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Posts Tagged ‘Northern Shoveler’

The light was dim in the early morning hours this past Wednesday at Huntley Meadows Park, but I could detect some movement in the vegetation adjacent to the boardwalk that runs through the marshland. I watched and waited and eventually a male Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata) swam slowly into view and I managed to capture some images of it. I love the reflections of both the duck and the vegetation in this shot.

After the fact, I discovered that I probably should have changed the setting of my camera to raise the shutter speed. Many of my shots were blurry, but somehow this one came out reasonably sharp, despite the fact that it was taken with a shutter speed of only 1/15 of a second with my lens zoomed out all of the way to 600mm. I am pretty sure that it helped that I was using a monopod.

This incident reminded me of the special challenges and rewards that come with shooting at dawn or dusk. There is often a lot of activity, but there is a constant struggle to capture that activity in the limited light that is available. When things come together, though, it is almost magical and is definitely worth the effort.

Northern Shoveler

© 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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Even at a distance I could tell that the ducks that I spotted on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park were Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata)—the shape of their bills is pretty distinctive. It’s duck season now and I can hardly wait for more species to arrive at the park.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Does your appearance affect your attitude? Do you act differently when you are dressed formally than when dressed casually?

During the winter, I sometimes put on an utterly ridiculous looking bright red trapper hat with long floppy ears. No matter how I am feeling, I can’t help but smile when I am wearing the hat in public.

I wonder if a Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) feels the same way about its oversize bill. No matter when I see one, it always seems to have a goofy grin on its face. Now I admit that bills are pretty inflexible and probably don’t allow for much variation in the shoveler’s facial expressions, but the grin is contagious. In the same way that people smile back at me when I have on a goofy grin on my face when my red hat is on my head, I always smile back at the Northern Shovelers.

Wear a goofy grin today and see how other people react!

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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It’s hard to read the expression in a bird’s eyes, but this male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) at Huntley Meadows Park did not seem too thrilled that its large bill had gotten tangled in the weeds.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) at Huntley Meadows Park seemed shy and skittish today. This one male, however, turned his head for one last lingering look before swimming slowly away.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Some birds are so skittish that they fly away the very second that they detect my presence. Other birds are so tolerant or have gotten so used to humans that they will come right up to me or allow me to get pretty close to them. Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) are somewhere in the middle—generally they will turn their backs to me and swim away, but don’t fly away.

On a recent trip to my favorite marshland park, Huntley Meadows Park, I spotted a small group of Northern Shovelers. They were in constant motion as they foraged in the vegetation in the far reaches of one of the small ponds. It was a bit frustrating trying to get shots of them, because they spent most of the time swimming with their heads partially submerged.

I waited patiently and finally one of the handsome males briefly stopped swimming and gave me a half-smile and I was able to capture this image.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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We haven’t yet had snow, but Monday there were quite a few shovelers at Huntley Meadows Park. Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) are pretty easy to identify because of their cartoonishly elongated bills (and striking yellow eyes).

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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With new vegetation springing up near the edges of the ponds at Huntley Meadows Park, some of the ducks are now hanging out within range of my camera rather than in the middle of the pond. This past weekend I was able to capture the unusual beauty of this male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).

No matter how many times I have seen it, I never fail to be amazed at the disproportionately long bill of the Northern Shovelers. They look to me like they were drawn by the cartoonists at Disney, who deliberated exaggerated their features for comic effect.

It wouldn’t surprise me to see Northern Shovelers in a Disney feature film at some point in time.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love the serene beauty of the early morning. The light is soft, often tinged with pastel shades of pink and orange, and colors are especially saturated. The water is frequently still and mirror-like, providing for the possibility of perfect reflections.

On Monday I spotted this male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) as he slowly made his way across one of the ponds at Huntley Meadows Park. The special characteristics of the post-dawn period made this striking bird even more spectacular than normal.

This photo is a visual response to those who occasionally ask me why I enjoy getting up so early in the morning—words are not necessary.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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For a few magical moments, the early morning sky was awash with delicate shades of pink and blue. I hurriedly tried to capture that ephemeral beauty. Then suddenly the color was gone.

