King and Queen of the Sawbills
Of the sawbill species in the UK in my book the Goosander gets the top place as the Sawbill Royalty. They are such majestic and beautiful birds. I arranged with my friend to Steve to take a trip out for them and was worryingly met with a thick blanket of fog as I stepped out the front door. However, I still retained hope given that the lake where they reside over the winter is in an upland location and might be above the low lying fog. This proved to be the case as we drove down the length of the lake to find the birds with clear, sunny skies overhead and flat calm conditions. We could not find ththem at first and after a bit of searching we decided to return to where we started to find a group of 9 birds had appeared! On this visit the lake level was lower than before and had exposed a concrete boat launching pier which gave the perfect vantage point for some water levels photography.
A preening male bird
If you are ever looking for a bird to test your photographic exposure skills then look no further than a male Goosander in sunlight. The difficulty is trying to balance the extremely bright whites of the body with the black of the head while trying to capture some its metallic green iridescence. The other problem is that the females are so different in terms of exposure settings that it is difficult to quickly alter the camera settings between the two.
The males were starting to show some early signs of territorial behaviour as spring approaches and were occasional 'surfing' across the water at each other.
The low angle of our position on the landing stage gave opportunity for some intimate photos, although is a great way for getting a sore neck quickly.
My favourite male photo of the session was of this bird in mid-preen and showing those bright orange feet.
I mainly concentrated my efforts on the males but of course it was difficult to ignore the queen of the sawbills.
There must be a fish to eat down there somewhere.
Taking a rest to keep those feathers in good order.
The dark backgrounds of the photos above are a result of the reflection of the rising hills on the far side of the lake. Photographs taken in the direction along the length of the lake produced a blue background from the clear skies overhead which I think compliments the colours of the female better.
Last photograph to finish this post of a female sitting up in the water to shake her wings after a preening session.
A fun session in a wonderful location with cooperative birds, great conditions and good company. It does not get much better than that. As we left the lake and descended the hill we plunged back into the fog layer and so had the added bonus that photography would not have been possible elsewhere that day.