A nemesis bird and extremely elusive, the very shy wood duck has escaped his portrait for all of these years. I've been as close as the photo below, but only for a split second before squealing away on many occasions. These dabblers have keen eye site and flush extremely easily. I've spent many mornings dressed from head to toe in camo, setting up shop next to creeks under cover, and waiting for precious hours for them to float by. It has never happened. They have landed in the trees above me, but just out of site of the lens. They seem to outwit, outplay, and outlast me every time for years and years...well...until friday afternoon.
I was walking a soggy path, looking for early migrants on a gorgeous friday afternoon, with temperatures in the mid 60's, towing mud encased sneakers that were weighing heavily on my pace with every step. The only good thing about the sog was the silence it brought with it. The forest was so saturated, that the leaves were limp and the path was vacant of other footprints for days or even quite possibly...weeks. Given this information, I knew what opportunity might be ahead as I approached a favorite spot of the wood duck. As I snuck up to the creeks edge, I already had sound signals that they were there. I heard the zipper-like sound just a few feet away, and with a quick peek over the edge, I got the visual confirmation.
The drake was circling and calling to it's mate. Now here is my chance! I am crouched down, making sure my settings are close, and take another peek. As I do this, the drake is closer than I thought, and almost completely in view. I knew for sure that I blew it, but to my amazement, it did not flush! Hmm...very strange! Well since opportunity knocked, I am going to answer and fired off a few shots. I ducked down again, to check my settings, still amazed it didn't react to the sight of me. My next idea was to belly crawl to the edge which was a big commitment, given the muck. Was it worth it to attempt this? I pondered it for awhile, and then as I was about to fully commit, the wood duck caught site of me, recognized me as a threat, gave his warning call, and flushed along with 5 ( yes 5!) of his friends. Doh! Anyway, I did get a few shots, capitalizing on what I am sure was a courtship display in action. Even though I didn't end up being up to my elbows in mud, I sure wish I had that opportunity back and do it all over again. The weekend brought over 4 inches of rain, causing the rivers and creeks to flood, and any chance of revisiting the wood duck spot would be impossible for now.