Sunday, April 21, 2013 last

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 last.
I decided to concentrate all my efforts on the drakes as the single female was not what you would describe as visually exciting or distinctive in its mottled brown plumage that was fairly similar to a mallard. The male Garganey on the other hand are subtly beautiful birds with their intricately patterned plumage of various shades of brown and rust, distinctive head stripe with the long draping bluish-grey feather across the back. The birds spent most of the time feeding in a large weed bed which means their heads were under the water.

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.
I manage to catch one of the drakes very briefly on one area with a nicely coloured setting just as the skies brighten a touch.
The last moments of a mosquito.

My favourite photograph from this brief encounter is shown below and I like the serenity of the capture scene.
I had about an hour with the birds before the darkening skies emptied its 'monsoon' which brought the session to an abrupt end and my home bound journey northwards was eased by finally encountering this long sort after duck.

1 comment:

rosie green said...

Beautiful shots of a quite stunning bird. Not often they allow such a close approach!

I came to revisit your Hungary shots. I'm going again in a few weeks time in hope of better light. Last May was a washout for me. I looked at your shots with envy. Definitely some of the best shots from that hide complex that I've seen on the web.


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