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When I spotted this odd-looking bird yesterday at the Botanical Garden in Brussels, I couldn’t make my mind up if it was a duck or a goose. It seemed too big to be a duck, but its markings seemed too colorful for a goose.

After a lot of searching on the internet, I have concluded this is probably an Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca). As its name suggests, this species is native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley and is an introduced species in Europe, according to Wikipedia. There are in excess of 250 breeding pairs in Belgium, primarily around Brussels and the Flanders area, according to a posting on birdforum.net.

This bird did not hang around for very long, so I did not have a chance to see if, as The Bangles famously sang, it walked like an Egyptian (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cv6tuzHUuuk).

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Initially I did a double take when I saw the sign for a restaurant in Brussels called O’Tacos and I figured it was some kind of Irish-Mexican fusion cuisine. I almost burst out laughing, however, when I read the words, “Original French Tacos.” French tacos? Who knew?

I did some further investigation when I returned to my hotel and found out that O’Tacos is a chain that is now worldwide. OK, but what exactly is a French taco? A review on foodrepublic.com described it in these words—”Less like a taco and more like a pressed San Diego-style burrito, the French taco is stuffed with fries, a white creamy cheese sauce, a protein (choices include grilled chicken breast, nuggets, tenders, ground beef or sausage), an additional sauce (mustard, Tabasco, ketchup, mayonnaise, barbecue) and other ingredients (cheese, mushrooms, grilled veggies, an egg, bacon, ham and more) all wrapped up in a flour tortilla.”

original French tacos

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The most colorful dragonfly that I have spotted in Brussels during this trip has been a spectacular male Migrant Hawker dragonfly (Aeshna mixta) that was flying patrols over a small pond at the botanical garden.  It spent a lot of time in the air, but occasionally would perch for a short while. Every now it then it would hover over the water, which let me capture the second shot of the dragonfly in flight. My Canon SX50 is a little slow in acquiring focus, so I didn’t think that I would be able to capture any action shots of the dragonfly. However, I kept trying and eventually was able to get a reasonably sharp shot. When I checked out the shooting data for the image, I realized that the shutter speed had dropped to 1/100 second because of the dark water, so it’s almost a miracle that I stopped the action at all—I was shooting in aperture priority mode and was letting the camera choose the shutter speed.

Migrant Hawker

Migrant Hawker

 © Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Walking two dogs simultaneously while riding a bicycle? I am not sure that I would try it, but this man in Vienna was somewhat successful in doing so.

dog walking in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I was hoping that I would be in Vienna at the right time of the year to see baby swans, but I guess my trip brought me here a bit too early. At the lake at Donau-Auen National Park, I could see one Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) swimming around and wondered if it was alone. When I walked further around the lake, I spotted what appears to be its mate, partially hidden by the vegetation, sitting on a nest.

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

Mute Swan

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Nature photographers are a peculiar breed of people. How else could I explain why I headed off to the Donau-Auen National Park within hours of my arrival in Vienna, Austria. I am staying in the center of the city, virtually surrounded by historic buildings and monuments, yet I feel more drawn to explore nature than history.

Saturday was a warm, sunny day and I was hoping to encounter dragonflies as I explored some of the areas of the park that I have visited before. It may be a little early in the season or that I was simply not lucky, but in any case I did not encounter a single dragonfly. I was, however, quite fortunate and saw quite a few damselflies. These beautiful little creatures are tiny and elusive and like to hide perch on vegetation, so it is often challenging to get clear shots of them.

I was shooting with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot, which helped me sometimes to get shots without scaring off the damselflies. In some cases, though, it was really tough to get the camera’s focus to lock onto the target.

The shapes and colors of the damselflies are somewhat familiar and may be related to the species that I see at home, but I am not even going to try to identify them. I hope that you can enjoy the delicate beauty of these damselflies that I encountered during my most recent adventures in the national park here in Vienna.

damselfly in Vienna

 

damselfly in Vienna

 

damselfly in Vienna

damselfly in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I couldn’t help but do a double take when I saw this sign at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was filled with visions of dogs on automatic conveyor belts being sprayed with soap and slapped with moving towels. Was hot wax an option for dogs?

I did a little checking and learned that the dog wash is a separate facility adjacent to the car wash. It is the first of its kind on a US military installation and includes a coin-operated, do-it-yourself, climate-controlled booth that offers washing, drying and flea and tick bathing options. The booth is then automatically sterilized after each use.

dog wash

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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