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Posts Tagged ‘wood duck’

Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) in my area are really skittish and often take to the air before I have even spotted them—they make a very distinctive and loud noise when disturbed and taking flight. Last week at Occoquan Bay  National Wildlife Refuge, however, I was fortunate to spot a pair of wood ducks at the far side of a small pond and snapped off a shot of them before they could react to my presence. Fortunately I kept shooting and managed to capture some in-flight shots as they were taking off.

Wood ducks are probably the prettiest of all of the ducks where I live. The stunning colors and patterns of both the female, on the left, and the male are breathtaking, especially when the light is good.

wood ducks

wood ducks

wood ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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“Environmental bird portraits” is a fancy way of saying that I was not able to get close enough to my subjects to isolate them and fill the frame. Although that is true, I like the way that these three images give you a sense of the environment in which the birds were found. Often I try to get so close enough to my subjects with a telephoto or macro lens that I lose sight of the “big picture.” These images, all of which were taken last week at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, give you some sense of the variety of birds and environments that I encounter when I am out with my camera.

The first image shows a pair of colorful Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) that took off as soon as they detected my presence (and I was a long way off from them). The male is the one that is in front, with the female just behind him.

The second image shows a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), the smallest hawk in the United States. This bird was the toughest one for me to identify and I had to seek assistance from some experts in a Facebook bird forum. There was some discussion about whether this was a Sharp-shinned Hawk or a Cooper’s Hawk, another small hawk, but prevalent view was the it was the former.

The final image shows a male Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) as he sang out loudly from atop a tree. Male blackbirds are definitely not shy and the volume of their enthusiastic songs and calls is amazing, i.e. really loud.

Wood Duck

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Red-winged Blackbird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I love Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa), but haven’t seen any for quite some time. I was therefore really happy when I spotted this pair swimming in the distance in a  creek at Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge earlier this week.

The male Wood Duck, as shown in the first image, is one of the most colorful and distinctively patterned birds in our area—there is no other bird that looks even vaguely similar. The duck stopped swimming for just a moment and I was able to capture this shot of him getting a drink of water.

The female Wood Duck shown in the second image is not quite as colorful as her male counterpart, but has an equally distinctive look with her windswept “hair” and prominent white eye ring.

wood duck

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Three Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) silently swam into view in the early morning light, their passage creating a trail of ripples in the still waters of the little creek. A sense of tranquility filled the air as another day slowly began.

wood ducks

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

 

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I spotted several young Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) this morning at Huntley Meadows Park, including these two who playfully posed for me. Actually, there were three young Wood Ducks grooming themselves on a long and one decided to jump into the water. After swimming around for a while, the duck in the water decided to dry its wings and I was able to capture the extended wings in this shot. In case you are curious, the third duck was just out of the frame to the right. Although it was well past the “golden hour,” the light was beautiful and I was happy to be able to capture a partial reflection of the duck with outstretched wings.

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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As we move deeper into summer, I have been seeing fewer and fewer duck families at Huntley Meadows Park—maybe the ducklings have grown up or have succumbed to predators. Whatever the case, I was thrilled early yesterday morning to spot a Mama  Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) with five ducklings, relaxing and grooming themselves on a log in the water in one of the more remote areas of the park.

When they are first born, all of the ducklings seem to look the same to me, but gradually they seem to take on some of their adult markings. The duckling alone in the center, for example, seems to be acquiring some of the head markings of the adult Wood Duck, though he still lacks the spectacular colors of the adult male Wood Duck. (In case you don’t know what a male Wood Duck looks like, I am reprising below a photo from earlier this year of one sitting on a nesting box.)

wood duck

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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Female Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) at Huntley Meadows Park have been caring for their ducklings alone, so I figured the males had all departed. This morning, however, I spotted this male Wood Duck when he climbed out of the water to groom himself.

I captured this image when he gently shook himself to dry off. The moisture flew easily into the air, like water off of a duck’s back.

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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As I was getting ready to leave Huntley Meadows Park yesterday afternoon, a Wood Duck family (Aix sponsa)  suddenly swam right in front of me from under the boardwalk. Even though I zoomed out, I was unable to capture the entire family with my long telephoto lens.

Here are a couple of shots of the mother and some of her ducklings. They were moving pretty quickly as a group and I didn’t have much time to get some shots before they disappeared into the vegetation.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

 

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As I was making my way to the start of the boardwalk at Huntley Meadows Park early on Monday morning, a helpful birder pointed through the trees to a pair of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) that appeared to be seeking a nesting cavity. The female kept moving among the trees, but the male stayed still for a moment and let me get this long-distance shot.

It’s pretty unusual to see ducks in a tree and generally I know they are in the trees only when I hear them flying away. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology website notes that Wood Ducks “are one of the few duck species equipped with strong claws that can grip bark and perch on branches.” This spring I have noted Wood Ducks checking out nesting boxes at the park, but perhaps this couple prefers a more natural birthing experience (or maybe all of the nesting boxes are being used by other Wood Ducks or Hooded Mergansers).

wood duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Male Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) are colorful and unusual looking and are one of my favorites. I spotted this one atop a nesting box at Huntley Meadows Park on Friday as he was singing in the rain. He stayed there for quite some time, periodically moving from one side of the roof to the other.

