When we went to the Nature Center a weekend or two ago, we went to see the Red Wolves. But the only wildlife we saw were these two mallard ducks. Seeing a mallard is not exactly the most exciting birding event in the world. According to several sources (including Cornell), they’re the most abundant duck in the world.
These two really did not want their picture taken. They were paddling along serenely until I pulled my DSLR with the 70-200mm lens on it. It’s as if they knew what a hunter with a gun looked like and were confusing me with one. They made a bee-line for cover. I rushed the shot, trying to get a nice close up before they got out of sight.
As a result, I didn’t get a chance to change any settings on my camera from the last shot I’d taken. Having been shooting in the treehouse just before this, I had the camera in full manual mode and set for a pretty dark scene. So, of course, my duck images came out pretty darn bright.
So, once again, I found myself playing with adjustments in Aperture to see what I could come up with. Nothing like a bad shot of a ubiquitous subject to make you feel like you can go crazy with the editing.
An interesting side effect of going crazy with the photo editing was that it really demonstrated the superiority of the female mallard’s plumage. As I adjusted and twisted and played, the biggest challenge was keeping her from disappearing all together. With brown speckled feathers, the female just kept blending into the background.
Surprisingly, as I did a little reading on the mallard–a species I have taken for granted since the first time I through them bread crumbs when I was about 4 years old–I learned that sometimes the male is just as well camouflaged. As an “intermediate” birder (on a good day), I was a little embarrassed I didn’t know that the male mallard loses his flight feathers at the end of breeding season at the same time he molts into an “eclipse” plumage. For about 2 weeks, he can’t fly. The brown plumage provides cover while he’s vulnerable.
Every time I think I know something, I learn something new about it. And when I’m sure I’ve exhausted all of the current information, usually new information is discovered if I wait long enough. Good thing I like to learn.
Tisen is an avid learner, too. He has made more progress in his current hobby of “ground-dogging.” I can’t recall him ever seeing a groundhog, so I’m not sure exactly where he got the idea to burrow under anything, much less blankets, but he’s now added snorkeling to his repertoire of blanket-burrowing techniques. This is a welcome relief–sometimes when he gets himself completely buried, he starts sounding like he can’t breathe. I’m always relieved when we see his nose.