donderdag 2 juli 2015

One of those nights.

About two weeks ago, a friend tipped me about a nesting pair of red throated loons, not too far from where I live. Additionally to the nesting pair there are two more red throated loons in the area, which probably are the chicks from last year. The birds are on a small lake which doesn’t hold any fish. Meaning that they have to fly out to one of the other lakes in order to catch food. This produces great chances to photograph the birds during takeoff and landing. But there is one problem, they are very shy and it is not possible to come close to the water without disturbing them. So two days ago I place a photo tent, with the plan to photograph them the following evening/night. The weather forecast said there would be no wind and clear skies… meaning a high probability for fog on the water during the night. Therefor, I placed the tent so that I would have back-light in the morning  

The photo tent.
As planned, I arrived yesterday evening (around 21:00) at my tent and sneaked in. Just before arriving at my tent, I saw the male leave to one of the other lakes to catch fish. …if I would have been a bit earlier, I would have been able to photograph it… too bad. But normally it shouldn’t take long for the male to return, since it has to feed the female and the one chick which hatched a few days ago. After having installed my camera equipment, I took some pictures of the female in the distance on the nest and waited for the return of the male. The chicks from last year, where nowhere to be seen.
The female on the nest.
The hours ticked by, but no male, no other birds and the female hasn’t moved a bit. Around midnight the male still hadn’t returned and it had gotten too dark to photograph it, if it would return within the next 3 hours. I want wanted to stay awake, in order to see if the male would come back and when it would come back. So I occupied myself with photographing the reflection of the pine forest on the lake.

Reflection of the pine forest.

Reflection of the pine forest.

Hours passed, but nothing. Fog started to build up on the lake, but no birds to photograph. I thought… “it is one of those nights, where you spend hours and hours waiting without any result”. …I must have dozed off, because at 02:30 I suddenly woke up by the screaming alarm call of the female. I quickly looked through my camera to see what is going on. I had the camera fixed towards the nest, but saw instead of the loon, a red fox at the nest.

Red fox going for the nest.

I was afraid that it managed to catch the chick, but luckily I quickly found out that the chick was swimming safely next to its mother. I wonder if this fox has visited this nest before, since there is only one chick, but there were two eggs.

Red fox at the nest.

Suddenly the fox noticed something in the distance and run off. Hopefully it won’t come back.

Red fox running off into the darkness.
The female didn’t waste any time and almost directly got back on the nest.

Female with her chick swimming back to the nest.

Female back on the nest.
Finally, at 03:50 I heard the male return, and luckily with a fish! The female and chick have been without food for almost 7 hours. The fish was about the same size as the chick, so I was quite surprised to see the whole fish disappear into this tiny bird.

Chick getting a fish.

The family together.

The chick just swallowed the fish, when suddenly the two other loons literally crashed into the lake.

The two young loons crashing into the lake.

Finally…. ACTION!

Running over the water.

 Everything went so fast, birds flying, running over the water, diving, splashing, from left to right, from right to left… it was hard to keep track of them while constantly changing the autofocus points and trying to keep the right settings in my camera, since the light conditions varied a lot over the lake.

Almost had him...

Running over the water.

Running over the water.

In the fog.

Stretching the wings.

…but I couldn’t complain!

One of the young birds taking off.
Sadly, just before the first direct sunlight hit the lake and colored the fog in bright orange (the light conditions I was waiting for), the loons left again and the female was back on the nest.

The right light, but no birds.
One and half hour later, at 05:30, the two young birds returned. The colors in the light were not that intense anymore, but it still produced a nice setting.


Stretching the wings.

A green shank visited the female at the nest.
They swum around and were not that active as before.

Floating around and cleaning the feathers.

Stretching the wings.

Looking for fish... which isn't there.

About 45 minutes later they left again. Luckily I managed to photograph both takeoffs.

In flight.


 The light had gotten too intense to continue to photograph, but I was more than happy to end the session there. In the end I took about a thousand pictures… It was just one of those mornings…

Kjell, thank you for taking me in trust and sharing this amazing location with me!

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