Archive for the ‘birds’ Category

Life and death at Occoquan Bay revisited

September 16, 2018

I revisited the set of photos that I shot of an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a fish in its talons, perched on a dead tree limb overhanging Fox Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia.

The Osprey was looking at me directly in the following photo. I wonder what the bird was thinking. With a piercing glare like that, I’m guessing he wasn’t thinking “Would you like to join me for lunch?”

23 AUG 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Osprey (male, plus prey)

In stark contrast with the Osprey’s piercing glare, notice the fish’s vacant stare.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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More Wild Turkey at OBNWR

September 10, 2018

Several Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) were spotted during a photowalk along Fox Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

There were four birds in the group, foraging along the road. The red-headed individual is a male.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Life and death at Occoquan Bay

August 27, 2018

An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was spotted perched on a dead tree limb overhanging Fox Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA. This individual, possibly a male, is shown with a fish in its talons.

23 AUG 2018 | Occoquan Bay NWR | Osprey (male, plus prey)

The fish appears to be an unknown species of goldfish. Did you notice the drop of blood in the preceding photo?

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wild Turkey (“record” shots)

August 19, 2018

Several Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) were spotted along the edge of the parking lot at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Appearances to the contrary, the photos in this set were taken at quite a distance. Wary of my approach on foot, the turkeys did the turkey trot, moving from right-to-left until they were out of sight quickly.

Although I have seen signs of Wild Turkey at OBNWR, this is the first time I’ve seen actual birds. Not my best work, but hey, these “record” shots provide documentation of the sighting. With any luck, it won’t be the last time I see Wild Turkey at the refuge.

Copyright © 2018 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

New discoveries in 2017 (non-odonates)

December 30, 2017

I’m an equal opportunity photographer. Although I tend to focus on photographing odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) I will photograph anything interesting that catches my eye. This retrospective features non-odonate new finds for 2017.

House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus)

05 APR 2017 | The Beacon of Groveton | House Finch (male)

A House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) was spotted in the parking garage at the Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a male.

Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos)

An Eastern Hog-nosed Snake (Heterodon platirhinos) was spotted at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park (HORP), Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Mayfly (Hexagenia sp.)

A mayfly (Hexagenia sp.) was spotted at Riverbend Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is a female subimago.

Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris)

A male Eastern Amberwing dragonfly (Perithemis tenera) was spotted perching on the nose of a Northern Red-bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris), at Mulligan Pond, Jackson Miles Abbott Wetland Refuge, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

Blister beetle (Meloe sp.)

A blister beetle (Meloe sp.) was spotted at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Wild Turkey feathers (Meleagris gallopavo)

A tail feather from a Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) was photographed in situ along Easy Road at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 22, 2017

On the traditional day when we give thanks for our many blessings, I am especially thankful for the opportunity to be a frequent and careful observer of the natural beauty of several wildlife parks located in Northern Virginia, and for many good friends with whom I share the experience. Happy Thanksgiving! Now let’s have some turkey…

Signs of Wildlife

Although I have never seen a Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Prince William County, Virginia USA, I know they’re there because of several items that were observed at the refuge recently.

A tail feather from a Wild Turkey was photographed in situ along Easy Road. The feather is approximately eleven inches (11″) long from end-to-end.

A wing feather was photographed in situ along Easy Road, near the preceding tail feather. The feather is approximately ten inches (10″) long from end-to-end.

Thanks to Mike Boatwright for confirming my tentative identification of the tail feather and for identifying the wing feather.

Lots of animal scat, possibly from Wild Turkey, was observed along Easy Road near the Wild Turkey feathers shown above.

Did you notice the brown flies on the animal scat? They may be Scathophaga furcata, a species of dung fly. Thanks to Matt Pelikan from the BugGuide Facebook group and Charles Davis from the Capital Naturalist Facebook group for help in identifying the flies!

Related Resource: The Feather Atlas – Flight Feathers of North American Birds, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory.

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

House Finches

April 8, 2017

Sometime after I moved to a new apartment, I noticed some cute little reddish-brown birds that sing a cheerful song. I used the free Merlin Bird ID App to identify the bird based upon a few simple observations. Turns out my little friends are House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus).

As time passed and months stretched into years, I realized the birds appeared in the spring, hung around all summer, and disappeared in the fall.

These newly established eastern populations have since become migratory, and now spend winters in the southern parts of the United States. Source Credit: BioKIDS.

05 APR 2017 | The Beacon of Groveton | House Finch (male)

These photos show two of several House Finches spotted recently near the top of the seven-story parking garage at the Beacon of Groveton, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. Both individuals are male, as indicated by their reddish coloration.

05 APR 2017 | The Beacon of Groveton | House Finch (male)

Copyright © 2017 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Don’t “leap” to conclusions!

March 10, 2016

The woodpecker shown in the following photos has a red head so it must be a Red-headed Woodpecker, right? Wrong!

A Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) spotted at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a male.

This is a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), probably a male, spotted on 29 February 2016 at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) spotted at River Towers Condominiums, Fairfax County, Virginia USA. This individual is probably a male.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers are relatively common, unlike some of their red-headed counterparts including Pileated Woodpecker and Red-headed Woodpecker, to name a couple.

By the way, did you catch the significance of the title of this post? I shot the photos on “Leap Day 2016.”

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Red-headed Woodpecker

March 8, 2016

Although I have seen several Red-headed Woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) in the wild, they were never close enough to photograph. And then it happened!

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I spent the morning of 07 March 2016 photowalking Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve with mixed success, so I decided to stop by Huntley Meadows Park on the way home.

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

I was surprised to see Mike Powell‘s car in the parking lot. Mike likes to start early and knock off by mid-afternoon. We met up and checked out one of our favorite spots. More about what we saw in a follow-up post.

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

As we were walking out of the park, I thought I heard Southern Leopard Frogs trilling near the trail. Mike correctly recognized the sound as one of several Red-headed Woodpecker calls. Mike scanned the tree canopy and quickly spotted the woodpecker high overhead.

A Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

It was nearly impossible to find an unobstructed view of the woodpecker. Fortunately a few of my shots are good enough to share. Nothing great, but hey, it’s a start!

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

Wild Turkey tracks

February 5, 2016

Pattern recognition. The richness of my field experience is often the result of my ability to recognize patterns in nature. For example, while exploring a remote location in the forest at Huntley Meadows Park, I spotted a set of Wild Turkey tracks (Meleagris gallopavo).

I recognized the shape of the turkey footprints in snow as a result of a chance encounter a few years ago, when I was able to tag along with Mr. Kevin Walter — Natural Resource Specialist, U.S. Army Garrison Fort Belvoir — for part of a field survey of birds at Accotink Bay Wildlife Refuge. As we were walking along “Great Blue Heron Trail,” Kevin pointed out a fresh set of Wild Turkey tracks.

Wild Turkey tracks (Meleagris gallopavo) spotted at Huntley Meadows Park, Fairfax County, Virginia USA.

01 FEB 2016 | Huntley Meadows Park | Wild Turkey track

Related Resource: Wild Turkey tracks, one of over 700 spottings by Geodialist on Project Noah. [Note: “Geodialist” is my username on Project Noah.]

Editor’s Note: Sincere thanks to Alonso Abugattas, Ed Eder, and Ben Jessup — a professional naturalist and two excellent amateur naturalists, respectively — for verifying my tentative field identification.

Copyright © 2016 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.


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