Along the Gorge Waterway – Annie Pang
There is nothing quite as therapeutic as a lovely walk along the Gorge Waterway in the sunshine. For those of you who do not live here however, I should mention that Victoria weather at best is very unpredictable and, usually at this time of year, very gloomy and damp. The low light can make it rather camera unfriendly but I always take the camera along just in case.
In late January and early February, I was fortunate enough to get out and make the best of a few sunny days and see what was new, what was old, and what was expected or unexpected, all the while hoping to get a few good shots to record as much as I could. Some days I lucked out and of the many shots I took usually a few were usable, sometimes more if the lighting was right and my reflexes weren’t too tardy.
On a particularly lovely day I managed to capture some rare images of ducks that I have found very hard to photograph, one being the female Bufflehead and the other, the Common Goldeneye. In the case of the Common Goldeneye male, it usually swims too far out for my camera to be able to get a decent image but this one time it was just close enough. It was also challenging because it was diving for fish and spent very little time above water. The image I got when it surfaced was very dark but as I knew I had captured the eye (very hard for me) I managed to lighten it up sufficiently to get a sharp enough image, the first I have ever been able to get of this species of duck. I was exhilarated that I had managed to get a shot that was not extremely blurry for a change!!
Along the waterway, especially on the weekends, there are always people walking their dogs, jogging, pushing babies in carriages, boaters out in kayaks or, far more irritating, motor boats zipping by causing all the ducks I am trying to photograph to flock off in all directions. This is a very frustrating experience especially when the perfect shot may present itself. People like to stop and socialize, compare dog breeds and generally just enjoy the lovely scenery of the waterway. And on these sunny days when I am out, the green grass and blue sky make it feel more like March than January or early February. But I have to wonder how many of the passersby know anything about the various ducks on the waterway or just take them for granted as part of the scenery.
During the time this blog covers we took our two little dogs walking with us but as soon as an opportunity presented itself for a photograph I would quickly passed my dog leash to my partner and clicked away as fast as this slow camera allowed. Over several days I was able to get a variety of species. In my previous blog I included a photograph of a male Bufflehead, and in this one I offer a fairly decent pic of a female. The trick in getting a photograph of her while she was fishing was to follow the bubbles as she was underwater and which gave me a fair idea where she would surface. It worked well this time!
We have two species of Mergansers here on the waterway as well, one being the Hooded Merganser. I got this image of three males in one shot, perhaps not as clear as I would like but the winter ducks are usually a fair ways out as I’ve mentioned. I have observed only one female so far, and was unable to get a shot of her. Oh, wouldn’t it be nice to have such odds for us human gals. We’d certainly be much more “sought after” because of our scarceness. I certainly wouldn’t mind having three males vying for MY attention. But I digress. Here is the picture of the three males.
The other species of merganser we get here is the Common Merganser. I managed some far off shots of both a male and a female merganser. They are quite unique in appearance.
Male Common Merganser
Female Common Merganser
I would say that the most common and easy to photograph winter ducks we get along here are American Wigeons. Like Mallards, these are not diving ducks as are the others I have or will be showing in this blog, but are “dunking” ducks. Now in past years, I have often found one pair of Eurasian Wigeons in a raft (a group of ducks is referred to as a “raft” as opposed to a “flock”), but not this year. Since I didn’t get any exceptional shots of Wigeons so far this year I have included a couple of shots from a previous year that do include the Eurasian Wigeon and its mate. As you will see, the Eurasian has a beautiful red head and even its mate, though not very colourful, differs in appearance to the female American Wigeon in that she has darker, almost chestnut feathers around the head and body. They do make a handsome pair. I am fond of Wigeons as they have such friendly and pretty faces and the males have what looks to be green mascara running down the back of the eyes and neck. Lovely!
Mixed flock of American and Eurasian Wigeons
Male and female Eurasian Wigeons
These shots are rare for me, but I wanted to share them with you as I observed the number of birds become fewer and fewer. So far I have seen no other species, but if I do, I will keep you updated.
The swans were far off on the far side of the waterway, sunning or foraging and the Great Blue Heron has not been seen since that day in January when it magically flew up and landed for some fishing. I miss the numbers of birds I am accustomed to seeing but am grateful I have at least been able to share some with you.
Back at home, I have had a rare and sweet visitor for many weeks now. A Ruby-crowned Kinglet has become a regular at my suet feeder, although the little mite is so quick and never still, I can’t tell you how many tries it took before I finally managed to get this shot. I wanted to end this blog with a poem (yes, another sonnet) and one last picture of this sweet little bird who comforts me when I am unable to get out and enjoy my walks along the lovely Gorge Waterway. I still feel so fortunate to be living so close to such a lovely marriage of man and wildlife (although I do wish that dogs were not allowed to chase the ducks on the beach by the old schoolhouse!). The last poetograph is one more of the waterway and follows this sonnet and picture of the Kinglet. Thank you for joining me on this little part of my life with Nature and people.
Come little Kinglet
Come little Kinglet, come and visit me
and lift my spirits with a lovely view,
pretending I’m not here that you don’t see
the shots I try in vain to take of you.
The outside world awaits me but for now
the sight of you sustains me for a while,
so like a hummingbird in flight somehow
your antics to grab suet make me smile.
Though when the sunshine calls I’m off and gone
to see what ducks are on the waterway,
when I come back it’s you I’m counting on
to give the time at home a sunny ray.
Along the Gorge I walk to find a duck,
then I return to you, my prayer for luck…
© Annie Pang February 7, 2013.
Posted on February 8, 2013, in Nature, Photography, Poetry and tagged American Wigeon, behavior, Biodiversity, bird feeders, birding, birds, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, ducks, Eurasian Wigeon, Hooded Merganser, photos, Ruby-crowned Kinglet. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.