Red-breasted Merganser at rest on the Gulf shore

/, Florida, Fort De Soto County Park, Pinellas County, Red-breasted Mergansers/Red-breasted Merganser at rest on the Gulf shore

Red-breasted Merganser at rest on the Gulf shoreRed-breasted Merganser at rest on the Gulf shore – D200, handheld, full frame, f7.1, 1/640. ISO 200, 80-400mm VR at 360mm, natural light

I’ve mentioned in another post that “Some Days are Magic” and I felt that magic the morning I created this image of a Red-breasted Merganser at rest was just such a day. I’d gotten home the night before from a wonderful trip that I had taken with my mother and wanted to sink my feet in the warm sugar sand at Fort De Soto County Park and photograph some birds. I’d missed being on north beach and I had missed seeing the birds.

When Red-breasted Mergansers are feeding in the shallow waters of the Gulf and tidal lagoons they are partly submerged and usually you can see their backs just above the surface of the water. They move extremely fast, zipping through the lagoon so quickly it is hard to track them with a lens. It must be exhausting because there were several times I observed mergansers calmly resting after they had been feeding.

This Red-breasted Merganser was at rest after feeding when I came upon it and photographed it for about 15 minutes. At that point I turned to photograph another bird and when I turned back around the merganser had slipped back into the Gulf. It felt very special to me to lay on the shoreline and photograph this bird.

While I photographed this merganser I laid flat on my stomach in the sand to get a very low angle while shallow wavelets soaked my clothes (you just don’t know how good that feels when the temps are in the 90’s in FL until you do it!). In this image one of those shallow incoming waves produced an almost mirror-like effect that I find quite pleasing.

In a previous version that I had edited and posted on a nature photo critique forum I had cloned out the one small out of focus shell fragment in front of the two that are to the side of the merganser’s breast. I decided not to do that in this version because as I have grown as a photographer so has my resistance to manipulate what I photograph in post processing unnecessarily. I prefer to leave my images as close as possible to what was created in the camera to show the natural; though perhaps imperfect, beauty of the bird and setting.

Life is good



  1. Ingrid April 27, 2014 at 12:11 am

    I’m so glad you posted this, Mia, because if I saw a merganser on land this way, I would have stress and concern that something was wrong. It’s great to know that a diving bird like a merganser has some normal downtime as pictured here. I will worry a bit less if I encounter this behavior. Beautiful, beautiful shot!

  2. Grace Dunklee Cohen April 25, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    this is a fabulous image, Mia!

  3. Kim April 25, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    This image is totally exquisite Mia, happy birding 🙂

  4. Utahbooklover April 24, 2014 at 2:15 pm

    This image looks perfect to me — I especially like the low angle.

  5. Elephant's Child April 24, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Magic. Thank you.

  6. Mary McAvoy April 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

    A great shot, Mia. So impressive that it’s hand-held at 360mm – nice, steady work!
    And I love the stillness of the water and the angle of the shot.
    Simply beautiful.

  7. Sherry in MT April 24, 2014 at 11:23 am

    Absolutely adore the beauty and simplicity of this shot!

  8. Jolanta April 24, 2014 at 9:25 am

    Wonderful photo!!!

  9. Stu April 24, 2014 at 8:56 am

    Excellent Photograph Mia. It gives the illusion of a 40 ft high bird 😉

  10. Montanagirl April 24, 2014 at 7:48 am

    Awesome! I think I need a camera and lens like you have! LOL

  11. Beverly Everson April 24, 2014 at 7:06 am


  12. judy watson April 24, 2014 at 6:38 am

    Stunning photo!

  13. Lois Bryan April 24, 2014 at 6:27 am

    Absolutely glorious … beautiful birdie … exquisite clarity and detail as always. I’m assuming the white cloud-like glow in the distance is a wave coming in? And you know me and manipulations, but I love the shells that you’ve left in the image … they have their own little reflections, too … and seem to somehow make up part of your Merganser’s story. By the way, love his/her hair “do” !!!

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