Yet somehow the magic remained. There is something really special about taking photos just after dawn—the colors are rich and saturated and the water is often incredibly still.

I captured this tranquil moment with a male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) early on Monday at Huntley Meadows Park. at about 7:30, not long after the color had faded away.

I love the stillness of the early morning.

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Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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After a week and a half overseas in an urban environment, it was nice Friday to get back to the wildlife of Huntley Meadows Park, where I saw this Northern Shoveler couple preparing to make a landing.

I accidentally spooked the Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) when I was approaching the area in which they were foraging for food. I first caught sight of them when they took to the air. Although they flew only a short distance away, I was able to react quickly enough to track them and get a few in-flight shots that show their beautiful coloration.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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“You don’t look at all like your profile photo,” said one flamboyant duck to the other during the awkward first moments of a meet-up arranged through the internet dating site quack.com. Duck dating has moved into the 21st century.

For the record, the duck on the left is a male Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) and the one on the right a male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata).

I welcome other suggestions for a caption for this photo as well as general wise quacks.

duck dating

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I can’t help but smile every time that I see the outrageously elongated black bill of the male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata)—the duck looks like a cartoon character that could have been designed by Disney.

This is the time of year when migrating ducks are passing through our area and it is always exciting to check out the ponds at my favorite park to see what ducks have dropped in. I spotted the Northern Shoveler and its mate this past weekend and spent a pretty good amount of time trying to get a shot in which the duck’s long bill was not submerged in the water.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the bill of the Northern Shoveler is about 2.5 inches (6.5 cm) long and has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges for straining food from water.

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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No, this is not a commentary on overindulgence during the holidays. Instead it is a response to one viewer’s comments on a recent posting that showed a pair of foraging Northern Shovelers with their heads almost buried in the weeds. The viewer preferred one photo over the other simply because it showed this bird’s unusual bill.

On Monday, a day that was sunny, cold, and windy, I observed another pair of Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) and took some shots that show their bills in all of their oversized glory.

I can still remember my surprise at the length of the bills when I saw these birds for the first time. Initially I thought it was an optical illusion, but it became clear pretty quickly that the bill was unusually long. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the Northern Shoveler’s bill has has about 110 fine projections (called lamellae) along the edges that help in straining food from water.

Northern Shoveler

female Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Last week, when the weather was a bit warmer and the ponds had not yet frozen over at my local marshland park, I managed to get some shots of a pair of Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) in action.

I quickly realized that trying to photograph two birds, rather than a single one as I usually do, significantly magnified the difficulty in getting a good shot. The two North Shovelers rarely would stay together and would wander in and out of the frame. Even worse, one of them would move closer or farther away, challenging my ability to keep them both in focus.

Northern Shovelers forage by swimming along with their bills in the water, straining out food, and never seeme to completely submerge their heads. I was happy that I was able to capture some shots in which the eyes are visible, even though the bills are in the water.

I really like the first image, because the positions of the male and the female are synchronized, yet I also really like the second image, because the positions are completely out of synch. I may be confused, or perhaps a lot of different things appeal to me, depending on how I consider them.

Northern Shoveler

Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Canada Geese are often loud and aggressive in their interactions with each other, but ducks seem much calm and restrained. I was therefore quite surprised when I saw these two male Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata) get into a minor dispute.

Northern Shovelers

I am not sure why these two ducks were squabbling, but I got one possible indication when I looked at the edge of the frame. A female Northern Shoveler was nearby and appeared to be watching the action out of the corner of her eye. Were the two males vying for her affection and attention?

Northern Shoveler

 

After a short period of wrestling, the two males separated and swam off in opposite directions, having settled, at least for a short time, whatever issue prompted the initial dispute.

Northern Shovelers

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I’ve been in denial about the change of seasons. Two weeks ago it was warm and I was still photographing insects.  The sub-freezing temperatures the last couple of days have been a reminder to me that it’s time to put my macro lenses on the shelf and reach for my telephoto lenses.

