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Archive for the ‘Autumn’ Category

When I heard loud singing coming from the top of a tree, I glanced up and saw a shape that reminded me of a mockingbird. Looking more closely, I realized that the colors looked more like those of a female Red-winged Blackbird, but the shape of the body and behavior were not those of a blackbird. Although I was pretty far away, I noticed that the bird had startlingly light-colored eyes. What was this bird?

Thanks to its physical characteristics, it was not hard to locate this bird in my identification book when I got home—it is a Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum).  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “Brown Thrashers are exuberant singers, with one of the largest repertoires of any North American songbird.” The same article notes that some early naturalists thought that the Brown Thrasher’s musical abilities are underappreciated, as compared with the mockingbird, which has received greater acclaim. “Brown Thrasher”  somehow sounds to me like it should be associated more with a heavy metal band than with this pretty bird. Maybe this bird needs a better marketing strategy and a public relations campaign.

The sky was heavily overcast the day I took these shots. Normally I don’t like the look of the washed-out skies, but in this case I really like the effect. One of my Facebook viewers commented that it made the photo that I posted (the first one below) look like an Audubon print.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spent much of my time Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge scanning the trees for birds. On one of the rare moments when I was looking down, I ended up looking into the eyes of what appears to be a Northern Watersnake (Nerodia sipedon).

Although it may look like I was dangerously close to this snake, I took these shots with my Tamron 150-600mm lens, which has a minimum focusing distance of almost 9 feet (274 cm). Northern Watersnakes are not poisonous, but I have been told that their bites can be very painful and that the snakes inject an anti-coagulant when they bite, so wounds tend to bleed profusely.

I particularly like the way that I was able to capture some of the details of the snake, including its scales and its head. If you look closely, you can even see a miniature landscape in the eyes of the snake.

UPDATE: One of the viewers on my Facebook page commented that this looks more like an Eastern Ratsnake (Pantherophis alleghaniensis) than a Northern Watersnake. I am hoping to get some clarification on the species of this snake and would welcome the views of any readers with expertise in this area.

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

Northern Watersnake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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It was cool, wet, and a little breezy yesterday, not exactly a perfect day for photography, but I made a trip anyways to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.  My persistence was rewarded when I was able to capture some images of several cute little Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata).

When it comes to warblers, I generally have two big problems. Warblers seem to like to perch in the center of clusters of branches and it is often virtually impossible to get unobstructed shots of them. Even if I am able to get a clear shot, I am faced with the equally daunting challenge of identifying the bird. There appear to be a large number of warblers with similar patterns and colors and there are innumerable variations based on season, age, gender, and region.

I was pretty confident that the birds in these images were Yellow-rumped Warblers, but for reassurance I checked with some experts on a Facebook birding forum. One of them humorously noted that this bird is often informally referred to as “Butterbutt.”

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The heavy clouds and intermittent rain on Monday morning at Huntley Meadows Park limited the light and muted the colors, but in my eyes the beauty of this Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) was in no way diminished.

The bluebird perched in a marshy area with lots of trees, so it was tough for me to get a clear shot. I was happy to find at last a gap between two lichen-covered trees that let me capture this image. A blue sky would have been nice, but I had to settle for the almost pure white sky that you see in the shot.

Eastern Bluebird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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It was dark and overcast yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park and became more eerie when a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) started to circle lower and lower around me. Eventually it landed on the broken tip of a nearby tree.

After closing its wings initially, the vulture suddenly opened them wide and left them open for an extended period of time, perhaps to let them dry—it had been raining earlier in the morning. The wing position reminded me of the Double-crested Cormorants that I occasionally see with wings extended to dry them after an underwater dive.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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A small flock of wild turkeys yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge moved off of the trail and into the woods as I approached. Peering through the vegetation a few seconds later, I was able to catch a glimpse of one of them that may have though it was well hidden.

It would be hard for me to say that Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are beautiful, but they sure do have a distinctive look.

wild turkey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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