I waited and waited to see if a female Wood Duck would emerge from the box. but I never saw her. Perhaps he is keeping watch over eggs that may have been laid in the box.

Wood Duck

 

Wood Duck

 

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I was thrilled on Friday morning to spot this Wood Duck mother (Aix sponsa) with thirteen little ducklings (if I counted right) at my favorite marshland park, Huntley Meadows Park. A few days ago, one of my fellow photographers was able to capture some shots of the moment when some newly fledged wood duck babies were called out of the nesting box by their mother and dropped into the water below. I suspect this is the same family, although I have been told that there are plenty of eggs in some of the other nesting boxes, so there may a lot more baby ducks soon.

I hope that all of the cute little ducklings can remain safe, but I remember with a tinge of sadness the experience of past years when I watched the number of babies decrease over time. The environment is hostile for these vulnerable little ones, with water snakes and snapping turtles as well as hawks and other birds of prey.  It has to be tough on the mother duck to try to keep them together and out of danger and it seems like she has to raise them on her own—the father duck does not seem to participate in the process.

Wood Duck babies

Wood Duck babies

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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I heard this Wood Duck couple take off at Huntley Meadows Park this past weekend before I actually saw them. Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa), especially the female, make a distinctive shrieking noise when disturbed and when taking flight. (Check out this page from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website to hear some of the sounds made by Wood Ducks.)

Normally Wood Ducks fly away from me and I often don’t even get to see them before they disappear in the distance. This time, however, the birds flew across my field of vision and I was able to capture this long-distance shot as they passed me. I really like the way that we get a glimpse of the beautiful colors on the inside part of the wings of these striking ducks.

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This colorful male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) was standing tall yesterday as he kept watch over a nesting box at Huntley Meadows Park. I kept watch for a while myself, hoping to photograph a female entering or exiting the box, but came up empty-handed.

It’s breeding time and all of the animals and birds seem to be looking for mates and preparing for the arrival of babies. At least some of the Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks use the nesting boxes at various locations throughout the park. Tree Swallows also use nesting boxes, although those boxes are much smaller than the ones used by the ducks.

I don’t know if this male Wood Duck is guarding eggs that have already been laid in the box or is merely helping to reserve the box for use by his partner. In the past I have spent extended periods of time waiting for the arrival and departure of female ducks at nesting boxes. I find it amazing that the females are able to arrest their forward momentum and enter the box through a hole that is a tight fit.

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past weekend I inadvertently spooked a small flock of little Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) while wandering about Huntley Meadows Park, but managed to get some shots of them as they flew away through the trees.

I just love the combination of the colorful birds in flight and the autumn foliage.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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This past Monday at Huntley Meadows Park I was thrilled to see one of my favorite ducks, the colorful male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa), weaving its way with its mate among the trees in one of the flooded area of the marsh.

This was one of the few times when I have actually had the opportunity to observes a Wood Duck swimming around—normally they take to the air as soon as they sense my presence.

The natural world is gradually moving away from the monochromatic tones of the winter to the brighter colors of spring, a transformation that I welcome with open arms.

Wood Duck wood2_blog

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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What is the most beautiful bird that you can see in the wild in your area? We have lots of pretty birds here in Northern Virginia, but I could make a really strong case for the male Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) as the most stunning bird.

Alas, wood ducks are also amazingly elusive and it is rare that I get a glimpse of one of them. Toward the end of November, however, I was thrilled when I caught sight of one in Holmes Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River. I was on a bridge pretty high above the stream and the duck did not seem to sense my presence, so I was able to get some decent shots as he swam in and out of the light.

The water in which the duck was swimming looks amazing, with swirls and colors that complement the Wood Duck’s bright colors and striking patterns.  I am not sure what caused the effect, but I really like it.

This was the only Wood Duck that I spotted all autumn, but it sure was worth waiting for. I’ll be keeping an eye out for these beauties as we move deeper into winter.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Walking along Rock Creek in Washington, D.C. on my way to the National Zoo yesterday, I came upon some ducks in a area of the creek where the water was still. I knew that they were ducks, but when I zoomed in on them I was surprised. One of them was the most unusually colored duck that I have ever seen, with a strangely shaped head, brightly colored feathers, and red eyes.

Male wood duck in Rock Creek

I did some research and discovered that this is a male wood duck. If you had asked me yesterday about wood ducks, I would have thought you were talking about those hand-painted decoys.

I managed to get a shot of the male wood duck swimming along with a female wood duck. The photo is not quite as clear as the first one, but it shows the difference in coloration between the male and the female. The female is more delicately beautiful than the male, who is really ostentatious in appearance.

Female and male wood ducks in Rock Creek

I seem to have a knack in discovering brightly colored creatures, whether they be grasshoppers or duck. I hope my good fortune continues.

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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