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Posts Tagged ‘Hooded Merganser duck’

I love the “hairstyles” of the female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus).  Sometimes the “hair” is circular, like an Afro of the 1960’s, sometimes it is more flattened, and occasionally it has a pointed peak.

Earlier in December I tried to photograph an elusive female Hooded Merganser. She never came close to shore and seemed to always be twisting and turning. Eventually I was able to capture some shots from a distance. As you look at the images, you will undoubtedly notice how the texture and color of the water and the lighting changed as I moved to different parts of the pond.  For me, those variations add interest to shots that might look more humdrum with a more uniform background.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

 

Hooded Merganser

© 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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I have occasionally been described as a bit of an “odd duck,” which Wiktionary defines as “an unusual person, especially an individual with an idiosyncratic personality or peculiar behavioral characteristics.” That definition certainly fits me (and most other wildlife photographers too, I suspect).

In a more literal sense, “odd duck” is a great way to describe the unusual-looking Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus). There are no other ducks in my area that look anything like these ducks, so identification is never a problem. Getting good photographs of one, though, can be a problem, because Hooded Mergansers are small and often skittish.

I spotted this handsome male Hooded Merganser yesterday at a suburban pond not far from where I live in Northern Virginia. He was part of a group of about a dozen or so Hooded Mergansers. Most of the members of the group were out in the middle of the pond, but this one hanging out nearer the shore and I was able to get off a few shots before he swam away to link up with the rest of his group.

hooded merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Ducks do not seem to like to be alone. I will occasionally run across an odd solitary duck, but more often than not, the ducks that I encounter are in pairs or in larger groups. Sometimes the pairs are mixed-gender, like this Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple that was relaxing together recently at Huntley Meadows Park. At other times, the pair may be of the same gender, like these two male Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) at the same park that were preening and grooming themselves early one morning—one Facebook viewer speculated that they were getting ready for dates.

Hooded Merganser

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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In the interests of gender equality, I decided to feature a handsome male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) after spotlighting his beautiful female counterpart yesterday. I captured this image yesterday afternoon at a small suburban pond in Kingstowne, a community about a mile or so from where I live.

Hooded Merganser ducks are notoriously skittish and will usually fly away as soon as they sense my presence. The small group of “Hoodies” at this pond, however, react by swimming slowly away toward the center of the pond, where they are out of range of my long telephoto zoom lens. As a result, I have to react quickly whenever I am luck enough to catch one relatively close to the shore.

Hooded Merganser

Having captured this image, I was faced with choices of how to crop it. Conventional wisdom dictates that a bird swimming to the right should be placed in the left side of the image. In this case, though, I really liked the V-shaped wake that the duck was leaving behind it, so I put the “Hoodie” just to the right of center. I encourage you to double-click on the image to see some of the details of this shot, like the drop of water on the tip of the duck’s bill.

As I contemplate the image, I can’t help but think how much the water deserves equal billing as the primary subject. I love the wake in the rear, the ripples in the front, the ripples coming toward the viewer, and the beautiful reflections.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) are among my favorite ducks, and I especially love the freaky hairstyle of the females, like this one that I spotted this past Friday at the a small pond in Kingstowne, a suburban community in Northern Virginia near where I live.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Wildlife photography forces us to make a lot of choices in a short period of time, because we often encounter our subjects unexpectedly and don’t have the luxury of carefully planning all of our shots. When I stumbled upon this Hooded Merganser family (Lophodytes cucullatus) on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park, for example, I had to make a quick choice. Should I focus on the hyper-vigilant Mom or on her ducklings?

It’s hard to resist cuteness, so I initially focused on the babies. As you can see in the first shot below, the ducklings were relaxed and appeared to be preening and playing, while the Mom in the foreground kept watch. After I had taken a few shots, I switched my attention and my focus to the mother. Her more rigid posture is in sharp contrast to that of her ducklings, who have faded a little into the background in the second shot.

I think that my focusing choices cause each of the images to tell a slightly different story and causes a viewer to react differently. That’s one of the cool things I like about photography—our creative choices can help others to see the world in different ways as we gently guide their attention to what we think is important.

