Uncommon Golden Opportunities with Common Goldeneyes

One of the wintering waterfowl species we see locally during the winter months is the Common Goldeneye.  They like shallow fast flowing water, and a couple of spots are perfect for them to hang out in to hunt for food, even during the deepest weeks of winter.  There are a couple of disadvantageous to bird photographers though, at least up here:  Their favorite spots are mostly too far for good photos, and they are normally very wary and retreating, wings whistling frantically at first sight.  Luckily, their is one strategy that works relatively well, at least for flight opportunities.  This requires finding a spot where where the ice has built up enough to both support your weight, and to significantly narrow the available open water, naturally bringing the ducks closer.  They still remain wary, but they have a repeating habit of floating down-current, then when far downstream, fly back up the current and start floating down again.  With time, luck, and patience, opportunities do arise (as per usual, clicking on the image opens up a larger and more detailed one, then simply clicking on the “back button” to return to the page):

Common Goldeneye, drake, sprinting for take-off, Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4 TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/3200s., f/5.6, ISO 800.

Common Goldeneye, drake, sprinting for take-off, Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4 TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/3200s., f/5.6, ISO 800.

When February rolls around, certain courtship behaviours begin to manifest themselves from the males.  This is something I’ve always wanted to observe and photograph from close range, but as mentioned earlier, they are almost always too far.  This year, however, there was as spot about a hundred yards away from where I was photographing these guys in flight where they seemed to congregate once in a while.  I observed form afar, as usual, and then noticed them begin courtship behaviours rather energetically.  I knew that approaching at that time would mean having them scatter away, so I waited until they moved on by their own will, then setup lying on the ice in hopes they would return to this “favorite” spot.  After waiting about an hour, the first one, a male, drifted into the spot and arched towards shore into proper photographic range.  It dove for food a few times, then flapped its wings in perfect angle to me.

Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/2500s., f/5.6, ISO 400.

After a few minutes another came in, then another, and another.  Then a female, and another, and this made things interesting as the males began to get more antsy and started to call (sounding something similar passing a finger fast and strongly twice across the “teeth” of a hair comb).  And then it began, right in front of me:  courting behaviour!  At first they drifted away far enough to include group behaviour images, which was fun.  In the image below we can see three males trying to woo two alerted females.

Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/2500s., f/5.6, ISO 400.

Then they swam closer again, and this allowed for more intimate views of the various behaviours.  From head throws, stretched necks, and foot splashing action, all was to be seen and heard.  I was also able to isolate a few individuals to better concentrate on their individual movements.  When the temperature is extremely cold, low angles like these are made impossible due to “heat” shimmer bouncing off the open water and causing softness to the images, but here the temperature was warmer and closer to the freezing mark, making for clear imagery from the low angles I prefer.  To close, here area few more fun images of this very interesting species to observe.  All the images on this blog entry were taken from two consecutive morning sessions on February 17th and 18th, 2018.:

Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/2500s., f/5.6, ISO 400.

Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/2500s., f/8, ISO 800.

Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/2500s., f/5.6, ISO 400.

Canon 7DII + 500mm f/4 II + 1.4TC III, manual exposure, evaluative metering, 1/2500s., f/5.6, ISO 400.

Hope you enjoyed the series, and if you do have a favorite please do indicate which one by replying below 🙂

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

  1. John Rowell March 11, 2018 at 2:43 pm #

    I love the whole series. The last one of the duck coming straight on at you is wonderful. If that’s not Daffy Duck, then it must be a close relative. My favorite is the second image, with the duck taking off and wings full down and forward, pulling the duck forward. Drops of water from behind adds action interest and I really like the way the right wing frames the head and neck. A cold morning lying on the ice, made worthwhile with a great set of courting images.

    • Daniel Cadieux March 11, 2018 at 8:32 pm #

      Hi John, I like that second image for the same reasons you mention. It was a fun and productive couple of mornings!

  2. Hòa & Yung Tran May 26, 2018 at 9:44 pm #

    Thank you for these beautifully clear/sharp pictures.
    My husband Yung & I just finished a beginner photography workshop today. I had a chance to search Neilyworld.com (info from an article in Kitchissippi Times) & found your site.
    We would like to ask the locations you usually go to take bird pictures in Ottawa.
    Thanks again.

    • Daniel Cadieux May 29, 2018 at 5:54 am #

      Hello, thank you for the kind comments! Some of my favorite areas in Ottawa are Mer Bleue, Mud Lake (Britania Conservation Area), Petrie Island, Jack Pine Trail. Hope this helps!

  3. Krishna Prasad July 18, 2018 at 10:28 am #

    Very nicely done. I love the images and the information in the blog.

    • Daniel Cadieux July 20, 2018 at 9:06 pm #

      Hi Krishna, glad you found it informative! I gotta get going and post more entries…

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