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In Love With Dutch Gap (part 2)

On my second visit to Dutch Gap (the day after Christmas), it was the Gadwall who came in close.

(female in front, two males behind)

"Understated elegance" is how AllAboutBirds describes them. I agree with that. Gadwall drakes aren't flashy, but I find them handsome. I particularly like those softly peach-tinted back feathers. When they take flight, they reveal chestnut wing patches, and both sexes show striking white wing patches that help identify them at a distance.

(female in front, male behind)

A tiny Ruby-Crowned Kinglet distracted me away from the ducks as it foraged in the marshside vegetation. It was a cold morning (for Virginia), and cold mornings are always the best time for viewing kinglets! (When it's warm enough to get them up to speed, they move at approximately the speed of sound. At least it feels that way when you're trying to photograph one.) Both species of kinglets (Ruby-Crowned and Golden-Crowned) winter in Virginia and are a common sight, even in suburban front yards, though likely unnoticed by non-birders. They are some of the smallest birds in North America after hummingbirds.

Note in each of these photos the teeny glimpse of the hidden ruby crown, identifying this as a male.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Brown Thrasher

In Ottawa, nature-lovers seem to have pretty well gotten the message that bread is very unhealthy (in some cases even fatal) for birds. Sadly this is not the case everywhere. Someone had scattered bread below one of the marsh overlooks, and this was one of the birds who came in to investigate. Brown Thrashers are mimids, part of a family of birds skilled at mimicking the songs of other birds. (Mockingbirds are in the same family.) They are often skulky and hard to see.

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrows seem to be fairly common wintering birds at Dutch Gap. In summer you can find them in Ottawa at Carp Ridge, among other places, singing a series of sweet, plaintive whistles that accelerate into a trill. But they are rather shy on their breeding grounds and I'd never managed to photograph one well. Note the distinct white eye ring which is one of the field marks for this sparrow.

A final surprise to end the day: this fellow circling directly over me in the parking lot. I had just called my folks' place on the cell phone, and ended up frantically juggling phone and camera, not wanting to hang up on anyone but not wanting to miss the opportunity either! Bald Eagles nest along the James and are a delightfully common sight there year-round, so that part wasn't a surprise. Having one show such an intense interest in me was. Fortunately it decided I was too big for a meal.

In Love With Dutch Gap (part 1)In Love With Dutch Gap (part 3)


January 14th, 2017 at 10:07 am
I like the Gadwall pics a lot... the flight shot is particularly nice, with both birds in focus and the background lightly blurred!

Great Kinglet shots too... they are hyperactive enough that one doesn't get the chance to look at a lot of detail in the field, so having pictures is good for that.

The first Mockingbird pic catches the mood of a cold morning well, and both it and the last Kinglet shot have great bokeh and lines.

The second Mockingbird shot has personality!

And finally, I'm glad the Bald Eagle decided not to take a go at you... it would be unpleasant for all concerned!

January 14th, 2018 at 8:01 pm
Thanks for the comments! The gadwall flight shot was probably my favorite in this set. They actually weren't perfectly in focus, but because it was a good quality photo overall with a low ISO, I had a lot of latitude to sharpen them in post-processing.

January 17th, 2018 at 11:00 am
My favorite was that cute little Ruby Crowned Kinglet. What great photos of such an elusive little bird. The Eagle shot was impressive as well. Eagles are always exciting to see, even as a common occurance here.