One of my favorite places to photograph wildlife is at my local Audubon center. I’ve been to the John James Audubon Center at Mill Grove many times and I’ve been fortunate enough to see many different birds and animals. Sometimes, I’ll drive there after school to bird with my sister. It’s a great birding hotspot.
Usually I’ll walk to the river that runs through the woods at the bottom of steep hills. I’ll often find both Hooded and Common Mergansers at a specific spot of the river that they seem to like. It’s a curved section next to a peninsula of land that’s devoid of trails near the water’s edge. In the fall, they congregate with Great Blue Herons, Mallards and Wood Ducks. The area isn’t easily accessed by a trail, and I’m able to reach the spot after fording a small creek and hiking through the woods.
One day after school, I hiked to the river to look for the mergansers. Snow showers were in the forecast, and I was hoping that it was begin snowing soon. I love photographing in the snow - a white canvas can create beautiful fine art photos and falling snowflakes add more interest to an image.
After hiking through the woods I arrived at “my spot”: an area where the bank dips down briefly enough for me to lay down on or sit with a blind. I hadn’t brought a my usual camouflage covering so I laid on the frozen dirt as it began to snow. I hoped that the snowflakes would cover me quickly. The blood slowly went to my head and my toes became numb from my tilted position with my head next to the water and my feet up the bank.
The Common Mergansers are often very skittish; there were a few mergansers further down the river but too far to photograph. After only a few minutes, I was shocked when this female Common Merganser landed in the middle of the water, only a few yards from me. I lowered my shutter speed so that that snowflakes were slightly blurred, but not the merganser’s head as she swam cautiously. She swam close past me and I froze, hoping that the quiet mode on my camera’s shutter wouldn’t spook her. Eventually she flew towards the other mergansers at the end of the river, after spotting them in the distance.
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