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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Pintail’

Early on Thanksgiving morning, some Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) at Huntley Meadows Park in Northern Virginia decided to celebrate the holiday by sleeping in a bit. Their decision may have been prompted in part by the weather—it was just below freezing and a thin layer of ice covered some of the water at the park. Unlike the ducks, I did not sleep in and ventured out into the frosty morning to see what I could discover.

Happy Thanksgiving to all those who are celebrating this special day. Even if you are not, it’s always a good idea to pause for a minute to remember all of the blessings in our lives that so often we take for granted.

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the mood of the early morning—there is such a sense of tranquility. Here is what what things looked like this morning at Huntley Meadows Park. The most obvious subject was a male Northern Pintail duck (Anas acuta), but I love the way that you can see other ducks and geese in the background.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) are remarkably illusive—they never seem to come close to the shore and most often are partially hidden by vegetation. This past weekend at Huntley Meadows Park, I was able to capture some of the beautiful details of this male pintail that was out in open, albeit at a pretty good distance. I think he was initially just waking up and stretching out his long, elegant neck before settling into a more “normal” pose.

It certainly was handy to have a long telephoto zoom lens.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It was really cool yesterday to see some elegant Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) poking about in the distant weeds of Huntley Meadows Park. At first I thought that the ducks in this first image were male-female couple. The more I look at the image, however, the more I think the duck in the foreground may be an immature male that will eventually look like the male in the background. The Northern Pintails in the second image look more to me like a male-female couple.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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How low can you go? This male Northern Pintail duck (Anas acuta) stretched himself out almost completely flat as he skimmed food from the top of the water recently at Huntley Meadows Park.

It almost looks like he is sniffing out his food like a hound, but I am not even sure that birds have a sense of smell.

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Male birds generally have brighter colors and more distinctive patterns than their female counterparts and therefore tend to get a lot more attention from photographers. The females, though, have a beauty and elegance that often equals or surpasses that of the males, like this female Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) that I spotted earlier this month at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, Virginia.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of my favorite winter ducks at Huntley Meadows Park is the male Northern Pintail (Anas acuta). Its elegant long neck and refined colors give it an almost aristocratic look.

The duck in the photo looks a little less dignified when grooming himself (don’t we all), but I really like the way that this image provides a glimpse of its personality. In the second image, you can get a sense of the length of the pintail’s neck and its startling brightness (and its regal posture). The final shot gives you an idea of the flexibility of that long neck—I think I have less than half of that range of motion in my neck.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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On Friday, as I was walking toward a group of ducks, I saw a flash of white, a white that was brighter than that of a mallard duck. In the midst of the mallards, there was a couple of Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) and I managed to get this shot of the male.

Before he swam away, the duck extended his neck and looked all around. I was amazed to see how long his neck was—it appeared to be almost as long as a goose’s neck.

Once again, I was reminded of the value in closely examining a group of birds. Others might have passed by the group of common ducks without bothering to notice this beautiful Northern Pintail amidst the mallards.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Judging from the distance between them and the awkwardness of their poses, these Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) this morning at my local marsh looked like they were on a first date, getting to know each other.

pintail_couple_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Born in Boston, Massachusetts, I have an affinity for things from the north and was amused to find that two of my favorite birds from this past weekend are called “Northern”—the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) and the Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).

Sometimes it seems that I shoot subjects in cycles. At one point this past summer, I felt like I was shooting a lot of new and interesting subjects that turned out to have “Common” in their names. In addition to the two Northerners that I am featuring today, this winter I have also photographed Northern Cardinals, Northern Flickers, and Northern Mockingbirds.

The day that I took these photos was gray, misty, and overcast, which gave the water an interesting gray tinge. Fortunately there was  enough light to cast interesting reflections onto the water’s surface.

I like the contrast between the body shapes and colors of these two ducks.  The elegance of the long neck and understated, conservative colors of the pintail are quite different from the bold colors and the counter-culture look of the shoveler’s bill. In some ways, they seem to represent the establishment, on the one hand, and the rebel, on the other.

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Male Northern Pintail at Huntley Meadows Park

Male Northern Shoveler at Huntley Meadows Park

Male Northern Shoveler at Huntley Meadows Park

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was focusing on some ducks yesterday on a misty, gray morning, one of them suddenly decided to take to the air and I managed to capture him just as he was starting to come out of the water.

The ducks were a little closer to the shore of a little pond at my local marshland park than is usually the case and I was squinting through the viewfinder trying to identify their types. The bright white neck of one of them made me pretty sure that it was a Northern Pintail (Anas acuta), but I wasn’t quite so sure about the pair of ducks that sort of looked like mallards, but turned out to be Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata).

I was trying to be as quiet as I could as I took some photos, when the male Northern Shoveler somehow detected me and took off. I managed to snap a photo at a really interesting moment as the male is just starting to flap his wings. The female and the pintail aren’t  paying much attention to the male’s actions and eventually just swam away.

liftoff_blog

I tried to follow the male Northern Shoveler in flight as he headed off into the distance. Most of my shots were pretty blurry, but I got a couple that I really like. The first one is just after take off and I like the splash and the fact that his reflection is still visible. In the second one,the background is a soft blur, providing a nice backdrop for the vivid colors of the shoveler. He is in a photogenic position as he flies away and I like the fact that a portion of his head and one of his yellow eyes are still visible.

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flight_blogI’ll probably post some separate photos of the Northern Shoveler and the Northern Pintail a bit later, but wanted to share my good fortune in capturing this moment.

© 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.

pintail_blogpintail2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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