When hawks cry

“How can you just leave me standing? Alone in a world that’s so cold?…Why do we scream at each other? This is what it sounds like when hawks cry.” (Apologies to Prince for changing the words of the song “When Doves Cry.”)

On a gray, gloomy day at Huntley Meadows Park,  hawks were crying out all afternoon. One hawk would start to scream and its call would be echoed back from somewhere in the distance. Sometimes I would hear a cry from the cloud-covered sky, but I never got a glimpse of the passing hawks.

I was fortunate to be in the right place when one hawk started crying. From the cry, I knew that the hawk was nearby, but I had trouble locating it as I scanned the trees. Finally I spotted it, a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus). I snapped off a couple of images and then started to adjust the camera’s settings. I had barely taken the camera from my eye when the hawk took off.

The moment was gone and for a short period of time the marsh was silent.

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

I love to photograph insects with cool or unusual names, like this caterpillar known as the Smeared Dagger moth caterpillar (Acronicta oblinita). Who makes up these crazy names? (Photographed on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park.)

One of my other favorite names is the Twice-stabbed Stink Bug (Cosmopepla lintneriana). Yes, that’s a real insect. You can’t just make this stuff up, or maybe you can.

smeared dagger moth caterpillar

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.


The leaves are speckled with blemishes and the Red-spotted Purple butterfly (Limenitis arthemis) is faded and tattered, but there is real beauty in the imperfection of autumn. Photographed this past weekend at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.

Red-spotted Purple

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Hawk on a cloudy day

On Monday I spent a good amount of time watching this hawk in a distant tree at Huntley Meadows Park (and, alas, missed the shot when it flew away). There is something simultaneously beautiful and fierce about hawks and eagles that never fails to attract me. Clouds covered the sky for the entire day and there just wasn’t a whole lot of light to work with. That’s why this image has an almost monochromatic look, which makes the yellow color of the talons and the eye stand out even more prominently.
I think this is a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo  lineatus), but would welcome a correction to my identification.
Update: A Facebook friend, who is a much more experience birder than I am, has suggested that this may be a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), while others say it is probably a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii ). Again I am proving to be identification-challenged.
Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Spider in goldenrod

I’m always happy to see a black and yellow garden spider (Argiope aurantia). I love its colorful patterns and its intricate web (and apologies to readers who are totally creeped out by spiders). I spotted this beauty this past weekend in a patch of goldenrod at Jackson Miles Abbott Wetlands Refuge.

Argiope aurantia

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Heron in the morning fog

Fog hung over the wetlands at Huntley Meadows Park early Friday morning, making the walk on the boardwalk a little eerie. When a spooked Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) took off right in front of me I was scared almost witless, but had the presence of mind to get this shot.

Great Blue Heron

Here’s a shot that I took shortly after the first one that gives you a sense of what the boardwalk looks like as it makes it way through the wetlands of my favorite marshland park.


© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Semipalmated Plover

Water levels are pretty low in some areas of the wetlands at my favorite marshland park, providing a perfect habitat for some visiting shore birds. On Friday at Huntley Meadows Park I spotted a number of tiny shore birds including this one that I am pretty sure is a Semipalmated Plover (Charadrius semipalmatus).

Semipalmated Plover

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.