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Scratching an itch

You have to be really careful scratching an itch if you have big talons like this Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that I spotted yesterday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

At least one of the eagle couples has recently been observed building a nest, so already a number of paths in the wildlife refuge are now blocked. As I wondered around the refuge, I did spot several eagle couples and some possible nests—it is hard for me to tell if a possible nest is an eagle nest or an osprey nest. Unlike the nest in the closed area, these nests are far enough away from the paths that the human presence is less likely to disturb the eagles. It is at times like this that I am thankful that my telephoto zoom lens extends out to 600mm.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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A Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) really seemed to be enjoying the poison ivy berries that it managed to find on a frigid morning earlier this month at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

This little bird was so focused on finding food that it was not disturbed by my presence, which allowed me to capture a series of images.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

No trip to Brussels is complete without a visit to see the statue of the Manneken Pis, the little boy that is one of the symbols of the city. Yesterday he was dressed in a costume that I have not yet been able to identify, but looks Scottish to me.

The little boy has hundreds of different costumes that he wears on special occasions, but the poor fit of this one makes me wonder if it might be an “unofficial” costume that was put on the statue as a prank.

Manneken Pis

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Icescapes

I don’t often shoot landscape images, but I was so taken with the stark beauty of the ice-covered world that I encountered on New Year’s Day at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge that I decided that I should attempt to capture a sense of the moment. I used the wide-angle capabilities of my Canon SX50 superzoom camera in the first two images below and shot the third one with the Tamron 150-600mm lens, the lens that I use on my Canon 50D for a significant number of my the photos featured on this blog.

icescape

icescape

icescape

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Cardinal and berries

The berries looked dried up and unappetizing to me, but to the male Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) that I spotted last Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, they provided much needed nourishment on a frigid winter day.

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

On the day of my arrival in Brussels, Belgium for a short business trip, I went for a short walk in the botanical garden, one of my favorite spots to visit in this city. It is within walking distance of my hotel and is one of the few places where I know I can find a taste of nature in the crowed inner city area of Brussels.

Initially I noted only a few mallard ducks and moorhens in the small pond at the botanical garden, but when I looked more closely, I spotted a couple of spectacularly-colored ducks sleeping in a remote corner. I wasn’t sure what they were, but that did not deter me from taking some photos of them. When I went searching on the internet for the species of ducks in Brussels, none of them seemed to match the ones that I had seen. So I switched to searching using more descriptive terms and discovered that the birds were not ducks, but were in fact geese—Egyptian Geese.

As their name suggests, Egyptian Geese (Alopochen aegyptiaca) are native to the Nile River area and sub-Saharan Africa. There are now established breeding populations in parts of Europe and even in the United States.

I took this photo with my Canon SX50, a superzoom point-and-shoot camera that I usually take with me when I travel. As you can see from this image, the camera is capable of capturing a pretty good amount of detail and color.

Egyptian Goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Sparrow in the snow

Some birds may seek shelter when the weather is inhospitable, but sparrows seem to be active and busy all of the time, like this White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) that I spotted in the snow this past Friday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

It is a bit of a challenge to get a proper exposure when so much of the frame is filled with white snow. As I understand it, the camera would like to render everything to a neutral gray, so it is necessary to overexpose the image or adjust it in post-processing.  In my initial RAW image, the sparrow was very much in the shadows and the snow had a grayish-blue tinge to it. I cranked up the exposure to the point that most of the snow turned almost pure white and I was left with soft bluish shadows that I really like. I am also pretty pleased with the sparrow’s pose as it paused for a moment to survey the landscape.

White-throated Sparrow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.