Ducks at Delmarva, bird rescues, and flu research
by Rob Tiller
A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I headed up to the Delmarva peninsula for a photography workshop featuring wintering ducks. We put on waders and got in the waters of the Chesapeake Bay near Cambridge, Maryland. There were hundreds of beautiful ducks and other water birds, flying in and swimming close.
From a distance, ducks on the water can look peaceful. But up close, it’s clear they swim fast and are constantly on the lookout. Their lives are not easy.
We also went to the Blackwater Wildlife Refuge to look for various other creatures, including short-eared owls. We saw various eagles, harriers, and great blue herons, a fox, and, after a lot of looking, a SE owl – my first, which was kind of a thrill. The sun was setting, but I managed to get one shot.
As much as I enjoyed seeing the uncommon birds, I also got joy from the more common ones. We see a lot of mallards in the course of a normal year, and it’s easy to forget about their amazing colors. I liked this flying shot, and also one of two mallard drakes having a squabble.
We saw a vast accumulation of snow geese grazing in a farm field. Something (maybe a fox) startled them, and they all took wing in an instant, with some of them headed directly at us. They made an amazing racket. It was so exciting I forgot to worry about the possibility of being hit by one of these good-size, fast fliers. We noticed after the big launch that a few birds were still on the ground, apparently wounded by collisions during the take off. Clearly, it’s not easy flying in a crowd.
The workshop was organized by Shoot the Light, Chas Glatzer’s outfit, and led by Joe Subolefsky. I had thought Chas would be the leader, and was disappointed at first to learn otherwise, but I was very happy working with Joe. He knew a lot about the wildlife and about making interesting images with mirrorless cameras (the kind I’m using now).
Speaking of birds, Sally and I had a special opportunity to visit the American Wildlife Refuge, a bird rescue center in Clayton, N.C. There were quite a few big birds there who’d been hit by cars or otherwise injured, including barred owls, a great horned owl, red-tailed hawks, broad-winged hawks, Cooper’s hawks, vultures, and a bald eagle. Most of these were on the road to recovery and were expected to resume their life in the wild. The barred owls were especially curious to see us, and sat together on a branch watching us intently.
We talked with the head of the organization, Steve Stone, who is a fully licensed and very experienced wildlife rehabilitator. He is effectively a full time volunteer who has devoted much of his life to helping injured birds. We were happy to be able to donate to support this work, and hope others will do so. The web site is http://awrefuge.org/
Until last week, I’d never volunteered for a medical research project, but I decided to sign up as a subject for a study of a new flu vaccine being developed by Pfizer. I met the age and vaccine criteria (over 65 and not vaccinated for flu). After a telephone interview, I went in for another interview, along with a physical exam.
It was more involved than I expected. But I got a shot of either the current flu vaccine or the experimental mRNA one. Other than the needle prick, nothing bad happened. And I got a non-de-minimis payment: $150!