The Quiet Blue Horse

A female lesser scaup prepares to dive on a winter day

There is much of me in this simple portrait of what may be my favorite duck. Not lesser scaup in general, but this particular duck. Over the past handful of years I’ve spent many hours sitting at Horse Lake watching a female lesser scaup dive for food. I don’t know that it’s the same individual from year to year, or even visit to visit, but I’m a little disappointed if I drive by and she’s not there.

Many photographers only like to shoot on sunny days but I also love days like this, the typical winter day of the Northwest, heavy overcast with an occasional gentle rain. I often won’t go to the refuge on sunny days since it brings out the crowds, but if it’s raining I can sometimes sit quietly and enjoy the subtle beauty of this seasonal pond without the constant noise of cars driving by (or idling while parked behind me). The scaup often hangs out on the far side of the pond but if there isn’t much traffic she’ll swim over and feed near the road.

While there are often other ducks present, she’s usually the only scaup. Perhaps she enjoys the solitude of the place as much as I do. She’s tucked her feathers tightly against her head, a sure sign that even though she just surfaced, she’s about to dive underwater to feed again.

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