even more thrilled when several of them perched for me and I was able to capture these images. The shots give you a good look at the beautiful markings of this dragonfly species and the broad hindwings that help these dragonflies to glide long distances.

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

Wandering Glider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was absolutely thrilled to spot this bright yellow warbler on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Some more experienced birders in a birding forum on Facebook have identified it as a Cape May Warbler (Setophaga tigrina). When it comes to identifying warblers, I tend to be wrong as often as I am right. I have learned that it is best to ask for help rather than apologize afterwards for my errors.

I was pretty certain that I had never seen this species before, but decided to do a search of the blog to be sure. I was shocked to find that I spotted a Cape May Warbler last year at the start of October—check out that posting entitled Cape May Warbler. I relied on the help of experts last year too and somehow never internalized the identification into my brain. Alternatively, I can simply blame the aging process for this minor “senior moment.”

Cape May Warbler

 

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Woodland Box Turtle, a species that is also known as an Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) was chilling out in the grass at the edge of a trail when I spotted it last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It was not moving about very much, but I could sense a real intensity in its bright red eyes.

In order to capture this shot, I got down as low as I could, though I was not quite low enough to be at eye level with the turtle. I was quite happy to be able to capture a lot of detail in the shell and in the portion of the head sticking out of the shell. I encourage you to click on the image to get a closer view of the wonderful details of this strikingly handsome box turtle.

Woodland Box Turtle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was wandering the trails early last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I was fortunate to spot this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched in a tree, almost hidden amongst the leaves. I would like to think that my stealthiness permitted me to get close to the eagle, but suspect instead that the eagle was comfortable in its perch and simply did not view me as a threat.

The eagle moved its head from side to side a bit and glanced down at me occasionally, but stayed in place as I took some shots. The trail took me past the tree in which the eagle was perched and after I had passed underneath the eagle, I glanced over my shoulder and was pleasantly surprised to see the eagle was still there. I love it when I am able to capture my images without disturbing my wildlife subjects, though most of the time they are so skittish that they move away as soon as they detect my presence.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was so cool last week to spot a few warblers at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Every spring and fall a variety of warblers migrate through our area. Quite often I can hear them twittering and tweeting in the trees, but it is rare for me to see one clearly. Usually I will see only a momentary flash of yellow that is quickly swallowed up in the sea of green foliage.

The bird in the first photo is a a Palm Warbler (Setophaga palmarum). Most of the time I see Palm Warblers foraging on the ground, but this one accommodated me by hopping up onto a tree and giving me an unobstructed shot.  The Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) in the second shot was not quite so cooperative. It was buried in the vegetation and never fully revealed itself.

The migration season for warblers will be drawing down soon. I have only modest shots like these to show for it, but I am not disappointed—some years I have not been able to get any shots at all. In the fall, the colors of the warblers tends to be more muted than in the spring, when the males are sporting their breeding plumage. Somehow the muted tones of the birds matches the mood of the season, as colors fade and we gradually move towards the monochromatic days of the winter.

Palm Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The angle at which I took this shot makes it look like there was a headless heron haunting Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge last week. (As most of you can probably tell a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) was showing off its impressive plumage and wingspan this shot.) I think I have been seeing too many Halloween displays at local stores, causing me to see spooky things everywhere.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most people are familiar with the words, “To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven.” Perhaps they have heard them read in a church, where they would be identified as coming from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. For folks of my generation, it is ever more likely that they would be associated with the words of a song by Pete Seeger made popular by the Byrds in the 1960’s.

Recently I have been really conscious of the changing seasons, of the never ending cycle of life and death. I have seen this phenomenon in nature and I have been very sensitive to it in other parts of my life.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not made a blog posting in several days, after more than a year of posting every day. I have spent the last few days in Massachusetts with my family celebrating the life and mourning the death of one of my younger brothers who died a week ago of lung cancer.

So often we think of growing older with grace and beauty, like the female Great Blue Skimmer dragonfly (Libellula vibrans) pictured below, thinking that we can somehow live forever. In fact, our days are numbered—life is so precious and yet so fragile. Celebrate life and love freely.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.”

 

Great Blue Skimmer

Great Blue Skimmer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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I was ecstatic on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to finally capture some images of Fine-lined Emerald dragonflies (Somatochlora filosa), a species for which I have been searching repeatedly this past month. Fine-lined Emeralds are one of several species that appear in the autumn, just as the number of most species of dragonflies is beginning to drop precipitously. I had spotted what I think were Fine-lined Emeralds several times earlier in September, but for me the sighting does not really “count” if I am not able to take a photograph.

