Wildlife Photography | Migratory Bird Photography at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge (Part 2)
In the first part of this series on the birds at Montezuma in the fall, I talked about the gear I used, the spotlight being on Nikon’s 500mm lens. Part 2 is all about the ducks.
The drake mallard has got to be one of the most easily recognizable ducks in North America. But this little guy (pictured below) was tucked in with the mallard bunch. He is a Green-winged Teal, the smallest of the dabbling ducks. Dabbling ducks swim in shallow marshes and feed with their bills partially submerged as they move about.
Northern Shovelers (pictured below) have a spatula-shaped bill. Personally, I think they look a bit awkward (is it just me or does the bill not look like it fits the body?). Their bills are lined with over a 100 lamellae (projections) for straining food apart from the water. They shovel through the muddy marsh bottoms for invertebrates to eat.
I think I would argue ducks are probably one of the better understood migratory animals in North America, largely because of banding and conservation efforts of organizations like Flyways and Ducks Unlimited that marry conservation and hunting programs. Banding provides a whole host of information such as origin and recovery locations (migration patterns), age, and population information that aids management and hunting regulation decisions.
The information in the map above is from band recoveries from 1986-2007 for NYS. The dots represent locations where ducks originated from. Kind of cool to know some of the individuals I photographed above could be coming from Alaska or the hinterlands of Canada. One of the things that bother me most about some waterfowl hunters is their attitude about harvesting banded birds (making references to shooting things with jewelry) and the way they stack up the birds on top of each other for pictures. Drives me nuts actually, they’re beautiful birds and provide a freezer full of food… there’s got to be a better way to honor the hunt in a photograph that respects quarry.
Duck’s Unlimited has a nice outline of the ways in which they help conserve waterfowl habitat and how you can help too. Additionally, waterfowl hunters are required to purchase a duck stamp every year in order to hunt and the proceeds have raised over $800 million dollars from 1934. This money helped secure 6 million acres of habitat. You don’t have to be a hunter to purchase a stamp, I buy one every year because it’s one conservation program I know of where approximately 0.98cents of every dollar goes into acquiring wetland habitat for protection.
Lots to think about for the next time you see a quack-head.