Duckweed and Green Herons

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I am still looking through and processing images from past  photography trips because of the COVID-19 restrictions on travel.  I found this image of a Green Heron landing in a pond in Florida.  The Green Heron is a beautiful little stocky heron with some high level hunting skills.  They actually sometimes place bait deliberately in the water to attract fish!  

You will notice a circle of yellow behind the bird which is present on the Raw file also. I considered fixing the color because it looked a little like post processing gone wrong but it is not processing at all. The plants behind the heron are very yellow and that prompted me to try and discover what that odd plant is that looks like green and yellow lentils on top of the water.  The plant is Duckweed and if it is yellow it is losing nutrients which is another way of saying it is dying.  Duckweed is a fascinating little plant. Each little “lentil” is a plant floating on the top of the water.  These little plants  are able to double their mass in 1-2 days, and they can grow just as fast at night as during the day!  Duckweed is being used in many places to filter harmful chemicals from water and many parts of the world consider it as a water purifier. Duckweed is currently being studied in Brazil as a biofuel source with the added benefit of leaving clean water behind.  The other fascinating use is to control mosquitos in still or slow moving water where mosquitos love to lay their eggs. The duckweed covers the water surface like a blanket and prevents the mosquito from reproducing!    I learned about Duckweed because of a yellow circle behind a Green Heron image.  What an amazing little plant.

Goldeneye

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These two images of a Male and Female Common Goldeneye are from early winter.   I am going through past images because all of my spring photography trips are cancelled as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Common Goldeneye (Bucephalus clangula) is a beautiful, readily recognized little duck. In spring and summer they breed in the colder parts of the United States in upper Michigan, Minnesota and Canada.  Goldeneye are cavity nesters. They frequently lay their eggs in abandoned woodpecker holes, natural tree cavities or nest boxes.  In winter they retreat to the warmer areas of the United States in saltwater bays and ice free deep lakes. The Goldeneye is one of the last ducks of the season to head south. They migrate in flocks and are very fast muscular fliers.

The Common Goldeneye has been nicknamed The Whistler because of the loud whistling noise their wings make as they fly.  

Hooded Merganser

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This Male Hooded Merganser surprised me when he suddenly stood up in the water and flapped. He looked as if he was walking on top of the water while flapping his wings!  This is an adult Male with his distinctive flamboyant crest with the white patch.  The Hooded Merganser is North America’s smallest Merganser  but it has the largest crest. The Hooded Merganser can raise or lower the crest which completely changes the shape of the duck’s head.  The Male courts the female by raising his crest so perhaps this one was looking for a mate.  These small diving ducks nest in tree cavities near ponds or streams. The ducklings leave the nest at only one day old.  The ducklings  jump to the forest floor when Mama Merganser calls to them from below enticing them out of the nest.  

Wilson’s Snipe

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Two images of a Wilson's Snipe standing in marsh

As I drove around Merritt Island in Florida, the dark clouds and increasing  rain seemed to put an end to any bird photography for the day. When  I saw a woman with a big lens pointed out into the marsh, I obeyed one of my rules of bird photography which is to always try to spot what someone else is photographing especially if they have a long lens.  I pulled over and searched hard with binoculars to find this Wilson’s Snipe.  It was well camouflaged and very nearly invisible in the marsh in the pouring rain.

The Wilson’s Snipe hides extremely well.  It is a pudgy little bird with an extremely long beak which it uses to probe in the mud for food.  It was only in 2003 that it was named Wilson’s Snipe after the American Ornithologist Alexander Wilson.  This snipe was previously thought to be a subspecies of the Common Snipe which lives in Europe not North America.  The Common Snipe (which I have never seen) has seven pairs of tail feathers and the Wilson’s Snipe has eight.  I read that and laughed because who counts the tail feathers?  Once I started reading about Alexander wilson I discovered he has quite a few birds named in his honor.  Wilson painted and published American Ornithology, a large volume of work in the early 1800’s.  Wilson’s painted illustrations of birds became the inspiration for James Audubon.  His paintings of birds are incredibly detailed and beautiful.  After looking at some of the plates of his book, I could see who counts the number of tail feathers!   I learned a lot about this bird and Alexander Wilson because I stopped in the rain to see what the woman in front of me was photographing. 

I persevered in adverse conditions and was rewarded with these images of a beautiful but difficult to find bird.  I also learned about  a famous birder and artist from the past.

Anhinga with large fish

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I was patiently waiting, with my finger on the shutter button, for a Red Shouldered Hawk to fly. I had been watching a pair of hawks for about 20 minutes when right in front of me in the water this Anhinga surfaced with this huge fish impaled on it’s lower beak! You never know what is going to appear in front of your lens.