Fine-lined Emeralds like to spend a lot of time patrolling, and a lesser amount of time perching. Unlike many of species that fly about high in the air, this species often flies at at somewhere between knee and eye-level.

On this day I spotted at least two individuals patrolling along one of the trails that runs parallel to the water. I alternated between chasing after the dragonflies and waiting for them to return—the patrol routes seem to be of a fixed length and the dragonflies would do a U-turn when they reached the end and fly back where they had been.

The dragonfly in the first two images is the same individual with a damaged rear wing, while the one in the final photo seems to be a different individual with an intact wing. I love the beautiful green eyes of this species, a characteristic they share with other members of the Emerald family. Those eyes seem to glow when the dragonfly is flying right at you.

If you look closely at the abdomen of the dragonflies, you can see the thin white/golden lines that I thought were responsible for the “fine-lined” portion of the name of this dragonfly species. However, a sharp-eyed fellow dragonfly enthusiast gently reminded me, after he read my initial posting, that the fine white stripes on the sides of the thorax (the “chest”) are responsible for the “fine-lined” name—you can see them best in the middle photo. I checked my identification guide and he is correct. Humility comes with the territory when it comes to identifying wildlife species.

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

Fine-lined Emerald

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spend a good amount of time looking for unusual subjects to photograph, but I also love to photograph the everyday creatures that inhabit my day-to-day life. I spotted this Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) last Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I cannot tell for sure what the squirrel had in its mouth, but he seemed to consider it a treasure.

I love the pose of the squirrel atop the broken-off tree—there is something dynamic about its somewhat precarious position and in fact the squirrel leap jumped to a nearby tree a few seconds after I snapped this photo. I also really like the curve of the squirrel’s tail that adds a kind of whimsical touch to the image.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I can’t get near enough to a subject for a close-up shot, I love to try to create an environmental portrait, like this image of a Great Egret (Ardea alba) that I photographed last week in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes it is really cool to focus on capturing the mood of a moment more than worrying about the minute details of the subject.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year, a variety of colorful warblers pass through our area as they make their way south to warmer locations. Warblers are quite small and tend to spend most of their time hidden in the leaves at the top of tall trees.  As a result, it is rare for me to see more than just a flash of color. When the leaves fall from the trees, I have a better chance of spotting a small bird, but most of them are gone by that time of the year.

Last week I was fortunate to capture some shots of a bird that I was able to tentatively identify as a Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens). A lot of warblers look somewhat similar, so I went back and forth in my bird identification guide to try to identify “my” bird. I was a little surprised when some more experienced birders confirmed my identification of the warbler—it was a bit of an educated guess on my part, but a guess nonetheless.

I am in the process of recalibrating my vision now that I have switched to using my long telephoto zoom lens most of the time. Instead of looking down and scanning a close-in area for subjects, I am now trying to look for subjects that are often much higher up and farther away. In this transitional season, though, it becomes a little more complicated, because there are still some insects that I want to photograph.

It requires good camera technique and careful composition to capture images of insects at 600mm, but I have had some success in doing so, thanks in part to the monopod that I use with my long lens for additional stability. For example, my recent shots of Black Saddlebags dragonflies and Monarch Butterflies were all taken with my Tamron 150-600mm zoom lens. As I have noted before, gear does matter, but only to a much more limited extent than most people assume—my basic approach is to get the best photos that I can with whatever I have at hand.

 

Black-throated Green Warbler

Black-throated Green Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I have been really fortunate recently in getting shots of Black Saddlebags dragonflies (Tramea lacerata). Early last month I spent lots of times trying to photograph Black Saddlebags as they patrolled overhead, convinced that they rarely come down to earth to perch. As the month progressed, I was ecstatic when I managed to capture a couple of images of perched Black Saddlebags.

The last week or so, I have spotted at least one Black Saddlebags on varying types of vegetation during each of three separate visits to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Have these dragonflies changed their behavior? Have I changed my approach by switching from a macro lens to a longer telephoto zoom lens? Am I growing more alert and patient?

Rather than ponder the answer to these questions, I think it is best for me to celebrate the beauty of what I was able to capture in my photos, to live fully in the moment. Most of the time that I go out with my camera, I do have not specific expectations—I take things as they come and try to make the best of the opportunities that I am given.

Recently I watched a vlog by Nathaniel Drew, a  young YouTube creator whose videos I regularly watch, who stated that, “Unhappiness is wishing that things were another way.” The alternative, he continued, is to have a purpose—”Purpose, on the other hand, is about finding meaning, making sense of how things are.”

How do you find happiness? In many ways I am striving to be like the Apostle Paul, who was able to write to the Philipians, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” True contentment, I believe, can come from treasuring and celebrating what we have in our lives and not complaining or focusing on those things that we do not have.

