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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

The light was dim in the early morning hours this past Wednesday at Huntley Meadows Park, but I could detect some movement in the vegetation adjacent to the boardwalk that runs through the marshland. I watched and waited and eventually a male Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) swam slowly into view and I managed to capture some images of it. I love the reflections of both the duck and the vegetation in this shot.

After the fact, I discovered that I probably should have changed the setting of my camera to raise the shutter speed. Many of my shots were blurry, but somehow this one came out reasonably sharp, despite the fact that it was taken with a shutter speed of only 1/15 of a second with my lens zoomed out all of the way to 600mm. I am pretty sure that it helped that I was using a monopod.

This incident reminded me of the special challenges and rewards that come with shooting at dawn or dusk. There is often a lot of activity, but there is a constant struggle to capture that activity in the limited light that is available. When things come together, though, it is almost magical and is definitely worth the effort.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This eagle’s nest is nestled back in the trees at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, somewhat obstructed though still visible from the trail. When I first sighted the nest this past Saturday morning, it looked like it was empty.  I kept my eyes glued to the nest as I slowly walked past it and suddenly I spotted a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) sitting on the nest, partially hidden in the shadow of the trees. This is the second nest at the refuge that I have spotted so far this winter that appears to be in use, though I suspect that there may be more. When leaves return to the trees, I fear that the nest will be completely hidden from view, which will give the eagles a little more privacy from paparazzi like me.

bald eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Composition does not get much more simple than this—a single subject with its reflection against an uncluttered, almost monochromatic background.

The skies were heavily overcast this past Friday and rain fell intermittently on me as I walked along the trails at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Most of the birds seem to have taken shelter from the inclement weather. One hardy heron, however, had waded out into the shallow waters of the bay and I was thrilled to be able to capture this image of it. I see Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) pretty often, but will always stop to observe them. Sometimes I am patient enough to see one catch a fish, but most of the time the heron’s patience exceeds mine.

Recently I have been watching a lot of videos on pencil sketching and watercolors and it struck me that the shadowy reflection of the bird in this photo could have been rendered using one of those techniques.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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The light was so beautiful early this morning at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that it looked like this male Bufflehead duck (Bucephala albeola) was swimming in the clouds rather than in the water, giving this image an almost surreal feel that I really enjoy.

bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Yesterday I spotted this cool-looking Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) in the vegetation at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I especially love the thrasher’s light-colored eyes and distinctive markings.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am rarely able to see the red belly of the Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus) that I occasionally spot, but the light was coming from the right direction on Monday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge to illuminate the reddish-brown color of this woodpecker’s belly.

When I first started taking photos of birds, I remember seeing the bright red color of a woodpecker like this one and thinking it must be called a “red-headed woodpecker.” I am somewhat more knowledgeable about birds now and have a greater appreciation for the difficulties associated with identifying them. In particular, I have learned that you often cannot rely on the name of a bird to identify its key features.

Red belly or not, I knew what this bird was as soon as I saw it, but it was nevertheless wonderful that it chose to pose so nicely for me. One of my Facebook viewers said that it reminded her of a similar pose in the movie The Lion King. It turns out that The Lion King is one of my favorite movies, and I was thrilled when I just now watched a You Tube video of The Circle of Life, one of the songs in the movie that features the rock outcropping that looks like the branch in my photo. I was particularly drawn to the beauty of the birds in the opening moments of the video. It is worth checking out if you have never seen it before or even if you have.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Bufflehead ducks (Bucephala albeola) recently were playing around off of Occoquan Bay National Wild Life Refuge, chasing each other around and even giving each other piggyback rides—or so it seemed.

buffleheads

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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