Back at the beginning of February, I took a day off work for my birthday to head out for some photography. This has now become a bit of a tradition and on this occasion I arranged the day out with my two good friends Steve and Gerhard to try and photograph some Goosander. The forecast looked good at our destination of an upland lake in North Wales, with clear skies and light winds predicted. Conditions were not great locally as I drove around in the early morning coastal fog to pick them up for the trip. However, I was confident all would be well at our destination as this was similar weather to my previous visit when the elevation of the lake effectively puts it above the low lying fog.
The site we were visiting is very scenic with the the placid waters of this large lake reflecting the surrounding hills and snow capped mountains under the low winter sun.
As expected the Goosander were present but the normally female dominated flock on this occasion consisted of 7 males and just 2 females. We set about starting to take some photos. When photographing water birds the most effective images tend to be those where the camera is as close to water level as possible. This particular site has a concrete jetty that is set only a few centimetres above the lake water easily allowing this low point of view. However, it does tend to be a bit of a messy business as you find yourself lying amongst a lot of green slime and gloop that coats the jetty. I will start of with a few photographs of the females.
A close up of the female's head with that rich rust orange head colouring. You can see from this photo why these fish eating ducks are called sawbills. The fine teeth of the bill perfectly adapted for catching fish.
A bit of early morning preening to keep the feathers in good condition.
An attentive male bird in the background.
Emerging from a dive with a male in hot pursuit.
The male Goosander is probably one of the trickiest birds I can think of in terms of getting the exposure of the photograph correct. It's a balancing act of trying to keep detail in the head, which turns from black to green depending on the light angle, without over exposing the bright off white flanks of the bird. The females on the other hand are much easier to photograph with you just needing to keep an eye on the exposure of whites on the breast. The males are truly stunning in the right light.
The intimate view created by photographing at water level.
One of the main purposes of this trip was to try and get some flight photos but I will be keeping those to the next blog post and just sticking with portraits for this one.
A good day was had by all and we left in the mid-afternoon with memory cards full of images. I dropped my friends off but didn't realise that was not the last I would see of them that day as unbeknown to me a surprise meal at a Chinese resturant had been arranged for my birthday in the evening. This was a great end to a perfect day of good company in a great setting with beautiful birds in wonderful light. You can't ask for much more than that.