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Posts Tagged ‘duck’

There is something really special about the moment when the darkness of the night finally gives way to the early light of the dawn and the sky is tinged with delicate shades of pink and orange. The silence is broken by the sounds of awakening birds as their day begins.

It’s not an optimal time for wildlife photography—there is simply not enough light to reveal all of the colors and the details of the subjects. Recently, though, I managed to capture a sense of the dawn in this image of a duck ascending into the air, heading for an unknown destination.

Early bird

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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As I was observing some mallard ducks paddling around the shallow waters of a former beaver pond yesterday, I noticed one much smaller duck in their midst that looked out of place—it was a male Green-winged Teal (Anas crecca). The little duck was acting just like the mallards, foraging for food in the water and occasionally on land as well. Had the Green-winged Teal been adopted by this group of mallards or was he merely lost and separated from his own group?

I couldn’t help but notice that most of the mallards were paired off, but the Green-winged Teal seemed to be all alone. He’s going to have to act quickly if he wants to find a sweetheart before Valentine’s Day later this week.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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When I was a college student in the 1970’s a cheap sparkling wine known as “Cold Duck” was really popular (along with Zapple, Annie Greensprings, and Boone’s Farm). Do they still produce those wines?

The title of this posting, however, refers to a bird that I observed on the ice this past weekend, not to a retro beverage.

I was struck by the contrast between the vivid colors of the male mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos) and the drab gray and white of the frozen pond. The duck seemed to be getting into a yoga-like pose, with one foot flat on the ice and the pointed toe of the other foot providing additional stability. Wait a minute, do ducks have toes?

I also couldn’t help but notice that ducks look a lot more graceful when swimming or flying—walking looks like it would be awkward for a duck. I suspect that no composer will every produce a ballet entitled “Duck Pond,” which would scarcely provide any competition for “Swan Lake.”

In the first few days of February, our temperatures have soared over the freezing mark, but there has been little melting on the surface of the pond and I did not detect any quacks in the ice.

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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.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved

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Do seagulls hunt ducks? That’s a crazy question, but that was the first thing that came to mind when a Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) started aggressively chasing a Hooded Merganser duck (Lophodytes cucullatus) with what appeared to be hostile intent.

I was walking along Cameron Run, a tributary of the Potomac River, when the scene started to unfold in front of me. The gull flew toward the dusk with its legs extended, like it was trying to snatch the duck out of the water. The duck immediately started bounding across the water (as you can see in the third photos) in an effort to escape the gull, but did not take to the air. When the duck got close to the bank of the stream, the gull turned away and left the duck in peace.

Was this merely a cranky gull or maybe a bully? Was it a territoriality thing? All I know is that it provided me a fascinating moment as I treated to a brief interaction between these two very different species of birds.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever watched ducks taking off from the water? Some of them seem to rise up almost straight out of the water, while others, like this Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris), like to get a running start, bouncing across the surface of the water.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Orchestral conductors tend to be flamboyant characters and that is exactly what came to mind when I first say this image  of a female Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) with fully outstretched wings. She seems to be conducting an unseen duck orchestra creating what some might call music and other would characterize as a quackonophy.

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© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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