Snowy Ducks and Wintertime Luck

I went out Monday morning dressed not unlike Randy from A Christmas Story. The temperatures themselves wouldn’t be too bad, about 15°F rising to 35°F later in the day, but I knew that an incoming heatwave was bringing a half foot of snow. I set my sights in on my favorite local county park, and thanks to some most gratuitous weather magic, I had an extra two hours before the snow hit where I was.

My first priority was to check on a trail cam I had set up the week before, but unfortunately due to an unformatted SD card, no images were captured, despite tracks running right in front of the camera.

On the way to it, I stopped by the feeders and photographed the song sparrows and juncos that were feeding on the ground.

The path back to the car also sported some wintertime favorites – the northern cardinal, the black capped capped chickadee, and another dark eyed junco.

Knowing the snow was coming and hoping to get the camera back up before work, I made my way down to my girlfriend’s house, where I photographed some of the birds around the feeder.

In short order I got the camera fixed and headed back out. I decided to change the location of my camera to a location that I deemed to be much better. I put it a couple dozen yards down a frozen creek which intersects the trail a couple of times. There were plenty of animal tracks, and no boot prints but my own. The creek location was out of sight, and off the walking path which was used by mostly dog walkers, but at the same time easily accessible by myself. Based on what photos I will get, I could orient myself in either direction of travel based on how the animals are moving.

After being satisfied with my setup, I trudged back to where I had noticed a large group of ducks sitting in water near the entrance of the park. I assumed that there would mostly be mallards, but soon discovered that canvasbacks and readheads were in the mix as well. It was snowing significantly by now, so I soon took shelter by a tree, which helped to block a lot of the wind and snow, as well as to let the ducks relax a bit more around me. As far as shooting conditions go, it was some of the worst I had experienced. I had to work off of the small flip out screen, which between the accumulating snow and the relatively dim brightness made seeing the focus peaking difficult.

At first I was focused on photographing the peaceful mallards sitting with snow accumulating on their backs, but soon the fishing and racing ducks caught my attention. As soon as one would catch a fish, the rest would give chase. I caught one particularly dramatic chase on video of a canvasback making a run for it, ultimately losing its catch to a mallard.

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