While walking along the Sammammish River Trail, a couple of Mallard Ducks flew by me at low level. I pulled the camera up at short notice to get a shot. No time to change the settings so this is what I got on the spur of the moment. As it happens, the shutter speed did a nice job of blurring out the background and making them look super speedy. I kind of like it!
Walking back in to Log Boom Park from the pier, you get to the shoreline which is a popular spot for the ducks. They clearly like the shallow water and the multiple spots where they can come out of the water to rest. As I was approaching, they seemed to be in agreement that it was bath time. Every duck was taking a turn at washing their plumage.
I figured I would take a chance on the shots. Slow shutter speeds were worth a go. The problem with this is that the ducks are moving a lot so the chances of getting a sharp head/eye are a bit limited. However, if that does work out, the flapping of the wings should look more interesting than trying to freeze the action. Making use of the high shutter rate on the camera is a good way of improving the likelihood of some success and, I was okay with getting a few that worked out.
The shoreline of San Francisco Bay has a bunch of ducks. Of the ones I see a lot of, there are two main species. The Mallards are a duck you will see almost anywhere. The others are the Shovelers. As the name suggests, Shovelers like to shovel around in the murk at the bottom of the water to see what they can find. Their bill is shaped to help with rooting around in this mud. The result can be that their heads are no longer the color of the feathers but are, instead, covered in mud.
There is plenty of muddy shallow water along the shore so the ducks will often take off and head to different feeding grounds. It’s fun to try and get them in mid-flight. If things are closer, they will save energy and paddle to their next spot. The best shots are when they come up covered in mud. They look almost surprised by what a mess they are!
We took a day trip up to Davis to check out the arboretum. Running alongside the old Putah Creek, it has a range of different plants and trees along its length. With the university buildings stretching alongside the creek, the paths provide access to the students and staff of the university as they get where they need to be. Being, at least most of the time, away from the roads makes for a quiet and pleasant place to stroll. At the time we visited, it was a turning point for some of the plants. Fall had already done it work on some trees while others were still showing signs of color.
We weren’t the only ones appreciating the view. We passed a number of painters (whether they were part of a class or just like minded individuals I don’t know) who were capturing the scenes around them. I didn’t get to see whether any of them were particularly good but I hope they had a good time anyway. There was plenty of wildlife along the creek. Ducks were abundant, the occasional turtle showed itself, squirrels were everywhere gathering food for winter and some of the visitors had their dogs with them so no shortage of life.
Work was underway to reconfigure the flow of water through the creek. This is intended to freshen up the water, deal with some of the weed growth on the surface and promote some other wildlife activity. In some areas it was already showing results but the work was due to run into 2017 so it will be a while before the full effect is seen.
This is the time of year when the wildlife starts to get a bit interested in mating. This can result in some battles between competing individuals but, while walking alongside a river, I saw a couple of mallard ducks behaving pretty strangely. One was male and one female so I think they may have been interested in each other but their behavior was sufficiently strange that I couldn’t be sure that was actually the case.
Initially they were splashing around in the water. They would seem to dive just below the surface and flap around down there making a lot of noise and moving quite randomly – not necessarily towards each other. It would stop for a while and then start again. Very odd behavior to the uninitiated. After this had gone on for a while, one of them took off followed by the other. They then appeared to wheel around the sky with a tail chase underway. This also went on for quite a while before they landed back where they had started and everything seemed to revert to normal. Anyone who knows what was going on, please let me know in the comments.
The development we live in has a pool. While this is not open year round, the area around it is always available. However, not too many people are there out of season so someone else has moved in. A pair of mallard ducks has taken up residency. Mum first spotted them when she was staying with us. We can see them from the top floor if we look but they are often out of sight from lower down. With the weather getting warmer and the pool likely to be more popular, I figured it might not be too long before they decided it was time to move on.
A few minutes was all it took to get some shots of them. They were a little wary of me so I didn’t want to spend too long disturbing them. However, the pool is not big so, as long as they would move out of the shadows a couple of times, I could get a shot and leave them in peace. I certainly didn’t want to get too close and thought I wouldn’t even bother them but they were quite alert to my being there so I made the whole thing a quick in and out job.
The eagle trip to the Mississippi provided plenty of times when the big birds were either elsewhere or just sitting in the trees wondering what to do next. This meant either doing nothing ourselves of having a practice on the other wildlife passing by. There were a few ducks in flight. Since these are small targets, they have to be reasonably close to make a shot even worth trying. However, a couple of times they came close so why not?
My friends at the Warbird Heritage Foundation in Waukegan have been working for a long time on adding another aircraft to their already excellent collection. The newest aircraft is a P-51 Mustang called Baby Duck. It is many years since Baby Duck last flew and she has gone through an extensive restoration since being recovered from a storage location near Philadelphia.
The work has been undertaken at Tap-Air in East Troy WI. They have been putting her back together after a thorough restoration of the whole airframe and engine and the whole process has been coming to a climax with the approach of the first flight post restoration.
After some engine runs and taxiing tests, the date for the first flight was set. Paul Wood, the owner of the foundation, kindly invited me up to see the flight and I headed up to East Troy on a gorgeous day. Pilot for the first flight was Vlado Lenoch. Vlado is a highly experienced pilot of Mustangs. He has his own aircraft, Moonbeam McSwine which he displays all around the country. However, he has flown many other aircraft. I think he said that this was his 25th!
After some final checks on the airframe, Vlado fired her up and taxied off for departure. I headed to a spot up the field to be ready for the first wheels up moment. While it was a lovely day, it was warm and sunny so heat haze was a big deal. However, you don’t get to choose when these things are happening so you go with it and get what you can.
The first flight went very well. Vlado took her up to altitude, cycled the systems, undertook some handling checks and basically made sure things were good. Then he brought her back for a flyby – a good sign that he was pleased with the aircraft. There then followed a debrief about e issues that he had found. The Tap-Air guys then took the opportunity to try and fix a few of the issues that could be dealt with immediately while we had a bite to eat before Vlado took her up again.
This time he had a longer sortie and pushed her a little harder with some basic aeros. All went well and again he showed his comfort with everything with another flyby. After landing, another debrief with the guys and a list of tasks to be worked on. There is still some work to do but, hopefully she should be making her way to her new home pretty soon. Probably not soon enough to make it to Oshkosh this year but there is always another year!