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Archive for November, 2016

This energetic little Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) seemed to be defying gravity on Monday as it leaned over backwards and pecked away at a small tree growing out of the water at Huntley Meadows Park.

Downy Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday the fields and forests of Huntley Meadows Park were alive with the sound of birds, lot of birds. I didn’t get a close enough look to identify the black birds, but they seem to be Rusty Blackbirds or Grackles. As they foraged, they moved from one spot to another in a great cloud of birds, all flying at the same time.

I tried to capture images of the birds with different backgrounds and especially like the first one below, which reminds me of some pf Escher’s pen-and-ink drawings of birds.

birds in flight

birds in flight

birds in flight

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Generally when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) in a tree, it is roosting in a protected location and napping. Early one morning this past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, however, I spotted this alert heron perched on an exposed dead tree, looking like it was playing the role of a sentinel.

I initially caught sight of the heron from a distance and followed a path in the treeline that let me get almost underneath the heron for some shots. The sky was overcast and there was not much light, causing the background to appear white and the images to be almost monochromatic.

Great Blue Heron

 

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I will intentionally use a slow shutter speed when I am panning a moving subject to blur the background and give a sense of motion, but that was not the case with these photos—I was shooting in aperture-priority mode and simply wasn’t paying attention to the shutter speed that the camera was giving me. In all three of these images, the shutter speed was 1/100 of a second, which is really too slow for handholding my 150-600mm zoom lens.

As the old saying goes, though, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. I really like the way the background was rendered and am not at all bothered by the somewhat soft focus on parts of the moving heron.

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It’s Hoodie season—hooded sweatshirts for me and lots of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) at Cameron Run in Alexandria, Virginia.

Yesterday I spotted this group of six males swimming around and hanging out together. Most of the time during the year when I see Hooded Mergansers, it is a couple or a mother with ducklings, so it was unusual for me to see such a large grouping. There were a few females too, but they seemed to ignore the males and for the most part kept to themselves.

Hooded Mergansers

While the single guys were burning off some energy, a couple found a quiet spot and decided to take a nap. I often see Canada Geese and Mallard ducks sleeping, but I am pretty sure that this is the first time that I have ever seen the little Hooded Mergansers doing so.

Hooded Mergansers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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When I was walking yesterday along Cameron Run, a tributary of the Potomac River in Alexandria, Virginia, I was shocked to spot a hawk perched nearby in a small tree almost at eye level. I was on a paved bike trail that parallels the stream and there is a relatively steep embankment that slopes down to the water’s edge. The tree was located on that embankment.

When the hawk, which I think is a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) eventually flew away and landed atop a building, it screamed out repeatedly at some circling crows. It makes me wonder if the hawk had previously been hiding from harassing crows and that is why it permitted me to get relatively close without initially taking off.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I wander about in Huntley Meadows Park, I see lots of signs that winter is on its way, including this tree that I encountered in what seemed to be the middle of the woods. Clearly the beavers have been as busy as, well, beavers. I am hoping to be able to capture them in action in the upcoming months.

If you read this blog frequently, you probably noticed that this image is quite different from my “normal” wildlife close-ups. When I stumbled upon this tree on which a beaver had been gnawing, I was struck by the interplay of light and shadows. As I framed this shot, which is uncropped here, I was trying to capture the almost monochromatic look of the scene in a very simple composition. I’m pretty pleased by the different textures that I was also able to capture in the shot.

North American Beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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