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Posts Tagged ‘Kingstowne’

Recently I posted an image of a Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps) that prompted one reader to comment that the grebe looked like a “poorly drawn duck.” Now I’ll admit that the shape and proportions of a grebe are a bit unusual, but I was sure that with the right angle and lighting I could manage to take a beauty portrait of this little bird. I’m not sure that I succeeded fully, but I don’t feel at all uncomfortable characterizing the bird in this image as a “pretty grebe.”

Pied-billed Grebe

© 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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As I looked across the pond at a group of ducks, I spotted a flash of red amidst the dark blue heads of the male Ring-necked ducks. Initially I was confused. The only bird that I had previously seen with a red head was a Red-headed woodpecker and I was pretty sure that a woodpecker was not swimming around in the water.

I maneuvered my way around the small pond and was able to capture some images of this odd duck. Imagine my shock when I checked my bird identification guide and learned that this duck is actually called a Redhead duck (Aythya americana). Frequent readers of this blog know that I sometimes complain about the seemingly inappropriate names that have been given to birds and insects, but in this case the name is simple and straightforward and fits.

As far as I can tell this Redhead is alone—I couldn’t spot any other male or female Redheads at the pond. He seems to like hanging out with a group of male Ring-necked ducks who also seem to be bachelors.

I don’t know how long this guy will stay at this location, but I am definitely going back soon to try to get some more shots of this spectacularly handsome Redhead.

Redhead

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Normally Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) like to stay in deep water and it’s tough to get close-up photos. Yesterday, however, I came upon this male near the shore of a small pond  and I managed to snap off a couple of shots before he turned his back and swam away.

These little ducks have an amazing amount of personality, especially when seen up close.

Hooded Merganser

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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Have you ever watched a Hooded Merganser duck dive? They will be swimming along and then suddenly they will arch their bodies and thrust slightly upwards before disappearing into the water.

As I watched a group of Hooded Megansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) diving in the deep water of a small pond, I decided to see if I could catch them mid-dive. It proved to be more difficult to accomplish than I realized and I ended up with lots of frames of tails sticking out of the water. Here’s the best shot of a female that I managed to capture as she prepared to go under the water. Her body position reminds me of a dolphin, though I have never seen a dolphin with that kind of a hairstyle.

Hooded Merganser

I was not quite as successful with the male ducks, but I did capture a fun two-image sequence.  The male Hooded Merganser did not seem to come out of the water as much as the female did. As a result, he created a much bigger splash—if this had been an Olympic diving competition, he would certainly have lost points for his sloppy entry into the water.

Hooded Merganser

Hooded Merganser

© 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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Have you ever tried to shoot a group portrait? You get everyone lined up and facing the camera, but there is always one uncooperative subject. That was certainly the case with these Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) at a little suburban pond on Monday. The gaggle of geese was preening and cleaning themselves all in a row on a on a concrete bar sticking out of the water.

Canada Geese

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

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