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Posts Tagged ‘mallard duck’

Sometimes I don’t have to worry about getting my ducks in a row—they do it themselves for me. I was really struck by the beauty and grace of these ducks as I watched them glide across the water earlier this week. Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) are the most common ducks where I live and most folks here take them for granted, barely giving them a passing glance.

I think that there is something special about rediscovering the beauty in the familiar—all that it usually requires is slowing down, putting aside distractions, and focusing on the moment with all of your senses. You will find that there is beauty surrounding you all of the time.

Mallard ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Passing by one of the duck blinds in the waters of Occoquan Bay this past Saturday, I saw a larger number of decoys set out and realized it was occupied. Consequently I braced myself when I heard the sound of approaching ducks and sure enough shots rang out. A few seconds later, I saw a duck hit the water not far from where I was standing.

I was focusing on the flailing duck with my telephoto lens when suddenly a dog swam into the frame. The dog, which appears to be a Labrador Retriever, approached the duck, circled around it so it would be heading in the right direction, and then swam back to the blind with the duck in its mouth.

I am not a hunter and prefer to do my shooting with a camera. However, I can appreciate the skill of both the hunter and the retriever in securing the duck that will probably make a tasty meal.

 

retriever

retriever

retriever

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever I am traveling for work I try to find some local wildlife to photograph. I am currently in Vienna, Austria and yesterday morning I went for a short walk in the Stadtpark, a park in central Vienna that is not far from my hotel. In the small pond there I found mostly mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos), a species with which I am quite familiar.  One duck, however, really stood out because it had such unusual markings.

I focused my attention and my camera on this particular duck. Its shape looked to be similar to that of normal mallards and I wonder if this might be some kind of hybrid. I suppose that it could be another species altogether, though it did not look like any of the species in the photographic list I found on-line of the birds of Austria.

Whatever the case, this bird struck me as being a bit of an odd duck.

duck in Vienna

duck in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What do you want to be when you grow up? I wonder if these ducklings were dreaming of growing to be as big as a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) when they swam toward its reflection yesterday at Huntley Meadows Park.

growing up

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I am now home from Vienna and as I was reviewing my photos from the trip I came across this image. What could be more adorable than a baby duckling trying to imitate its mother, especially with Mother’s Day only a week away?

I took this shot last week in Vienna, Austria at the Volksgarten, where a family of Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos) had taken up residence in a fountain.

Mallard Mom and duckling

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was dreary and overcast when I arrived yesterday afternoon in Vienna, Austria for a short trip, but my spirits were lifted when I spotted two adorable ducklings swimming in a fountain in a public garden.

There were two sets of Mallard duck adults (Anas platyrhynchos), so I wasn’t sure which ones were the parents, but is was clear that the ducklings had lots of supervision and protection. There was a wooden ramp leading out of the fountain and a couple of floating wooden platforms to make the surroundings a bit more comfortable for the ducks.

The limited light and the speed of the ducks made photography a bit of a challenge, but I did manage to get a couple of snapshots of these urban wildlife creatures.

duckling in Vienna

duckling in Vienna

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Some mornings when I am out with my camera at Huntley Meadows Park, I am simply entranced by the colors, shapes, and patterns of the reflections of the trees in the water. For extended periods of time I will become lost in the ever changing abstract world of reflected beauty.

Any wildlife that happens to come into the frame is a bonus.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Make way for ducklings! Yesterday I finally saw my first Mallard baby ducks of the season at Huntley Meadows Park. I have spotted Canada Geese goslings multiple times this month and they are already growing quite large.

Mallard ducklings

The ducklings look so small and fragile and the Mallard Mom (Anas platyrhynchos) seemed to be doing her best to keep them tightly bunched together as they made their way slowly through the shallow waters of the marsh. When they paused for a moment, though, some of the ducklings wanted to explore their surroundings. When I zoomed in for a close-up shot of the babies, one of them wandered out of the frame, leaving only four to be featured.

This Mom is going to be really busy raising and protecting these little ones.

Mallard ducklings

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

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This is clearly a male Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos), but the unusual coloration of its head makes me wonder if it might be a hybrid, or perhaps is simply not yet mature. I have read on the internet that Mallards will sometimes mate with American Black Ducks, but this one doesn’t really look like any of the photos that I saw of the resulting hybrid ducks.

As I was pondering this question, the duck started to laugh, or so it seemed. Judging from the second photo, do you think that the duck may be laughing at one of his own wise quacks? I have a low tolerance for jokes, so I confess that it quacked me up completely.

Mallard

Mallard

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I’ve generally had a lot more difficulty capturing photos of ducks in flight than geese. Ducks are smaller, fly faster, and take off and land without the kind of advance warning that geese provide.

This past Monday, though, I managed to get some decent shots of a male Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) as he flew past me. The background is uncluttered, a blue sky, which is ok, if not particularly interesting. As I reviewed my shots, I couldn’t help but notice how difficult it is to catch the wings in a good position, so I am happy that I took lots of shots in short bursts.

