Drake Mallard bathing and splashing – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
Every time I post Mallards on my blog my daily stats take a nose dive, I’m guessing some people don’t find these dabbling ducks all that interesting and that is fine by me but because they are the first ducks I remember seeing and interacting with as a child I feel a connection to them and love to watch and photograph them as they go about the business of being ducks. I recall that my mom even knitted sweaters for family members with Mallards on them when I was about 6 or 7 years old.
Yesterday while looking for birds to photograph I saw a small flock of Mallards at a local pond who swam out into the water where several of them began to bathe. When one of these birds starts to bathe it seems that others soon follow.
I loved how in this image the drake appeared to be giving me the stink eye through a sheath of water covering its back, bill, head and eyes.
Mallard drake taking a bath – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
The ducks dip the front of their bodies under the water then shake it around as they raise their heads back up while wiggling their tails and rocking back and forth. I guess you could say they dive head first into their baths.
Some of the drake Mallards are sporting their breeding plumage now, some are not quite there yet but they soon will be.
Bathing male Mallard – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
This drake Mallard seemed aware of the sound of my shutter as I fired away but that didn’t seem to dampen his desire to bathe.
I have read that bathing and the sequence of movements during the process of bathing can be a means of communication for this species and other species of birds. It is obviously more subtle than calls, courtship behaviors or territorial disputes but after many years of observing and photographing birds it does make sense to me that they are communicating.
Mallard drake flapping its wings after bathing – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/2000, ISO 500, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light
After bathing the Mallards lift up, flap their wings and shake the water off and I have also noticed them repeat the process of bathing several times in succession. Bathe, shake, flap. I don’t know what they are saying, I’m just a bird photographer after all and I have never learned to speak duck.
Life is good.