I went to the local duck pond to follow up on the American Wigeon flock that took residence there in the late fall. The one Eurasian Wigeon in the flock is still among them . . . I’m not sure if he has a mate. There were several obvious couplings in the group, with pairs sticking close together, preening next to each other, and puttering around the pond in tandem.
During one of my previous visits with Hugh, there was an incident between the ducks and a Bald Eagle. As I sat and watched, the ducks suddenly flushed and ditched into the cattails. That’s usually the signal for raptor overhead and, sure enough, an eagle was on approach. But this time, zooming in front of him was a little wigeon, flapping the dickens out of her wings to evade the eagle.
Behind the first eagle, another Bald Eagle appeared. She tailed the first eagle, but barely, taking a break to twirl over the duck pond. It seems she was as much of a spectator as I, circling the drafts with no urgency.
Even as a nature photographer and wildlife rehabber, I am not fully reconciled to the unfortunate circumstances of prey animals . . . even as I understand how difficult survival is for predators, too. I suppose after this much exposure in my life, I never will be. So, unlike some who might be photographing, I’m not particularly enthralled by the predator money shot. And in this case, I didn’t even grab a photo of the chase or of the duck, who whizzed by so fast I could barely lift my lens.
The wigeon and eagle flew over a cluster of trees and disappeared. I waited. I watched the wigeon flock sitting still as ice sculptures among chunks of frozen pond, under the cover of reeds. A few more minutes passed, and then, I saw the Bald Eagle flying back over. Through my lens, I checked his talons. Nothing. The duck got away. The two eagles met in the middle and caught the thermals — floating up into a wintery blue Seattle sky.
We took a walk around the short maze of trails in the park. As we approached the end of the trail, a bullet shot out from a shrub next to our boots. Zipping over the line of trees was the female wigeon who’d escaped the Bald Eagle. She must have gone into a steep dive and tucked herself under the entanglement of scrub. We accidentally startled her as we walked by. We saw her make a landing over the pond, back to safety with her flock.
I don’t know if she’s still part of this group I photographed the other day, but if she is, life was clearly more peaceful this afternoon, for wigeons on the pond.
I processed all of the above photos in Apple’s Aperture and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro. I applied a number of different filters to change contrast and clarity — and then added the Polaroid Transfer option for edges.