Common Goldeneye

March 28, 2013

A few days ago, my friend Chris Adams gave me a heads-up that a great variety of waterfowl had descended on Marais Temps Clair Conservation Area. I’d been having so much trouble with ice in the mornings, I thought, “What the heck; I’ll give an afternoon hunt a try.” At least all of the pools would have open water. Upon arrival, I loaded up my deer cart with camera, lens, tripod, turkey chair, neoprene waders, cut-leaf camo, seat cushion and a bunch of other stuff for the walk in. I looked at the cart and wondered how I ever carried all of that gear before I started using the wheeled assistant that I borrowed from my buddy, Lynn Schrader.

When I made it to the wetland pool I set up my hide in some shoreline vegetation and settled in for a long afternoon. A few minutes later, Chris dropped by to wish me well and make some adjustments to the water control structure nearby. As soon as he drove away, about 30 coots swam in and started feeding all around me. I watched them for an hour or so until I saw a flash of white about 100 yards away and closing at a fast paddle—a solo drake goldeneye!

Although the goldeneye was too far out for a shot, I locked my focus on the approaching bird and followed it all the way in. I didn’t dare release the shutter until it was well within range because I didn’t want to take the chance of flushing it until I was guaranteed at least one nice image. You’d be surprised at how easily a duck can spot a photographer just from the autofocus movement of the lens behind the big glass pointed in its direction. Soon the goldeneye was so close I could smell the benthic critters on its breath. I knew it was time. As I started clicking away, the yellow-eyed drake dived for a crunchy-crawly and just as it came up and slung the water off its head I grabbed the feature image of this post.

I continued shooting as the goldeneye cruised past my location and then received a bonus round as it did a 180 and passed by me again. I was fortunate to get so many images because later I found that 26 of the 30 shots I made were soft in focus around the eye due to the jet black plumage of the duck’s face which apparently gave my camera fits. I was very happy to find a few images with sharp eye focus. I would have been heartbroken if I’d come up empty-handed after my amazing encounter with the big-water duck.

DJB_MTC_2013_0344Click on image to enlarge; back arrow to return

I’ve photographed goldeneye before but never this close. The species is stunning with its stout bill, bright button eyes and fluted feathering along the back. I usually see them in large groups along the Mississippi but this lone drake wasn’t following the rules. I was hoping a female would show up at some point but that would have been asking too much from my good friend, Mother Earth. The female goldeneye will just have to remain on my “want list” for a while longer.

I finished up as the sun was setting, loaded the deer cart again and began my walk out. I was so cold I left my neoprene waders on for the hike. When I finally made it to the parking lot and stowed my gear, I just sat and enjoyed the heater in my Chevy truck for a while. Boy did that feel good, kind of like a hot shower! I didn’t make it home until about 8:30 p.m. but I didn’t have any trouble mustering up enough energy to check out the images after supper. Both of the shots I’ve shared in this post brought a big smile to my face, as did a genuine hot shower later on.

Thanks for Looking,


Drake Goldeneye—Feature:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with 1.4 TC; 1/1000 @ f/8; ISO 400; Aperture Priority; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod w/Wimberley II; Converted and processed in Canon DPP

Drake Goldeneye—Bonus:  Canon 1D Mark IV; Canon 500/4 L IS Lens with 1.4 TC; 1/800 @ f/8; ISO 400; Aperture Priority; RAW Capture; Gitzo GT3530LS Tripod w/Wimberley II; Converted and processed in Canon DPP

14 comments on “Common Goldeneye”

  1. What a fascinating face.
    When I saw your first photo, I immediately got the impression that the duck was sinking!
    Sitting low in the water……

    • Hi Mary,

      Happy to hear you were taken by the goldeneye. Wish me luck with the coyote who walks behind my house every morning. I’ll be waiting for him tomorrow before work.

  2. Oh, wow, that’s a golden prize for us readers, too! You introduce me, in the most interesting way, to so many of our fellow-beings here…I’d never turn the pages of a bird-book hard enough…it’s your anecdote that brings each image to life. Danny, could you also start taking some short videos of each creature’s behaviour and sharing those, too (now isn’t that greedy of me!) Thank you for freezing your toes practically off, to share these images with us.

    I started walking in Forest Park at about 11am today, but by 11.45, I wound up…I should say, my feet went by themselves….to Mink Creek, where that same grown-up guy came out and said hi to me, too. I guess he was enjoying the milder weather…as I was, too.

    • You might have videotaped that mink when it was still a baby. Looking forward to seeing you at the big event on April 8.

  3. The markings on this duck are really incredible. Thanks for all of your work and for sharing the great results.

  4. Danny

    I always love your commentary with each shot. It goes to show that each shot is a unique experience that we capture from the universe to share with those that weren’t there at the moment. Thanks. Great photo’s.

  5. I love the fluted feathers on its back. I really hadn’t noticed this duck before one of my students was making a replica of one in art class. Gorgeous markings! Congratulations on this capture!

  6. Beautiful. Like the water flying around.

  7. Beautiful image of that Golden-eye. I loved the story as well.


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