My bad start ended up good.

In spite of the threat of rain, I headed out to my secret little farm ponds, hoping for Wood Ducks.  I was  hurried, and halfway down the woods road from the car I realized that I did not have my little three legged stool.  Sounds trivial, but it is basic to my moveable blind.  I sit on the stool, put the tripod in front of me, hook a bungee cord from one side of the stool and across my waist to the opposite side, and then drape a camouflage cover over me. Beginning out of sight, I can slip the tripod forward, than scoot the little stool forward without needing to take hold of the stool.  The bungee cord keeps the stool in place and my hands are always on the tripod for steadiness.  Like a caterpillar, I can slowly move into an exposed location with good visibility. Absent the stool today, I would have to make the approach on my knees. Not fun.  Then, I got to the pond and found three pairs of very vocal  Canada Geese patrolling right where I wanted to be.

It took forty-five minutes to get in position.  At times, the geese slipped to one side or another and I could move two or three slow steps on my knees.  Not pleasant. At other times, I could see they were all looking the other way and I would move. In the end, I was in full view, though in camouflage, and they took no note of me from 45 feet away.  I am thinking they have very short  memory for what is present in a particular place. It seems their vocalization is not in alarm but just making noise.  From experience, I know Wood Ducks are much more wary and would have made for a more difficult sneak. Now, I just needed the Wood Ducks to come in to the pond.

I first saw movement at the far side of the pond.  Putting my long lens on the area I saw a lone drake. It seems odd that there were no other Wood Ducks, especially no hens.  He seemed to be looking for company.

To my good fortune, the geese seemed to be drifting away to the other end of the pond and out of sight. Now, I needed the drake to complete the circuit and come around to my side.

It could not have developed any better.  The drake came right in front of me, only about  15 feet away.  Wow, they are beautiful!  And, to give a measure of their wariness, he heard the camera and did a U-turn to retreat a distance away.  I was relieved that he did not take flight, but over the next twenty minutes, he teased me. Then the rain appeared.  I took cover under a large hemlock tree to quickly cover my camera, lens and tripod head on a large plastic bag for a very wet hike back to the car.

These are my first bird photos with  my new D800 Nikon, and I am greatly impressed with the color based matrix metering and the continuous autofocus.

Overall, not a bad day. I kept the camera and lens dry in the rain, got a nice photo and my knees don’t hurt from the abuse. Next time I will  have a check list.

Paul Schmitt

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