A male Wood Duck on Fawn Lake as the breeding season gets underway..
Last winter, I set up a photography blind on Fawn Lake, which is located on Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. Our home overlooks the lake, and we have nearly constant waterfowl activity from October through June, with a good variety of wintering ducks, followed by the breeding season for Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers. No gas-powered motorboats are allowed on the lake, which enhances the opportunity to see the ducks; and even in fishing season the ducks and fishermen seem to get along without irritating each other too much.
During the winter, a group of 25 or so Double-crested Cormorants roost in a tree along the lake, which I have previously described in this blog as sounding like “pig birds,” if you can imagine such a thing. Pied-billed Grebes, Mallards, and Canada Geese nest here, in addition to the Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers that successfully hatch young birds in our nest boxes each spring. Predators on the ducks include Bald Eagles–one of which caught what I think was a Bufflehead female and landed on a tree in front of our house several weeks ago–and an occasionally marauding family of River Otters. The otters eat mostly fish, but the ducks give them wide clearance.
When I set up my photography blind, I wanted to be able to enter the blind at any time without being seen by the ducks. To accomplish this, I set up a tunnel of camouflaged tarps that leads down to the lake; I crawl down on my knees with my camera on a tripod, then quietly set up the camera behind a camouflage mesh. I still haven’t decided if I’m fooling the ducks with my elaborate setup, but it fulfills my childhood fantasies of trying to sneak up on animals.
In the blind, I lay prone behind my long lens, and look down into the camera using an angle finder to compose and focus. I like positioning the camera as close to water level as possible so that the photographs feel like they were taken from a duck’s point of view. These are some of my favorites from about a dozen mornings in the blind.
A Wood Duck male suspicious of the blind..
Female Wood Duck up close and personal..
Male Wood Duck after a cool drink of water..
Female Wood Duck on lake, just prior to flying up to nest box..
Bufflehead enduring a heavy rain..
Bufflehead male during its first winter..
Bufflehead female carving a reflection of the sky in still waters..
Buffleheads during breeding season..
Hooded Merganser pair as nesting season commences...
Hooded Merganser male patrolling lake below the nest box where his lady has gone..
Two juvenile male Hooded Mergansers stayed together for weeks..
Hooded Merganser male on a tranquil morning..
Lesser Scaup female resting between dives..
Lesser Scaup female beginning a dive..
Lesser Scaup female with an almost prehistoric look..
Lesser Scaup female in breeding plumage..
A Wood Duck male trying to figure out that clicking noise in the bushes..
Go to LeeRentz.com to view the range of work by Lee Rentz. Work is available as metal or archival paper prints, and most are available for licensing for websites, magazines, and books.