Ever since I photographed a duck hunting story for the News Tribune in Tacoma Washington back in the mid 80s I’ve marveled at how dabbling ducks launch. Unlike diving ducks that literally run across the water to launch, dabblers like the Nothern Pintail springboard out of the water by pushing off with their webbed feet gaining enough altitude in a split second to avoid predators.
The event happens so quickly and unexpectedly it’s difficult to photograph with a still camera unless you can recognize the pintail’s subtle signs (turning around, dodging back and forth, etc.) that indicate a liftoff. For the first time in almost three years I was able to be in the right place at the right time last week with the right camera, right lens, right shutter speed and right exposure to photograph a male Northern Pintail, in full breeding plumage, lift off from an estuary in the Theler Wetlands near Hood Canal in western Washington State.
It’s a common duck in these parts, but the uncommon part is watching the power and grace in its movement caught at 9 frames per second with my Nikon D3. One of the photographs made the lead picture on my website For more pintail photos Here’s the rest of the action: