I photographed this pair of mergansers while shooting at Widgeon Point on Lemon Island - located just across the bridge from my home base in Beaufort, SC. My drive to the island includes a beautiful span of intracoastal water views alongside marshy wetlands, often busy with wading bird action -- an easy distraction from my planned destination … cramped, plastic, photo blind. I set up a portable blind the night before knowing these are dues I pay for capturing unencumbered wildlife behavior. I captured this couple en route to their fishing grounds. They are known for their expert diving, practiced daily at mealtimes when they feed on small fish including crayfish and other crustaceans and aquatic insects. This pair exemplifies the dashing plumage of the male and relatively plain, brown female version. Both sexes have a bushy crest of head feathers forming the distinctive ‘hood’ which by the way, can be flattened or fanned out depending on their mood. The male’s dense black crest displays a white spot and sports a yellow eye; the female’s crest is smaller, looser and all brown, even the eye. It is reported that pair bonds will last from winter to incubation, but it is unclear whether the bonds reform the following year or if pairing begins anew. Widgeon Point is owned and managed by Lowcountry Open Land Trust. For more information on them visit www.lolt.org.
Photo Tip: Working in a photo blind can be cold, wet, buggy, lonely and an entry challenge in pitch black as I did this morning. By entering pre-dawn, I sneak in with minimal impact on natural behavior. A photo blind can be used similarly any time of day or night, but when approaching & entering during daylight hours, it takes more time (sitting in blind) before the wildlife will relax or ideally, forget you’re there. Depending on where and when you use your blind, you may want to invest in rubber boots, chest waders or insulated clothing and you will want to dress in layers. A cold, wet morning turns steamy hot once the sun takes hold of your small space. A sturdy tripod is a must when using 200 mm lens or larger. Also note, challenging lenses on the tripod inside a blind is maddening. My solution is to attach the longest lens to the tripod and bring along a second camera body with a shorter focal length ready for hand-held shooting.
Hooded Merganser Pair is the title of this image and it is the featured photograph for month of November in my 2010 Lowcountry Calendar. You can view a larger image of this photograph and others at my picture galleries online at www.southernlight.biz.