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Posts Tagged ‘Lophodytes cucullatus’

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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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

© 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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