On Golden Ponds
I was out by a local pond recently photographing some Coots and Tufted Duck. To get the best from waterfowl I think there are three key considerations, firstly to get down low to the water, to go in the winter when they look at their best and also to carefully select your position in terms of the water colour. You will find the water colour is dictated by reflected bank side features or the sky and so varies from grey to blue and green to gold depending on the site and conditions. On this particular pond I noticed that a yellow / orange shrub was casting a narrow shaft of golden orange water across the lake and so positioned myself accordingly. A coot appeared first and photographed here just on the edge of the golden water area.
I had my eye on a drake Tufted Duck which was preening and slowly drifting towards the target zone. Many birds after preening and bathing will give their wings a flap to shake of excess water. Fortunately this one did it in just the right position.
I was back out with the camera two days ago following reports of a Velvet Scoter on a small pond near Clitheroe. This gave a rare chance to photograph one of these marine ducks which I had not seen before. I awoke to thick fog but a quick look on a local webcam showed the weather at my destination to be clear. The low winter light combined with bank side reflection again offered some opportunities for photos on a golden pond.
The bird was continually diving and surfacing with large freshwater mussels which it would swallow whole.
During the few hours I was there the bird must have consumed about 15 large mussels which makes you wonder firstly what kind of digestive system it must have and secondly why it was still floating! In this photograph the bird is manoeuvring the mussel before swallowing.
I will take this moment to also give a quick overview of the last 12 months as we are rapidly approaching the year end. It has been a relatively productive year with 108 wild bird species photographed including a dozen new species such as Black-necked grebe, Grey phalarope, Whimbrel and Shorelark. This has been despite a good deal of background trauma with the life threatening post-operative condition my partner found herself in earlier in the year and the serious illness and departure of a family member. I have probably spent more time in hospital during these last 12 months than I really care to think about. If this is combined with an extremely heavy work schedule and I am surprised I have managed to photograph anything! It really has been a case of grabbing as many fleeting moments as possible. For 2010 I already have an overseas photographic trip booked that I am really looking forward to and will give some details of that in the New Year.
To finish off I would like to thank all my friends, particularly Steve and Andy for their support during this difficult year, and you the readers for your kind words and taking the time to read the Blog. May I wish you all a very Happy, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year.