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I spend an hour or two a day walking around with a camera looking for things to photograph. The biggest thrills for me come when I come across something that is entirely new or when I get the opportunity to make a good picture of something that I’ve seen but that has eluded my camera.
Yesterday afternoon I was over at Sweetwater Wetlands for a couple of hours. It was a perfect day for picture taking: the late afternoon sunlight was illuminating the ponds at a nice, low angle, and best of all, there was no one else there. That meant that the birds and animals at the wetlands were slightly less wary than they are when there are multiple observers.
I’d been standing on an observation deck overlooking one of the ponds for about 30 minutes, photographing familiar species, when suddenly, something totally different and unique to me swam across my field of vision. “What on earth is that?” was my immediate reaction as I frantically snapped dozens of photographs.
This was a truly beautiful duck, resplendent with its pale blue bill, it’s gray-lavender flanks and the alternating dark and pale colors on its back.
When the light hit it at just the right angle some of the feathers on its head showed lavender accents as well.
What was it? As soon as I got home I went to the field guides and discovered almost immediately that the bird is a male Northern Pintail, a relatively common dabbling duck. These ducks have a range that more or less duplicates that of Northern Shovelers, summering in the northern states, Canada and Alaska, and wintering in the south and down into Mexico. These birds are easily identifiable by their very long, pointed tails. I realized, after thinking about it, that I’d seen Northern Pintails before, but that I’d never seen them up close. On past occasions I’d seen them flying in formation, high above the wetlands. It was a wonderful thing to finally be able to get a couple of decent photographs of this duck.
Photos taken with a Canon 5Diii, 400 DO, ISO 400, aperture preferred setting. The first photo was taken at f6.3 @ 1/320. The second was made at f6.3 @ 1/500.