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Posts Tagged ‘Belmont Bay’

Sometimes when I take a photo of a bird, I have no idea what kind it is—I tend to shoot first and ask questions later. That was the case last Friday when I spotted this beauty at Belmont Bay, an area of open water at the confluence of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers in Northern Virginia.  Fortunately some more experienced birders on the What’s This Bird Facebook forum helped me identify it as probably a Greater Scaup (Aythya marila), a type of diving duck.

I had tried to identify the bird on my own using a field guide that I have at home and some on-line resources, but I confess that I got stuck. I couldn’t figure out if this was a Greater or Lesser Scaup. Most of the information on distinguishing between the two species is comparative, i.e. the head is narrower or more oval. It’s hard to make a comparison when you see only a single member of a species.

As you can see from the photo below, conditions were a  little strange and there were distinct color bands in the water. I am not sure exactly what caused them, but perhaps it was the angle of the sunlight or the way the wind was moving the water. Whatever the case, it made for a pretty distinctive color change in the top third of this image that almost looks artificial.

Greater Scaup

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Most diving ducks quite naturally prefer to hang out in places where the water is deep, which makes it a challenge to get any shots of them and almost impossible to get close-up shots. Last Friday I was happy to spot some Red-breasted Mergansers (Mergus serrator), a species of diving duck that I rarely encounter, in the wind-swept waters of Belmont Bay at the confluence of the Occoquan and Potomac Rivers in Northern Virginia.

Both the male and female of this species have spiky hair that takes on wild shapes thanks to the effects of the wind and the water. The male in the middle of the first shot was busy preening, so I am including a separate shot of him when he deemed he was ready for an individual portrait.

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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