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Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

As this Turkey Vulture circled overhead, I couldn’t help but notice the large gap in its wing feathers. Some birds seem to fight with each other, which cold account for the missing feathers, but I don’t recall ever seeing a Turkey Vulture squabbling with another bird. What would they fight about? Territory? Food?

Despite the gap, the vulture seemed to have no trouble flying and its wingspan was still pretty impressive.

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Last weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, a Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor) seemed determined to scare off potential competitors by screaming loudly and vigorously flapping its wings as it sat atop a pole to which a nesting box was attached. The swallow spent a lot of time looking upwards, scanning the skies for rivals. I couldn’t tell if the swallow’s mate was inside of the nesting box or if it was simply staking a claim to the box for future use.

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) are usually pretty skittish, but the females are a little less so at this time of the year as they hang around and wait for their eggs to hatch.  I spotted this little lady earlier this month on a morning when the light was particularly beautiful. She was unusually cooperative and looked in my direction as if to say, “I’m ready for my close-up.”

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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With so much water currently in the central wetlands area of Huntley Meadows Park, I don’t see many shorebirds at this time of the year. The shorebirds seem to prefer to wade in shallow water. This past weekend, however, I spotted this one as it surveyed the marshland from atop a log. I think it is a Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca), although I admit that I have troubles identifying the different shorebirds, many of which look almost identical to me.

As you can see, the yellowlegs was a long way away. Usually I try to get close-up shots with either a telephoto or a macro lens and am a little disappointed if I can not fill a substantial part of the frame with my primary subject. In this case, however, I was never tempted to crop the image more severely, because  the surrounding landscape is an important element of making this image appealing to me.

Greater Yellowlegs

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When some birds zoomed by me this past weekend, I could tell they were swallows by the way that they flew.  Their coloration, however, didn’t seem to match the Barn and Tree Swallows that I have previously seen at Huntley Meadows Park.

One of them finally perched and I got this shot of what appears to be a Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Stelgidopteryx serripennis), a bird that I had never seen before. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “The species derives its name from the outer wing feathers, which have small hooks or points on their leading edges.”

The bright sun made for a pleasant day, but made it tough to properly expose for the brilliant white feathers on the swallow’s chest. I was happy that I managed to capture a few details of the feathers despite the rather harsh midday sunlight.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As the seasons change, new birds appear and disappear at my favorite marshland park—Huntley Meadows Park—in Northern Virginia. We are fortunate to be along the migratory route for birds flying north and south and are far enough south to be a destination of some overwintering birds.

Unlike the Great Blue Herons, which remain with us all year, Green Herons (Butorides virescens) leave in the autumn and I eagerly await their arrival in the spring? Why? I am utterly fascinated by these squat little birds, despite the fact they have none of the elegance of the Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. They always strike me as industrious and diligent and go about their work, generally avoiding the spotlight. Green Herons also seem to have an abundance of personality and almost seem capable of expressing emotions. Finally, Green Herons have a subdued, but refined beauty, a beauty that I was able to capture in this image from yesterday morning.

Welcome back, Green Herons. I missed you. Perhaps it is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Many of the birds seemed to have sought shelter from the strong winds yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, but this female Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris) went about her daily grooming routine without paying any attention to the weather conditions. She did, however, seem a little shy and struck a coy pose when I pointed my camera in her direction.

Ring-necked Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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