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Posts Tagged ‘Anas platyrhynchos’

Sometimes I don’t have to worry about getting my ducks in a row—they do it themselves for me. I was really struck by the beauty and grace of these ducks as I watched them glide across the water earlier this week. Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) are the most common ducks where I live and most folks here take them for granted, barely giving them a passing glance.

I think that there is something special about rediscovering the beauty in the familiar—all that it usually requires is slowing down, putting aside distractions, and focusing on the moment with all of your senses. You will find that there is beauty surrounding you all of the time.

Mallard ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Finding wildlife to photograph in early January in Brussels, Belgium is pretty tough. There are very few hours of daylight at this time of the year and the skies are mostly covered with gray clouds during the day (when it is not actually raining). During a quick trip to the botanical gardens in Brussels this morning, I spotted a few birds and was able to capture shots of a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and a male Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).

The moorhen was swimming and my camera took the shot at 1/13 of a second, which means that the focus is not super sharp, but I like the soft, impressionist feel of the image. The mallard was more or less stationary as he groomed himself at the edge of the pond, but seemed to be keeping an eye on me.

I am here in Brussels for a brief business trip and as is usually the case on such trips, I like to try to fit in a little wildlife photography, even in the center of a city.

Common Moorhen

mallard

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I am traveling for work I try to find some local wildlife to photograph. I am currently in Vienna, Austria and yesterday morning I went for a short walk in the Stadtpark, a park in central Vienna that is not far from my hotel. In the small pond there I found mostly mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), a species with which I am quite familiar.  One duck, however, really stood out because it had such unusual markings.

I focused my attention and my camera on this particular duck. Its shape looked to be similar to that of normal mallards and I wonder if this might be some kind of hybrid. I suppose that it could be another species altogether, though it did not look like any of the species in the photographic list I found on-line of the birds of Austria.

Whatever the case, this bird struck me as being a bit of an odd duck.

duck in Vienna

duck in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am now home from Vienna and as I was reviewing my photos from the trip I came across this image. What could be more adorable than a baby duckling trying to imitate its mother, especially with Mother’s Day only a week away?

I took this shot last week in Vienna, Austria at the Volksgarten, where a family of Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) had taken up residence in a fountain.

Mallard Mom and duckling

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was dreary and overcast when I arrived yesterday afternoon in Vienna, Austria for a short trip, but my spirits were lifted when I spotted two adorable ducklings swimming in a fountain in a public garden.

There were two sets of Mallard duck adults (Anas platyrhynchos), so I wasn’t sure which ones were the parents, but is was clear that the ducklings had lots of supervision and protection. There was a wooden ramp leading out of the fountain and a couple of floating wooden platforms to make the surroundings a bit more comfortable for the ducks.

The limited light and the speed of the ducks made photography a bit of a challenge, but I did manage to get a couple of snapshots of these urban wildlife creatures.

duckling in Vienna

duckling in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Do dabbling ducks double date? It sure looked like that was the case earlier this week when I spotted a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) couple and a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple swimming away from a larger group of mostly mallards for a few quiet moments together. I grew up in a family with eight siblings, so I can really understand their pursuit of peace and privacy. 

It’s almost springtime and many of the birds are searching for mates. Usually it’s the males that put on elaborate displayes, but I think the female “Hoodie” here was the one that went all out to impress her date with an elaborate hairstyle.

duck dating

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some mornings when I am out with my camera at Huntley Meadows Park, I am simply entranced by the colors, shapes, and patterns of the reflections of the trees in the water. For extended periods of time I will become lost in the ever changing abstract world of reflected beauty.

Any wildlife that happens to come into the frame is a bonus.

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reflect3_2Jan_blog

reflect2_2Jan_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Make way for ducklings! Yesterday I finally saw my first Mallard baby ducks of the season at Huntley Meadows Park. I have spotted Canada Geese goslings multiple times this month and they are already growing quite large.

