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I have always admired the fierce determination and intense focus of little Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) as they hammer away at the trees in search of something to eat, like this beauty that I spotted this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Bald Eagle Couple

Seeing one Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) is pretty exciting, but seeing two together is even more awesome. I spotted these two eagles on Monday morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

At a certain location within the refuge there is a tall pole, which resembles a telephone pole, with a wooden platform. I am not sure of its purpose, but several times in the past I have seen a bald eagle perching on it. I have tried several times to get shots of the eagle, but have generally been unsuccessful, because of the height of the pole and the fact that I cannot get close to it.

When I spotted an eagle there yesterday morning, I decided to give it another shot, hoping that my monopod would help me to get a sharp enough shot to survive a severe crop. As my eye was pressed to the viewfinder taking some shots, imagine my surprise when another bald eagle entered the frame and landed next to the first one. They perched together for a little while and then the larger of the two, which I later learned is the female, began to embrace the other, eventually using her beak to give what looked like a kind of massage. What was going on?

Thanks to some experienced birders in a Facebook group, I learned that the breeding season for eagles in our area begins in early December and that this is likely a bonded pair. I also discovered that the pecking that I observed, as seen in the second photo below, is almost certainly a kind of courting behavior.

I think that there may be several pairs of bald eagles at this wildlife refuge, so I will keep my eyes open for more of this kind of behavior and for more photographic opportunities.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

Really blue bluebird

I spotted this very blue Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialislast Friday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. The brightness of its color suggests to me that it is probably a male—the females tend to have duller plumage.

When I posted this photo on Facebook, I got lots of “Likes,” which is not all that surprising to me. Over time I have come to realize that many of my best-like photos have been the ones with the simplest of compositions and often have featured relatively common subjects. In this case, I managed to capture the bluebird pretty well, but the branch on which it is perched has some nice texture and perhaps most important of all, the background is pretty cool, with the faint shapes of the tree trunks and autumn foliage rendered in a pleasing blur of shapes and colors.

Beauty is often very subjective, but in rare cases like this one an image seems to have an almost universal appeal.


Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

It’s almost impossible to sneak up on a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), but that didn’t stop me from attempting to do so this past Friday afternoon at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was walking along a trail that runs to parallel to the water when I spotted the unmistakable white head of a Bald Eagle. The eagle was partially hidden in a mass of branches and was facing away from me, so I moved forward with as much stealth as I could manage.

When I reached a point where I was shooting up at a rather steep angle, I stopped and waited, hoping the eagle would turn its head to the side and offer me a glimpse of its eyes. Eventually that happened and I shifted from side to side in a desperate attempt to capture an unobstructed view of its eye. Clearly this is not the best shot of a Bald Eagle that I have ever captured, but I do like the pose and the details in its feathers. Besides, it’s a Bald Eagle, a subject that never fails to excite me.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Early morning goldfinch

I spotted some cute little American Goldfinches (Spinus tristis) early on Friday morning as they foraged in the vegetation adjacent to the observation tower at Huntley Meadows Park. The lighting was somewhat limited, but it was soft and beautiful and gives the photos an overall sense of peace and serenity, the start of a new day.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

A group of five or so photographers stood on the boardwalk on Friday morning at Huntley Meadows Park watching a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) in a tree above us. We waited and waited for the hawk to take off and when it finally did so, I almost managed to keep the hawk within the frame. I can’t really complain too much, though, because as far as I know, none of the others managed to get a shot off when the hawk took to the air.

We were in a really good position and the lighting was beautiful, but it is hard to remain alert and ready as you wait for a bird to spring into action. I was using a monopod again and I think it may be the reason why I was able to capture the hawk taking off. My camera was already at eye level and pointed in the direction of the hawk during the entire fifteen minutes or so that we watched the hawk. The other photographers had to raise their cameras and were not able to do so quickly enough.

It might be my imagination, but I also think that some of my shots with the monopod are sharper than they might otherwise be. I have balked a bit at carrying a big tripod, but think that the monopod will now be with me most of the time—it collapses to a pretty small size and, because it it carbon fiber, is both sturdy and light.
Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Shy deer

Half-hidden by the vegetation, this shy little White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) gently gazed at me for several moments and then slowly turned and disappeared from sight last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Sometimes wildlife sightings set my heart racing in excitement, but this one left me feeling peaceful and mellow and a bit contemplative.

white-tailed deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.