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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 150-600mm’

Why do I like to get up really early in the morning, striving to arrive at my destination just as the sun is rising? There is something special about the sights and sounds and even the smell of the early morning. At a time when many people are still snuggled in their warm beds, many wild creatures are already active.

It’s a real challenge, though, to pinpoint that activity and it is even harder to photograph it. Even when I am not able to get a shot, however, I am often filled with a sense of awe and reverence as I share the start of the day with all of these amazing creatures.

When things come together, it is truly magical, and I had one of those experiences this past weekend. I was seated on a fallen tree at the edge of a remote beaver pond at Huntley Meadows Park, my favorite spot in the park. I had been sitting there for a while, almost entranced by the reflections in the water, when I suddenly spotted the unmistakable wake of a swimming beaver.

This North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) appeared to be swimming laps in the middle of the pond. The beaver would head a certain direction for a little while and then would turn and swim back in the other direction, moving back and forth, in and out of the shadows and the reflections. Time seemed to slow down. I leaned forward slightly and tried to get as low as I could, but did not make any abrupt movements for fear of spooking the beaver.

It is really difficult to put into words what I was feeling as I observed the swimming beaver and I hope this image helps to convey a sense of the encounter. Eventually the beaver swam off and I continued on my way, filled with a sense of calm and inner peace.

Why do I like to get up early? The knowledge and the hope that special moments like this may await me are sufficient motivation for me.

beaver

© 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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Greens for breakfast? It’s not what I would choose, but it’s what was on the menu for an Eastern Gray Squirrel early this morning at Huntley Meadows Park. The squirrel paused for only a second, so I didn’t have much time to frame the shot. I like the result and this was a rare occasion when I did not need to crop the image at all.

As for my breakfast choices, I think I will stick with my usual oatmeal.

Gray Squirrel

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Coots look clumsy when bobbing about in the water, but amazingly they look even more awkward out of the water, like this one that I spotted Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. Their green feet, which are not webbed like those of a duck, seem disproportionately large and almost cartoonish, like the oversized Hulk hands that I have seen little kids wear at times in the past.

When I first started photographing birds, I assumed that American Coots (Fulica americana) were part of the duck family. After all, coots swam in the water, were about the same size as some ducks, and sometimes seemed to hang out with ducks.

When I did a little research, however, I learned that coots are not at all related to ducks. As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology points out, “they’re closer relatives of the gangly Sandhill Crane and the nearly invisible rails than of Mallards or teal.”

American Coot

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What predators at Huntley Meadows Park are powerful enough to kill an adult beaver? Could this North American Beaver (Castor canadensis) have died of natural causes? Why was its body more than half a mile from the water?

The bright orange incisors and the large flat tail make identification of the body easy, but the cause of death is a mystery. A trail runner pointed out the carcass to me shortly after I spotted a Black Vulture this past weekend, which explains why the vulture was hanging around. (Check out my earlier posting Black Vulture in a tree to see photos of this somewhat creepy bird.)

It was interesting to see the reactions of different park visitors to these questions when I posted them to a community Facebook page. Some immediately assumed that coyotes, which have been spotted in the park, were responsibleand focused on the size and ferocity of these predators. Others spoke of disease or about the complex social structures of the beavers and how teenage beavers are kicked out of the lodge at a certain point in time and forced to fend for themselves.

Some readers simply used emojis, including one with tears. Somehow the loss of this industrious herbivore with human-like paws touches many of us deeply, reminding us of the fragility and preciousness of our own lives.

R.I.P., beautiful creature of God.

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

death of a beaver

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Basking in the rays of yesterday’s early morning sunlight, this female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) seemed to be caught up in a moment of reverie as she contemplated the start of a new day at Huntley Meadows Park.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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