Tagged With: Lophodytes cucullatus

C&O Canal – Flowers and Birds

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica)

Cathy and I went out to Poolesville to drop off a publication that we’ve had since I was in college. I had forgotten that the person we were taking it to was a classmate of mine since elementary school. From there we went to the C&O Canal at Riley’s Lock, where Seneca Creek empties into the Potomac River. We parked on the other side of the creek from the lock and lock house, near the old, ruined stone mill. It’s a shame it’s defaced by so much graffiti, but I suppose that’s something that’s just going to happen. When we got onto the towpath we walked west for a little over a mile. We didn’t expect to see much but I brought my long lens, just in case. Towards the end of the walk we spotted that particular green of the leaves of Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica). It’s a little early for them to be in full bloom but they were starting to open and I got a few nice photos. We love bluebells.

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)

In addition to the bluebells, there were spring beauties (Claytonia virginica), cutleaved toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), and Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria). There were Trillium leaves but they were not in bloom yet. In the turning basin there was a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) on the far shore and two pairs of hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus). These are lovely birds and I never get tired of seeing them. The females are a bit less noticeable but are also pretty birds. The turtles were also out in numbers, at least in a few spots. What a beautiful day for a walk.

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Margansers and Scaup

Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus)

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

Lesser Scaup (Aythya affinis)

We decided to go to the canal today but on the way we were passing the national headquarters of the Izaak Walton League on Muddy Branch Road and decided to stop and walk around Lake Halcyon on that property. It’s a nice little pond with woods on three sides and it’s not uncommon to see ducks there. We were blessed with three duck species. First we saw a pair of hooded mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus), which are fish-eating ducks. They were out in the middle of the pond but with my long lens I was able to get a decent shot of them. Then we saw a pair of lesser scaup (Aythya affinis), a type of diving duck. We also saw two pairs of mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). There were eastern bluebirds (Sialia sialis) in the trees around the pond, as well.

We see mergansers reasonably often but this is the first time I’ve seen scaup, so I considered that to be a real treat.

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