Friday, April 4, 2014
Today, I was the first person to hike to the lake in the Fontenelle Forest Wetlands. I found three Double-crested Cormorants were sitting on a branch next to the trail. The only reason I was able to record the sight was my stealthy approach and super-telephoto lens. A few seconds later the Cormorants entered the water. The second person would only see an empty branch.
I scanned the rest of the lake after the Cormorants left. I expected to see plenty of wildlife. It was nearly empty. There were a few Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks in the distance. They were gone before I reached their location.
I changed direction to leave the lake and to walk along the stream. A couple of Red-winged Blackbirds were high in the trees. Cardinals were calling each other. My eye was drawn to an Eastern Phoebe that was moving from stem to stem ahead of me. It didn't want to leave the stream and it didn't want to be very close to me either.
A Lincoln's Sparrow didn't welcome my approach either. Instead of moving down the stream, it moved deep into a bush on the opposite side of the water. I could see movement but it was always obstructed by branches. I was patient. When it moved to an outside branch for a couple of seconds, I was ready.
Some of the ducks that weren't on the lake were in a small pond next to the stream. The ducks didn't see much danger in the trail from this location because they were only visible from a couple high points on the trail. They were protected by the stream and tangled brush. I was able to photograph a Hooded Merganser couple. My telephoto was able to make some of the out of focus vegetation disappear but the female is still very blurred.
Some Green-winged Teal were in the pond as well. They spent most of their time with their head below the water and their bottoms up in the air. One male was more interested in sex than food. He would make himself look as attractive as possible and then display his intentions to every female nearby. The Teal would have left if they noticed me but the same brush that was partly hiding them obscured me as well.
Wood Ducks are extremely difficult to approach in the marsh. I was fortunate to notice this couple before they noticed me.
There are places in the United States were a photographer can find very tame examples of each of the birds I photographed today. A tame Wood Duck would look the same in a photo as a wild Wood Duck. I've heard people criticize wildlife photographs saying "How many photos of a bird do you need - they all look alike?" It's a valid question. I didn't NEED another photo of a Wood Duck. I did Need to leave the sofa, brave the elements, carry heavy camera gear into the wild and then enjoy the challenge of putting everything that I know about photography a photo of a Wood Duck.