Birds can be very expressive, though it can sometimes be hard to interpret their expressions. It was pretty clear, however, that this Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) was not happy about something last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Was it me?

In addition to the priceless expression on the bird’s face, I really love the limited color palette in this image. It also has a kind of sparse minimalist feel that appeals to me.

Northern Mockingbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.



A moment of stillness

I  love the small birds that are always around us, but they rarely perch long enough in the open for me to photograph them. I spotted this energetic little Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) last Friday moving about in the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge and was happy when it paused for a second to pose for me.

The tiny bird was still for only a moment and then hopped off the branch and disappeared in the vegetation. I was thrilled when I looked at the image to see that I had captured a pretty clear view of the eye and that there was even a nice little catchlight—almost all of us who do portraits of any sorts are sort of obsessive about the eyes of our subjects.

Carolina Chickadee

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Tough to swallow

Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge were really busy yesterday now that much of the ice has broken up and is melting. This heron caught a fish so big that it really seemed to be struggling to gain altitude as it flew away.

Temperatures in our area have been below freezing for almost a month and I was starting to get worried that the Great Blue Herons would starve. Somehow, though, they manage to survive. I did not actually see this heron catch the large fish. I first caught sight of the heron when it flew with the fish to a section of floating ice in the distance and tried to manipulate the fish into position.

Eventually it seemed to have decided to head for solid ground and I captured this shot just after the heron had taken off from the ice. I tracked it in the air as it flew to a little island in the middle of the bay, where I hope it was able to finally swallow the fish.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Balance and flexibility

I never cease to be amazed by the balance and flexibility of birds, like this female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that managed to reach down and grab some poison ivy berries this past Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I am probably going to return to that refuge today, because I am not sure if it will be open in the upcoming days if there is a shutdown of the federal government.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


One of my fellow bloggers, Jodi of The Creative Life In Between, saw a recent photo I took of a Yellow-rumped Warbler and asked if I minded if she used it for inspiration for a painting. Check out the wonderful watercolor she painted and the other cool postings on her blog.  Thanks, Jodi.

the creative life in between

Yellow (rumped) Warbler in Winter Watercolor 11×14 140 lb cold press

A Winter Warbler Watercolor

I was looking at some beautiful photos on Mike Powell’s Photography Blog the other day of a fluffy little yellow-rumped warbler he spotted eating berries in the frigid winter weather at the Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Reserve in Virginia this month.

He was so cute, I asked Mike if I could paint one of his photos.  He kindly obliged.  My watercolor doesn’t do justice to the beauty of the bird or the magnificent shot Mike caught, but it was fun to do.  It’s been a while since I painted a bird.  And this little guy had his fluffiest coat on in the frigid temperatures we’ve been experiencing in the Northeast part of the United States lately, which made him just too irresistible for me to resist.

Thanks for giving me a shot at him Mike…

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Not hidden

As this male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) stared at me Monday from within a bush, I couldn’t help but wonder if he thought he was camouflaged. It is hard to hide that bright red color.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Bald Eagle Squabble

No matter how much you love someone, minor squabbles are virtually inevitable and sometimes they can get quite heated. I am not sure what was being discussed, but the members of this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) couple seemed to have differing views that they defended loudly and emphatically on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

In many ways this photo embodies what I most love to capture when I go out with my camera. Although it is wonderful to capture a static subject, it is even more wonderful to capture some action or even better some interaction. I think viewers are drawn into the drama and emotion of the moment and creatively try to imagine what was going on in the photo. Are these angry birds? Is this how eagles express love? We, of course, can’t know the true explanation for the behavior that I document, but that sense of mystery and incertitude can sometimes further stimulate our imagination.

I didn’t see this couple kiss and make up, but a short time later they took off together, apparently having resolved whatever problem had prompted their little squabble.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.