Bow Wave

Bow Wave | Shooting Sportsman Magazine
Photo by Steve Oehlenschlager |

The first day of spring for me is the day the wood ducks reappear in my backyard wetlands. Nothing says winter is over like the squealing and splash-landings of some of North America’s most beautiful waterfowl. When my wife and I first moved to our area, wood ducks were not common. But then one morning we awoke to an entire yard full of them. It was following a brutally cold and snowy winter, and we had started to feed the deer ear corn in our yard. When the snow melted that April, our yard was covered in leftover corn. Within two days there was a flock of more than 50 wood ducks cleaning up the kernels. These new neighbors were more than welcome. In hopes of keeping them around, we put up almost a dozen nesting boxes. We now have five to 10 nests in our yard every year. One tree in particular has two natural cavities and one nesting box. Last year it produced four broods of ducklings.

With all of these great “models” in the backyard, most spring mornings my destination is only 100 yards from the house. Being able to photograph the ducks at eye level in their own habitat is amazing. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing groups of 10 to 35 birds mere yards away showing off for their mates.

This particular drake was sitting for about 20 minutes on logs left over from a family of beavers. Suddenly a new pair of woodies landed next to me, and he immediately hopped into the water and started swimming as fast as he could toward them. I knew he had to go over one last log, so I upped my camera’s shutter speed, thinking it might make a great action shot when he reentered the water. Although I took a quick burst of photos, only this shot turned out.

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