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Posts Tagged ‘Canon 50D’

Most of the birds that I spotted last Thursday at a small pond seemed to be part of a small flock or at least of a couple. This Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), however, appeared to be the only one of its species. It mostly hung out with a flock of gulls, floating along on the surface of the water.

I observed the cormorant off and on for over an hour and not once did it dive underwater.  Most cormorants that I have seen in the past have either been diving or drying out their wings.

Perhaps this cormorant felt the need to feel like it was part of a group, although it clearly stood out from the other members of its chosen group. I personally would agree that conformity is overrated—be yourself. (Speaking of non-conformity, be sure to check out the cormorant’s striking blue eyes.)

Double-crested Cormorant

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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As soon as I spotted this female Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola), she started to swim away. Then all of the sudden she stopped, turned her head, and seemed to smile back at me. This image captured our shared moment together.

Bufflehead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Most of the times when I see a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), it is in the open water patiently waiting to catch a fish. This past Thursday, however, I initially had trouble spotting this heron—it was hunkered down among the trees at the edge of the water of a small suburban pond, probably seeking shelter on a cold and windy day. I moved close enough to get some shots and then silently moved away, being careful not to disturb the heron and force it to move from its carefully chosen spot.

Great Blue Heron

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus), often referred to as “hoodies,” are small, colorful, and very skittish. Most of the time they spot me long before I am close enough to get a shot and either take to the air immediately or swim rapidly away from me. I was really happy to spot a Hooded Merganser couple on Thursday in a suburban pond near where I live.

The little ducks mostly stayed in the deep water, out of range, but the wind was blowing and occasionally they drifted a bit closer to shore. I circled the pond three times and finally was able to capture this shot during one such drift. Alas, I was not able to capture a similarly detailed shot of the female, but I am hoping that this pond will be their winter home and that I will have more chances later this season.

Now that I have retired, “hoodies” have also become one of my favorite items of clothing. My less than full head of hair means that I get cold easily. I love to slip on the hood of a hooded sweatshirt for an additional  bit of warmth, sometimes even when I am indoors.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year several species of ducks migrate into my area and take up residence for the winter. One of the most distinctive species is the Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), especially the male. Even from a distance you can notice the oddly peaked head and when you move in closer you can see the multi-colored bill and the bright yellow eyes if it is a male. As is most often the case with birds, the females are less colorful in appearance, though, as you can see from the final photo, they are quite beautiful.

I spotted a small flock of these ducks yesterday in a nearby suburban manmade pond where I have seen then annually for at least the last five years. Although Ring-necked Ducks are diving ducks, they don’t seem to require really deep water.

So where is the ring around the neck? According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, “This bird’s common name (and its scientific name “collaris,” too) refer to the Ring-necked Duck’s hard-to-see chestnut collar on its black neck. It’s not a good field mark to use for identifying the bird, but it jumped out to the nineteenth century biologists that described the species using dead specimens.”

 

Ring-necked duck

Ring-necked duck

Ring-necked duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I was shocked the first time that a friend identified little white-colored berries like those in these photos as poison ivy berries. I had no idea that poison ivy plants produced berries and, upon learning that they did, I assumed they must be poisonous. I was both right and wrong. These little berries are definitely poisonous for humans, but they are an important food source for many birds during the winter. It is amazing to me how birds that eat almost exclusively bugs during the warm months can switch to a plant-based diet in the winter, but it helps to ensure their survivability.

Last week I spotted this Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) as it poked about among several clusters of poison ivy berries. The kinglet was in constant motion and was mostly in the shadows, but I was able to capture these images. I like the way that you can see some of the details of the vines wrapped around the branches and the way that the distant branches provide some shadowy forms in the background.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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At this time of the year I have to work hard to get photographs of birds. If I am lucky, I will spot a Bald Eagle or another raptor, but most of the time I walk slowly down the trails, looking and listening for small birds. I know that they are there, but even with the leaves gone from most of the trees, the birds often remain hidden from view.

One of my favorites is the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), like this one that I spotted last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe it is the effect of the season, but this sparrow always makes me think of Santa Claus. With the white “beard” and the distinctive yellow stripe over the eye, this sparrow is also relatively easy to identify, a real plus considering how many sparrow species are similar in appearance to each other.

An even smaller bird is the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula), which is about 4 inches in length (10 cm) and weighs only 0.2-0.3 ounces (5-10 g). This one was bouncing in and out of the vegetation so much that I thought I would never get a clear shot of it. Eventually I was more or less successful. What a sweet little bird.

 

White-throated Sparrow

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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