Saturday, April 7, 2012


Through the years, I have not photographed many ducks or water birds. I have stayed pretty much in the forest land of my ridges, chronicling warblers, sparrows and other songsters. In the past year, I have met another Arrowhead wildlife photographer that lives close to me on another ridge around the Superior National Forest. He has two ponds on his property and sets up a blind on each pond. Recently he is on vacation and I got the "tough task" of checking the ponds and seeing who and what flies in.

The other morning, I arrived at one of the ponds before daybreak to see what would fly in. It still is a bit chilly at 30 degrees, but the wind was still. I sat in the stillness and listened to a Winter Wren singing and a chorus of frogs croaking loudly. Suddenly I heard the "swoosh" of water across the far end of the pond. A bright, white breast of a duck shone in the pre dawn light. I looked through the lens of my 300 and it was a Northern Shoveler, cruising towards me. I had to chuckle, because I had photographed this same duck the day before in my friend's other pond... in much better light. I sat watching him when I heard a scratching along the edge of the blind. A brown furry head appeared by my foot and sat looking at me... it was a deer mouse checking me out. I always carry hulled sunflower seeds in my jacket for my chickadees, so I dropped a few by his nose and he proceeded to have breakfast sitting by my foot.

In the mean time, my "Designer Mallard", who I call my Northern Shoveler friend, was directly in front of my blind. It was still too dark to photograph, so I watched him "paddle and tip" for breakfast. A startling "plop" broke the silence. A beautiful, drake Wood Duck dropped out of the sky. He paddled directly over by the shoveler and then sat in front of the blind. I was lamenting the darkness at this moment. What a view of this beautiful bird... I didn't dare take shots at this moment, because I thought first of all I would frighten him. It also was still too dark. I watched him for sometime and finally the sunlight appeared at the tops of the trees, far across the pond. I thought, "What the heck" and clicked off a few shots of him along the shore. He paddled to the middle of the pond and took off as fast as he appeared. I was upset at the fact that he left before dawn broke with no good shots, but at least I got the closest look I have had at a Wood Duck... who I think is the epitome of a "Designer Duck."

I sat and watched the shoveler for another ten minutes or so, when the Wood Duck dropped in again. This time is was lighter and I managed to finally get a few keeper shots of him.

He unfortunately left again in an abrupt fashion and never returned.

"Behave like a duck, unruffled and calm on the surface, but paddling like the devil below the surface."