Waterfowl From 100 Yards

April 19, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

I speak often about the waterfowl observation area of lake Arthur where the park service has built a wooden observation deck to view a shallow water cove shown in the photo below taken last October.

Waterfowl Observation Area (Canon EOS 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70 2.8L, f/11 @ 50mm, 1/25, ISO 100)


Because of the expanse of this area, even using a Canon 7D crop factor of 1.6, a 300mm Lens, and 1.4 or 2x Extenders, it is still pretty hard to get enough reach for a highly detailed photo of a small duck. Factor in the fading light of dusk and sometimes you don't get images worth sharing. The area of land on the far left of the photo (hidden by the green leaves) is 100 yards away.

The photo below is a satellite photo from Google Earth where I diagramed the observation deck and an area where most of the waterfowl that gets photographed is located. Anything farther away is simply too far for good, quality photos. Most of the green, grassy areas along the shore is what occurs by the end of summer such as when this satellite image was taken in September, 2012. The water lowers and the plant life thrives. In the spring however, that grassy area is still covered by water.


There was a lot of activity last night at the observation deck. Specifically in the area marked "Activity" in the satellite image above.  I emailed the following photo to Coy Hill for help identifying the duck.  It looked like a female Common Merganser but the coloring wasn't right.  Coy photographs a lot of waterfowl that you can see in his blog http://countrycaptures.blogspot.com/.  He identified the bird as a female Red-breasted Merganser.

Red-breasted Merganser (female)

Red-breasted Merganser (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, f/4 @ 420mm, 1/400, ISO 400)


I also found several Wood Ducks in the area.  Looming darkness made flight images impossible so I settled for some shots of them swimming.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, f/4 @ 420mm, 1/500, ISO 400)


The Wood Duck is one of the most colorful birds in North America.  Here, a male Wood Duck enters the water.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, f/4 @ 420mm, 1/500, ISO 400)


I didn't have my Robe external microphone with me this night. Regardless, I shot a small video using the on-camera microphone which provides lower quality audio and above average wind noise. I can't claim to know and understand very many courtship rituals of birds but I shot this short video of Blue-winged Teal scurrying around in the water. I'm not sure if it was courtship or playing but is entertaining to watch. It's amazing how fast they can move across the water.  It looks like I sped up the video for effect but this video is in real-time.  Watch nearly in the end of the video a pair of Wood Ducks swim in from the right.  I never saw them while shooting.

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal (Video: Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, @ 420mm)


I wasn't the only one visiting the waterfowl observation area last night.  I had company for a short time.

White-tailed Deer

White-tailed Deer (Canon EOS 7D, Canon 300mm 2.8L, 1.4X EF Extender III, f/4 @ 420mm, 1/160, ISO 400)


While different weather conditions often provide the quality that an image needs to be great.  Sometimes, distance and time of day can hinder a wildlife photographer from getting the magazine quality shot.  As long as I continue learning how to make the best of these situations, I will be happy with the outcome.



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