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Posts Tagged ‘Hooded Merganser’

A week ago I did a retrospective posting on some of my favorite photos from the first half of 2019 and alerted readers that a second posting would appear “in the next few days.” Here at last is part two—click here if you missed the first installment. As was the case in the initial posting, I went through my postings month by month and selected two photos for each month. I have provided a link to the individual postings in the captions of the photos to make it easier for interested readers to see the images in the context of the original postings, which often include additional photos and explanatory information.

If you look carefully at the dates, you may notice that I did not include any photos from November in this posting. As many of you may recall, I was in Paris for three weeks in November. After my first posting, one reader suggested that I do a separate posting for Paris, rather than be forced to select two photos from the many that I posted of my adventures in Paris. I decided to follow that recommendation, so hopefully there will be  a third and final posting of my look back at 2019 sometime “soon.”

 

Sable Clubtail

Sable Clubtail dragonfly, July 6, 2019 Sable Clubtail

Halloween Pennant

Halloween Pennant dragonfly July 31, 2019 Perching Halloween Pennant

Osprey

Osprey, August 3, 2019, No sushi for me

Eastern Ringtail

Eastern Ringtail dragonfly, August 5, 2019 Getting down with an Eastern Ringtail

 

crab spider

Crab spider, September 7, 2019, White-banded Crab Spider

Handsome Meadow Katydid

Handsome Meadow Katydid September 10, 2019 My favorite insect?

 

Blue-faced Meadowhawk

Blue-faced Meadowhawk dragonfly, October 2, 2019 Blue-faced Meadowhawk in October

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle October 16, 2019 Bald Eagle Takeoff

Hooded Merganser duck December 7, 2019 Hoodie Season

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe December 24, 2019 Portrait of a Pied-billed Grebe

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even when they are dozing, ducks seem to be keeping an eye on me, including a male Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), a male Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), and a male Ruddy Duck, all of which I spotted this past week floating on a local pond.

 

Ring-necked Duck

Hooded Merganser

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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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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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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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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These Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couples appeared to be on a double date when I spotted them earlier this week at a little suburban pond near where I live. It is now getting to be that time of the year when more and more birds are pairing off.

I took a lot of shots these ducks as they swam by and this is one of the few photos in which all four heads are visible and facing in the same direction. No matter whether you are  photographing animals, birds, or people, it is always a challenge to take a group photograph in which all subjects have pleasing poses..

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With most birds the shape of their heads is a constant, but with Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), the shape can be wildly variable. I am not really sure how of the bird’s anatomy, but the “hood” appears to be pretty floppy, creating the effect of multiple “hairstyles.” Here are a few of the styles that a male Hooded Merganser was sporting during a brief period last week at a local suburban pond.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

 

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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How would you dry off after a bath without a towel or a blow dryer? You might have to try the approach of this male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus), who rose out of the water and flapped his wings to dry off and fluff his feathers. Afterwards, the little duck spent a considerable amount of time adjusting the feathers with his bill, presumably to maximize their insulation value on a cold winter day.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During the winter, there are fewer wildlife subjects to photograph than at other times of the year, so I find myself paying a lot of attention to each and every one. Earlier this week at a small suburban pond not far from where I live, I spent a lot of time watching a male Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) diving for food. “Hooded Merganser” is a long multi-syllabic name, so I affectionately refer to these ducks as “hoodies.”

This duck appeared to be the only member of his species at the pond, so he was not distracted by having to show off for the females. The “hoodie” would swim along and suddenly would dive. Initially I thought that there was no way that I could capture an image mid-dive—his actions seemed too unpredictable.

However, I gradually began to detect a pattern. It was fascinating to see how he would extend his neck, arch his back, and then plunge into the water. So, I watched and waited for him to extend his neck and then would start shooting. Most of the shots were not successful, but I did manage to capture a few fun photos of the diving “hoodie.”

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© 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

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While I was at Huntley Meadows Park on Wednesday, I spotted this Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple perched on a semi-submerged log, relaxing and preening their feathers. These small ducks have such an unusual and distinctive look that it is hard for me to ignore them whenever I am fortunate to spot them—often they spot me first and my first indication of their presence is when they are flying away from me.

Hooded Merganser

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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The hairstyle of this female Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) and the electric blue of the sky reflected on the water somehow brought back my memories of growing up in the 1960’s.

Hooded Merganser

Imagine my surprise a bit later when I learned that another one of the female Hooded Mergansers was a huge fan of Chubby Checker and she demonstrated for me her own version of The Twist.

Hooded Merganser

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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

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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

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A Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularius) at Huntley Meadows Park seemed overwhelmed with curiosity as a female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) swam closer and closer. What were they thinking as they checked out each other?

I love to capture multiple species in a single image, particularly when they seem to be interacting with each other. In this case, the differences in size, shape, coloration, and body position make for some fascinating contrasts.

encounter1_2May_blog

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Like so many others at Huntley Meadows Park, I have fallen in love with this Hooded Merganser family (Lophodytes cucullatus), with its hyper-vigilant Mom and nine growing babies. Occasionally I will see them all huddled together on a fallen log, but only rarely do I a clear look at them. The ducklings are be full of energy, ready to wander in multiple directions, and the Mom seems to be more than fully occupied watching out for predators and keeping the group together.

Hooded Merganser family

hooded merganser ducklings

Hooded Merganser ducklings

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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

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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

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Do dabbling ducks double date? It sure looked like that was the case earlier this week when I spotted a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) couple and a Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus) couple swimming away from a larger group of mostly mallards for a few quiet moments together. I grew up in a family with eight siblings, so I can really understand their pursuit of peace and privacy. 

It’s almost springtime and many of the birds are searching for mates. Usually it’s the males that put on elaborate displayes, but I think the female “Hoodie” here was the one that went all out to impress her date with an elaborate hairstyle.

duck dating

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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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