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Posts Tagged ‘Hooded Merganser ducks’

I was going through photos that I captured earlier in December, before my brief trip to Vienna, and came upon these shots of a Hooded Merganser couple (Lophodytes cucullatus) at a small suburban pond. I observed them for quite a while and noticed that the female was busily diving into the water, while the male spent most of his time grooming himself. As a result, it was tough to capture them both in a single frame. Even when they were together, I had to react quickly, because, as you can see in the second photo, the female would often dive without any advance warning.

I love taking photos of these distinctive-looking ducks—no other ducks in my area look anything like them. With a little luck, I will continue to see them during the upcoming cold winter months and they will undoubtedly be featured again in a blog posting.

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers

Hooded Mergansers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I spotted this Hooded Merganser couple (Lophodytes cucullatus) last Friday at Huntley Meadows Park enjoying a few quiet moments together.

The male duck has a wide-eyed goofy look on his face that makes me think of a teenager who has fallen in love. He worked up the courage to ask the cute girl on a date and she actually said yes. She’s playing it cool, but he can hardly contain his excitement.

It’s springtime and love is in the air.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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On Christmas Day I managed to fit in a short walk at Huntley Meadows Park, my local marshland park, and captured these images of a pair of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) as they took off from the water and started to gain altitude.

Hooded Merganser takeoff

Hooded Merganser takeoff

Hooded Merganser takeoff

Hooded Merganser takeoff

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Several weeks after I first spotted a family of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) at my local marsh, I continue run into this single mother and her adorable ducklings. (Click here to see the original posting.)

The ducks seem to hang out a lot in one flooded, shady area of the marsh that is relatively shallow and doesn’t seem to have the snapping turtles that plagued similar families last year. The light is limited and the ducks start moving as soon as they sense my presence, so getting photos has been a challenge. Here’s a selection of some of my favorite shots to date of this cute little family.

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Mama duck gives a reminder to the ducklings to stay together and follow her.

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Trying to move out, but some of the ducklings want to look back toward me.

Mama duck takes up a rear position to ensure there are no stragglers.

Mama duck takes up a rear position to ensure there are no stragglers.

Grainy close-up shot that shows some of the personality of the ducklings.

Grainy close-up shot that shows some of the personality of the ducklings.

© 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.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Walking along the boardwalk at my local marsh yesterday morning, scanning the surface of the water, I noticed some movement and suddenly a female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) with eight little ducklings swam into view. They were pretty far away in the shallow water, amidst the plants that have sprung up, but I managed to get a few shots of the family. The female Hooded Merganser ducks cares for the young alone, unlike the Canada Geese families that I see at the marsh, in which both parents are present.

I was heartened to see this group of ducklings, because I had heard from others at the marsh of dwindling number of ducklings earlier in the season. I have no idea how many of these little ones will survive—they seem so small and vulnerable (not to mention cute) and the snapping turtles are huge in comparison.

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mergansers1_blog

Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I have often wondered if birds actually used the nesting boxes scattered throughout my local marshland park and yesterday I got a definitive response when I saw two female Hooded Merganser ducks separately go into one of the boxes.

As I was looking across the beaver pond, one of my favorite spots for taking photos, a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple flew by and landed in the water. They were out of the reach of my lens at that moment, but a fellow photographer alerted me to the fact that the couple had been using a nesting box that was somewhat closer to where I was standing.

I set up my tripod and trained my 135-400 telephoto lens on the nesting box and waited.  Eventually the couple swam behind a cattail patch and came into view near the box. Without warning, the female lifted off and flew straight into the box. It happened so fast that I was not able to get off a shot. A short while later, the male took off.

I continued to wait, confident that the female would eventually have to emerge through the hole in the nesting box. As I was watching and waiting, a bird landed on the roof of the nesting box, as you can see in the second photo. I did not immediately realize that it was another female Hooded Merganser, but I had the presence of mind to take some shots.

She seemed uncertain about whether or not she should go into the box and tried to peer into it, as you see in the first photo. Satisfying herself that everything was ok, she flew into the box, which by now was getting a little crowded. My photos of the entry were completely blurry.

I waited some more and eventually one of the females flew out and I managed to get the third shot. I was hoping that she would linger with her head sticking out of the box before she started flying, but that didn’t happen. I waited for about 45 minutes longer for the second female to exit the box and finally my patience gave out.

The incubation period for the eggs that the female presumably is laying in the box is about a month, so I will keep returning to this location, and with a little luck will be able to see some ducklings.

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Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I stumbled upon a pair of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) at Lake Cook, a tiny urban lake, shortly after I photographed a Belted Kingfisher this past weekend. As soon I spotted them, they also became aware of my presence and immediately took evasive action. In most cases in the past, that has meant that they started swimming away. This time they seemed to have decided that more decisive action was needed and they immediately took off.

Fortunately my camera was already in my hands and the settings were about the right ones for the situation. When I started photographing birds, one of the more experienced birders whom I met recommended keeping the camera set for burst mode and that’s where I keep it most of the time now. Occasionally that means I shoot off a few extra exposures unintentionally when my trigger finger is a little heavy, but sometimes it lets me get an exposure I might not have gotten otherwise. Now, let me be clear that my almost ancient Canon Rebel XT is not a professional DSLR, so burst mode means about three frames a second, which worked out this time.

I fired off a half-dozen frames as the two ducks, a male and a female, took off from the water and I am pretty pleased with the results. It looks like the ducks get a running start on the water before they take to the air. The photo of the male duck that I featured at the start is the second one in the chronological sequence, but I thought it was the most interesting in showing the little water “explosions” as the ducks skipped across the surface. The rest are pretty much self-explanatory. I especially like the way that the heads flatten out into more aerodynamic shapes as the ducks start flying and the reflections are pretty nice. A couple of the shots are cropped to show only the male duck, because his position happened to bemore interesting than that of the female in the image (no discrimination intended).

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I generally have had difficulties getting good photos of Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus), because of their size, speed, and skittishness. These little ducks also hang out in different bodies of water than the Mallard Ducks and Canada Geese that I regularly feature and the little streams where they can be found are pretty inaccessible and offer obstructed views of the water.

I did manage yesterday to finally get some decent photos of a Hooded Merganser couple together and separately. I ended up having to walk and down the banks of a stream repeatedly as the ducks changes directions every time they seemed to sense me (and eventually flew away) The first photo is probably my favorite, but I like all three of them.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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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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It was a beautiful weekend and I did a lot of walking. I came across an assortment of ducks, including some Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus). Most of my photos of them were from a good distance away, so I may need to work on them before I post them. This image was in such a beautiful setting that I thought I’d post it first. (It looks better if you click on it and see it in greater resolution.) I took this photo from a little bridge looking down on the ducks, which is why the heads do not have the distinctive look associated with Hooded Merganser ducks. I’m making the call on the identification on basis of the color and markings, but would welcome a correction if I am mistaken.

Hooded Merganser ducks in a stream

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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