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Anticipation and Afternoon Snack…

(Please note…. The all the images within are set to lower quality to improve loading times.)

Yesterday was a pretty eventful late afternoon and evening at Eagle Creek.  

I didn’t realize it at the time but I ended up with some of my favorite images of wood ducks or anything nature for that matter.

As I drove to the park I called my mom and dad to catch up. When I arrived at the park, we continued talking as I drove through the park to explore my normal haunts for activity and possible image opportunities. It wasn’t until I arrived home and processed images that I realized the irony that part of our talk was about wood ducks and what they eat. By the way, wood ducks are mostly vegetarian but also eat small insects, tadpoles, snails, and salamanders. While we are having this discussion and I am driving around searching for the wood ducks, I come across a pair very close to the road in one of the flooded areas. I stop, swing the camera out the window and start to shoot images from the truck as we continue to talk. I shoot for about a minute or so explaining to them what I am seeing and how at one point the male duck stopped and seemed to be posing for me. I mentioned that I thought I may have some “National Geographic” type images as a result. A few minutes later I arrive at the area I intended explore. As I parked, I told them I would text a few back of camera shots (basically a horrible photo of the camera screen shot with my iPhone) as I was pretty happy with what I thought I captured.

I had intended to be at the park a short period of time. While at the park, I learned that the park may be closing as early as today or at the latest Monday due to a lack of social distancing going on there. Upon hearing this, I decided to stay as long as there was light and it was a great decision as I ended up capturing much more than I anticipated.

Back to the title “anticipation and afternoon snack”……. After arriving at home very late I do what I normally do and head straight to my computer and start to load images. I find there is this feeling of excitement and anticipation when you think you have good images. It is very much like that feeling many of us had as kids at Christmas when you wake up and see all the presents under the tree on Christmas morning. You can’t wait to see what you unwrap. While the small screen on the back of the camera gives a good representation of what you have, it truly comes to life when you can see the images on a much larger screen or in print. After loading way too many photos to my computer, I start the review/culling process. While the images I referenced as “National Geographic” were what I hoped for, I quickly discover two iconic images that first show the “anticipation” of a wood duck as he sees a snack ahead and the image just as he is ready to capture his “afternoon snack”.

Anticipation (Note the small bug and its reflection a few inches from the duck’s bill)
Afternoon Snack (The moment milliseconds before the small bug becomes a meal)

After arriving at the area I wanted to explore, I quickly learn from a group of other photographers a Virginia Rail is roaming the reeds along the lake. I actually see it fly over to another area where it stays, out of reach to us. There is also a Green Heron in the reeds so I do my best to get a few images of it while we wait. After waiting a few minutes, patience is not my strong suit, I continue on my walk to explore other areas looking for kinglets and warblers. I discover, but unfortunately couldn’t capture due to branches being in the way and the fact they don’t sit still very long, a male Ruby Crowned Kinglet. They are tiny birds with a little splotch of red on their heads. Google them, they are pretty cool. I did end up capturing a female peeking out from behind a tree.

Female Adult Ruby Crowned Kinglet
Yellow Rumped Warbler

As I head back to the truck, I learn about the park closing and that there were other migratory birds around the park, a Bittern and a Sora. This explains the 10 or so photographers all huddled around the lake. I tried searching for them with no success.

After leaving to explore and walk other areas of the park, I arrive back to where I started and was fortunate enough to capture the Virginia Rail as it popped out of the reeds. Looking at the timestamp on the images I had 1 to 1.5 seconds to capture it once I got it framed and focused before it took off. They are extremely skittish.

Virginia Rail

After exploring a little more, I come back to walk around the lake one final time. I find the Green Heron is still hanging out in pretty much the same place he was a few hours earlier. Another photographer is shooting from an opening along the lake. It is a small opening in a very tight location along the bank where you have to navigate bent over through branches, weeds, and sticker bushes. After they leave, I decide to head in as I am getting this shot. As many of you know, I am famous for having my reading glasses on my head. I can see far away, but I can’t see the back of the camera without them. As navigate myself through the maze of foliage, I crouch down further to get into position. Just as I do one of the branches recoils, hits my glasses and promptly drops them in front of me right in the lake. I am glad at that moment some of the thoughts in my head didn’t come out of my mouth. Does anyone know a priest who is hearing confessions over Zoom? These are cheap readers, but regardless I won’t be able to see what I have shot and the backup pair is a walk back to the truck. I find the glasses and they are reachable with some serious stretching, but I am not reaching for them out of fear I will scare the Heron and not until I get this shot. So I position myself in my new blind (literally and figuratively) and capture a few images. I stretch out, grab the glasses, check the photos through the soaked glasses and head back to the truck.

Green Heron
Green Heron

After that little adventure, I hang out a little longer waiting for the Rail to reappear as another photographer saw it while I was hunched over in the weeds 75 yards away fishing for my glasses. I should have probably told them “your welcome” as the Rail probably darted their way when I was glasses fishing.

I take in the peace and quiet of one of my favorite places of solace during these crazy times. I am a little sad the park is closing but I also see where nature is doing amazing things when people are no longer in the picture. I can’t wait to see how everything looks again after things return to normal.

I still have new places on my list to explore that allow me to get out of the house while social distancing. I look forward to seeing what new photo opportunities are out there.

Everyone stay safe and healthy!!!!

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