A doctor’s appointment took me out to the foot of Missionary Ridge on Thursday morning, and since I was out in the vicinity I decided to make another visit to the Amnicola Marsh along the Chattanooga Riverwalk. I was hoping to get a closer look at the Hooded Mergansers we’d spotted a week earlier. And while those ducks were there, I once again proved that not only am I a rookie as a birder, I’m still a rookie as a bird photographer. I can get frame-filling photos of birds that act like wildflowers – allowing me to approach closely and spend some time taking several photos, as did the Canada Goose and the Mockingbird shown below.
On the near shoreline there were geese, Coots, and Mallard Ducks, and as I walked around the pond I spotted a female Northern Shoveler through the intervening underbrush. Across the pond I saw some splashing, and looking through my 400mm lens I was pretty sure the splashing was coming from a group of Hooded Mergansers – my objective. I quickly walked around to that side of the pond, but as I slowed down to approach the waterfront, even from a distance of 150′ or more and shielded by a few yards of underbrush, the ducks noticed my approach and slowly started swimming away. I was disappointed, not only because this meant I probably wouldn’t get the photos I wanted, but also because my approach disturbed the ducks from whatever duck-thing they were doing before I walked up. I suspect that this may be a clue about my lack of success in photographing some of the more shy birds – patience on the approach.
I went ahead and took advantage of their departure to move in along the shoreline and get my camera onto its tripod, and took a couple of photos before these small ducks got too far out of range. I enjoyed watching them as they interacted, and as they dove – usually as a group – under the water and then started bobbing back up. Another interesting action is shown by the bird in the right side of the frame above. One would occasionally rise up in the water and flap its wings, and then settle back down to swim along with the rest of the flock.
They were soon out of range, and so I settled in for a wait, hoping they would eventually return. This pointed again to the requirement for patience in bird photography. It can be difficult to stand, quiet and still, for an extended period, especially with a cold wind blowing. As I was considering leaving, however, a Northern Shoveler flew in nearby. I quickly turned my lens in that direction hoping to get photos of it landing. While he duck was screened by some loose brush, I was still able to capture the flair as it prepared for splashdown.
The arrival of the Shoveler encouraged me to stay a bit longer, and sure enough the flock of Hooded Mergansers soon started working their diving, bobbing way back across the pond. While they never got close enough for “the” photo, I did enjoy watching their return to this side of the pond.
After watching them for a while, I decided it was time to start working my way back to my car. On the way back I noticed a male Northern Shoveler in the cove where I’d seen the female earlier. I decided to spend a few minutes there, and slowly walked toward the shoreline. Either I was quieter or these ducks were more tolerant than the Mergansers, but they stayed in the area feeding. Here are a few photos of the Shovelers.
As the Shovelers worked their way from my right to left, they apparently encroached on some territory a family of Mallards called their own. This pair of Mallards came over, and the Shovelers turned around and moved back to my right, the Mallards following. Within a minute or two, the Shovelers flew off across the pond.