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Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Best wishes for a blessed and happy Easter to all who are celebrating this day. Earlier this morning I went to an outdoor sunrise service at my church at 6:30 a.m. and I am not getting ready for our normal morning service in a couple of hours. Easter is a bit later this year than in some years in the past and it was already light and pleasantly warm when we began our service—in past years we were often bundled up and needed flashlights to read the programs.

I chose two images to celebrate Easter. The first is a macro shot of a flower from a recent trip to Green Spring Gardens and it speaks to me of the growth and renewal of this season. The second is a shot of my PR (Prime Rib), my very own Easter bunny, who greets me each morning.

Happy Easter to all of you.

Easter

Prime Rib

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I am not exactly sure what was going on, but this muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) seemed to be really struggling in the open water one afternoon last week as the strong wind gusts made the water really choppy at Huntley Meadows Park. Normally muskrats use their tails as a source of underwater propulsion, but it seemed really unusual to see a muskrat’s tail completely out of the water.

A Wikipedia article noted that muskrat tails are covered with scales rather than hair, and, to aid them in swimming, are slightly flattened vertically, which is a shape that is unique to them. I somehow had always thought of muskrat tails as being long and skinny, but, as the image shows, their tails are quite substantial.

I can’t tell for sure, but it looks like the muskrat may be carrying something in its mouth and/or front paws. Is that why it was seeking to balance itself with its tail? For now it remains a mystery, but I think I will go back over the other photos that I took of this muskrat to see if I can find an answer.

muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Why do I like to get up really early in the morning, striving to arrive at my destination just as the sun is rising? There is something special about the sights and sounds and even the smell of the early morning. At a time when many people are still snuggled in their warm beds, many wild creatures are already active.

It’s a real challenge, though, to pinpoint that activity and it is even harder to photograph it. Even when I am not able to get a shot, however, I am often filled with a sense of awe and reverence as I share the start of the day with all of these amazing creatures.

When things come together, it is truly magical, and I had one of those experiences this past weekend. I was seated on a fallen tree at the edge of a remote beaver pond at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite spot in the park. I had been sitting there for a while, almost entranced by the reflections in the water, when I suddenly spotted the unmistakable wake of a swimming beaver.

This North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) appeared to be swimming laps in the middle of the pond. The beaver would head a certain direction for a little while and then would turn and swim back in the other direction, moving back and forth, in and out of the shadows and the reflections. Time seemed to slow down. I leaned forward slightly and tried to get as low as I could, but did not make any abrupt movements for fear of spooking the beaver.

It is really difficult to put into words what I was feeling as I observed the swimming beaver and I hope this image helps to convey a sense of the encounter. Eventually the beaver swam off and I continued on my way, filled with a sense of calm and inner peace.

Why do I like to get up early? The knowledge and the hope that special moments like this may await me are sufficient motivation for me.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Greens for breakfast? It’s not what I would choose, but it’s what was on the menu for an Eastern Gray Squirrel early this morning at Huntley Meadows Park. The squirrel paused for only a second, so I didn’t have much time to frame the shot. I like the result and this was a rare occasion when I did not need to crop the image at all.

As for my breakfast choices, I think I will stick with my usual oatmeal.

Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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What predators at Huntley Meadows Park are powerful enough to kill an adult beaver? Could this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) have died of natural causes? Why was its body more than half a mile from the water?

The bright orange incisors and the large flat tail make identification of the body easy, but the cause of death is a mystery. A trail runner pointed out the carcass to me shortly after I spotted a Black Vulture this past weekend, which explains why the vulture was hanging around. (Check out my earlier posting Black Vulture in a tree to see photos of this somewhat creepy bird.)

It was interesting to see the reactions of different park visitors to these questions when I posted them to a community Facebook page. Some immediately assumed that coyotes, which have been spotted in the park, were responsibleand focused on the size and ferocity of these predators. Others spoke of disease or about the complex social structures of the beavers and how teenage beavers are kicked out of the lodge at a certain point in time and forced to fend for themselves.

Some readers simply used emojis, including one with tears. Somehow the loss of this industrious herbivore with human-like paws touches many of us deeply, reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of our own lives.

R.I.P., beautiful creature of God.

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The beavers at Huntley Meadows Park have been remarkably elusive this winter, so I was excited to see this one on Monday as it swam by in the beautiful early morning light.

There are several beaver lodges in the park where I have spotted North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) in the past, but it is hard to know for sure which ones are currently active. Occasionally I will come to the park really early or stay late, hoping to spot a beaver, but this is the first one that I have spotted in many months. With a little luck I will be able to see one a bit closer than this one, which quite a distance away when I photographed it.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) was so close yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park that I almost stepped back off of the edge of the slippery boardwalk as I tried to make sure that I was within the focusing range of my telephoto zoom lens.

I ended up wet from the intermittent rain, but managed to avoid falling into the water.

muskrat

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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