Last Friday after work, I sat down under a pine tree at the water’s edge to unwind from another week in my cubicle. About 100 yards away was a floating, feathery flotilla that my 400mm zoom lens showed were four ruddy ducks. Their heads were tucked under their wings, which meant they were napping, and a light wind seemed to be blowing them towards me. Compared to mallards, which can get up to 27 inches in length, a ruddy duck maxes out at 16 inches,which means they’d have to come pretty close for a decent photo. So I waited. And waited.
While I waited, I was joined momentarily by a song sparrow. I got one chance at a photo before it flew off to another tree and entertained me with its melodious song.
After a resident chickadee lit on a branch above my head to see what I was up to, I scanned the lake again and saw that the floating feathery flotilla of four ruddies was getting closer. I was getting excited about the prospect of getting a decent photo of the tiny ducks when I saw a fuzzy-headed, duck-like thing to my left. I held still for several minutes and watched it dive, emerge again and dive, until it finally appeared nearby. It was a female hooded merganser.
After I’d clicked a few photos, she turned away and dove and reappeared further and further away. As she got smaller and smaller in my lens, I wished her safe travels and success in finding a mate, and turned my attention back to the ruddies. I waited a few more minutes. Finally, the female ruddy awoke from her nap.
Seconds later, the male woke up.
The clicks of my camera sent the male ruddy paddling away. In seconds, the entire flotilla was too far away and my photo shoot was over.
On Saturday morning I returned in the hopes of getting more photos. The female merganser was nowhere to be found. And while the four ruddies were floating and napping, in the hour I spent outside, they never came close to shore.
But suddenly, two bufflehead appeared to my left. They’re only 13-15 inches long.
After I clicked a couple of shots, the male took off.
As the female ran and flew off across the water, I wondered where they’d come from and how much further they had to go before they were “home” for the summer. I knew only that this stop was a brief one in a very long journey, and I was lucky to have had even a few moments with them.