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Posts Tagged ‘Tamron 150-600mm’

The plumage of the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) is pretty drab, but it helps to make its beautiful orange bill and spectacular blue eyes stand out even more. I spotted this immature cormorant—adults have darker-colored breast feathers—yesterday afternoon at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia. The cormorant was standing still in shallow water and seemed to be trying to absorb some warmth from the intermittent sun on a cold and windy day, with temperatures just above freezing.

Double-crested Cormorant

© 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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A loud smack in the water yesterday afternoon at Lake Cook in Alexandria, Virginia caused me to turn my head and I was shocked when I saw an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) pull a fish out of the water—I though that all of the osprey had gone south for the winter months ago.

This encounter was a real test of my ability to react quickly. I had been watching some small birds in the bushes at the edge of the water when I heard the osprey’s impact with the water. My brain went into overdrive as I tried to figure out what had caused the sound, but simultaneously I was raising my camera to my eye and pointing it in the direction from which the sound had come. I didn’t have time to change the settings on the camera and was fortunate that they were more or less ok. My focus was set for single shot and not continuous focus, so many of my shots were not in focus and my shutter speed ended up at 1/500 sec, a bit too slow to freeze the action. Still, I am thrilled that I got a couple of decent shots out of the encounter.

After I posted a photo in a birding forum in Facebook, several local birders noted that osprey often return to the area in mid-February, so this osprey is only a bit of an early bird.

osprey

osprey

© 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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