Most bird photographers have a list of species they would love to put in front of the camera. This can either be achieved through a determined effort or occasionally by a lucky chance encounter. One specie that I have always admired from the books on European birds is the Garganey. This is a scarce and shy migrant duck that visits the UK during the summer having sensibly spent the winter in warmer climates to the south. This species tends to be found more frequentlyin the south of the UK, although occasionally one does appear locally. I have only ever 'seen' one of these birds which appeared as a tiny dark speck on the far side of a large lake.
A couple of weeks back I had to attend a meeting down south in Bristol and so decided to see if there was anywhere I could stop off with the camera on the way home to break up the boredom of the long drive. Whilst trawling around the various bird reports on the Internet, I notice there was a small lake, that was only a short detour from my route, where there were four Garganey reported. More importantly there were some photographs of the birds. These were not just long range sightings of the birds through spotting scopes.
The weather was not good but appeared to be improving slightly as I pulled up into the car park next to the pond. First job was to try and find the birds. There were some wild mandarin duck cruising around at the southern end of the lake which had a strange water colour of bluish-grey no doubt caused by the local clay. Normally I would have been happy spending some time photographing the Mandarins, which are such an attractive bird, but I was not to swayed from my hope of finding the Garganey in my limited available time. I scanned the pond and noticed a couple of small dark ducks at the far end and could just make out the characteristic white eye stripe. Moving to the north end of the lake there were four birds in the corner which unusually for such a retiring bird seemed fairly oblivious to my presence. A Garganey at close range....at last.
As with any wildlife photography a much better perspective is achieved by getting at the same level as your subject. In the case of ducks this means getting as close to water level as possible and getting dirty but that is all part of the fun.
My favourite photograph from this brief encounter is shown below and I like the serenity of the capture scene.