The last few days we’ve had almost constant rain, which is probably good for ducks like this one, though I would prefer to have some sunshine.

Mallard in flight Mallard in flight Mallard in flight

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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During this transitional time of the year there is often a thin coating of ice on the pond, especially when the temperature at night drops into the low 20’s F (-5 C).  On Friday morning, the ice was thick enough to support the weight of ducks most of the time, although the Canada Geese kept breaking through the ice when they tried to walk on it.

This female Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) started out strutting confidently across the ice, but stopped for a moment at a place where the water had accumulated. I couldn’t tell if she was assessing the condition of the ice or was merely admiring her reflection—she is quite a beautiful duck after all and perhaps ducks have a sense of vanity.

The male Mallard was more practical, remaining in the area of open water and foraging for food, content to leave the strutting and reflecting to his lady.

duck_walk_blogduck_reflect_blogmallard-male_nov_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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As I was walking through the Volksgarten in Vienna, I was a bit surprised to encounter three ducklings, living in a fountain along with two male adult Mallards. The city had constructed a ramp so that the ducks could enter and exit the fountain and a couple of plywood platforms, where the ducklings would rest and play.

Obviously there was a mother duck involved in giving birth to these ducklings, which were no longer babies, but I did not see her at all during any of my three visits to see the ducks.

Although I had only a point-and-shoot camera with a small zoom lens, the fountain limited the movement of the ducklings and I was able to move in close for some pretty good shots, which show the personality of the little ducklings.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Valentine’s Day is past, a holiday that celebrates romantic love through the giving of cards, flowers, and candy.  Yesterday, though, I was witness to a deeper, more intimate sense of love and devotion as I observed a couple of Mallard ducks (Anas platyrhynchos).

Side by side, almost touching, they moved slowly though the water in synchronized movements, with one dipping its bill in the water and the other keeping watch. They seemed so happy together, alone in their own little world, amidst a flock of loudly honking Canada geese.

It may be my imagination, but they look like they are smiling in this photo.

duck_couple_blog© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I was a college student in the 1970’s a cheap sparkling wine known as “Cold Duck” was really popular (along with Zapple, Annie Greensprings, and Boone’s Farm). Do they still produce those wines?

The title of this posting, however, refers to a bird that I observed on the ice this past weekend, not to a retro beverage.

I was struck by the contrast between the vivid colors of the male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and the drab gray and white of the frozen pond. The duck seemed to be getting into a yoga-like pose, with one foot flat on the ice and the pointed toe of the other foot providing additional stability. Wait a minute, do ducks have toes?

I also couldn’t help but notice that ducks look a lot more graceful when swimming or flying—walking looks like it would be awkward for a duck. I suspect that no composer will every produce a ballet entitled “Duck Pond,” which would scarcely provide any competition for “Swan Lake.”

In the first few days of February, our temperatures have soared over the freezing mark, but there has been little melting on the surface of the pond and I did not detect any quacks in the ice.

duck_walk_crop_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Orchestral conductors tend to be flamboyant characters and that is exactly what came to mind when I first say this image  of a female Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) with fully outstretched wings. She seems to be conducting an unseen duck orchestra creating what some might call music and other would characterize as a quackonophy.

dancing_duck_blog

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Green-winged Teals (Anas crecca) are very small ducks and they are really skittish, but I managed to capture a photo of these three (and a mallard) yesterday shortly after they took off from the water. When they are in the water, you get only the slightest hint of the green on the wings (see my post from last year to see one Green-winged Teals at rest), but when they are flying, it’s easy to see why the got their name.

I went back and forth in my mind about whether or not to crop out the female mallard. Most people are familiar with mallards, so they can see how small the teals are by comparing them in the photo to the mallard. In addition, I like contrast between the green in wings of the teals and the blue in the wings of the mallard. However, the mallard is a bit far away from the three teals and there is nothing of visual interest in the center area of the photo. So I cropped a bit more and created the second image that eliminates the mallard.

Which version of the image works best for you?

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was cold and windy on Friday, but the sun was shining, permitting me to take this portrait of a resting male mallard. The subject is ordinary, but the lighting was wonderful and the bright colors of his head and bill really pop, including in his reflection in the brown waters of the beaver pond. I even managed to capture a little catch light in his eye.

It’s exciting to take photos of extraordinary subjects, but most often I am content to try to reveal some of the beauty in the ordinary things that I encounter every day.

mallard_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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One thing that I have learned since I started watching birds is that birds seem to enjoy the company of other species of birds. In the past, for example, I might have assumed that a flock of birds was made up of a single species—now I know better. As a result, I’ve started to pay more attention to the individual birds in a group and determine if there are some that look “different.”

That was the case last weekend, when I was looking at a group of mallard ducks from a pretty good distance. One of them had a streak of bright white, which seemed unusual for a mallard. Clueless to what kind he might be, I took some photos, following my usual practice of “shoot first and ask questions later.” Returning home and doing a little research, I discovered that my mystery duck is a male Northern Pintail Duck (Anas acuta), a new species to me.

