If you read my blog article from a couple days ago, you know that on January 29 I had a very successful trip to Cambridge, Maryland, to photograph ducks. In that article, I posted images of 2 of the 6 species of ducks that I photographed on the Choptank River. In this article, I am including the other 4 species: Canvasbacks (above image), Lesser Scaups, Ring-necks, and a Redhead.
Canvasbacks significantly out numbered the other ducks that day, as can be seen in the below photo. In this image, the ducks were startled after approaching the river bank and were photographed as they swam away as fast as their webbed feet could paddle. Two Mallards took to the air. In case you are curious, in the below photo there are 25 male and 4 female Canvasbacks, 2 male Lesser Scaups, and 2 pairs of Mallards. That ratio of Canvasbacks to the other ducks is representative of the several hundred ducks that were in that location on the Choptank River.
Canvasbacks are large diving ducks that got their name from early European settlers that thought their backs were canvas-like in color. In the early 1950s, it was estimated that there were 225,000 Canvasbacks wintering on the Chesapeake Bay; this represented one-half of the entire North American population. By 1985, there were only 50,000 Canvasbacks wintering there. Canvasbacks were extensively hunted around the turn of the century, but federal hunting regulations now restrict their harvest. Today, the population has stabilized and is increasing slightly, although it is nowhere near previous levels. Below are 4 photos of the male and 2 of the female Canvasbacks. There were many more males than females.
There were many less Ring-necked Ducks and Lesser Scaups, which are both smaller ducks than the Canvasbacks and Mallards that were on the river. Both of these ducks feed mainly by diving, eating aquatic plants as well as mollusks, aquatic insects and small fish. Both of these ducks were my favorite of the 6 species on the river, because of their size, color and markings, and just look so cute and lovable. Below are 3 images of the Lesser Scaups, whose heads were jet black with an iridescent purple color that glistened in the sunlight.
Finally, below is a photo of the single Redhead Duck that I saw among the hundreds of other ducks. It seemed to be the most wary and stayed further out than the other ducks. Although smaller, it was somewhat difficult to distinguish from the Canvasbacks, because its head was similarly colored, but it had yellow eyes, instead of red, and its back was grey, instead of white.
Redhead Ducks are also diving ducks that feed mainly on aquatic plants. Their populations have remained relatively steady, and in a 2009 survey, there were more than 1 million Redheads. Even though there are many Redheads in North America, there was only one at that location on the Choptank River.
That concludes my blog articles on the ducks in Cambridge, Maryland (for now). The photographer and friend, Ceasar Shaper, that accompanied me on this trip suggested going back later this month. Maybe, there will be more Redheads. In the meantime, I am returning to processing images from Florida that I shot in December. I saw and was able to photograph many Red-shouldered Hawks in the Everglades and processing them is my next project. One of the Red-shoulder Hawks that I photographed follows.
For any curious photographers, I photographed the ducks in this and previous article using a Nikon D700 with a 70-200mm lens and a Nikon D300 with a 600mm lens. Email me for the EXIF data on any of the images.