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Posts Tagged ‘birds in flight’

I was looking high and in the distance and the Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) came in low and was almost on top of me before I saw it yesterday morning at Huntley Meadows Park. I had to scramble and pull back on my zoom lens to capture this image, which barely fit into the frame of the viewfinder. (The EXIF data for the shot indicate that it was shot at 309mm of my 150-600mm Tamron telephoto zoom lens.)

I feel like I should have been able to take better advantage of the situation that presented itself, but I am not disappointed. As I have noted repeatedly, any day with a bald eagle is a great day.

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Green Herons (Butorides virescens) have so much personality packed into their small bodies. This one almost seemed to be smiling as it flew by me last weekend  at Huntley Meadows Park. Perhaps it was just my imagination running away with me.

Green Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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For wildlife photographers, I would argue, a successful image is most often the result of some combination of luck, skill, and equipment. We inhabit a world of tremendous uncertainty and have to be hypervigilant, never knowing when “the moment” will arrive when we will be forced to make a series of split-second decisions.

One of those moments arrived for me yesterday as I was exploring Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge in Woodbridge, Virginia. Although I was quite aware that there were bald eagles in the area, because some of the trails in the refuge near eagle nesting sites were closed, I was primarily chasing dragonflies and butterflies, so I had my 180mm macro lens mounted on my camera. I knew that I would be doing a lot of walking, so in order to minimize weight, I was not carrying my trusty (and heavy) 150-600mm zoom lens.

I was following a trail that ran parallel to the waters of Occoquan Bay and was a little frustrated that the view was frequently obstructed by heavy vegetation. When I reached an opening in the vegetation I looked out at the water and suddenly a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) burst into view out of nowhere. The eagle was almost at eye level and seemed to be struggling a little to gain altitude. As I later was able to ascertain, it had just caught a fish.

The logical part of my brain might have told me that a 180mm lens is not long enough to capture an image of an eagle in flight, but think I was acting on an instinctive level at that moment and I was able to snap off some shots before the eagle disappeared out of sight. It took a while for the adrenaline to wear off and I didn’t know for sure if I had been able to capture the moment. It was only when I reviewed the images on my computer that I realized that I had gotten my best eagle shots ever.

As is the case with most of my bird images, I cropped the first image to bring the subject in a bit closer. However, I am also including an uncropped version of the same image. It boggles my mind to think that I filled up that much of the frame with an eagle in flight with a 180mm lens.

Luck was hugely important; skill played a role, though it was my quick reaction time that was critical; and equipment turned out to be less important that I would have anticipated.

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Great Egrets (Ardea alba) are so graceful in flight—it’s like watching an aerial ballet performance. I spotted this egret early this morning at Huntley Meadows Park and captured this image as it was taking off from atop a tree on which it was perched.

Great Egret

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I’ve seen crows harassing hawks and eagles, but I’d never seen a crow being chased off by another bird until this past Friday at Huntley Meadows Park, when I witnessed a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) flying after what appeared to be a crow. After the heron caught up and forced the crow to depart, the heron appeared to be squawking a few words of warning not to return.

heron and crow

heron and crow

heron and crow

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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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.

 

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A loud smack in the water yesterday afternoon at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia caused me to turn my head and I was shocked when I saw an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) pull a fish out of the water—I though that all of the osprey had gone south for the winter months ago.

This encounter was a real test of my ability to react quickly. I had been watching some small birds in the bushes at the edge of the water when I heard the osprey’s impact with the water. My brain went into overdrive as I tried to figure out what had caused the sound, but simultaneously I was raising my camera to my eye and pointing it in the direction from which the sound had come. I didn’t have time to change the settings on the camera and was fortunate that they were more or less ok. My focus was set for single shot and not continuous focus, so many of my shots were not in focus and my shutter speed ended up at 1/500 sec, a bit too slow to freeze the action. Still, I am thrilled that I got a couple of decent shots out of the encounter.

After I posted a photo in a birding forum in Facebook, several local birders noted that osprey often return to the area in mid-February, so this osprey is only a bit of an early bird.

osprey

osprey

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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