Mallard ducklings

The ducklings look so small and fragile and the Mallard Mom (Anas platyrhynchos) seemed to be doing her best to keep them tightly bunched together as they made their way slowly through the shallow waters of the marsh. When they paused for a moment, though, some of the ducklings wanted to explore their surroundings. When I zoomed in for a close-up shot of the babies, one of them wandered out of the frame, leaving only four to be featured.

This Mom is going to be really busy raising and protecting these little ones.

Mallard ducklings

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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This is clearly a male Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos), but the unusual coloration of its head makes me wonder if it might be a hybrid, or perhaps is simply not yet mature. I have read on the internet that Mallards will sometimes mate with American Black Ducks, but this one doesn’t really look like any of the photos that I saw of the resulting hybrid ducks.

As I was pondering this question, the duck started to laugh, or so it seemed. Judging from the second photo, do you think that the duck may be laughing at one of his own wise quacks? I have a low tolerance for jokes, so I confess that it quacked me up completely.

Mallard

Mallard

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I’ve generally had a lot more difficulty capturing photos of ducks in flight than geese. Ducks are smaller, fly faster, and take off and land without the kind of advance warning that geese provide.

This past Monday, though, I managed to get some decent shots of a male Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) as he flew past me. The background is uncluttered, a blue sky, which is ok, if not particularly interesting. As I reviewed my shots, I couldn’t help but notice how difficult it is to catch the wings in a good position, so I am happy that I took lots of shots in short bursts.

The last few days we’ve had almost constant rain, which is probably good for ducks like this one, though I would prefer to have some sunshine.

Mallard in flight Mallard in flight Mallard in flight

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During this transitional time of the year there is often a thin coating of ice on the pond, especially when the temperature at night drops into the low 20’s F (-5 C).  On Friday morning, the ice was thick enough to support the weight of ducks most of the time, although the Canada Geese kept breaking through the ice when they tried to walk on it.

This female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) started out strutting confidently across the ice, but stopped for a moment at a place where the water had accumulated. I couldn’t tell if she was assessing the condition of the ice or was merely admiring her reflection—she is quite a beautiful duck after all and perhaps ducks have a sense of vanity.

The male Mallard was more practical, remaining in the area of open water and foraging for food, content to leave the strutting and reflecting to his lady.

duck_walk_blogduck_reflect_blogmallard-male_nov_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Valentine’s Day is past, a holiday that celebrates romantic love through the giving of cards, flowers, and candy.  Yesterday, though, I was witness to a deeper, more intimate sense of love and devotion as I observed a couple of Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos).

Side by side, almost touching, they moved slowly though the water in synchronized movements, with one dipping its bill in the water and the other keeping watch. They seemed so happy together, alone in their own little world, amidst a flock of loudly honking Canada geese.

It may be my imagination, but they look like they are smiling in this photo.

duck_couple_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I was a college student in the 1970’s a cheap sparkling wine known as “Cold Duck” was really popular (along with Zapple, Annie Greensprings, and Boone’s Farm). Do they still produce those wines?

The title of this posting, however, refers to a bird that I observed on the ice this past weekend, not to a retro beverage.

I was struck by the contrast between the vivid colors of the male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and the drab gray and white of the frozen pond. The duck seemed to be getting into a yoga-like pose, with one foot flat on the ice and the pointed toe of the other foot providing additional stability. Wait a minute, do ducks have toes?

I also couldn’t help but notice that ducks look a lot more graceful when swimming or flying—walking looks like it would be awkward for a duck. I suspect that no composer will every produce a ballet entitled “Duck Pond,” which would scarcely provide any competition for “Swan Lake.”

In the first few days of February, our temperatures have soared over the freezing mark, but there has been little melting on the surface of the pond and I did not detect any quacks in the ice.

duck_walk_crop_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Orchestral conductors tend to be flamboyant characters and that is exactly what came to mind when I first say this image  of a female Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) with fully outstretched wings. She seems to be conducting an unseen duck orchestra creating what some might call music and other would characterize as a quackonophy.

dancing_duck_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most of the time when I try to photograph ducks in flight, I end up with shadows and muted colors. Last weekend, though, the light was right and I was able to capture a small group of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) in full color. They were pretty far away, but I like the formation that I was able to capture. There are four males and one female, and one of the males is a straggler who seems to have trouble keeping up with the group.

straggler_blog

Click on the photo to see it in higher resolution.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was out shooting today, I was happy to encounter Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) a couple of times, They are the coolest-looking ducks in my opinion (although Wood Ducks are in the running too). It’s a real challenge to get good shots of them, because they are small, fast, and skittish. I would love to find myself in a position like Phil Lanoue, a fellow blogger and incredible photographer, who recently photographed a Hooded Merganser duck coming in for a landing next to him (check out his blog posting).

