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Nature Photography - Done Naturally

Mandarin Duck

Aix galericulata

In the late fall of 2020, a Mandarin Duck appeared at a small pond in Yankton, South Dakota. This is probably the most widely seen and photographed individual bird in the history of the state! People traveled from all over the state (and outside) to see it. On November 15th, 2020 I did the hour and a half drive to see, and hopefully photograph the bird. In bird photography it often doesn't work out when you chase an individual bird, but this was a case of not only getting great views and photo opportunities, but the result could be my favorite photo of all time.

The Mandarin Duck was hanging out with a Wood Duck drake in one corner of the pond. The two were inseparable, and when another duck or goose got close, both would aggressively move out and chase them away. After watching them a while and given their behavior, I positioned myself in a spot where that next "chase" would result in 1) the birds moving right in front of me, 2) the morning sun would be at my back and provide great lighting, and 3) the reflection of an adjacent sign would provide some cool color on the water. 

It didn't take long! A pair of mallards approached, and like clockwork, both the Mandarin and the Wood Duck took off after them. Not only did I get an isolated photo of the Mandarin Duck with the great lighting and reflection, but the action of the chase also gave me the wonder splash of water.  I couldn't have asked for a more beautiful bird, pose, or setup.

Mandarin Duck - Aix galericulata

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