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Posts Tagged ‘Woodbridge VA’

I have been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge dozens and dozens of times, but had never seen an opossum there until yesterday. I am pretty sure that I would not have seen this one almost hidden in the trees if fellow photographer Ricky Kresslein had not pointed it out to me. Initially I was incredulous, suspecting that he had misidentified a raccoon, but as soon as I looked closely at the animal, I realized he was right.

The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), the animal that I photographed, is the only marsupial found in North America north of Mexico. I had to double-check, but was able to confirm my remembrance that a marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala.

The connection to Australia and New Zealand is occasionally a source of some confusion, because the “possums” in those locations are entirely different species. Here in North American, “opossum” and “possum” are used interchangeably.

One of the most common references to this animal is the expression “playing possum.” In the literal sense, it refers to the Virginia Opossum’s reaction sometimes when threatened—it may roll over, become stiff, drool, breathe slowly and shallowly, and appear to be dead. In a more general sense, the expression has come to mean pretending to be dead or asleep to avoid having to deal with a problem.

Virginia Opossum

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Normally I plan my photo expeditions so that I arrive after the sun has already risen. After all, if I want to photograph wildlife subjects, I need to have enough light to be able to see them. Recently, however, I have been trying to get there before sunrise in order to capture images of the color in the sky. This is becoming a problem for me, because the gates of the wildlife refuge where I like to explore do not open until 7:00 in the morning and we have almost reached the point in the year where the sun rises even earlier than that.

On Tuesday, I arrived at Occoquan Bay Wildlife Refuge at about 7:05 and the color in the sky was amazing, a beautiful red color tinged the clouds. My view of the most colorful parts of the sky was blocked by trees, so I did my best to frame the sky with those trees. My the time I reached the water, the most saturated colors had disappeared, but in some directions I could still see some glorious pastel colors and I captured the second image. I love the abstract quality of that image, a depiction of nature at its simplest, a series of wonderful shapes and colors.

colorful dawn

colorful dawn

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I watched and waited for an extended period of time yesterday as this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) groomed itself in a tree overlooking one of the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was pretty much in the open at the edge of the trail and did not dare to move forward for fear of spooking the eagle. Fortunately I had my camera and long telephoto zoom lens on a monopod, because I know from experience that I would not have been able to hold it pointed upwards for that long a period of time.

I tried to stay as alert and ready as I could, which can be quite a challenge after a while. Sometimes a bird will signal its intent to take off, but this eagle took off without a warning. Acting on instinct mostly, I managed to capture the first image when the eagle was just clearing the edge of the branches. In the second shot, I clipped off the edge of the wings, but decided to include it to give you an idea of the challenge of trying to track the speed a bird when it first takes off. The final image shows you what the eagle looked like when it was perched in the tree before the takeoff.

bald eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) was so puffed up early last Saturday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge trying to stay warm that I couldn’t even see its feet—it was about 18 degrees (minus 8 degrees C) when I captured the image. The hawk seemed to be hunched over a bit and it looks like some of its lower feathers were draped over its feet.

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The sun had risen before I reached the water at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge this past Saturday morning, but there still was some color in the sky that was reflected by the ice along the shoreline, imparting blue and orange tinges to the ice.

In the second shot, I used the wide-angle capabilities of my Canon SX50 superzoom camera to give you an overall feel for the moment. As you can see, the sun was not yet very high in the sky and the clouds helped to direct the sun’s rays directly down onto the distant water, giving it a kind of shimmer. I am now accustomed to carrying both my DSLR and the SX50 to give me greater flexibility in capturing different situations.

winter sunrise

winter sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The sun was rising as I pulled into Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge early yesterday morning. My view to the east was obstructed, but I did manage to capture this image of the fiery sun through the trees.

It was a fun challenge trying to choose settings for the camera that let me capture both the sun and the shapes of some of the individual trees. In some of my images, the trees became one dark indistinct mass, so I kept making adjustments as quickly as I could, because the sun seemed to be moving amazingly fast.

winter sunrise

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was not as bitterly cold on Monday as it is today, but this Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) nonetheless seemed to be hunkered down at the edge of a pond as it sought to stay warm at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. It almost looks like the heron is wrapped in a cloak of fluffed-up feathers with only a minimum amount of its body exposed to the elements.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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