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Whistling Ducks at Riverlands

October 31 2017

I have wanted to visit the Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary for a while but had never made the 3 hour trip until this weekend. In addition to the photographic opportunties, fellow-photographer Matt Miles was scheduled to speak about his new book, which made the trip even more enticing. After some family plans fell through for Saturday, i decided why not and invited my brother in-law Austin along on the journey. When i checked the weather Friday night it appeared that it would be "mostly cloudy" but it turned out to be more of a "volcano ash" type of day with brutal north/northwest/west winds on top of that.

As we neared the refuge Austin quickly spotted a Red Fox intently watching a field near Teal Pond . Since we were 30 or so minutes early for the speaker, we found parking near the pond and began fruitlessly using Austin's  binoculars to see if we could locate the Fox. The Fox had moved on but we did receive a helpful heads up that there were some Black-bellied Whistling Ducks near the other end of the pond.

Matt Miles, who's book and work can be seen by clicking here gave a pretty solid presentation showing some of his photos as well his approach and techniques for photography. His work is solid and he has some pretty impressive calling skills. I always enjoy listening to other photographers explain their thought processes and workflows as there is always something to be learned if you pay attention.

After the presentation, we went back to Teal Pond and found a momma Black-bellied Whistling Duck along with 6-8 juveniles. While their range has moved a bit north, our area is still a good bit north of their normal territory, especially this late in the year, making this a pretty neat sighting. Approaching the Ducks was made a bit easier by a retaining levee on the west side which allowed us to stay out of sight until we got closer to the dike. I ended up laying on the levee and shooting over the top of it to get the featured photo above. The poor weather didn't make this a great photo, but it is always neat seeing a new species for the first time.

Afterwards, we drove around the refuge and even visited the Big Muddy Wildlife Refuge and the Confluence Park that are nearby before heading into Illinois for lunch. The trip wasn't beneficial for my portfolio, but it did serve as a scouting trip that allowed both of us to get a lay of the land so that next time we will be better prepared. It also gave me a chance to try out some new gear that i purchased for this winter.

Thanks for reading!

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