Today started off wet, really wet. I wanted to get low on some ducks and other water birds that were using some of the waterways. As I started to climb down the hill, I stepped on what I thought was ground. Except it wasn’t ground, it was water-logged earth. And it was mighty soft. So down I went and plunged in to my calves in the mucky water. I had been wearing hiking boots at the time which take a lot of water. Since I was already wet, not much else to do but photograph. Some of the ducks cooperated as well as this juvenile Tricolored Heron. Getting in the water really helps to approach wildlife – except this time I wasn’t exactly expecting to get in.
Eventually it became time to move on with my drenched and dirty boots and socks. Fortunately I am a little wiser than I used to be. I expect myself to make mistakes like this all the time now, so I always have some backups with me. With another pair of footwear, I was ready to get low to some other water. Luckily this ground was solid. There was a cooperative male Bufflehead swimming in the area, so I set up and waited. Buffleheads are diving ducks. They will dive under the water swimming around and feeding and then come up 20 minutes later. I spent some time focusing on capturing this aspect of their lives. Some ducks will come up a bit before diving from the water’s surface, but this duck was going straight down. In the end, I liked the look of just his stiff tail which is the last thing to enter the water.
Ducks have this wonderful oil that they waterproof their feather with. This oil makes the water bead up when they come back up to the surface. Sometimes their feathers will clump a little, but if the oil is spread well they will still be dry. The surfacants that are used to clean up oil spills can cause birds to freeze since it can also remove all the oil that they naturally have on their feathers. Then the bird will get wet and cold, etc. So oil spill clean up is a tricky thing – both too much oil and too much cleaner can be harmful for wildlife.