Have a wonderful weekend.

 

Black Saddlebags

Black Saddlebags

 

Black Saddlebags

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This majestic Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was almost hidden in the foliage when I spotted it on Wednesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. If the eagle’s head had not been so bright white in color, I might not have noticed it at all. At this time of the year, when I often can hear the birds, but cannot see them, it is always a challenge for me to photograph birds.

To mark the change of the seasons, I have switched over to walking around with my Tamron 150-600mm telephoto zoom lens affixed to my camera, a recognition that I am as likely to encounter birds as insects. I am still, however, carrying my 180mm macro lens in my backpack, in case I run into the right kind of shooting situation with an insects or other small creatures.

Initially the eagle had its head almost completely buried in the leaves, as you can see in the first photo. I gradually noticed, though, that the eagle was moving its head around a bit and I was able to capture some images that show a bit more of the eagle’s face. I changed my body position slightly as I watched and waited, but tried to minimize my movements for fear of spooking the eagle.

It has been quite a while since I last featured Bald Eagles in a posting, and I am excited at the prospect of seeing them more regularly. If so, you are sure to see the results here, because, as I have said on multiple occasions, any day in which I see a Bald Eagle is a good day and getting good shots is real bonus.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I had given up on Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) for the season, so I was thrilled when I spotted several of them on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I do not know if these are local butterflies, but I like to imagine that they are temporary visitors who stopped in to visit during their magical migration journey to warmer locations.

I photographed these two butterflies in different parts of the wildlife refuge. I thought about using only one of the two photos for this posting, but decided that I really like the impact that the images have as a pair, presenting a kind of yin-yang contrast in light and shadows and overall mood. What do you think?

Monarch

Monarch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As we rush towards the end of September, the number of butterflies is continuing to drop and many of the ones that I see are faded and tattered. Yet somehow, despite the obvious signs of age and infirmity, they manage to adapt and survive. I photographed this Black Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio polyxenes) last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

For folks of my generation, the title of this blog will immediately bring to mind the memorable song by that name as sung by Gloria Gaynor in the late 1970’s.

“Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive
I’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive”

Black Swallowtail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Each September I look forward to the reappearance of three dragonfly species: the Blue-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum ambiguum); the Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum); and the Fine-lined Emerald (Somatochlora filosa). At a time when most of the other dragonflies are dying off, these species burst onto the scene.

This season, however, “burst” would not be the appropriate verb to describe their activity. At Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, where I have photographed all three species in the past, I have seen  Fine-lined Emeralds in flight three times, but have not managed to get a photograph of one. I still have not seen an Autumn Meadowhawk and until last Friday, I have not seen a Blue-faced Meadowhawk.

I was thrilled, therefore, when I spotted this female Blue-faced Meadowhawk on Friday. I had my long telephoto zoom lens on my camera, so trying to focus accurately on my tiny subject was a big challenge, but I am pretty happy with the result. Females of this species have relatively subdued coloration—the males have bright red bodies and blue faces—and they are generally harder to find than the males.

I hope to be able to feature a new photo of a male Blue-faced Meadowhawk soon, but if you are impatient or curious to see what one looks like, check out this posting called Blue-faced Meadowhawk (male) from September 2020.

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this Big Bluet damselfly (Enallagma durum) couple in flagrante delicto on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Although I could not help but notice the sidewards heart that their bodies form when they are mating, it was the other elements of the scene that really caught my eye. The shapes and shadows of the leaf and its gnawed-away holes all add visual interest and make a perfect backdrop for this little vignette of an intimate moment in the lives of these damselflies.

Big Bluet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was shocked and thrilled to spot a Prince Baskettail dragonfly (Epitheca princeps) perched in a tree on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This was only the second time that I have seen one that was not flying—they never seem to take a break. As the Dragonflies of Northern Virginia website succinctly states, “Flies almost constantly, rarely perches.”

Earlier in the day I had seen Prince Baskettails several times, flying overhead as I walked along a trail parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay. Those of you who have followed my blog for a while know that I can never resist the chance to attempt to capture a shot of a dragonfly in flight. This time was a bit different, though, because I was using my long telephoto zoom lens and the dragonfly was not flying over the water, but was high in the air. The second image was one of my more successful attempts.

Normally the only place where I see Prince Baskettails at this time of the year is at a small pond at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, where the Prince Baskettails fly repeated patrols low over the water. I have had some success in capturing shots of them in flight, like the final photo that I took last Thursday as a Prince Baskettail was flying by parallel to my position on the shore.

