September 24, 2014
Every year about this time, people like me pretty much think of two things: waterfowl and whitetails. Since I’ve been spending most of my time trying to photograph whitetails, to no avail, I decided this would be a good time to revisit the stunning long-tailed duck (formerly old squaw) that visited us in a local lake near the Missouri River last year.
The featured image (1000 mm; 1/160; f/8; ISO 400; Av) was one of the last photos I took of the longtail just before I lost the light. Some of you might notice from the specs that I had to pull out the 2x converter to add to my 500 mm lens for this shot because the drake had drifted out toward the middle of the lake. As you can see, the bird was relaxing for the evening but he still kept his eye at least half-open to monitor any shenanigans on my part. Mother Nature was feeling particularly artistic when she designed the feather overlay on this magnificent bird.
Over the past 25 years I’ve talked to friends about the mysterious old squaw and what it might be like to see one on the river. Legend had it that one of our conservation agents had even harvested one on the Missouri River back in the early 80’s. Often as I planned a duck hunt on the river, somebody would chuckle, “Maybe you’ll see an Old Squaw,” and I would reply, “Yeah, right.” I never dreamed I would see one, let alone get as close to one as I did for the image below. I can’t get enough of that red eye and bubblegum bill!
Just when I thought things couldn’t go better that day, the surprise visitor from the north began diving for gizzard shad as I watched him through my lens. The final image documents his success.
I hope some of you get a look at a long-tailed duck one day. Maybe these images will hold you over until then. Also, you can see this drake again in an upcoming issue of “Birdwatching.” I can’t wait to see him there myself!
Thanks for looking,
Email me at: Natureframes@Rocketmail.Com
For more images of the long-tailed duck, go to the bottom of the page and find Archives—Waterfowl and Waterbirds—Old Squaw at Lion’s Lake.