I’m still going through my photos, but this one jumped out at me. It shows two duck couples swimming in formation. What is unusual is that one of the pairs appears to me a male Mallard and a female Merganser. Oh, I know that some of you are thinking that such a relationship could never work, but true love always finds a way.

I can only imagine what their children will look like.

Mixed couple

Mixed couple (click for higher resolution view)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I spent some time watching geese and ducks at the marsh. I thought that the numbers would drop as the weather gets cold, but there actually seem to be more than there were in November, especially the geese. Once again I have been trying to take in-flight shots of these migratory birds, especially when they are taking off and landing.

I like the contrast in this photo between the impassive female Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos), who seems only mildly curious about the activity taking place right in front of her, and the two Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), who are making big splashes and generating waves as they land. They look like they could be a synchronized swimming pair, though I think in that sport you lose points if you make big splashes. In the background you can see some of the fields of cattails at the marsh, as well as some additional geese in the distance foraging in the fields and in the water.

Impassive observer

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This morning I am in the mood for simplicity, so I am posting a single photo of a male Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) in flight. I like the geometric shapes in the image and how the light illuminates one wing, while keeping the other in the shadows. There is some color, but it doesn’t overwhelm the eyes. The photo is a simple one of a common subject—sometimes I need to slow down and see the beauty in simple things.

duck1_blog

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As I mentioned in another post, Monday there was ice on the small ponds that a week before had been full of migrating ducks. The ducks were all gone, it seemed. As I was passing the beaver lodge, however, I notice a small bit of bright orange on a log across the beaver pond. I looked through my telephoto lens and realized that what I had seen were the feet of a female duck, perched on the log that jutted out into the water. She was so well camouflaged that I almost missed see her. When I moved to one side, I noticed a second duck, a male, right behind them. They were huddled together, with their heads tucked in between their wings, resting and sharing their body warmth on a cold morning. Why were they alone? Had they become separated from a larger group? Were they on their way to another destination?

There was something very tender, almost intimate about this scene, about the closeness of this duck couple. The environment might be hostile and threatening, but they could face it together—at least they had each other.

Facing the world together

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This duck tale has a happy ending, as two Hooded Merganser duck couples paddle gently down the stream, but a potential crisis had been averted only moments before.

It began like this. Five Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), three males and two females, were swimming upstream. Two of the males were in the lead, while the other male seemed to be carrying on a conversation with one of the females. Their course had them in the partial shade, not far from one of the banks.

At the same time, four Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus), two males and two females, were headed downstream in perfect formation on a collision course with the Mallard ducks.

What would happen when the groups met? Would there be a confrontation? Would they exchange information about the attractions of the places they had just passed through? Who has the right-of-way in situations like this?

The signals were a bit ambiguous at the first encounter, as one of the male Mallards tried to have a conversation with one of the male Hooded Mergansers, who had turned away. All eyes were turned on the two representatives. Would they be able to negotiate an agreement? If a fight broke out, it was clear that the Mallards had an advantage in both size and numbers.

Who know what was said, but it appears that an agreement was reached and a possible confrontation was avoided. The ducks peacefully passed each other and continued on their separate ways.

The first photo showed the Hooded Merganser ducks after the encounter with the Mallards, so sequentially it should go here. Did you notice that the duck formation had changed and that the males were now in the lead? Was this a protective, chivalrous gesture on their part?

Of course, I may have completely misread this situation. Perhaps the male duck ego is less fragile than the human one and the two male ducks were simply asking each other for directions when they met in the middle of the stream.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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