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Posts Tagged ‘swimming’

As I was exploring the edge of a small stream in Northern Virginia yesterday, I suddenly noticed a snake slowly swimming upstream. Its head seemed quite a bit lighter than its patterned body and I initially was confused by it. When I examined the photos afterwards, it appears the snake, which I think is a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon), was in the process of shedding its skin.

Northern Water Snakes are non-poisonous, but I never have a desire to get close to any snake that is in the water. From what I have read, I know that these snakes will bite you repeatedly if you try to pick them and their saliva contains an anti-coagulant that will make the wound bleed a lot.

At the time that the snake appeared, I was shooting with a 180mm macro lens, so any zooming that I was able to do was with my feet. At a certain point in time, the snake became aware of my presence and began to swim away more quickly. I was happy to be able to capture a shot as it was departing that shows more of the beautiful pattern on its body and some wonderful patterns in the water too.

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snake

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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In my last posting, there were photos of what might have been a muskrat or maybe a beaver—this time I know it is a muskrat, because I can see its skinny tail.

I watched as this muskrat ferried back supplies of what I assume is food from the cattail field to the area where he lives. I was standing on a boardwalk and was able to photograph him from above as he swam right toward me. Because of the size of the stalk he was carrying, he swam mostly above water, rather than swimming under water as he normally does.

Once he got closer to me, he dove and I lost sight of him.

muskratA2_blogmuskratA1_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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I got down pretty low to take this shot of a beaver at my local marshland park as he swam in my direction. I especially like the the reflection of his face in the water and the fact that his tail is visible. The ice in the foreground helps to give some interesting context to the photo.

During other seasons, the beavers would immediately dive whenever they sensed my presence, but the last week or so the beavers have been much more wiling to tolerate me (and others). Maybe the ice on the pond forces them to stay closer to home and to venture out more during the daylight hours rather than at night.

swimming_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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Looking down in the water, I was a little surprised to see a Banded Wooly Bear caterpillar (Pyrrharctia isabella) swimming, albeit not too quickly. He would slowly undulate his hairy body for a stroke and pause, and then repeat the process. It was fascinating to see the little air bubbles surrounding his mouth and the gentle ripples produced by his movement.

This caterpillar will almost certainly overwinter in his current state and pupate in the spring into an Isabella Tiger Moth. Bugguide notes that there are normally two broods, on that pupates in the summer and the other in the following spring. I have looked at some photos of the moth and can’t help but note that the caterpillar stage is a lot more attractive and interesting.

Wooly Bear caterpillar swimming (click for higher resolution)

Wooly Bear caterpillar pauses for a breath (click for higher resolution)

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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