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Posts Tagged ‘Oxyura jamaicensis’

Isn’t it wonderful that birds that are so different in appearance can get along so well? Why is it that we find it so difficult to do the same?

I spotted this Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) and Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) swimming together on Tuesday at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. I was immediately struck by the diminutive size of the Ruddy Duck—I somehow had the mistaken impression that Pied-billed Grebes were smaller than all ducks.

I decided to include separate images of the two species that I captured earlier in January to give you a better look at them. The color of the water in each of the three shots gives you an indication of what the weather was like on the day when they were taken. It has been a really variable month weather-wise, with almost as many days above 50 degrees (10 degrees C) as below freezing and barely a trace of snow.

peaceful coexistence

Pied-billed Grebe

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) are one the many duck species that overwinter in the Northern Virginia area where I live. The males are pretty easy to identify, even from a distance, because of the bright white patch on the sides of their heads. I spotted this one on Tuesday as he was shaking himself dry after a plunge in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Unfortunately they do not breed in our area—I would love to see the brilliant plumage of the breeding males. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology notes that, “Breeding males are almost cartoonishly bold, with a sky-blue bill, shining white cheek patch, and gleaming chestnut body.” Wow!

It is so much fun to read the “Cool Facts” section that is part of the description of each bird on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website. I love this description of the Ruddy Duck:

—The bright colors and odd behavior of male Ruddy Ducks drew attention from early naturalists, though they didn’t pull any punches. One 1926 account states, “Its intimate habits, its stupidity, its curious nesting customs and ludicrous courtship performance place it in a niche by itself…. Everything about this bird is interesting to the naturalist, but almost nothing about it is interesting to the sportsman.”

As you can see from the three shots below, I played around with the cropping of the images. They were all part of the same sequence, so initially the framing was similar for all three. I am not sure that any one of the three crops jumps out as “better,” but I really enjoy the process of considering options and thought that some of you would enjoy getting this little peek behind the curtains of my mental processes when working on an image.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Even when they are dozing, ducks seem to be keeping an eye on me, including a male Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), a male Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus), and a male Ruddy Duck, all of which I spotted this past week floating on a local pond.

 

Ring-necked Duck

Hooded Merganser

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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This male Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) and I spotted each other at almost the same time and we both immediately sprung into action. As I was bringing my camera up to my eye, the duck was swimming away. I thought that I had lost the photo opportunity when suddenly the duck turned his head to the side and I was able to capture this image.

This Ruddy Duck, like the Hooded Merganser duck that I featured yesterday, has taken up residence in a small pond in a suburban neighborhood not far from where I live. I am thrilled, because it gives me a place where I can experience wildlife without having to travel too far. Things can get busy sometimes, especially at this time of the year, and I cannot always spend hours on end in the wild with my camera as I prefer to do.

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What does it mean to have your ducks in a row? For most of us, it means being well-prepared and organized in advance. Personally, I am a little scatter-brained and disorganized, so it is not a term that I would apply to myself very often.

As is the case with many such expressions, it is sometimes fun to apply them literally. Last week I spotted some Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis) in the waters off of Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The wind was blowing pretty hard and the ducks seemed to be struggling to stay together. From my perspective, they seemed to be ducks in a row, though from their perspective, they probably felt like they were ducks in a column. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Most of the time that I see Ruddy Ducks, they are in groups like the one in the first photo, usually in the deeper waters. For more than a month, though, I have been seeing a solitary male Ruddy Duck in the more placid waters of a small pond at the wildlife refuge. I captured him in the second image below on the same day as the first shot. In both of the photos, you can see the stiff tail that is one of the distinguishing characteristics of this species.

I often wonder about the origins of expressions like “ducks in a row.” I assumed that it had to do with a mother duck and her ducklings, but decided to search the internet to see if that was the case. I came across a wonderful posting by The Word Detective that addresses speculation that the expression comes from the game of pool. It is a fun read, particularly the comments from readers suggesting that the expression is related to ship or aircraft construction or to duck hunting.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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I spotted this little Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) all by itself on Wednesday morning at the far end of Painted Turtle Pond at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge. He must have been feeling a little lonely, however, and tried to strike up a conversation with the mallard decoy that is a permanent feature at this pond. The mallard remained silent.

I was trying to capture a shot of the Ruddy Duck by itself, as in the second image, but I like the eye contact in the first image so much that I decided to make it my lead photo for the posting. The shot simply makes me smile.

Have a wonderful Friday.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was scanning a group of Ring-necked Ducks and Canada Geese earlier this week, I noticed a pair of ducks that looked different, very different from the others. Their colors were unusual, but what really set them apart was their tails that stood almost straight up. I think that I encountered ones like this once before, but I couldn’t remember what species they were.

Fortunately I got some decent shots and was able to find them in my identification guide when I returned home—they turned out to be a pair of Ruddy Ducks (Oxyura jamaicensis). The light was bright and producing a lot of glare off of the water and ice and I didn’t managed to get any good shots of the female, but here are a few images of the male.

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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The wind was kicking up yesterday on the Potomac River, making it difficult for the ducks there, like this Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis). I watched as the small ducks got drenched repeatedly as they sought to ride the waves.

At least it wasn’t raining and the temperatures have not yet dropped below the freezing levels, even at night.

ruddy_waves_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I haven’t seen many migrating ducks yet at my local marsh, so I traveled to the Potomac River this weekend, because I had heard from a birder that there were numerous ducks there. There were lots of Mallards, some Northern Shovelers (I think), and this cool-looking duck with a distinctive white patch on its cheek that I could not identify initially. After I returned home, it didn’t take long to figure out that this as a Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), a species that I had never seen before.

ruddy_duck1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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