Nature is full of wonders, and I never know what adventures await or what magic I will witness as I wake groggily at dawn and make my way to the pond. I may see very little, but it is always more than if I had stayed in bed.
This is why, on the first Sunday in November, I found myself greeting sunrise from the new photography blind at Brick Pond. Just hours before this, a team of volunteers had hoisted the roof. The project that began in February with my rough, napkin sketch was finally complete!
Construction of the blind was part of a grant-Funded project through the Rockwell Collins Green Communities program. Our goal: to improve community access to Brick Pond and provide a glimpse into the lives of the more sensitive wildlife in this wetland ecosystem. Instrumental in this effort was Rockwell employee, Corrine O’Leary. Corrine led a team through design and construction of benches and the new viewing/photography blind. On my end, I provided the concept for the blind and began working on the trails and access route at the pond. With the help of several volunteers we created a new, woodland trail which would offer a well-concealed backside entrance into the blind.
The completed blind design provides an eye-level port for casual views and two low ports giving a water-level perspective for more serious photographers. We hung camouflage, weather-resistant canvas curtains over each port, cut into strips to allow peek-through viewing. For blind placement, we selected a spot overlooking a beaver lodge, logs and low snags for perching ducks and a Wood Duck nesting box we had installed last winter.
On Sunday morning I slung my lens through one of the low photography ports, keeping myself hidden behind the curtains and my own camouflage cloth for good measure. My first visitors that morning, not surprisingly, a gaggle of wintering geese.
For several minutes the large, hardy waterfowl bathed, flapped their wings and dabbled for vegetation at the water’s surface. Then, as if on command, they all took flight, leaving silence in their wake.
As the sun rose it revealed the beautiful, orange glow of autumn reflected on the water. This would be my stage as I watched vigilantly for something, anything, to swim through that small patch. A Wood Duck would be the dream, but that’s a lofty request on a good day.
Minutes later I saw movement across the pond. A drake and hen Wood Duck were making their way through the water.
They remained distant, the hen only briefly catching a faint patch of orange. Soon they moved out of sight. I waited.
As I stared at the vacant water, my mind filled with doubt. What did I really expect to see here so late in the season? I grew cold and antsy, stood up to stretch my legs and jogged in place to warm up. As I luxuriated in the spaciousness of the blind, movement caught my eye through a crack in the curtains. Three unexpected visitors, a drake and two hen hooded mergansers swam right through my stage.
Water ripples glowed a soft orange as this hen hooded merganser swam at the periphery of my stage.
The trio continued past the beaver lodge, dove and resurfaced out of sight.
Once again, all was quiet. The cold seeped back into my bones. Giving myself ten more minutes, I began to plan my departure. But wait! In the corner of my vision I detected the very faint, blurred out markings of a drake Wood Duck. And he was close!
I scrambled to find the source, and there he was. This gorgeous drake Wood Duck swam right into my view, filling my frame at 1000mm.
First he swam left away from the sun, taunting me as he strutted his nuptial plumage through the shade.
My breath caught as he began to turn, swimming through a beautiful golden autumn glow.
As he changed direction, this handsome drake shone brightly his rainbow iridescence while swimming right through the orange glow of autumn.
Tears of joy streamed down my face as I marveled at his beauty, revealed to me so spectacularly as I sat safely concealed in our brand new blind. Our project was a success!
A task like this really does take a village. Thank you to Rockwell Collins for the funding, to Corrine O’Leary and the Rockwell team, to my friends and all of the volunteers, staff and directors for your dedication and hard work to make this possible.