Hooded Merganser family

Hooded Merganser family

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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It was wonderful early this morning to catch a glimpse of one of the Hooded Merganser families (Lophodytes cucullatus) at Huntley Meadows Park. The ducklings appear to be almost grown up now and the survival rate seems to be higher than normal. In the past I have often seen the size of similar families dwindle down to just a couple of ducklings because of the large number of potential predators, most notably snapping turtles. I am amazed that the mother is able to watch over so many babies—the father doesn’t stick around to help raise the offspring.

mama merganser and babies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) are usually pretty skittish, but the females are a little less so at this time of the year as they hang around and wait for their eggs to hatch.  I spotted this little lady earlier this month on a morning when the light was particularly beautiful. She was unusually cooperative and looked in my direction as if to say, “I’m ready for my close-up.”

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Basking in the rays of yesterday’s early morning sunlight, this female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) seemed to be caught up in a moment of reverie as she contemplated the start of a new day at Huntley Meadows Park.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) of Huntley Meadows Park seem to spend a lot of their time in areas where they are partially hidden by the vegetation. Occasionally, though, a visual tunnel will open up briefly that lets me get a mostly unobstructed shot, like this one of a handsome male that I spotted this past Monday.

hooded merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) were really active yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park, including this female, who seemed to be contemplating using this nesting box to lay her eggs a little later this spring.

You might call it “thinking outside of the box”—or not.”  🙂

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) like to stay in deep water and it’s tough to get close-up photos. Yesterday, however, I came upon this male near the shore of a small pond  and I managed to snap off a couple of shots before he turned his back and swam away.

These little ducks have an amazing amount of personality, especially when seen up close.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever watched a Hooded Merganser duck dive? They will be swimming along and then suddenly they will arch their bodies and thrust slightly upwards before disappearing into the water.

As I watched a group of Hooded Megansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) diving in the deep water of a small pond, I decided to see if I could catch them mid-dive. It proved to be more difficult to accomplish than I realized and I ended up with lots of frames of tails sticking out of the water. Here’s the best shot of a female that I managed to capture as she prepared to go under the water. Her body position reminds me of a dolphin, though I have never seen a dolphin with that kind of a hairstyle.

Hooded Merganser

I was not quite as successful with the male ducks, but I did capture a fun two-image sequence.  The male Hooded Merganser did not seem to come out of the water as much as the female did. As a result, he created a much bigger splash—if this had been an Olympic diving competition, he would certainly have lost points for his sloppy entry into the water.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was focusing on a bird across the water, I detected some motion out of the corner of my eye—a small bird was zooming fast and low over the surface of the water in a flight path parallel to the bank on which I was standing.

I reacted as quickly as I could to track the bird and fire off a few shots and was surprised that I managed to capture some relatively sharp images of a female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). Although female Hoodies often have puffy hairstyles, this one had a more aerodynamic look while she was flying.

The angle at which I was shooting made the water the primary background for the images and somehow the water ended up looking like it had been painted by Monet. Luck and skill combined to help me capture these fun images.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s Hoodie season—hooded sweatshirts for me and lots of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) at Cameron Run in Alexandria, Virginia.

Yesterday I spotted this group of six males swimming around and hanging out together. Most of the time during the year when I see Hooded Mergansers, it is a couple or a mother with ducklings, so it was unusual for me to see such a large grouping. There were a few females too, but they seemed to ignore the males and for the most part kept to themselves.

Hooded Mergansers

While the single guys were burning off some energy, a couple found a quiet spot and decided to take a nap. I often see Canada Geese and Mallard ducks sleeping, but I am pretty sure that this is the first time that I have ever seen the little Hooded Mergansers doing so.

Hooded Mergansers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I love the distinctive look of the male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) and it was a real treat to watch this one last weekend as he foraged in the vegetation at Huntley Meadows Park. Normally these small ducks are so skittish they fly away as soon as they sense my presence.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Shortly after sunrise at Huntley Meadows Park on Tuesday, a mother Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) checked on her seven babies and got them ready to start the day. I don’t know if the little family spent the night on the log, but it was probably a good idea to get moving before the numerous snapping turtles woke up. Most of the babies seem to be paying attention to the Mama in the first shot, though the one on the end seems to be daydreaming or is distracted.

