Monday, March 21, 2011

Blind With a View

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Two hours sounds like a long time to be cooped up in a small portable photo blind.  That's what we were thinking as Tara zipped Crystal and I into the dark dome tent blind and said to phone her when we were ready to come out.  We were wearing black and had most of the zippered view-ports closed to keep out light.  Our hope was to see the wary wood ducks from close range.

Tara and Jim live on an incredible cypress swamp and pond in NW Tallahassee... in fact, they own and manage this sweet little sanctuary with wildlife being the number one consideration.   Tara is an award-winning "digiscoper" - meaning she shoots her photos through a spotting scope rather than using the (much heavier) telephoto lenses and DSLRs like I do. She showed me her sleek customized set-up.  Very cool. Jim had recently done a controlled burn around part of the swamp's perimeter... the wildflowers wiill be coming up soon.  Meanwhile, from the blind in their yard, there was a clear view of a small spit of land reaching into the swamp.

Actually, the blind was quite comfortable - two chairs, iced tea, and enough room for my tripod with camera perched at the one opening in front of us.  Crystal was watching through her binoculars.  There was no time to get bored or antsy.  Tara had scattered some corn out near the shore so there was a parade of wildlife from almost the first moment.  Here are a few:  the male and female Northern Cardinals, Blue Jays, Swamp Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbirds (particularly the stripy females), Mourning Doves, and even a squirrel... but an unusual Gray Squirrel in that it was a white morph.  There were egrets and storks and other wading birds building nests further out in the swamp.


We saw our first-ever Rusty Blackbirds!  What a special treat.  What's left of these uncommon (and declining) birds will migrate north very soon.
We'd seen a few pairs of ducks from afar.  An hour and a half in, a pair of wood ducks cautiously approached from a distance swimming across the duckweed.  They kept their eyes glued to the blind.  We froze.  Very slowly they worked their way toward us. Every click of my camera alerted the male, but finally he decided it was safe.  I wondered how many times he'd been shot at or lost flock-mates after hearing gunshot. These beauties are prized by duck hunters.
The pair finally made it to shore and began to forage. After several minutes, a few other pairs of wood ducks arrived.  We had a great show for nearly a half hour, then suddenly they all took off in a flash of color.  Wow.

1 comment:

Pat MacEnulty said...

The wood ducks are soo beautiful. I just had my first birding class on Saturday and learned so much. You're right. There's nothing boring about it. Sounds like you were in such an ideal spot. And I had never seen a swamp sparrow! What a delicate pattern. Anyway, these are wonderful. Thank you for your blog.