By John Garbutt, 2014
To some, winter and Uri are now four letter words never to be spoken again as we enter spring. As a birder, the harbinger of spring, Barn Swallows, have been here since the first of March and are flying past my window. The trees outside are leafing out. This however is about the ducks who visit us in winter.
I always look forward to the annual arrival of wintering ducks. A favorite place to observe and photograph them is Russell Creek Park in Plano. I discovered it a couple of winters ago when using eBird to search the area for Redheads and Canvasbacks. I soon added them to my life list there!
This winter I wanted to get more shots of the ducks as close to their eye level as possible. I enjoy doing photography like this but it strains my arms and shoulders. To alleviate this, I purchased a Platypod Ground Tripod along with a ball head so I could use these tools to support the weight of my camera and lens. Below are some of my favorite memories and moments of this past winter as I tested my gear. I hope you enjoy them also.
The males always get the most attention. For me, the female Lesser Scaup is one of my favorite ducks. It may be part recency and availability bias, but their brown plumage, caramel eyes, and white patch on the base of the bill, make them striking. (For Single photos, CLICK anywhere on the photo for a larger image in a new tab)
This female Northern Shoveler swum by to say hello. You can see her fine comb like lamellae which are used to filter out food. (For Gallery photos, CLICK on “LARGE IMAGE” at the bottom of the photo to view in new tab.)
The Ring-Necked Ducks were diving for breakfast. I was not sure what they were bringing up to eat. It looks like acorns. They will eat mollusk and seeds. Their gizzards will crush the hard shells. (For Single photos, CLICK anywhere on the photo for a larger image in a new tab)
I named this Ring-Necked Duck, Grumpy Duck. He was not amused at the feather on his back. He was constantly reaching for it. (For Gallery photos, CLICK on “LARGE IMAGE” at the bottom of the photo to view in new tab.)
The male Redhead Duck may compete with the Wood Duck for most striking drake to some. I panned my camera as the Redhead outpaced the Lesser Scaup and Ring-Necked ducks until he was in the frame alone. I was able to capture his third eyelid. (For Single photos, CLICK anywhere on the photo for a larger image in a new tab)
I was able to find some ducks after the winter storm. At this time, portions of this pond and others were still frozen. There was a large group of Northern Shovelers. Groups swim in circles to collectively stir up food. They were not quite in full cyclone mode but it was fun to see a larger concentration than normal at this site. #ShovelerSquad
(For Gallery photos, CLICK on “LARGE IMAGE” at the bottom of the photo to view in new tab.)
I also wanted to photograph this beautiful female mallard I had been seeing. She was much lighter colored than normal. A mocha like plumage. I wonder if some domestic mallard duck is in her blood line?
However, her suitor stepped in front to get his shot taken first.
Lastly, another female Lesser Scaup shot. She was preening very near so it provided some candid shots of behavior. (For Single photos, CLICK anywhere on the photo for a larger image in a new tab)