Surf’s Up

It’s a new scene for me this week as I’m visiting Naples, Florida for a business/pleasure trip. After having to spend an hour or more driving in the dark to arrive to where I want to photograph wildlife, I must admit. Being able to roll out of bed and walk out onto the beach in balmy weather is priceless.

The beach birds on the west coast of Florida are so cooperative. They are accustomed to many people walking by on the beach and a shorter lens with a 100-400mm reach is perfect to photograph them.

This morning I was treated to one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Red breasted Mergansers are a diving duck that I associate with winter time in Maryland and I rarely see them. Perhaps twice a season and usually only a pair at a time and they are quite shy.

It seems that some of them are smart enough to travel to Florida to enjoy a warmer winter. To my surprise, I found a flock of 20 of them chasing minnows along the shoreline.

Dipping and zipping in the shallow surf of the Gulf of Mexico, I spent over an hour following them and taking nearly 1300 images in short order.

If they found a minnow, faster than the eye could blink they would zip underneath the water to catch it.

After a while they would take a break and groom. Preening and flapping the excess water off of their wings.

It seemed that all of the other birds knew that these mergansers had it happening. A nice flock of Snowy Egrets, Willets and gulls joined into the scene watching the mergansers in hopes for an easy handout.

As it is a popular beach, now and again a person would walk by and the mergansers just swam further from the shoreline, only to return. They certainly knew I was there as I had to keep repositioning to keep up with them. But it didn’t take long for them to realize I wasn’t a threat and kept back at their task of body surfing.

Seeing these mergansers is most likely a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one I will not soon forget. Like the hundred of Northern Shovelers I saw once drumming up mud in a large circular formation. Isn’t Nature amazing?

I’ve already had such a rocking time with bird photography here and I haven’t even gone anywhere. I’ve discovered I’m not far from Little Estero Lagoon which is now world famous for bird photography and brought onto the map by Arthur Morris himself. Time to scout as it’s the middle of the day to figure out where I’ll be this afternoon for the next photo shoot.

17 replies »

  1. Once again Emily you have out done yourself. Your duck photos are amongnyour very best and these do you proud. I love ducks and periodically carve and paint decoys, though I don’t hunt. I will save these innages among tge others you’ve taken for inspiration when I do future decoys.

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