Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge and other wildlife pictures

Well, the general consensus seems to be people are not annoyed by my copious amounts of wildlife pictures even though this is a food blog and as a vegan, wildlife is certainly NOT food. I’ve already managed to amass more pictures than you may have bargained for, so here we go!

Not first chronologically but perhaps first in terms of “most exciting”, we saw an eagle!!! Yesterday we went to Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge, where they happened to be having an Eagle Festival, which was cool because we got in free (they usually charge admission but apparently not on festival days), although I was a bit concerned that the ruckus would keep eagles away rather than attracting them even if the festivities were in their honor. It turns out, however, that Mark and I never even managed to find the festival, although we weren’t looking for it and we did actually hear it while eating our lunch in the picnic area. Anyway, Mason Neck is home to some bald eagles, but I’ve never managed to see one in the wild. Yesterday we were near the beaver dam, where I was shooting (with my camera, of course!) a blue heron (apparently blue herons love me because I always encounter them) when Mark saw a bald eagle soar across the sky and land on the top of a far tree. Fortunately, I was trying out my brand new (to me) 400mm telephoto lens, which was conveniently already mounted on the tripod and I was able to take this picture:

He was so far away I had to crop the photo quite a bit despite the awesomeness that is my new lens, but this was a wonderful event for me. I think Mark, though he hasn’t uttered a word about the money I’ve spent on photography equipment lately, may have considered the new lens an unnecessary extravagance…until I was able to take that picture of the eagle, who looked a bit like a small dark blob without looking through the lens.

That was definitely one of the highlights of a really great day, but let’s back up and look at some other things we saw at Mason Neck. There’s the heron I already mentioned, who is eating a fish in this picture:

Cover your eyes and scroll down a bit if you don’t like snakes, because here is a black moccasin:

Mason Neck Wildlife Refuge is on the Occoquan Bay. A long, winding bridge takes you from one of the trails to the beach, over some wetlands. Like all of the B&W shots in this post, this one is infrared:

The wetlands:

The same picture as above, in “false color”, which is a technique you can use when you have an IR filter that lets in some visible light. I don’t ordinarily like false color, but I thought this particular shot looked okay. I actually found out by accident my IR camera will record false color images without me having to do any processing at all.

Here is the beach:

After a picnic lunch at Mason Neck, we went to the adorable little town of historic Occoquan. Every time we pass the town on 123 heading to 95 South, we comment on how cute that town is and how we want to see it. So yesterday we did. It was just as cute as we’d thought it was. You pass through a little park to get to the boat dock.

On the dock, we watched the frenzied mating dance of a little bird:

Unfortunately, the female wasn’t too impressed.

We also watched a vulture go dumpster diving.

Our thoroughly delightful day was drawing to a close when we stopped by a cute little cafe for both a wine AND a beer tasting. The beers were really good and we stayed for a pint. In this picture I want to show you some of the weird stuff infrared photography does. My glass is about two-thirds full in this picture – you can tell by the foam – and the glass and the beer are both totally normal, and looked totally normal in real life. Notice, though, you can see through the bottom half of the beer. I honestly don’t know why that is – if someone out there does, I’d love to know. I know infrared light can travel through some things visible light can not, but I don’t know why HALF the beer is visible and the other half is not. (Less of a surprise is the fact you can see through the sunglasses on the top of my head. You can’t normally, of course, but at least it’s consistent in the photo!)

That beer isn’t the first instance of IR pictures befuddling me. Last weekend in Burke Lake, I took this picture of a black heart painted on a tree, mostly because I like Joan Jett & the Black Hearts, because Joan Jett does not give a damn about her bad reputation.

But look at the infrared version! So strange!

Finally, Mark and I by the footbridge over the bay:

We had a wonderful day yesterday! I was going to give you a raccoon update tonight as well, but this has been so long, I’m going to save raccoons for tomorrow.

For Lisa G/K and others interested in an update on what I’m reading: currently, Life: A User’s Manual by Georges Perec. I think it’s great – the deeper you get into it, the more intricate and impressive it is – but it’s taking me forever to finish it, both because it’s long and because, unusually, I am reading so many other books at the same time. As I’m preparing for a coming-too-fast trip to Amsterdam and France, I’ve been reading French and Dutch books exclusively, including, The Discovery of Heaven, The Discreet Pleasures of Rejection, A Very Long Engagement, Chocolat (yes, I realize what the last two have in common), and its sequel The Girl with No Shadow, and a few others. I’m also reading Julien Parme in the original French, as well as a few French readers in dual languages and other “educational” books. I’m so excited about going to France that I can’t wait for our trip, but at the same time I wish it were further away so I had more time to prepare and get better at the language. I’m enjoying re-learning French so much I’m planning to continue my studies after our return.


  1. Jes Said,

    April 23, 2012 @ 8:44 am

    I’m not even sure where to start–but w/ my love of vultures, I’ll go with the fact that it’s an amazing shot, love it! And the dancing bird, and the bald eagle, and what the heck *is* going on with the IR shots of see-through beer and fading hearts? Super cool effects….but strange. The one of you guys at the footbridge is adorable too. Looks like the perfect adventure day!

  2. Josiane Said,

    April 23, 2012 @ 7:55 pm

    Looks like you’ve enjoyed a lovely day, one that presented you with many opportunities for great pictures. The dance of that little bird must have been something to see!

    I’m really happy to know that you’re enjoying re-learning French that much! Since you intend to keep on studying it once you come back from your trip, you’ll need opportunities to practice… and, conveniently, you don’t have to cross the ocean to find French-speaking people, just head a little north – says she who would be thrilled to see you around here one of these days! 🙂

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