Heading into Remembrance Day my main goal was to see and photograph a pair of Coots that had showed up in a small pond near work. American Coots are uncommon to the island and since none had appeared last year it was a real treat to have them return this season.
Upon arriving at the pond the pair were at the far end of the pond and feeding along the tall grass. Myself and fellow photographer Brendan Kelly decided to make our way out into the tall grass to the waters edge to get a closer look. The Coots didn't mind our presence and continued to feed
The sun was quickly rising over the tree tops as they kept feeding. This pair was inseparable and often tried stealing each others food..
They were really enjoying the vegetation in the pond so I have a feeling these two might stick around for a while
After a short while the pair drifted off into the middle of the pond and ended our session. I hope to return to see these guys again before they take off.
With plenty of morning light left Brendan and I decided to head off to Cape Spear about a half hour drive. Our plan was to search the area for newly arrived Purple Sandpipers and a group of Snow Buntings. Brendan took the high ground and I went lower to the cliffs edge. We scanned high and low but only turned up one very uncooperative Bunting. With things looking down for this location I decided to take a walk further down the coastline to where I had photographed a Bunting a few weeks earlier. No luck...but as I was about to turn and walk back a pair of very large wings caught my attention...A Bald Eagle. It happened so fast and he was so close that I couldn't get the camera on him. I watched as he glided along the cliffs looking for food. Then...he landed. A perfect perch over looking the ocean only a 5min walk from me. I couldn't let this opportunity pass me so I headed down the trail..
Belly crawling my way to the cliffs edge once I reached its location..I peered over the edge with my lens and grabbed a few frames as he scanned the ocean waters.
Satisfied with this image I decided to make my way back to the car. Just as I turned around to head back up the ridge I noticed the flash of a Bird of Prey chasing what looked like a Junco. The chase went on for awhile as I made my way closer..in and out of the trees they went...by this time I realized it was a Merlin. Once I reached the trees the Merlin took a wide swoop out around me..I guess he wanted a better look at what I was. Then he pitched not 10 feet from me on a tree top..allowing me my best ever look at a Merlin and my first time photographing one.
He was actively search for its next victim and didn't mind my presence at all. After a few mins he left and headed off along the barrens.
With the morning coming to an end Brendan and I decided to head home. It was a successful morning and I felt I was returning with some great images and good memories. I made a quick stop to my parents to setup a feeder for some future sessions with Crossbills...hopefully. Once that was done something was telling me to check out a small pond/outflow area near my house. I hadn't checked it for a while...boy was I happy I did.
Upon my arrival I noticed a flash of white and black that for a moment made me think of a Loon as it dove. I waited patiently for it to surface...to my surprise it was no loon but a type of duck..it dove again before I could ID it...wasting no time I jumped out of the CR-V and laid flat at the waters edge waiting for it to surface...I couldn't believe my eyes..A female Long Tailed Duck.
I have dreamed of one day photographing this species but never thought I would get up close looks of them here in Newfoundland. These sea ducks are often seen out in the middle of the ocean around places like Cape Spear where the water is rough and no chance of seeing them up close. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
After grabbing a few images I raced home to call Brendan and tell him the news and to drop whatever he was doing to get down to the pond. Half hour later Brendan and I enjoyed this stunning duck for the next two hours. She often came so close the camera couldn't focus her. She seemed to enjoy our presence as the pond is fairly large and she had plenty of space to feed but spent most of her time right next to us.
It was an amazing experience and one I am so grateful to have had. Moments like like this keep me going out time and time again. You just never know what nature will provide you.
As this Gull would say...I'll drink to that