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Posts Tagged ‘mallard’

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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Finding wildlife to photograph in early January in Brussels, Belgium is pretty tough. There are very few hours of daylight at this time of the year and the skies are mostly covered with gray clouds during the day (when it is not actually raining). During a quick trip to the botanical gardens in Brussels this morning, I spotted a few birds and was able to capture shots of a Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) and a male Mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).

The moorhen was swimming and my camera took the shot at 1/13 of a second, which means that the focus is not super sharp, but I like the soft, impressionist feel of the image. The mallard was more or less stationary as he groomed himself at the edge of the pond, but seemed to be keeping an eye on me.

I am here in Brussels for a brief business trip and as is usually the case on such trips, I like to try to fit in a little wildlife photography, even in the center of a city.

Common Moorhen

mallard

© 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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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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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

© 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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reflect3_2Jan_blog

reflect2_2Jan_blog

© 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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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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After endless gray winter days, the beauty of a sunny day seemed magnified and the vivid colors of this mallard duck looked even brighter. I love the shade of blue of the feathers that show through when the ducks are in flight, especially when they are taking off and landing.

mallard_blog

© 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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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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