Thankfully today was a dry day – my boots were still wet from yesterday. The afternoon started out with a little bit of nice sunshine. A Red-winged Blackbird took the opportunity to hop down onto some low-lying vegetation to search for food. I envy the birds that can stand atop the lily pads and other vegetation, although I’m not sure what I’d do with such a skill. Still it seems fun.
The same Bufflehead was waiting for me. When you photograph the same animal for multiple days, sometimes it feels like they start to recognize you and get more comfortable. I’m not sure if that was actually happening with this Bufflehead, but it sure felt that way.
Today started off wet, really wet. I wanted to get low on some ducks and other water birds that were using some of the waterways. As I started to climb down the hill, I stepped on what I thought was ground. Except it wasn’t ground, it was water-logged earth. And it was mighty soft. So down I went and plunged in to my calves in the mucky water. I had been wearing hiking boots at the time which take a lot of water. Since I was already wet, not much else to do but photograph. Some of the ducks cooperated as well as this juvenile Tricolored Heron. Getting in the water really helps to approach wildlife – except this time I wasn’t exactly expecting to get in.
Eventually it became time to move on with my drenched and dirty boots and socks. Fortunately I am a little wiser than I used to be. I expect myself to make mistakes like this all the time now, so I always have some backups with me. With another pair of footwear, I was ready to get low to some other water. Luckily this ground was solid. There was a cooperative male Bufflehead swimming in the area, so I set up and waited. Buffleheads are diving ducks. They will dive under the water swimming around and feeding and then come up 20 minutes later. I spent some time focusing on capturing this aspect of their lives. Some ducks will come up a bit before diving from the water’s surface, but this duck was going straight down. In the end, I liked the look of just his stiff tail which is the last thing to enter the water.
Ducks have this wonderful oil that they waterproof their feather with. This oil makes the water bead up when they come back up to the surface. Sometimes their feathers will clump a little, but if the oil is spread well they will still be dry. The surfacants that are used to clean up oil spills can cause birds to freeze since it can also remove all the oil that they naturally have on their feathers. Then the bird will get wet and cold, etc. So oil spill clean up is a tricky thing – both too much oil and too much cleaner can be harmful for wildlife.
Every day now, I am wondering if this will be my last day with the wintering ducks. I just loved this little Bufflehead drake. He had so much color on him and the light was emphasizing the iridescence. Just where do they get these striking colors from? Simply an amazing little tugboat.
Even though the sun sets you don’t have to stop shooting. Remember the camera sees light differently than your eye and you can get some very nice effects in this low light. The tricky thing is keeping a big lens steady at such slow shutter speeds. Today I was down to 1/40th second for this Killdeer which is pretty slow for a 600mm on a beanbag. You’ll need good technique to keep the images sharp, but it also helps to take a lot of photos under such light. Numbers always helps the odds of getting a sharp photo.
Every time I post a photo of an insect, I feel the need to defend the little critters. Ok, maybe not butterflies and ladybugs since everyone likes those, but any other insects. Take this guy – this Summer Fishfly is quite large (around 4 inches) and I suspect a good number of people find it ugly or scary. Like most insects, it is completely harmless. It lives for years in the water and then comes out for about a week as a winged adult when it looks for love and doesn’t feed. I tried to show their gentle nature as I thought this flower I found it on accented this. If I’ve achieved my intent, you might find insects like this a little more interesting or at least less repulsive.