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A big catch

This Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) was focusing so intently on the water yesterdy that I thought it was stalking a fish. I was initially shocked at the size of the fish that it pulled out of the water until I realized that it was only a large leaf.

Double-crested Cormorant

The cormorant waved the leaf around proudly until it finally let go of the leaf. Obviously this bird has a policy of “catch and release.”

Double-crested Cormorant

Undeterred, the cormorant went back to fishing—I never did see him land one, but he might have been catching small fish during his dives.

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Cardinals on ice

Early yesterday morning there was a coating of ice on much of the water at Huntley Meadows Park. Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) were taking advantage of this new surface to forage for seeds in the lower parts of the vegetation growing out of the frozen water.

The bright red one is immediately identifiable as a male. The other one looks like it could be a female or an adolescent male. As is often the case with birds, male cardinals start off looking like females before they acquire their adult plumage. I’m leaning towards it being a female because of the color of the bill—with younger cardinals, the bill is often dusky rather than bright orange.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Unusual angle

Even familiar birds can look cool and different when viewed from an unusual angle. I photographed this Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) Monday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. I was shooting almost straight up and the subject was mostly backlit and in the shadows, but I could just see the red color at the edge of the head.

As an added bonus, you can just see what appears to be the touch of red on the bird’s belly that is responsible for its name—normally you can’t see it and wonder why it is called “red-bellied.”

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Laughing coot

Do coots laugh? I don’t know for sure, but that’s certainly what this American Coot (Fulica americana) seemed to be doing when I spotted him on Monday morning at Huntley Meadows Park.

American Coot

A bit later in the day, when the direction of the light was less harsh, I saw some more coots and was able to capture an image that shows more accurately the color of the coot’s body and its eerie red eyes.

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Beaver reflection

The beavers at Huntley Meadows Park have been remarkably elusive this winter, so I was excited to see this one on Monday as it swam by in the beautiful early morning light.

There are several beaver lodges in the park where I have spotted North American Beavers (Castor canadensis) in the past, but it is hard to know for sure which ones are currently active. Occasionally I will come to the park really early or stay late, hoping to spot a beaver, but this is the first one that I have spotted in many months. With a little luck I will be able to see one a bit closer than this one, which quite a distance away when I photographed it.

beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) seemed to be facing in the opposite direction when a sharp-eyed fellow photographer spotted it in a tree across a field. We were able to move quite a good distance across the field before the hawk became aware of our presence and took off.

Instead of flying up into the air, the hawk flew downwards initially and then flew behind the stand of trees, so I was unable to get any mid-flight shots with the sky as the background. However, I did manage to capture a sequence of shots as the hawk was getting ready to take off and also shortly after the takeoff.

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Singing in the rain

Male Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) are colorful and unusual looking and are one of my favorites. I spotted this one atop a nesting box at Huntley Meadows Park on Friday as he was singing in the rain. He stayed there for quite some time, periodically moving from one side of the roof to the other.

I waited and waited to see if a female Wood Duck would emerge from the box. but I never saw her. Perhaps he is keeping watch over eggs that may have been laid in the box.

Wood Duck

 

Wood Duck

 

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.