Duck, Duck, Snap!

Photographing a waterfowl’s beauty head-on

One of the most stunningly pretty birds is one that can be found in Michigan: the wood duck. The male has iridescent colors of green and purple on its head, stripes of blue on its wings, and a bright chestnut chest decorated with delicate white feathers. The female has shades of deep blues and purples on her wings, and a bold white pattern around her eyes.

My favorite park, Kensington Metropark in Milford, is home to several pairs of these beautiful birds. As if their colors weren’t impressive enough, these birds nest in trees — thence their name — and are able to grip branches with specialized claws on their webbed feet. Wood ducklings make a mighty leap from their home to the ground or water below, and can jump from 300 feet without being injured.

On one of my bird photography outings, I was hoping to catch a glimpse of these beauties. Wood ducks are especially fun to photograph, as their iridescent feathers will shift and change colors as the birds move, resulting in all sorts of wonderful and different looks.

After three hours with no luck, I decided to check a small pond one last time. There, I spotted a pair paddling around. The male gave its slide-whistle call as it followed its female around. When they dipped behind some cattails, I quickly set up my equipment on a rail that goes around the pond, hoping they’d make another appearance. My heart rate went up a bit with excitement, anticipation, and hope.

Finally, I was thrilled to see the female appear from behind the reeds and paddle over toward me. She was busy looking for food; as she did so, the male swam a little distance away, keeping a close eye on her. I was crouched along the railing, getting as close to the water as possible. The female swam quite close, and to my delight the male turned and followed her — which is when I snapped this photo. I used a super telephoto lens, and with the male only about 40 feet away, I was able to capture his stunning feather details.

The photo has become one of my favorites, with the male’s gorgeous colors and his cute, poochy cheeks.

Next time you’re on a nature walk along a marsh or a stream, you can look for these gorgeous birds around vegetation in the water or perched on logs along the shoreline. They’re quite a sight to see!

P.S. Kensington Metropark is part of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks system. The park covers 4,481 acres and has wooded, hilly terrain surrounding 1,200-acre Kent Lake. It offers a multitude of recreational activities throughout the year, from biking and boating to cross-country skiing and tobogganing. Jocelyn Anderson of Whitmore Lake owns Jocelyn Anderson Photography; visit to see more of her work.

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