Photographing Common Mergansers at Farmington Bay

/, Common Mergansers, Davis County, Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, Utah/Photographing Common Mergansers at Farmington Bay

Drake Common Merganser in breeding plumageDrake Common Merganser in breeding plumage – Nikon D500, f8, 1/800, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There was some nice light yesterday for a bit so I just had to get out into the field, I needed to just think about birds and photographing them and escape my concerns about our country for a while. Antelope Island looked socked in by fog, in fact from I-15 I couldn’t even see it, not even Frary Peak, so Farmington Bay seemed like the logical choice. And it was.

Winter Common MerganserWinter Common Merganser – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I spent time photographing a few Rough-legged Hawks but my personal choice for birds of the day were the Common Mergansers I observed and photographed. There are only a few locations in Utah where Common Mergansers can be seen year round, mostly I see them in the fall through early spring but usually winter presents the most opportunities. I don’t see them all that often so I jump when I can photographed these saw-billed ducks.

The males and females, or drakes and hens, look quite different from each other in breeding plumage, in nonbreeding plumage they look more alike. First winter males look similar to the females.

Drake Common Merganser taking offDrake Common Merganser taking off – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

There are a few species of ducks including Common Mergansers that nest in cavities in trees, Common Mergansers will nest in live or dead trees and man made nest boxes. Less often they will also nest in rocky crevices,  holes in the ground, hollow logs, cliffs and holes in banks.

Two Common MergansersTwo Common Mergansers – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1250, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Common Mergansers are social and they are usually seen in numbers from 3 to 25 or more. Yesterday I saw about 10 at Farmington Bay where I photographed these mergansers.

Swimming drake Common Merganser in breeding plumageSwimming drake Common Merganser in breeding plumage – Nikon D500, f8, 1/640, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

In my American Coot being chased by Mallards for food post yesterday I mentioned that some ducks are intraspecific and interspecific kleptoparasites which means they steal food from their own species and from other species, Common Mergansers fit into that group and they are food thieves. They eat fish and when Pied-billed Grebes catch fish near Common Mergansers the mergansers will try to steal the prey. That happened once yesterday where it got a little crazy trying to follow them with my lens as the merganser chased the grebe, unfortunately I didn’t get any decent pictures of the action. It was too frenzied!

Female Common Merganser swimming byFemale Common Merganser swimming by – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 250, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Mergansers in general are called “saw bills” because of the serrated edges of their bills, those serrations help them hold onto their slippery prey.

Male Common Merganser in icy waterMale Common Merganser in icy water – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/800, ISO 250, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

I usually see far more females and first year Common Mergansers than I do males in breeding plumage so I focused on this handsome guy often yesterday. They are handsome looking ducks. That red bill and the green head plus the snow whites and grays of their body are a visual delight for me.

Common Merganser on icy blue waterCommon Merganser on icy blue water – Nikon D500, f7.1, 1/1000, ISO 250, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Even though the females and young are drab compared to the males I think they have their own refined, subtle beauty. I won’t pass up photographing them whenever I have the chance.

I was grateful to get out, feel the cold air on my skin, see the sun shining and to be able to focus entirely on birds for a few hours yesterday. I needed the peace being with them brings me.

Life is good.

Mia

8 Comments

  1. Bob McPherson February 2, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    Beautiful images, Mia

  2. April Olson February 2, 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Beautiful

  3. Pepe Forte February 2, 2017 at 12:13 pm

    Well, since I’m partial to ducks in general…your pics really hit home. Beautiful images in every way Mia. Thanks.

  4. Utahbooklover February 2, 2017 at 11:30 am

    Wonderful series Mia. I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite but lean toward the first one.

  5. Patty Chadwick February 2, 2017 at 9:40 am

    I keep coming back to the second, sixth and eigth in particular, but love them all! Thanks for such a great series…

  6. Patty Chadwick February 2, 2017 at 9:19 am

    I think the females are gorgeous!!!

  7. Patty Chadwick February 2, 2017 at 9:17 am

    This is an uncommonly beautiful series of Common Mergansers!!! BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL, BEAUTIFUL!!! The postures, colors, details in birds, and wonderful colors and patterns in the water, makes each frame a winner! I couldn’t even pick out a favorite…liked them all…wonderful!!! You done good, lady!!!

  8. Stu February 2, 2017 at 8:00 am

    Thanks very much for this post.
    The fourth image is a special treasure.
    Best wishes.

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