Hooded Merganser

A short while later the family dropped into the water and started to swim away. This second shot is my favorite one from an artistic perspective. I just love the interplay of the light and the shadows.

Hooded Merganser

As the Merganser family continued to swim, it got tougher and tougher to track them amid all of the vegetation growing in the pond. Only occasionally would I get an unobstructed glimpse of them. I managed to get most of the family in this shot. One of the ducklings was a bit ahead of the group, perhaps the adventurous one on the end of the log in the first shot.

Hooded Merganser

When they reached a spot that Mama Merganser considered to be safe, all of the babies began to stick their heads under the water. I don’t know if they were bathing or playing or if this was a lesson in fishing. Whatever the case, the mother duck remained vigilant.

Hooded Merganser

It’s at moments like this that I regret that the father Merganser does not stay around to help in raising the ducklings. It would sure ease the burden on the Mama and would enhance the chances for survival for the cute little babies.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Unlike some other species of birds, Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) don’t seems to sit on their eggs continuously. They will often lay them in nesting boxes and periodically check on them, perhaps adding more eggs to the nest.

Hooded Merganser

I took this first shot earlier today at Huntley Meadows Park as a female Hooded Merganser was getting ready to eventually enter a nesting box. When I first spotted the female duck, she was standing on top of the nesting box. During previous springs I learned that this was a sign that she had eggs in the nesting box and that eventually she would fly into it. So I waited and waited, hoping to catch the moment.

It may look like she is actually preparing to enter the box, but in fact she had just stepped off of the roof and was gliding to the ground. Unfortunately, she dropped behind a virtual wall of vegetation and I could not see her when she lifted off from the ground and flew straight into the box and I missed that shot.

Here are a few shots of the female Hooded Merganser as she paced back and forth on the roof of the nesting box, peering to the right and to the left to makes sure that all was safe before she entered the box.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

As I was doing some research on Hooded Merganser ducks, I came across a blog from Lee Rentz Photography that includes a video from inside a nesting box of a Hooded Merganser. Be sure to check it out.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Love is in the air and this female Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) chose to chase after her male suitors rather than wait for them to come to her.

She’s looks to be a feminist duck of the 21st century, determined to upend the traditional gender roles of the past. Who says you have to wait for the guy to make the first move?

Hooded Merganserchase1_blog

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What’s going on here? Normally, it’s the male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) that engages in courting behavior to attract a female, but in this case it looks like the situation was reversed. The female seems to be trying to get the attention of the male, who is playing hard to get and ignoring her antics.

Hooded Merganser

I took these shots this past Friday at my local marshland park. After a week of several snowstorms and frigid temperatures, there was not much open water for the water birds. I managed to find an area where a small number of them, mostly mallards and Canada Geese, were congregated and moved forward toward them, painfully aware that the crusty snow was crunching under my feet. I was thrilled when I saw that a pair of Hooded Mergansera mixed in with the other, bigger birds.

As a few snow flurries started falling, I was able to get some individual shots of the Hooded Mergansers, as well as the opening shot of them swimming together.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

The first photo seems to be calling out for a clever caption and I welcome any creative ideas from readers. I used the title of a Toby Keith song as the title of the posting, imaging the female duck was trying to impress the male, who had ignored her in the past. (Check out this video from Vevo if you are not familiar with the song.)

What scenario do you imagine when you see the initial photo?

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As I look at this image from last week of a couple of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) swimming together, they somehow remind me of a young adolescent couple out for a date on Valentine’s Day. There is an awkwardness in their body language, but the gawky male seems to have a smile on his face, content that he has found someone with whom to share these special moments.

Hooded Merganser

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I don’t know if they are going to stay for the winter or are just passing through, but yesterday, the first day of December, there were a dozen or so Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) cavorting in the water at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marshland park.

I was first alerted to their presence when I heard the unmistakable frog-like croak of one of the males. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that these ducks are usually silent except during courtship, when the courting male “makes a deep, rolling sound like the call of a pickerel frog, earning it the nickname of “frog-duck” in Georgia.” Check out this link to hear the call of the courting male Hooded Merganser. It seems a bit early for courting to be taking place, but the males were bouncing around as I have seen them do in the spring.

