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Posts Tagged ‘Woodbridge VA’

I’ve read that a Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) makes a distinctive cat-like mewing sound, but I don’t recall ever having heard a catbird make any sound whatsoever. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Gray Catbirds can also copy the sounds of other species and string them together to make their own song that can last as long as ten minutes.

Even without hearing its song, I was able to spot this Gray Catbird earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. As is most often the case with catbirds, this one was in thick vegetation, but I did manage to get a relatively clear shot of its head and body.

Gray Catbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The long sloping shape of the bills of these ducks in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge indicated to me that they are Canvasbacks ducks (Aythya valisineria). Most of the time I rely primarily on colors when trying to identify birds, but during the non-breeding season, many ducks share the same subdued colors, especially when viewed from a distance. This was a rare case when a single distinctive characteristic—in this case the bill—was enough for me to identify the birds with a reasonable degree of confidence.

According to Wikipedia, the duck’s common name is based on early European inhabitants of North America’s assertion that its back was a canvas-like color. In other languages it is just a white-backed duck; for example in French, morillon à dos blanc, or in Spanish, pato lomo blanco.

canvasback

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the winter months you sometimes have to search a little harder to find birds, but they are definitely still with us. When I caught a glimpse of this bird’s rust-colored feathers earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I assumed it was an American Robin.

When I zoomed in, however, I was thrilled to see like that the bird was an Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). Towhees share many of the same colors with the robins, but they are arranged in a completely different way. I think that towhees are supposed to be relatively common, although I personally do not see them very often.

I love to play with words and “towhee” for some reason is fun to say out loud. Try it yourself—it is virtually guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Eastern Towhee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Many of you know that I normally post every day—in 2018 I think that I missed only 12 days.  I used to be really obsessive about this and would get anxious if I didn’t have an image to post. Over time, though,I have mellowed a bit and so I am not at all concerned that I write a posting on New Year’s Day.

I have been in a contemplative mood ever since I did the retrospective look at some of my favorite photos from last year. As I looked back I simultaneously looked forward. I have never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, but my hopes and plans for this new year can be summed up in two words “more” and “better.”

Those two words are non-specific and subjective, but for me, that is the nature of my approach to photography. I strive to spend as much time as I can in the wild, opportunistically looking for subjects. When situations present themselves, I try to react as quickly and creatively as I can.

That was the case earlier today when I visited Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Despite the partial federal government shutdown, the wildlife refuge is still open. It was a cool and gray day, and there was not too much activity. I was therefore thrilled when I spotted this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) feverishly pecking away at a distant tree.

The woodpecker kept its head down as it circled the branch, but finally paused for a moment when it was upright and I was able to capture this shot. Although the woodpecker is relatively common, the organic shapes of the branches really caught my eye.

I’m ok with shooting familiar subjects over and over again. What about you? Some people like to live “widely,” seeing lots of different things in different places, while others prefer to live “deeply,” seeing the same places in different ways and in different seasons. I tend to be in the latter group, but recognize that each person has his/her own comfort zone.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A few days ago I posted a shot of a sunrise over Occoquan Bay and I remember waiting somewhat impatiently for the sun to rise. Fortunately I took some shots as I was waiting and as I finally went over those shots today, I was happy that they showed some of the beautiful colors as the night finally turned into day.

The sunrise was by no means spectacular—its beauty was more subdued and subtle. You’ll probably notice that the color changes a bit in each of the images. I think that the colors were influenced by the direction in which I was pointing my camera and the amount of light present in the scene.

pre-dawn light

pre-dawn light

pre-dawn light

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) have very distinctive patterns and colors, but in the early morning light this one blended in well with the bark and branches of the tree on which it was perched earlier this week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

I was able to detect the bird’s presence only when it moved its head a bit from side to side. Some of my friends are able to spot birds in the trees on the basis of their shapes, but for the most part I need some movement to be able to do so.

Northern Flicker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) always remind me of Santa Claus because of their white “beards.” The effect was magnified on a recent frigid morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, when a White-throated Sparrow had fluffed up its feathers to retain heat and looked even chubbier than normal.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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