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Posts Tagged ‘Woodbridge VA’

As I was going through my photos again from last week I came upon this image of an Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum) that I had spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I already posted another shot of this dragonfly species from that day, but I like this shot even more, because it shows some of the details of the leaves on which the little red dragonfly was perched. I think the leaves help to give a better sense of the environment and emphasize the “autumn” in the name of the species.

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was shocked the first time that a friend identified little white-colored berries like those in these photos as poison ivy berries. I had no idea that poison ivy plants produced berries and, upon learning that they did, I assumed they must be poisonous. I was both right and wrong. These little berries are definitely poisonous for humans, but they are an important food source for many birds during the winter. It is amazing to me how birds that eat almost exclusively bugs during the warm months can switch to a plant-based diet in the winter, but it helps to ensure their survivability.

Last week I spotted this Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) as it poked about among several clusters of poison ivy berries. The kinglet was in constant motion and was mostly in the shadows, but I was able to capture these images. I like the way that you can see some of the details of the vines wrapped around the branches and the way that the distant branches provide some shadowy forms in the background.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Landscape photography has always been problematic for me—it often feel like I am taking a photo without a real subject. I spend most of my time in photography trying to fill the frame with a single subject using telephoto or macro lenses, so it is hard to pull back and see the proverbial “big picture.” Sure, I realize that the actual landscape is the subject, but I have trouble “seeing” wide in my mind as I think composing a shot.

My experience in Paris changed my perspective a bit, because I took a lot of wide and even ultra-wide panoramic shots there. So last week when returned to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, which is located less than 20 miles (32 km) from where I live, I consciously thought about capturing some of the different types of environments there.

The first shot shows one of the streams that flows through the refuge. I can often find herons, ducks, and occasionally deer along the edges of the stream. The stream is affected by tidal surges coming from the Potomac River and in this image the water level causes me to think that it was low tide.

My favorite trail runs parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay. Small birds hang around in the vegetation at water’s edge, water birds congregate in the deeper waters, and Bald Eagles can often be found in the trees overlooking this tails. During warmer weather, this trail is a great location in which to hunt for dragonflies.

Wide trails crisscross the refuge, which used to be a military installation. The trails are off limits to the vehicles except for official ones. I never know what I might see when I walk on these trails. On occasion I will stumble upon groups of wild turkeys, flocks of migrating birds, and turtles crossing the road.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief overview of the environment in which I have been taking so many of the insect, bird, and animal shots featured on this blog. It is good to remind myself yet again that what is familiar to me is unusual and maybe even exotic to someone in another part of the country or of the world. So periodically I will try to mix in shots like these to make it easier for you as you accompany me on my journey into photography.

 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

 

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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At this time of the year I have to work hard to get photographs of birds. If I am lucky, I will spot a Bald Eagle or another raptor, but most of the time I walk slowly down the trails, looking and listening for small birds. I know that they are there, but even with the leaves gone from most of the trees, the birds often remain hidden from view.

One of my favorites is the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe it is the effect of the season, but this sparrow always makes me think of Santa Claus. With the white “beard” and the distinctive yellow stripe over the eye, this sparrow is also relatively easy to identify, a real plus considering how many sparrow species are similar in appearance to each other.

An even smaller bird is the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), which is about 4 inches in length (10 cm) and weighs only 0.2-0.3 ounces (5-10 g). This one was bouncing in and out of the vegetation so much that I thought I would never get a clear shot of it. Eventually I was more or less successful. What a sweet little bird.

 

White-throated Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled yesterday to spot almost a dozen Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) dragonflies at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. These hardy little red dragonflies are always the last ones of the season and they often hang on until December. In some years they have even been spotted in early January.

When I explored the exact same area on Wednesday, I did not see a single one of these dragonflies. Why? Wednesday was heavily overcase, but yesterday the sun was shining brightly. Every single Autumn Meadowhawk that I saw was basking in the sun, perched on fallen leaves or logs. The sun seems to warm them up enough so that they can fly a bit, though I wonder if they manage to find anything to eat, given that there are almost no other insects flying.

So this year’s dragonfly season continues for at least a little while longer. As I search in the trees for birds, I will continue to look down as well, hopeful of spotting one of these beautiful aerial acrobats.

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When it comes to woodpeckers, I often hear them before I see them. Sometimes it is a gentle tapping sound, but at other times it sounds as loud as a jackhammer.

I spotted this little Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) on Wednesday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He was slowly making his way up the tree in a spiral pattern, stopping periodically to probe for insects. I tried to track him as he moved in and out of view and was happy to capture a few relatively unobstructed shots.

Normally, it is best to capture a subject when its eyes are looking more or less in your direction. I, however, are more attracted to the first photo below in which the little woodpecker is looking away and slightly up. Perhaps he had seen or heard something that caught his attention, but I like to think that he was taking a break in order to daydream. Perhaps he too was longing for Paris.

Woodpeckers are industrious by nature, though, so after his short pause, he was back to work, slamming his head against the unforgiving wood. It is what woodpeckers do—hopefully that does not sound like your job.

Downy woodpecker

downy woodpecker

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This is definitely not Paris. Yesterday, less than 24 hours after my return from my stay in Paris, I was back on the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, one of my favorite places to photograph wildlife.

It was a cloudy, blustery day and there was not a lot of wildlife active, but I did manage to capture this shot of a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus). From a distance, I spotted the top of the eagle’s head as it hunkered down in a nest, presumably seeking shelter from the wind. Although I was a pretty far away, it spotted me and quickly took to the air. My vision is really good after my cataract removal surgery a couple of years ago, but when it comes to being “eagle-eyed,” I am no match for the real thing.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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