A quest for duck photographs often leads one into some of the Gulf Coast’s most interesting and beautiful environments–from lakes, swamps and marshes, to beaches and coastal bays and estuaries. From a technical standpoint, it is usually best to photograph waterbirds as close to water level as possible. As in the case of waders, vegetation along the shore often complicates or thwarts this ideal, however.
Male Ring-necked Duck at Brazos Bend State Park, Photo taken in March at Elm Lake using high-speed synchronized fill-flash.
Suspicious Character: Male Wood Duck at Brazos Bend State Park. This Wood Duck and his mate were extremely wary of humans. Smart ducks! Photo taken in March with high-speed synchronized fill-flash.
Male Northern Pintail at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, Texas. Photo taken in November under natural light.
Female Canvasback at Rockport, Texas. This lone Canvasback found herself among a flock of Redheads, Scaups, Coots, and Shovelers. Photo taken in November under natural light.
Male Mallard photographed in north Houston. Mallards are common, but beautiful, denizens of municipal parks. Photo taken in spring under natural light.
Male Northern Shoveler at the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, Texas. Photo taken in November under natural light.
Northern Shovelers in Flight at the Hans and Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge City Park, Corpus Christi, Texas. This park presents incredible opportunities for viewing ducks. Check your tide charts, though. As waterfowl tend to congregate at the strand line, high-tide is definitely the time to visit (despite conventional wisdom). Hand-held, 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM.
Green: Male Green-winged Teal at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, Texas. The Turnbull birding center is a great place to see ducks, but a frustrating place to photograph them. The walkways are too narrow to accommodate tripods and passing foot traffic. Photo taken in November under natural light.
Female Redhead at Rockport: Texas: Less spectacular than the male, but extremely beautiful in an elegant, subtle way. Photo taken in November under natural light.
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck Parent with Ducklings at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Photo taken in summer at Elm Lake, duckling capital, USA.
Bue-winged Teal Mated Pair at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Whenever possible, I try to capture males and females together. Brazos Bend is the place to see this common species along the Texas Gulf Coast. Photo taken at Elm Lake under natural light.
Female Ruddy Duck at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Rio Grande Valley, Texas. That’s a Least Grebe in the background. Challenging day for photography: Photo taken on a foggy, rainy morning at one of North America’s finest birding locales. Natural light.
Male Gadwall at Elm Lake, Brazos Bend State Park. Photo taken under natural light.
Juvenile Black-bellied Whistling-Duck at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Black-bellies are so common at Brazos Bend SP that it is easy to forget what a limited range they have in North America. Photo taken at Elm Lake under natural light.
Male Redhead at the South Padre Island Birding Center. Redheads are common, but glorious, winter residents along the Texas Gulf Coast in marine, brackish, and freshwater habitats. Natural light.
Juvenile Male Red-breasted Merganser at Hans and Pat Suter Wildlife Park (freshwater channel), Corpus Christi, Texas. Tough shot: evening light was failing as this fellow glided past obstructions on the shore. According to guidebooks, this bird is common on the Texas Gulf Coast during winter . This is an overstatement.
Mated Pair of Mottled Ducks at Lafitte’s Cove, Galveston Island. Mottled Ducks are non-migratory and have a very limited range in North America, mostly around the Gulf Coast. The female has the orangish bill. Photo taken in late March.
Female Greater(?) Scaup at Brazos Bend State Park. The female Greater Scaup is difficult to distinguish from the female Lesser Scaup. The Greater Scaup typically has “gray-frosted” feathers on the back, shoulders and sides (like this individual), whereas the Lesser Scaup has a darker brown back. This is not absolute, however, and I welcome comments from anyone who knows better. Photo taken in mid-March at Elm Lake using high-speed synchronized fill-flash..
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