Walking into the wetlands before dawn Saturday morning the sounds of geese and ducks calling filled the air. At times the honking would rise to a crescendo followed by the sounds of flapping wings and splashing water. The Canada goose mating season is in full swing and what a noise these big birds can make as they vie for mates and territory.
Setting up my little pop-up blind, positioning the camera, and arranging additional camo material to complete the concealment I settled in to wait for the morning's activity to develop. As daylight fell across the water the first wake I observed was that of a muskrat as it swam past my hide.
As so often happens the clicking of the camera's shutter drew the muskrat's attention. After looking me over from only a few feet away it decided that something was inherently unsafe about the strange noise and abruptly dove to safety.
After waiting about an hour this colorful Wood Duck drake swam into view. These ducks are extremely wary in this area as they are all survivors of at least one hunting season. As this wood duck approached closely I then knew that I had gotten my camo right this time.
A Wood Duck hen poses prettily on the icy water
A touch of early morning sunlight brought the colors of this Wood Duck male alive.
The Wood Duck is our most colorful wild duck. Even with these bright colors they are able to meld into the light and shadow of the surrounding vegetation, remain motionless, and hide in spots that one would swear would not conceal a mosquito let alone such a colorful duck. This allows them to then practice their last line of defense which is to flush noisily, surprising the hunter or predator, as their rapid wing-beats quickly carry them out of harms way.
I well remember back in the days of my youth when a large population of wood ducks lived on the creek that bordered our farm. I recall one late July day, after we had harvested oats, counting over seventy wood ducks feeding in the oat stubble. Those days are long past, the large flocks are gone. Is it the result of hunting, of reduced water quality, the changes in farming practice, or other environmental changes; I do not know. What I do know is how thankful I am to be able to find these beautiful ducks within a few miles of home and hope that each spring they will be able to return.