When we arrived at the West Union bridge I attempted to set up my scope only to find my (old and inexpensive) tripod in many pieces. Since that time I’ve been without a scope. I’ve putting aside some money to buy a new tripod and yesterday came across a M0nfrotto Compact tripod at Target.
I’m not going to pretend that this inexpensive ($70) tripod compares to the Monfrottos that the pros carry, but it has a ball head and a great locking system. I was worried about the skinny multi-section legs (5 sections) but in highish winds yesterday it proved a much more stable platform than the cheapy I was using.
With new tripod in hand I headed for my regular neighborhood waterfowl spot, Morse Reservoir. I spotted 2-3 rafts of ducks on the reservoir that morning and had been frustrated that they were out of range for my binoculars. I hoped that they would still be around in the evening.’
The lake had been mirror smooth in the morning. On my evening return the wind was brisk and blowing off the lake right at me. (Isn’t that always the case?)
I set p my scope and tripod and began to sweep the far side of the lake. I made an 180 degree sweep and picked up a few mallards, coots, Canada geese and ring-billed gulls. No rafts of migrating ducks. I panned the lake again with my binoculars and picked up a raft that I had missed with the scope’s limited field of view. The tripod’s ball head made panning around a real joy. Like my former cheaper tripod the scope does drop a bit when I lock up the head. The is a fairly minor (Though aften annoying) problem that is solved by simply locking in with the target at the bottom of the field of view.
This group, less than ten, was composed of goldeneyes and one red-headed fellow. It was a real joy to have a really solid base and bright sunlight. Mapquest tells me I was about 3000′ from the birds and markings, including gold eyes and check patches were clear and distinct. I was trying to nail down the identity of the l;one red-headed duck when a flock of ducks flew across the top of my field of view.
I switched to my binoculars in time to see the flock of about fifteen drop to the water, simultaneously flare back and drop onto the surface of the lake with a splash. What a wonderful site that was! I switched back to the scope to begin identification. They were a little closer than the first raft, perhaps at about 2500′. A lone powerboat showed up just then and the flock, again, took to the air.
I switched back to the binoculars and watched them fly. I cannot express the beauty of this flock circuling the lake in perfect synchronicity! Twice they flew in circles, at least a mile across, breaking into smaller V’s and joining larger V’s again and again. With no apparent signal they descended to the lake’s surface — the same spot that they had vacated — and flared to land. At the last moment the aborted and took to the sky. Four more times they went around the lake. I was able to pick out one lone goldeneye among this flock of redheads (as I identified them later). Finally, just as the late afternoon sunlight was at it’s best, they dropped on the spot again, flared and splashed down. It was one of the most beautiful sights that I have seen!
This is why I bird — to watch their stories unfold!
I went back to the scope to watch these ducks on the surface. They were a flock of redheads — with one goldeneyee. The other flock was reversed — a flock of goldeneyes with a lone redhead. Perhaps they were there to arrange an exchange.
There are no photos, sorry, as I went to the lake just to play with the scope. Now I want a second tripod for the camera.
Another bird of note — I was ten feet from this one — a group of mallards contained what was probably a hybrid. The strange looking male was mallard size and body color with a brown read head and buff breast. I can only guess what lead to that!