Spring – finally it has arrived! And with it, the first of the spring migrants are turning up, including large numbers of Common Mergansers heading into Alberta. While this species can be found year-round in the province, their numbers are noticeably higher in spring/summer.Of course, spring also means breeding season and many birds are either mated up or in the process of doing so. Fierce competition to pass on genes makes for quite a spectacle for birders, and with the advent of faster & better photographic technology each year we are able to better observe and appreciate all this frenetic action. My post this month focuses on a few days I spent shooting Common Mergansers along the Bow River in Calgary, during which I was able to get a close-up glimpse into the daily lives of this species:Most impressive was the fishing skills of these mergansers as I saw them bring in fish time & time again. Photography tip: when you see a bird dive down to fish, take your eye off the viewfinder and watch with both eyes (so you have a much wider field of view) for the bird to re-surface maybe 10 seconds later. Mergansers surface to eat their catch and gobble down the fish almost immediately after emerging, so you need to be ready!
Also impressive were the lengths that paired-up mergansers went to to protect their union. I witnessed a male land near a couple & it wasn’t long before the fireworks flew, with the female clearly being the most aggressive to unwitting male visitor:
And as always, I try to get some in-flight action shots and when it comes to ducks you will get good opportunities both during take-offs and landings. I find take-offs somewhat ‘easier’ to capture, only because you usually get a little longer (maybe a second or more) forewarning via the audible flurry of rapid flapping/splashing that signals a duck looking to get airborne. Unlike ducks coming in to land where you pretty much have to see them coming in because by the time you hear them they have already touched down. That said, some ducks will do a loop of the landing zone before they alight, so sometimes that will give you time to set up, pre-focus then hope they choose to land in front of you
I hope you enjoyed this month’s post, and you can always see more of my photography at my website: www.timjhopwood.com