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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

I couldn’t help but do a double take when I saw this sign at Fort Benning, Georgia. I was filled with visions of dogs on automatic conveyor belts being sprayed with soap and slapped with moving towels. Was hot wax an option for dogs?

I did a little checking and learned that the dog wash is a separate facility adjacent to the car wash. It is the first of its kind on a US military installation and includes a coin-operated, do-it-yourself, climate-controlled booth that offers washing, drying and flea and tick bathing options. The booth is then automatically sterilized after each use.

dog wash

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

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Experienced birders know that this is not an Indigo Cone-headed duck. In fact, there is no such bird—I simply made up the name because I was not really satisfied with calling this bird a Ring-necked duck (Aythya collaris). It is definitely a cool-looking bird, but where is the ring around its neck?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology explained this conundrum with these words:

“This bird’s common name (and its scientific name “collaris,” too) refer to the Ring-necked Duck’s hard-to-see chestnut collar on its black neck. It’s not a good field mark to use for identifying the bird, but it jumped out to the nineteenth century biologists that described the species using dead specimens.”

I’m in favor of having practical names that are descriptive of live specimens that I might encounter. If Indigo Cone-headed duck doesn’t work for you, how about Ring-billed duck? I’d enjoying hearing any creative ideas you might have about renaming this handsome little duck.

Ring-necked duck

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the most unusual-looking water birds that I occasionally see is the Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), like this one that I spotted in a small, man-made pond yesterday in Kingstowne, a suburban community near where I like in Northern Virginia.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology the Latin genus name for “grebe” means “feet at the buttocks.” And I thought “grebe” sounded funny just by itself—imagine having that Latin name as part of your name.

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

Pied-billed Grebe

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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One of the first games that children often learn to play is called “one of these is not like the others” and I felt like I was playing that game this past weekend. As I surveyed the geese that dotted the surface of Lake Cook, a small, pond-sized body of water not far from where I live, it became clear that one of them was different, very different from the others. It had a pinkish bill and a white stripe on its head and pinkish orange legs and feet.

All of the other geese at the lake were Canada Geese (Branta canadensis). Was this possibly a French-speaking separatist Canada Goose? When I looked through my bird identification book, there was no such variant of the Canada Goose.

In fact, there were not very many geese from which to choose. “My” goose sort of looked like the images of the Greater White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons), but not exactly. In an effort to get some help, I posted some photos to a Facebook birding page and received a range of responses. Most folks seemed to agree that this was a hybrid Canada Goose of some sort, but there was disagreement about the other part of the goose’s genetic makeup. Some thought there might have been a pairing of a Canada Goose with a domesticated goose, while others thought it might have been a Canada Goose and a Greater White-fronted Goose. I tend to be in the latter camp.

When I did a Google search on goose hybrids, I found there are an incredible number of hybrid variations. When it comes to bird identifications, I suppose I am going to have to be content with making my best guess—I refuse to take the next logical step of doing DNA testing of all of my subjects.

hybrid goose

hybrid goose

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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The hairstyle of this female Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) and the electric blue of the sky reflected on the water somehow brought back my memories of growing up in the 1960’s.

Hooded Merganser

Imagine my surprise a bit later when I learned that another one of the female Hooded Mergansers was a huge fan of Chubby Checker and she demonstrated for me her own version of The Twist.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Sometimes I have this feeling that the birds and other creatures that I photograph are playing games with me. On Monday this Red-headed Woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) seemed to be playing peek-a-boo with me at Huntley Meadows Park. It was hiding at the top of a broken-off tree and at irregular intervals would show its face for just a split second and then immediately pull it back.

As I look at the woodpecker’s head I can see streaks of brown, rather than the solid red of an adult, suggesting that this may be a juvenile redhead—maybe that’s why it likes to play games.

Red-headed Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Whenever a vulture is circling overhead, I like to make sure I move about from time to time. This Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) at Huntley Meadows Park didn’t seem to be paying too much attention to me, but you can never be too cautious, especially if you have not taken a shower that morning.

Turkey Vulture

Turkey Vulture

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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