My first photo permits you to compare him with a mallard and it’s pretty obvious why he stood out. I like the way that he hold his long white neck upright in almost a military posture.

The second shot was my attempt to capture him in flight when he took off. My view was obscured a bit as I shot from a distance and the focus was not great, but I at least managed to catch him in flight. This is the kind of shot I aspire to shoot, so you’re getting to see my practice shots as I try to master the techniques of capturing photos of birds in flight.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was out shooting today, I was happy to encounter Hooded Merganser ducks (Lophodytes cucullatus) a couple of times, They are the coolest-looking ducks in my opinion (although Wood Ducks are in the running too). It’s a real challenge to get good shots of them, because they are small, fast, and skittish. I would love to find myself in a position like Phil Lanoue, a fellow blogger and incredible photographer, who recently photographed a Hooded Merganser duck coming in for a landing next to him (check out his blog posting).

I’m still going through my photos, but this one jumped out at me. It shows two duck couples swimming in formation. What is unusual is that one of the pairs appears to me a male Mallard and a female Merganser. Oh, I know that some of you are thinking that such a relationship could never work, but true love always finds a way.

I can only imagine what their children will look like.

Mixed couple

Mixed couple (click for higher resolution view)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Earlier this week I managed to photograph this male Mallard Duck as he secretly practiced the ancient art of Zen levitation. Note his closed eyes and relaxed concentration as his body is gently lifted out of the water. With sufficient practice, Zen master ducks can take off and land in this position,  like a helicopter or a Harrier jet.

Zen levitation

Zen levitation

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Yesterday I spent some time watching geese and ducks at the marsh. I thought that the numbers would drop as the weather gets cold, but there actually seem to be more than there were in November, especially the geese. Once again I have been trying to take in-flight shots of these migratory birds, especially when they are taking off and landing.

I like the contrast in this photo between the impassive female Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos), who seems only mildly curious about the activity taking place right in front of her, and the two Canada Geese (Branta canadensis), who are making big splashes and generating waves as they land. They look like they could be a synchronized swimming pair, though I think in that sport you lose points if you make big splashes. In the background you can see some of the fields of cattails at the marsh, as well as some additional geese in the distance foraging in the fields and in the water.

Impassive observer

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The subject of this photo, a male Mallard duck, is very common. He’s not doing anything strange or unusual. The environment, the beaver pond at my local marsh, is not particularly exotic.

Somehow, though, I feel a sense of comfort and peace in the very ordinariness of this simple composition and in its soothing color palette. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, it’s good to slow down and regain some inner peace (even if it’s necessary at other times to paddle hard beneath the surface).

In the words of a song that I heard yesterday on the radio, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

mallard

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Most of the mallard ducks that I encountered today were busily foraging for food. One female mallard, however, had found a prime location on a mossy log in the pond opposite the beaver lodge and spent a lot of time preening her feathers.

It may have been my imagination, but she seemed to realize that she had an audience and began posing for me. Periodically she would even glance coyly in my direction (or so it seemed) to confirm that I was still watching her. As for the male mallards that would swim by from time to time—she ignored them completely.

Shy duck

Shy duck

Looking back

Looking back

Ready for my profile shot

Ready for my profile shot

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This morning I am in the mood for simplicity, so I am posting a single photo of a male Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) in flight. I like the geometric shapes in the image and how the light illuminates one wing, while keeping the other in the shadows. There is some color, but it doesn’t overwhelm the eyes. The photo is a simple one of a common subject—sometimes I need to slow down and see the beauty in simple things.

duck1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I have been watching migratory birds recently and observed that mallard ducks feed mainly by tipping forward and placing their fringed-edged bills in the water, straining out plants, seeds, and other material. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology categorizes mallards as “dabbling ducks” versus  “diving ducks” that go deep underwater to forage for food.

One mallard, though, used a different technique. Instead of dipping his head forward, he flattened himself out and placed his bill almost parallel to the water. He then slowly and systematically paddled back and forth with his beak in the water or just above it, continuously straining and restraining the surface of the water. (Did he require a restraining order?) As the photo shows, there was a lot of plant material available for him to gather. His female partner used the same technique, though I was not able to get a clear shot of her doing so.

Straining mallard

I observed another mallard straining in a different way. Along with his female companion, he was perched on a tiny piece of land. I must have startled him a little when I walked by, because he slipped into the water. Realizing he had nothing to fear from me, he tried to regain his spot. It required several vigorous attempts for him to climb out of the water and I managed to capture him straining to do so. I love the contrast between the determined look on his face and the impassive expression on the female’s face.

Mallard straining to regain his spot

Strain or strain? It’s so amazing that words can have so many different meanings—it strains the imagination.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I came across some ducks this afternoon while walking around a man-made pond in my suburban neighborhood and decided to take a few shots.

This is my favorite photo. I think is a juvenile male mallard duck (corrections are welcome) on the basis of some quick internet searching. I am particularly struck by the expression on his face and in his eyes as well as by the beautiful, iridescent blue feathers on his tail.

He definitely seems shy, or perhaps he is merely being coy, being an inexperienced young drake.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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