April Events in Charlottesville

Farmers Market Tulips

Spring has sprung and there is so much to explore! Not sure where to find cool locations to do some shooting. Here are a few options:

The Farmers Market downtown opens this Saturday April 7th at 7:30am. Great opportunities for shooting. Get there early for good light and to avoid the crowds. By 9a that place is packed and hard to photograph!

Fireworks

The Carnival for the Dogwood Festival opens April 12th and runs through April 29th. I love shooting here at night. The rides and lights are great fun. Hours are M-F 6-11p, Saturday 1-11p and Sunday 1-7p. It’s free if you don’t go on any rides. The Fireworks are Friday the 13th for even more fun. Weeknights M-Thursday will be best to avoid the crowds. Watch the weather.

Dogwood Carnival

The Dogwood Parade is scheduled for April 28th.

Historic Garden week is April 21-29th. Places around here are open the 21st, 22nd and 23rd – several homes in Keswick, Monticello, Morven and the Lawn gardens – but you can do those anytime!

Rotunda and Daffodils

UVA grounds – the gardens are really nice this time of year! Go during the mornings for best light. Park by the Tennis Courts to avoid getting towed.

Ivy Creek Natural Area – wildflowers, trails, streams and barn. The barn will officially reopen on April 21st 2-4p. Join us for the ceremony and tours!

Ivy Creek Natural Area

The Saunders-Monticello Trail that leads from the parking area at the beginning of Rte 53 up to Monticello is 2 miles long with scenic trails, boardwalks and some views. There are numerous side trails to explore and plenty of parking in the overflow lot off of Rte 20 across from PVCC’s main entrance. Lots of nice blooming trees right now.

Saunders-Monticello Trail

So take some time on one of these lovely days and get out to do some shooting!

Wildflowers Monticello Trail

 

My Morning with the Merganser’s

Hooded Merganser Pair
Hooded Merganser Pair
I crawl out of bed long before sunrise, dress, eat and drive to a pond in Crozet, VA. Grabbing 25 pounds of gear I trek across a lumpy wet grass field to my blind.  A quick check with my headlamp confirms no creepy critter has taken up residence so I move in for the morning. I set up my tripod, lens and attach camera; now the waiting begins. I am hunting – hunting ducks or whatever else will pose for me near my blind.
Bathing drake Hooded Merganser
Bathing

Why go through the trouble?   The experience is sooo worth it! It starts with an overwhelming chorus of frogs and toads, a trilling to lift your heart. Then there’s the red wing blackbirds flitting about and screeching their special song. Suddenly they appear, the Hooded Merganser pair, a drake and hen. They winter here in Virginia, you just never think to find them in Central Virginia.

Hooded merganser hen stretching wings
Stretching Wings
Hooded Merganser Hen
Tranquility
It’s still too dark to get any good images, but I shoot a couple anyway, I’ll delete them later. Finally it starts to lighten and they have moved off. This is why I shot a couple earlier you never know how long they’ll stay around and I have to have at least one image! As the sun starts to come up, they come back, thank goodness. They are swimming around looking for breakfast. A tasty toad or frog. Smackdown wrestling takes place as the hen twists, dunks and slams the frog around before gulping it down whole.  Makes my stomach squirm just thinking about it!

 

Wrestling Frog

Next they bathe, the joy of water and rearing up to stretch their wings and realign those pesky feathers. Time for preening, a nap, more preening, a drink of water, more preening then, some sweet lovin’, however being pinned under the water doesn’t sound great to me, but it’s a bird thing. More bathing and preening, then off to find more frogs.

So I spent the last 2 mornings with the Merganser’s. It’s a ducks life!

Drake Hooded Merganser