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Miscellaneous Merganser Moments « Feathered Photography

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In some of these images the Hooded Mergansers have fish prey and in some they don’t but all photos document various behaviors. They were taken four days ago in Salt Lake County.

1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Once while I was with the mated pair of Hooded Mergansers they both took a short rest on a log but they were partially blocked by vegetation so I deleted those images. Here we see the male (the female is out of frame behind him) just after he hopped off the log into the water and he then performed an abbreviated wing stretch.

Typically I see birds stretch their wings in three primary ways – fully extended and pointed down, fully extended and pointed up or up and forward and little mini-stretches like this one where the bulk of the wing remains in the folded position but the wing is tilted straight up at the shoulder.

I saw this male stretch his wings three times (and photographed it twice) and he stretched this way every time – the “mini-stretch”. Falconers have a name for this type of stretch but I can’t remember what it is. But since all three of his stretches were like this one I have to wonder if this species ever stretches any other way – stranger things do happen with birds.

A sample size of only three is hardly conclusive but I still have to wonder.

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

This was just a head-scratching session but I enjoyed watching because he really got into it. And I even got a few shots with both his eye and his nictitating membrane open – usually one or both are closed in this situation to protect their eyes.

Ok, now to their fish prey.

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

Every fish I saw them catch, at least a half dozen of them, was a weather loach of one size or another. Loaches instinctively use their long bodies in a defensive strategy that involves wrapping tightly around the bill of their tormentor and it can be very effective, at least for the short run. And sometimes it even makes the bird eventually drop the fish as it tries to deal with the slimy, slippery prey.

This time it was unusually fun to watch because the loach was so tightly wound around the female’s lower mandible that she had considerable trouble getting it off. Here her bill is completely open as she tries to loosen the tight grasp of the uncooperative loach.

1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

In this shot the male was beginning to have the same problem with his loach and he looks a little chagrined by it as if he’s hoping no one is watching.

I keep coming back to look at this unusual combination of colors in the water reflections of this shot. I still can’t decide if I like them or I’m just a little fascinated because they’re so different. Either way I guess it’s a good thing, at least for me, because I’m more than a little intrigued.

1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

The size of the loaches these mergansers were feeding on varied a lot. In this shot the female had one of the smallest ones I’ve seen and…

1/3200, f/6.3, ISO 640, Canon 7D Mark II, Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM + EF 1.4 III Extender, not baited, set up or called in

a while later the male caught what may be the largest loach I’ve seen a bird of any species with. It’s hard to tell for sure because I’m judging size at least in part based on the relative size of the bird and Hooded Mergansers are very small ducks.

Ok, enough posts about Hooded Mergansers, at least for a while. I’ve done three blog posts about them recently and it’s time to move on. Sometimes when I finally get to spend some quality time with a species I rarely photograph I can become overzealous and even a little fixated.

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