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Archive for November, 2015

The sky was heavily overcast on Saturday as I focused on a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) high in a broken-off tree at Huntley Meadows Park. The woodpecker was mostly in the shadows and I was having real troubles getting a clear shot of it. Then I got lucky.

The woodpecker flew off and then immediately returned to the same spot and I managed to press the shutter at just the right moment to capture the bird in flight.

I love the way the jagged edges of the tree mirror the shapes of the wings of the woodpecker, giving this image an almost abstract quality. The almost monochromatic color palette and simple composition enhance that abstract feel for me.

Red=headed woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Can you spot perched birds at a distance or do you need them to move in order for you to see them? Generally I need some movement for me to pick them out and it has been sometimes frustrating in the past not to be able to see birds that are almost right in front of me.

Yesterday morning, however, I managed to spot a Juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that was perched in a distant tree. Actually, I didn’t know initially that it was a Bald Eagle and I wasn’t even sure that it was a bird. I was scanning the trees on the other side of a small pond with my telephoto zoom lens extended to 600mm when I noticed a dark shape among the branches. I took a quick shot and zoomed in on the screen on my camera and was thrilled to see that it was some kind of raptor. This shot gives you an idea of what I was seeing.

Bald Eagle

It was early morning and there were a lot of clouds, but periodically the sun would break through and illuminate the scene. I made a few adjustments to my camera and, of course, that is when the eagle took off. The eagle initially flew in the direction it is facing and my shots became a hopeless mess of branches that were in focus and an eagle that was not in focus.

Suddenly the eagle began to change directions and gradually started to head back in my direction, flying a bit closer to me. I was finally able to get some in-flight shots that are pretty much in focus, although they did require some cropping.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

As the eagle flew away, I was able to get this final shot. The eagle’s face is mostly hidden, but there is something that I really like about the wing position and details and the way that some of the clouds are visible in the sky.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I heard the now familiar call of a Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) and saw a flash of white as a bird flew to a new perch high in the trees. I maneuvered about trying to get a clear visual pathway to the bird and managed to get a few shots before the bird flew away.

A moment of confusion came upon me when I looked at the photos, because my Red-headed Woodpecker did not have a red head. Was I wrong in my initial identification? The wing pattern was certainly right for a Red-headed Woodpecker and I could see some small patched on red on the mostly brown head. Only then did I realize that this was almost certainly a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker that had not yet transitioned to the trademark identifying feature of this species.

I’m including a couple of shots of the juvenile along with a shot of an adult that I took of an adult Red-headed Woodpecker earlier in the week, in case some readers are not familiar with the beautiful species of woodpecker.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Autumn Meadowhawk dragonflies, the sole survivors at this time of the year, are very friendly and it’s not unusual for them to perch on you. It took some contortions, but I managed to get these shots recently of an Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) perched on my arm and my leg.

The first shot, in which the dragonfly was perched on my arm between my elbow and my wrist,  was particularly challenging, because I had to shoot it one-handed. My Canon 50D and Tamron 180mm macro lens together weigh close to 4 pounds (1800 grams), so it was a little tough to hold steady. Additionally, the lens has a minimum focusing distance of 18 inches (470 mm), so I had to slowly stretch out the arm to gain the needed distance for the shot. By comparison, the second shot, in which the dragonfly was on my leg, was easier to shoot and I was able to capture the dragonfly’s entire body.

With a little luck, I’ll continue to see these pretty little dragonflies for a few more weeks, and then I’ll turn my attention to birds (and hopefully the occasional mammal).

Autumn Meadowhawk

Autumn Meadowhawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’ve finally made my way through all the photos that I took of my recent encounter with a Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes) at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia and found some more good ones to post. My dear friend and photography mentor Cindy Dyer helped me to select these and to get them ready for printing.

There is a photo contest at the park and the entry deadline is tomorrow, so we were scrambling to get a fox image ready to submit. There is a limit of four photographs per photographer and I’m pretty sure that the first one below is the fox photo that I will enter, along with photos of a bluebird, an eagle, and a dragonfly. This is the first time I’ve ever printed any of my photos bigger than snapshot size—the submission images will be 11 inches by 14 inches (29 x 36 cm) matted to 16 inches by 20 inches (41 x 51 cm)—and the first time that I have entered a contest.

If you haven’t seen my previous posting with photos of this session with the fox, check out Fox at water’s edge and Fox at water’s edge—part two.

Red Fox

Red Fox

Red Fox

Red Fox

Red Fox

Red Fox

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Where do birds spend their nights? I was surprised one recent early morning to see a Belted Kingfisher (Megaceryle alcyon) perched on a fallen tree not very far above water level. Why was the kingfisher there?

I am pretty sure the kingfisher wasn’t hunting—there wasn’t enough elevation for a dive. I wonder if it had spent the night there. Maybe the kingfisher has a fear of heights, which would be a terrible occupational hazard. Perhaps the kingfisher simply wanted to check out the scenery from a different perspective.

Whatever the reason for the unusual perch, it was nice to get a clear look at a Belted Kingfisher, even if it was from a long way off.

Belted Kingfisher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the quiet of the early morning I often will stand at the water’s edge, watching and waiting to see if any animals will emerge from the woods to get a drink of water. Sometimes my patience is rewarded.

On this occasion, two White-tailed Deer (Odocoileus virginianus) appeared. One of them kept its back to me most of the time and I was unable to get a clear shot of it. The other deer was a bit more cooperative and I manage to get some shots of it as it drank and then walked about a little bit before fading back into the woods.

Deer always seem so gentle and beautiful—a perfect match for the soft early morning light.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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