The Hooded Mergansers stayed pretty far out in the water and this is the best shot I could get of one of the males paddling by. The comic-like appearance of these ducks always makes me smile and I love their shiny golden eyes.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Female Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) raise their ducklings as single Moms, which must be pretty tough when you have so many offspring to look after. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the male Hooded Merganser duck abandons his mate once she begins incubating eggs and it’s not known if they reunite the following season.

Last year, when the level of water at my local marsh was pretty low and there seemed to be lots of snapping turtles, most of the ducklings did not survive. After a lot of construction at the marsh, water levels are higher and I am hoping that things will be a little easier on the duck families.

I don’t know how old these ducklings are, but they appear to be tiny—even adult Hooded Mergansers are pretty small. A family of Hooded Mergansers was spotted earlier this week and I suspect that this is the same one, so they may be a week or so old.

I was not able to get very close to the ducks and the conscientious Mama duck started swimming away as soon as she sensed my presence early yesterday morning. You can see details in the first two shots, which are cropped a fair amount, but I included a final shot, which shows more of the setting, because I love the beautiful ripples in the water.

mama_duck1_blogmama_duck2_blogmama_duck3_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

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Although I tend to use either my macro or my shorter telephoto zoom lens most at this time of the year, yesterday I decided to walk around with my longest zoom (135-400mm) and was happy about that decision when I encountered this juvenile Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus).

When I first saw it, the duck was sitting on a semi-submerged log  in the beaver pond of my local marshland pond, basking in the sun. I expected for the duck to be part of a group, but it appeared to be alone.

Merganser1_blog

I guess that I got a little too close, because the juvenile duck then slipped quietly off the log into the brown, muddy water of the pond and swam away a short distance. I like the concentric ripples in this shot of the duck slowly paddling away.

Merganser2_blog

I backed off and continued to observe the young duck, which decided to take advantage of being in the water to do a little grooming. After submerging itself, the duck rose up out of the water to dry off. The duck flapped its wings and I clicked my shutter and got this shot.

Merganser3_blog

There is a kind of playful feel to this shot that I really like. Somehow the duck reminds me of a friendly little dragon in this shot, with its feathers looking almost like scales and its wings and tail in an unusual position. I almost expected it to breathe a tiny burst of fire.

Maybe I should name the little duck “Puff.”

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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All alone, this Hooded Merganser duckling sought refuge on a floating log, separated from his family. I don’t know for sure what happened to the rest of the ducklings and the mother, but I had heard some reports of dwindling numbers of ducklings.

The duckling seemed to feel safe on the log and appeared to relax a little, but kept looking forlornly out into the distance. Eventually he was joined by a turtle on the log. For a brief moment, perhaps, he felt a little less alone. Deep inside, though, he felt a desire to grow stronger, so he stretched out his wings, fervently believing that someday he would be able to fly.

Alone_blog

Where are the others?

alone2_blog

Feeling a little more comfortable

alone3_blog

Someday I’ll be able to fly

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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.

merganser_morning_blogmerganser2_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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This past weekend I was fortunate enough to see a female Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) again enter a nesting box at my local marshland park. If you want to see some photos of my first such incident, check out my previous posting.

It is proving to be quite a challenge to capture this fascinating encounter in photographs, even with my camera trained on the nesting box. I think I get my best shots when the female chooses to land on the box prior to entering it. At that moment, the subject is relatively stationary and I can refocus my camera on the duck itself, and not on the box. When she flies into and out of the box, my camera and lens have trouble maintaining focus and stopping the action, even at exposures of 1/1000 and greater.

She paused a moment when exiting and I was able to get a shot with her head sticking out of the nesting box. I also got a photo of her flying out of the box, which is pretty blurry, but I thought the shadow was pretty cool.

The last two shots are aspirational shots for me—they give you an idea of what I am trying to shoot, even if I have not yet been able to do so successfully.

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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

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I was outdoors a lot this past weekend enjoying the beautiful weather and managed to catch a glimpse of a pair of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus). As is usually the case, they headed in the opposite direction as soon as they perceived my presence.

I was able to get a couple of clear shots of the male (the female kept ducking under the water). I especially like the duck’s reflection in the water, which looked almost turquoise. and the ripples on the surface of the water.

merganser1_blogMerganser2_blog

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