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

Prince Baskettail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was happy to spot this Halloween Pennant dragonfly (Celithemis eponina) on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge as it perched high in the air on a tall stalk of Eastern Gamagrass. This is my first Halloween Pennant of the season and I have always loved seeing the beautifully patterned wings of this species. As you can see from this photo, Halloween Pennants like to perch on the uppermost tips of vegetation, which causes them to flap in even the slightest breeze, like a pennant.
I had made a trip to this wildlife refuge to check on the status of the bald eagles that I featured in yesterday’s posting and was walking around with my 150-600mm telephoto lens on my camera when I saw this dragonfly. Normally I am reluctant to to try to photograph dragonflies with this lens, because the shots are sometimes a little soft when the zoom lens is fully extended. However, the lighting was good and I am happy with the amount of detail that I was able to capture—click on the photo if you want to check out all of the cool details of this colorful dragonfly.

Halloween Pennant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It has been several months since I last checked on the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nest at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, so I made a visit there on Monday to check on the eaglets. The young eagles that I found still hanging around the nest are definitely no longer babies, though most people would not yet recognize them as Bald Eagles—it takes almost five years for them to acquire their distinctive white heads and tails.

I am pretty sure that these two eaglets are now capable of flight, though they remained in place on the branches overlooking the nest the entire time that I observed them. For the first time in quite some time I had my 150-600mm lens on my camera that allowed me to zoom in on each of the eaglets and then zoom back for the final shot to give you an idea of how close they were to the nest.

The bedraggled plumage makes it look like it was really windy, but in fact there was no wind when I captured the images. The eaglets clearly have a lot of work to do on their grooming before they are ready to take their place as one of our national symbols.

I did not see any adult Bald Eagles until much later in the day when I spotted one in another part of the wildlife refuge. Although the eaglets appear to be more or less full grown in terms of size, I question the degree to which they are self-sufficient and suspect that they are still dependent on their parents to provide them with food. As their flying skills improve, the eagles will almost certainly venture out farther and farther and it will become correspondingly more difficult for me to spot them.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have not seen many baby birds this spring, so it was exciting to spot this little Canada Goose family last week swimming together in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) are so common where I live that many people consider them to be a nuisance, but I love to observe and photograph them.

Earlier this spring I noticed that a Canada Goose had established a nest on top of one of the wooden duck blinds and I wonder if these little goslings were hatched in that nest. Whatever the case, springtime is such a wonderful time to celebrate new life in all of its forms—and you have to admit that those three baby geese are really cute.

Canada Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Great Blue Herons remain in my area throughout the winter, but the much smaller Green Herons (Butorides virescens) depart in the autumn for warmer locations. It is always exciting for me when these colorful little herons return in the spring. Green Herons have always struck me as having more outgoing personalities than the more stoic Great Blue Heron and I love to watch them.

Normally I see them down at water level, often partially hidden by the vegetation, which makes them a challenge to photograph. Last week during a visit to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, however, I spotted a Green Heron that had chosen a higher perch that allowed me to get an unobstructed shot. I really like the heron’s pose as it alertly surveyed the surrounding area.
Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I saw an osprey couple trying to build a nest earlier this spring on a channel marker in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the building site seemed way too small. Amazingly the ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) found a way to add an overhanging extension that seems to defy gravity. The couple seemed comfortable in the nest, which appear to be capable of easily holding their weight.

A neighboring osprey couple had the opposite problem—they had too much space. The ospreys used only half of the space for their nest and could easily have shared the other half with another couple, but I think that ospreys like to keep their neighbors at arm’s length, or maybe it would be better to say “at wing’s length.”

osprey nest

osprey nest

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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As some of you know, I have been monitoring two Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) nests this spring at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. This past month I have devoted most of my photography time to dragonflies, so yesterday I grabbed my long lens and headed off to the refuge, hoping to see some baby eagles. One of the nests is huge and has high walls, so it is hard to know what, if anything, is going on inside it.

I waited and waited and finally the head of an eaglet popped up over the edge of the nest. As I reviewed the first photo, I noticed that there is another eaglet on the other side of the tree trunk, just a little lower. (You may need to click on the image to spot the second eaglet.) Both of the baby birds were facing the tree trunk and I soon learned why.

It turns out that one of there was an adult eagle behind the tree trunk. In the second image, it looks like the adult eagle, whose only visible part was its beak, was giving a bite of food to one eaglet while its sibling looked out from the other side of the tree trunk and did not seem very happy about the situation.

In the final shot, you get a better look at the adult eagle and a partial view of one of the eaglets. I now know for sure that there are at least two eaglets in that nest—some years there have been three eaglets. As the eaglets get older, I hope they will be more active and curious and that will allow me to get some better shots of them.

eaglet

eaglet

bald eagle

© 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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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

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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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