Walking through my local marshland park this past Monday, I couldn’t help but notice that the ducks are starting to arrive. During the fall and winter, the park hosts a variety of different ducks (along with quite a few Canada Geese). Some of them are there for a brief stay and then continue their journeys to more distant destinations. Others remain for an extended period of time.

Among the early birds are these Northern Shovelers (Anas clypeata), whose distinctively-shaped bills and colorful bodies make them hard to miss. They were paddling across the largest pond in the park, past a brush pile, when I captured this image. I didn’t notice it when I took the shot, but I really like the way that you can see some Canada Geese swimming in the distance.Northern Shoveler

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Every time that I see the outlandishly long bill and bright colors of a male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata), I can’t help but think that this is a cartoon duck, created by Walt Disney for a Technicolor movie. Of course, these ducks are real and the bills serve a useful function in helping them to strain the water for food.

The male shoveler is easier to spot, because of its more distinctive coloration, but I was happy to be able to get some shots of a female too as this couple moved in and out of the reeds in one of the ponds at my local marsh. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Northern Shoveler pairs are monogamous and remain together longer than pairs of other dabbling duck species.

One of the interesting things that I noted is that the feathers on the male’s head are not the solid green that I am used to seeing. They seem mottled and I wonder if this is some kind of transitional plumage as breeding season approaches.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The weathermen thought the snowstorm that is now dumping a lot of snow on the Northeast would skirt around us, but they were wrong—I ended up shoveling a couple of inches of the white stuff yesterday evening and this morning. So, I decided to post this photo of a male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) that I took on New Year’s Day, in honor of all of the shovelers in the north that will be busy today.

I remember well the first time I saw a Northern Shoveler last winter. At first I thought it was a Mallard, but then I got a look at the elongated bill, which still seems cartoonish to me. In this image, I really like the way that you can see the shape of the duck’s bill in the reflection in the water.

Our storm started out with rain and then turned to snow and everything is now frozen solid. With strong gusts of wind and a current temperature of 18 degrees (about minus 8 C), I may stick close to home today, but hope to get some shots of the snow.

shoveler1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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The title for this visual pun immediately came to mind when I first saw the photo—I can’t help myself when it comes to puns.

For the record, the colorful duck in the foreground is a male Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata) and the two in the background are male Green-Winged Teals (Anas carolinensis).

As the new year begins, should I be getting my ducks in a row?

ducks_row_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.

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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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When I first saw this duck and his mate this week, I thought it was just another mallard couple. As I studied the male, though, I couldn’t help but notice his elongated black bill—it’s as plain as the nose on its face (wait a minute, duck don’t have noses). The female’s bill was similar in shape, but was orange in color. Not only are they long, their bills also seemed wider at the tip than at their bases, causing the ducks to look almost cartoonish.

Northern Shoveler

Using the duck’s distinctive bill as a search term, it was easy for me to discover that this duck is called a Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). Sometimes I am baffled by the names of species, but this time the reasoning behind the name was pretty obvious. Like the mallard, the Northern Shoveler is considered to be a “babbling duck.” It forages by swimming along with its bill lowered into the water, straining out small crustaceans and other invertebrates, and generally does not tip its head and upper body forward into the water, according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Foraging Northern Shoveler

The Cornell Lab also notes that Northern Shoveler couple are monogamous and “remain together longer than pairs of other dabbling duck species.” Longer than other dabbling duck species? It makes me wonder about the divorce rate among dabbling ducks. Does “dabbling” refer to their mating habits as well as to their feeding habits? Do they stay together for the sake of the ducklings?

Northern Shoveler Couple

Speaking of ducklings, the Cornell Lab, which I highly recommend as a source of information about birds, includes the following bizarre and disgusting, yet strangely interesting factoid about this duck species, “When flushed off the nest, a female Northern Shoveler often defecates on its eggs, apparently to deter predators.” What a strange reaction.  With humans, flushing almost occurs after defecation, not before.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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