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Posts Tagged ‘duck’

The wind was kicking up yesterday on the Potomac River, making it difficult for the ducks there, like this Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). I watched as the small ducks got drenched repeatedly as they sought to ride the waves.

At least it wasn’t raining and the temperatures have not yet dropped below the freezing levels, even at night.

ruddy_waves_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I haven’t seen many migrating ducks yet at my local marsh, so I traveled to the Potomac River this weekend, because I had heard from a birder that there were numerous ducks there. There were lots of Mallards, some Northern Shovelers (I think), and this cool-looking duck with a distinctive white patch on its cheek that I could not identify initially. After I returned home, it didn’t take long to figure out that this as a Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), a species that I had never seen before.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Migrating birds are starting to arrive in my area, including a few Ring-necked ducks (Aythya collaris) that I observed last week in a man-made pond in a nearby suburban housing area. The water in my local marsh tends to be too shallow for these diving ducks, but this pond seems to suit them pretty well.

The ducks tend to stay near the center of the pond, which makes them a little challenging to photograph. These shots were taken from a distance, but they let you see some of the beautiful details of the male Ring-necked duck, including the pattern on his bill and his beautiful golden eyes.

If I have the good luck that I had last year, I look forward to seeing and photographing another half-dozen species of ducks in the coming months.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The last month or so I have been keeping an eye on a couple of female Hooded Merganser ducks that are using a nesting box at my local marshland park. One of my fellow photographers has already posted a photo of one of them, surrounded by a dozen or so cute little ducklings, so I may have missed one of the moments that I was hoping to catch.

A little earlier this month, though, I had a special moment with one of them, when I arrived at the park early in the morning, just after the sun had risen. The small female duck was more out in the open than usual, though she was still pretty far away. Initially she seemed to be taking a bath, as she stuck her head under water and would shake a little. Eventually she climbed out of the water onto a log and began to groom herself.

The light at that moment from the back and the side made the spiky reddish-blond hair on her head glow and also created a nice reflection in the water. She seemed unhurried and unafraid as she basked in the beautiful early morning light.

For at least a moment, the two of us were freed from the cares of our everyday lives.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) flew away when his mate entered the nesting box (as shown in my posting yesterday), but I was able to get these shots when he was swimming around beforehand.

I am also including a shot from earlier this month when a male was displaying for a female. He would periodically throw back his head back and make the strangest sound, almost like a frog. The sound is so unusual that you may enjoy checking it out at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology site, where you should click on the button that says “Male display.”

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Merganser_singing1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It’s a little ironic that I took these photos of a Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), some of my best duck photos, in a man-made pond in my neighborhood, rather than in a more natural setting. I have never seen any Ring-necked Ducks at my marshland park—perhaps the water is not deep enough for these diving ducks—but found them in a very suburban setting.

The light was bright on the day when I watched some of these ducks diving and resurfacing every couple of minutes. The glare was pretty intense on some of my initial photos and I didn’t like the way they turned out.

However, there is a walking trail all of the way around the pond, so I went off in search of a better lighting situation.  When I reached an area of open shade, I encountered this duck near the shore. Unlike his fellow ducks, he seemed to be relaxing and was remarkably cooperative in letting me take his portrait.

If you are like most people, you may wonder why this duck is not called a ring-billed duck, because there doesn’t seem to be any ring around his neck. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the bird’s name refers to the hard-to-see chestnut collar on its black neck, which apparently jumped out to the nineteenth century biologists that described the species using dead specimens.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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After endless gray winter days, the beauty of a sunny day seemed magnified and the vivid colors of this mallard duck looked even brighter. I love the shade of blue of the feathers that show through when the ducks are in flight, especially when they are taking off and landing.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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