Conowingo Dam

If you want to see Bald Eagles in the East Coast of the United States in late fall or early winter, Conowingo Dam is one of the best places to visit in November and December.  Don’t come on weekends – you probably won’t be able to find a good parking spot unless you get there early.  On the weekdays, however, the crowds are still plentiful and there is parking to be had.  Just be careful when you back out of your parking space.  As I was backing out of my spot, a Ford F150 owned by a crew doing work on the dam barreled through the road and took my bumper off.  Now, how a truck going at the supposed speed limit does that (especially since I didn’t see him when I looked behind before driving backwards) does that kind of damage is unexplainable (actually, the driver claimed I backed into him – I said that must be why there is a puncture on the bumper from impact and how the bumper detached itself from the car).

Still, it was a good day to visit.  As with everything, unexpected things happen.  One tries to have a balance in life so that the unexpected does not totally thwart one’s plans.  Things happen.  Deal with it.  But gently, if you can.DSC01889_sDSC01891_sDSC01893_sDSC01894_sDSC01896_s

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Shell Game

On my walk at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, I happened upon these shells neatly arranged on a split log.  Somebody went through the trouble of finding the shells and then arranging them in the log.  All the work so I can happen upon the shells and have something to take a picture of.  Amazing.  Thank you, unknown artist!

And before I forget.  One more picture of an autumn leaf.

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Or leaves.

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Green ones too.

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Mid November Birds in Northern Virginia

I haven’t been to Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge since spring.  I’d almost forgotten what a great place this suburban refuge is for spotting birds.  Perhaps it is the massive amount of flies that are very adept at finding places to bite you during the summer time.

As I walked the trails at the refuge, a large buck with a large set of antlers jumped about fifteen feet beyond me.  I have never seen anything that big so close before (at least not in the Northern Virginia suburbs) and I was stunned.  I almost forgot that I had a camera with me as I struggle to see where it went.  I saw it again, but instead of taking a picture, I just soaked in the experience of seeing something new.  It scampered away quickly.  Darn.

Fortunately, the bluebirds still sang.  The woodpeckers still pecked.  And a few birds that I’ve never spotted before were, surprisingly, within my camera’s view.  I’ve been telling myself that even though a bird looks grey or brown, it may be something unfamiliar.  When you are learning how to spot birds, one of the worst things to do is assume that if a bird looks like something you’ve seen before, you just ignore it.  I am not very good at spotting birds, so imagine my surprise when I looked at the pictures of the small birds and saw a hermit thrush (above) and what I believe is a yellow rumped warbler.

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And a white throated sparrow hiding behind leaves.

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Of course, why not take pictures of a woodpecker and an Eastern Bluebird?

And fortunately, with the tide low, this ring billed gull was standing in the sand.

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Autumnal Beauties

The birds are still here.  And they are at Huntley Meadows.  Just look for bushes laden with berries.  Or seed bearing pods.

And with autumn in the air, in the leaves, in the sky (the sun angle is far from its summer heights), the birds remind us that season after season, life is everywhere.  And beautiful to behold.  In all its forms.

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Roadside Pictures

It was a cloudy day in the D.C. suburbs.  We are getting some badly needed rain.  And, I had to make a short trip to Harrisonburg, Virginia.  So I drive westward on Interstate 66.  The clouds were hanging low as I approached the highlands of Shenandoah National Park.  A little past the exit to the park, the sun peeked through the clouds.  The low lying clouds, the fall colors highlighted by diffused sunlight – it was beautiful.  So what kind of photography can you come up with while taking pictures from the side of a highway?

There’s only one way to find out.  Slowing down from seventy miles per hour, I stopped by the roadside and glanced across the lanes of the interstate.  Nestled in what looked like a small nook by the mountain was a house surrounded by saturated trees sporting saturated autumn colors.  Out came the camera.  One click.  Another click.  Another click.

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It was time to go back to the highway and head westward towards Interstate 81.  The traffic remained relatively light as I reached the junction to I81.  Heading south towards Harrisonburg, the sun was beginning to set towards a horizon barely clear of clouds.  In some spots.  I saw a silo, the sun was setting behind some clouds, and I slowed down again to take more pictures from the highway.

DSC05101_sDSC05103_sAfter ten minutes in Harrisonburg, it was time to go back towards the D.C. suburbs.  It was getting dark rather rapidly, but in the rear view mirror I spied upon a bright red sunset.  The sun was nearly gone as I headed towards an exit at I81 and stopped by a gas station.  Through some barren trees, towards Interstate 81, I saw the last vestiges of light.

DSC03048_sWho knew that a gas station would be a good place to be to watch the sun set?  Photography is incredibly rewarding.  Images are waiting to be taken at almost every moment.  Just keep your eyes open and your mind free.  The pictures will be there for the taking.

Impressionistic Reflections

Fall is definitely here in Northern Virginia.  The trees are finally resplendent in coloration.  The lack of rain may have dampened the deep red, orange and yellow hues so prevalent in autumns past, but the warm weather affords many opportunities for walks in the parks and nature reserves that dot the Washington area.  Huntley Meadows, with its wetlands replenished by recent rains, is particularly beautiful in the fall.  Reflections are a mirror image of reality and with a little bit of help from a slight breeze, the reality becomes a beautiful dream.  A reflection seen in a calm body of water can be beautiful.  With longer exposure taken with a tripod mounted camera, the slight undulations in the surface, made possible by a gentle wind, transform the beauty of a tranquil day into a treasure of moving colors, a feast for the eyes.DSC09361_sDSC09365_s

Oh what a beautiful morning!

Sometimes, when the light is right, you don’t even have to see the sun to see a beautiful sunrise.  With the dust scattering the morning light towards the mid autumn sky, how can one not stop and just wonder at the beauty that is around us.  We forget, sometimes, that every day can be special.  Each day is a gift.  Our mind knows this, but our heart must feel it.  In the midst of life’s trials, there is always something that can bring love into our lives.  And in truth, as long as love prevails, beauty will always be there.