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Photographing Winter Waterfowl of Bellmore

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The solstice has passed and winter brings with it several visitors from the North and the Arctic Tundra.

A wildlife photographer often faces many challenges. There are days I’ve had to sit up a whole day looking for that elusive bird or that distinct behavior in order to get that one perfect photograph. Perfection turns out to be just another covariant relative to the nature of that day and that time.

Cupcakes are my favorite source of keeping hunger away – they are small, tasty, easy to get and you can gobble them up in one swallow and keep moving. Anderson Cooper tweeted a few days ago: “Got sent cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake. I’m hoping by taking a picture I will avoid eating them all. I don’t think it’s going to work”. He tagged his tweet with a picture of assorted yummy-looking cupcakes. Even as I wait for Georgetown Cupcakes to open shop in New York City, I stocked-up a dozen of them to keep me company on what I was to take up the next morning.

It was 4AM when I checked the weather – six degrees below freezing. I added a couple more layers and set out to the Southern shore of Long Island, to the beautiful little hamlet of Bellmore.

Cold wind cut blisters across my face and my fingers were rendered numb as I walked past the shores, carrying the seven pounds that comprised the camera and the long lens. A short walk later, the much awaited sight of a raft of ducks, gulls and swans greeted my eyes. A few mute swans were wading peacefully across the waters, which appeared unmoved by the steady winds, occasionally flapping hard to cleanse their feathers. Shovelers glided in and out of their swamps. There were also a few Hooded Mergansers on their short trip from Southern Canada to the relatively ice-free lakes of Bellmore.

Neither the wind nor the cold showed respite, and holding on to the camera was becoming increasingly difficult. Three hours and three cupcakes later, I headed to Jones Beach. Scores of Gulls surfed up and down the waves, and the highlight of my day was the Black Bellied Plover.

These plovers are long-distance migrants that breed in the Arctic islands and visit the Atlantic coast during winters, so they are quite as uncommon of sight and a delight to watch. One of them treaded courageously towards the receding waves and ran back as the waves dashed back into the land. The exercise went on for several minutes.

It was another day at work. But some days tend to be more perfect than others. That was on the more perfect side of the spectrum. And not even the mind-numbing cold could preclude the pleasures of photographing these birds.

Black-bellied Plover

Herring Gull

Hooded Merganser

Northern Shoveler

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About Vidhya Narayanan

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