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Archive for November, 2013

I encountered another small flock of blackbirds this past weekend and this time I managed to get a shot of a female Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus). If you want to compare the female with the male, check out my earlier posting with an image of a male.

I have now gotten used to the idea that these blackbirds are likely to be be found in the water and the mud, rather than in the cattails, where I usually find the Red-winged Blackbirds. I have also gotten used to the notion that female blackbirds are not black—that used to mess with my head.

What I have not gotten used to, however, is the pale yellow color of the eyes of the Rusty Blackbirds. There is something a little eerie and disconcerting about those eyes and I find them to be a bit creepy.

blackbird_rusty_female_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s been months since I have seen any Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus), so I was thrilled when I spotted several pairs in the distance this past weekend, swimming around as shown in the second photo.

Unfortunately, they sensed my presence before I could get much closer and took to the air. Given the distance and the small size and speed of these ducks, I was surprised that I got a reasonably good shot of one of the males in flight. Hooded Mergansers always look a little cartoonish, but that effect is magnified when they are straining forward in flight. If you click on the first photo, you can get a better look at some of the details of the wings and some of the beautiful colors of this little duck.

The second photo was taken before the first and it gives you a general idea of the differences between the male and female of this colorful species of duck.

merganser_flying_blogmergansers_swimming_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever watched ducks taking off from the water? Some of them seem to rise up almost straight out of the water, while others, like this Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), like to get a running start, bouncing across the surface of the water.

bouncing_takeoff_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The light was fading in the late afternoon yesterday and it was starting to rain when I came across a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), one of my favorite birds. The conditions were less than ideal, but I was determined to try to get a shot.

I managed to open my umbrella without startling the heron, a minor miracle, given that my umbrella is green and white. Knowing that I was going to have to shoot one-handed (with a small amount of balancing help from the hand holding the umbrella), I decided I was going to have to crank up the ISO of the camera higher than I had ever gone before—to ISO 1600.

I like the image that I got, though unsurprisingly it was a bit grainy. Fortunately, my software was able to reduce thee noise a little.

So now you know of at least two things that you can find out in the open when it is raining—blue herons and crazy photographers.

heron_rain_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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When I saw a small flock of blackbirds on Monday at my local marsh, I assumed that they were Red-winged Blackbirds, but a closer look showed that I was wrong—they were Rusty Blackbirds (Euphagus carolinus), a species that I had never photographed before.

The shape of the body seems similar to that of the Red-winged Blackbird, but the coloration is different and the pale yellow eyes of the Rusty Blackbird are particularly distinctive. They also seem to prefer a flooded area of the woods and I observed them pecking about in the shallow water, periodically flipping over wet leaves.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that the Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species, whose population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and scientists are not sure why.rusty_blackbird_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It won’t be long before my bird photos have the colorless backgrounds characteristic of winter, so I am photographing as many birds as I can find with autumn colors in the background, like this House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) that I observed last Sunday. As I noted in a posting last month, these birds are non-native (introduced from the Old World) and sometimes crowd out native birds. Still, I find them to be beautiful, especially when they pose like this. This pose is one of my favorites, when I get to look down the tail toward the head turned to the side.

house_sparrow_autumn_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Could this be the mascot for a new line of clothing or shoes? Dragonfly photographer extraordinaire Walter Sanford took these shots of a beautiful female Autumn Meadowhawk perched on my hand as I tried to move it closer to the messenger bag in which I carry my camera gear.

walter sanford's photoblog

The preceding gallery shows a female Autumn Meadowhawk dragonfly (Sympetrum vicinum), spotted at Huntley Meadows Park on 15 November 2013. She is perching on the hand of Mike Powell, fellow wildlife photographer and blogger. This individual is not the female featured in my last post, “Champion dragonfly.”

Copyright © 2013 Walter Sanford. All rights reserved.

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