Female Hooded Merganser


We were trying to get a picture of a female hooded merganser since some time now, but these birds are somewhat shy and always seemed to be out of range. Two weeks ago the Van Dusen Botanical Garden had a special early morning opening for photographers and, even though the fall colours were not quite showing yet, the early morning light is always a nice bonus for nature photography.

We noticed the female mergansers in one of the large ponds in the gardens but they were rather skittish. As long as they noticed us following them, they stayed to the far side of the pond. Nonetheless since the fishing was good they stuck to it and they eventually forgot about us and started popping out of the water from underneath some pond lillies just a few meters away from where we were partially hidden by a pine tree growing at the waters edge. Increasing cloud cover reduced the available light and, to get this photograph, the capabilities of the D1x were pushed to its limits. We generally avoid using imager sensitivities ("film" speed settings) over 320 ISO due to a noticeable increase in noise. Yet the birds were in constant motion, unpredictably appearing and disappearing , always following their prey - hidden to the photographer under the surface of the water. A shutter speed of about 1/200 of a second was needed to avoid motion blur so the sensitivity was adjusted accordingly.

By the way, we also have a photograph of a male Hooded Merganser.