Monday, October 19, 2015

Garden Party

But it's all right now, I learned my lesson well.
You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya gotta please yourself.
                                                                   — Rick Nelson

It has taken me a long time to reach the point where I don't wish I had someone else's photographic talent. I am happy with my own. If you happen to like some of the photographs I create, great. If not, my daddy had a folksy southern saying that fits — if you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree.

The ponds I visited over the past winter continually amazed me with the variety of waterfowl they attracted. There are three species in this image, but I could have just as easily displayed a photo with five or six kinds of birds. You have to pick your shots because the backgrounds are not always picturesque at these ponds. I failed in that regard, but I was focused (no pun intended) on the beautiful banking moves of the upper three Canvasback Ducks.

The extreme northern tip of the Chesapeake Bay's waters is fairly shallow. It is ideal for growing sub aquatic vegetation (SAV), but in recent times the health of the plants have ebbed and flowed with the silt from heavy rain events. In good years, the grasses attract ducks by the thousands, especially Canvasback.

SAV in smaller ponds can also attract puddle ducks and divers and the competition may not be as fierce. One type of grass is so favored by American Wigeon, like the female in the picture, it has been given the name wigeon grass.

A Wigeon and an American Coot went into a pond — stop me if you've heard this one...

Sometimes, unintentionally, my timing has been just right to capture something I couldn't capture if I tried. In this photo, a coot is just emerging from a dive underwater and I happened to catch the moment. That has also happened surprisingly frequently with fish jumping out of the water. I can think of one photo I took which, in and of itself is nice, but a classic splash of a fish that I just happened to catch, really sets if off. I'll see if I can find it and post it...

I am a sucker for the choreographed landings of Canada Geese. They can be as artful as the Radio City Rockettes. Try as I may, for some reason I can not ignore a flock of geese going over. If I am out in the yard doing something, I have to stop and watch. I can't help myself.

My most memorable moment involving geese was not even a picture I could share, but a mental image. I was sitting on the porch one mild autumn morning on which there was a heavy fog over the region. I heard the complaints of a flock of geese growing louder and louder and could tell they were going to pass right over me. They flew over barely above the trees like half-seen ghosts in the fog. It is hard to describe how beautiful it was.

I caught this hawk (variety unknown) in a dive that I felt sure would end in the capture of some unsuspecting prey. To my astonishment, it wasn't hunting at all but was simply landing in a tree. Birds will often fly downward on the way to landing on a branch and turn upward just as they reach the branch so that their flight stalls and they land gently and almost effortlessly.

That is what this one was doing, except that it was doing it at very high speed and in an arc that took the entire height of the tree to slow it down.

It had so much forward momentum it was in the top of the tree before it slowed down enough to land in the top branches. It is the only time I have ever seen a hawk do such a thing.

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