Wednesday, December 30, 2009

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.
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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.
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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.
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The bird was continually diving and surfacing with large freshwater mussels which it would swallow whole.
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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.
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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.

11 comments:

Vince Cowell said...

Another incredible set of pics Richard. Thanks for posting them. I always look forward to visiting your blog.
Best wishes for the New Year.
Vince

boops said...

Thank you for sharing your beautiful and inspiring photographs. I always look forward to your postings. My heartfelt wishes for a wonderful 2010!

Pescalune said...

I just can say ... wow ! What a beauty ! Thanks for this great pictures and my best wishes for 2010 :)

MObugs said...

Gorgeous yet again. I seriously never get tired of your photos, I could look at them all day, over and over. The picture of the coot is my favorite, simply because they are one of my favorite water fowl. The duck with the mussels are amazing action shots. So endearing.

Estelle Kensdale said...

wow, stunning shots. just beautiful - as are most of the shots on your blog. i aspire to become half as good a bird photographer myself!

holdingmoments said...

Superb set as always Richard.
That Coot is one of the best I have seen of this bird.

All the best for the New Year, and I look forward to seeing many more of your outstanding pictures.

Peregrine's Bird Blog said...

Sorry to hear about your year. You have however excelled in the Bird Photography field. I have to say I love your blog and your photos never fail to impress. Wonderful shots of the scoter especially with the fresh water mussels.

Look forward to loads more this year!!

Craig

Kerri said...

Absolutely amazing images! I am in awe of your talent!
I too have spent way to many days at the hospital in 2009....hoping 2010 is a healthier year for my family and for yours!
Happy New Year!

Nyctalus said...

Hello Richard. Although I rarely get the chance to post comments, I thought I would do so now just to say how much I enjoy and appreciate your photographs. The action shots of the scoter tackling the mussel are terrific. I look forward to following your posts in the year ahead.
Regards
Allan

Hugh Harrop said...

Fantastic stuff Richard.

Hugh

Rich Steel said...

Thanks for your comments and New Year Wishes. Hopefully there will be plenty of photos appearing here over 2010.

Cheers

Rich

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