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Coot Glamour Shots at Lake Mirror

It’s the photographer’s quandary.  You’re in a great location with a great new camera.  The light is still good.  But the ducks that you came to Lake Mirror to photograph are not cooperating.  They’re either swimming across the lake, hanging out on the island in the middle, or sleeping on the shore.  What to do?  Well, there are always some birds around who will cooperate…and my friends do tease me that I have a strange attachment to American Coots!  So it was  morning of coot glamour shots…

American Coot Head Shot

American Coot Head Shot

The American Coot is one of the most common ducks in Florida in the wintertime.  My friend Michael laughingly refers to them as “eagle chow.”  They cover the wetlands in “rafts” of thousands of birds.  They are a photography challenge.  Expose their black feathers properly and you blow out the whites in their beaks.  Expose their beaks properly and lose the details in the feathers.  And sometimes, when you’re in the right place at the wrong time, you just take what you get.  I had a great time seeing how fast my 7D Mark II focuses on coots!

American Coot Fuss

American Coot Fuss

This one was swimming right at me.  Then he started fussing.  Perfect!  I got several frames with his mouth wide open.  You can see the colors of the holiday decorations reflecting in the water.

American Coot

American Coot

I found a wonderful place where I could lie down and get eye-level with the birds.  The coots were the most cooperative in swimming by.  But a Ring-billed Gull also gave me a nice view, with the glow of the lake behind him.  What a difference a few inches make!  Lying down gives you a much better perspective on the birds.

Ring-billed Gull

Ring-billed Gull

Chipping Sparrow and Hooded Mergansers

Well, the first half of my Thanksgiving break hasn’t exactly been what I expected.  Instead of lots of early-morning photo shoots, we had lots of rainy-day sleep-in mornings.  The cats have been spoiled rotten in the past few days!  It turns out, hanging out in your own backyard can have its advantages.  Like when a Chipping Sparrow wanders in and eats at your feeders.  This was the first time we’d seen a Chipping Sparrow in our backyard and I hope he sticks around.

First Chipping Sparrow in my Backyard!

First Chipping Sparrow in my Backyard!

Note: This bird serves as my reminder to periodically clean my windows…this was shot through the glass pane, through some tall bushes that I’ll trim back as soon as they stop blooming, and against a background of vegetation that was blowing in the wind.  Yet my wonderful new 7D Mark II camera still snapped to focus on the tiny bird!!

Hooded Merganser Pair

Hooded Merganser Pair

Another fun winter bird has arrived this week – the Hooded Mergansers.  These diving ducks come each winter to a small retention pond in the back of my neighborhood.  I’ve gotten used to the strange looks from the golfers as they drive by and see me lying flat on my belly with my lens focused across the pond.  The hoodies are pretty skittish, so you have to lie there for a while before they’ll give you close-ups.  Or you can call Hubby to come walk around the pond to shoo them over to your side…

Male Hooded Merganser

Male Hooded Merganser

The male Hoodies are my favorites, with their striking black and white markings (a good exposure challenge!)  In this shot, the male lifted his hood to show off his big white patch.  I didn’t get to stay as long as I would have liked, as the birds spooked and flew off.  But I will definitely be back….if it ever stops raining! :)

Ducks are Back at Lake Morton

Last Sunday I went to Lakeland to see if the winter ducks were back at Lake Morton.  Yep!  The lake had some Ring-necked Ducks, some Ruddy Ducks, and even a few Lesser Scaup.  Add in a few American White Pelicans and a fun new camera, and I had a great morning! :)

American White Pelican at Sunrise

American White Pelican at Sunrise

I arrived at Lake Morton about twenty minutes before sunrise, hoping for dramatic colors and pretty reflections in the pre-dawn moments.  But the weather didn’t cooperate.  (That seems to be a growing trend!)   It was cloudy and foggy and gross.  I barely took 10 shots for the next hour and a half.  So I was surprised when I got home and saw that I did capture some sunrise behind a pelican.  The pelicans spent the rest of the morning preening on a brick wall.

Lesser Scaup Take-Off

Lesser Scaup Take-Off (Click to see larger on 500px)

As the sun finally peeked out, I found one of the few Lesser Scaups.  He was out in the  middle of the lake, in the middle of some Ruddy Ducks.  While I was focused on him, he obliged me with a nice take-off.  I stitched his take-off together in Photoshop.

Wood Duck

Wood Duck

The Wood Ducks are at Lake Morton year-round.  They are used to people, so they are not as timid as normal Wood Ducks.  This one hugged the vegetation for a good part of the morning, then finally swam out into the open water for a few seconds.  Nice bird.

Ring-necked Duck

Ring-necked Duck Wing-Flap (Female)

The stars of the morning were the Ring-necked Ducks.  They were out in fairly good numbers, and they the most cooperative in swimming near the shore.  I lay down on the stinky grass to photograph them at eye level.  When a group of them swam by bathing, I knew I was in for some good luck.  Bathing ducks almost always finish their baths with a nice wing-flap.  The female Ring-necked Duck wing-flap is above, and the male is below.

Ring-necked Duck Wing-Flap

Ring-necked Duck Wing-Flap (Male)

The Ring-necked Duck male is one of the prettiest ducks I photograph.  You can really see his ring around his neck as he flaps his wings in the glistening sunlight.  This was by far my favorite shot of the morning.  It’ll be fun to return to Lake Morton to see if the Buffleheads return this year.  I’ve yet to see a male Bufflehead!