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Archive for December, 2016

When I first caught sight of this bird in the distance, I thought it might be a Red-shouldered Hawk, but I may have gotten lucky and captured some shots of a Merlin (Falco columbarius) this morning at Huntley Meadows Park. The past few months there have been repeated sightings of a pair of these falcons, but I personally have seen one of them on only two occasions. After so many recent days of cloud-filled skies, it was nice to have some sunshine and blue skies today, though the temperature was right around the freezing mark when I set out in the pre-dawn darkness.

UPDATE: One of my Facebook viewers has suggested that this looks to him to be an immature Red-tailed Hawk. As you can see, bird identification is not one of my strengths.

 

Merlin

Merlin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds are so skittish that they fly away the very second that they detect my presence. Other birds are so tolerant or have gotten so used to humans that they will come right up to me or allow me to get pretty close to them. Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) are somewhere in the middle—generally they will turn their backs to me and swim away, but don’t fly away.

On a recent trip to my favorite marshland park, Huntley Meadows Park, I spotted a small group of Northern Shovelers. They were in constant motion as they foraged in the vegetation in the far reaches of one of the small ponds. It was a bit frustrating trying to get shots of them, because they spent most of the time swimming with their heads partially submerged.

I waited patiently and finally one of the handsome males briefly stopped swimming and gave me a half-smile and I was able to capture this image.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I never quite know what I will see when I wander about in the back areas of Huntley Meadows Park. This past Monday I came upon this partially deteriorated turtle shell. Initially it was in a muddy area adjacent to a beaver pond, but I moved it onto branches of a fallen tree to take the photos.

I just love the organic shapes and designs of the shell and the way that you can see some of its underlying structure.

turtle shell

turtle shell

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As they headed out on the Potomac River this past weekend, these fishermen looked like they had decorated their rods with little Christmas ornaments that glimmered in the early morning light as I watched them from the shore at historic Fort Washington Park in Maryland.

Potomac River

The buildings and gun emplacements at the fort are impressive, but more than anything else, I am irresistibly drawn to the little lighthouse there. Even though I was shooting with a long telephoto zoom lens, I tried several landscape-style compositions in an effort to capture a sense of the location.

Potomac River

Potomac River

 

The shoreline on the other side of the river was hazy and indistinct, almost like an impressionist painting, but it proved to be tough to capture that feeling with my camera. This final shot gives you a sense of what I was going for—I think a tripod might help in the future with this kind of a shot.

Potomac River

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool yesterday to see some elegant Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) poking about in the distant weeds of Huntley Meadows Park. At first I thought that the ducks in this first image were male-female couple. The more I look at the image, however, the more I think the duck in the foreground may be an immature male that will eventually look like the male in the background. The Northern Pintails in the second image look more to me like a male-female couple.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I made a quick trip to Huntley Meadows Park on Christmas Day to see what creatures were stirring and was surprised to see some turtles had surfaced to bask in the sun. The flash of red on this Red-eared Slider turtle (Trachemys scripta elegans) made its colors seasonally appropriate and it did seem to have sandy claws.

Red-eared Slider

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I walked through frosty streets in the early hours of Christmas morning, I could see lots of colored lights adorning the houses of my neighbors. What really drew my eyes, though, was the sliver of the moon shining brightly in the darkness—it was simultaneously modest and spectacular. It brought to mind some words from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

As my pastor reminded us last night, Christmas comes in ordinary ways to everyday people like us and it is a season of hope and expectation. No matter what you believe or what you choose to celebrate, we can all use more light and hope in our lives and today is a good day to be reminded of that.

Christmas moon

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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