Redhead duck

Waterfowl, like this redhead duck, are a diverse and popular group of birds that will soon be migrating south through our area this fall. While observers’ interests vary with their perspectives — be they bird watchers, photographers, hunters, or the public at large — waterfowl holds a special attraction for all of us.

Our Nature Education Center (NEC) takes pride in introducing you to young people who have a passion of wanting to learn about and care for our natural world now and in the future. It gives us hope knowing that there are students out there with so much enthusiasm, ambition, and promise. We enjoy helping them develop and grow by giving them opportunity and encouragement through our NEC and this column.

This week we focus on another amazing student, Blake Richard, who is a senior at Chequamegon High School in Park Falls. I got to know Blake through our neighbor, Ashley Hilgart, also a senior at the same high school. She told me that Blake was an avid waterfowl enthusiast and passionate about the birds and photographing them.

When I was in Africa in 2017, I asked Ashley and Blake to do my Focus on Nature column because they both love nature and animals. They both did a great job of writing and using their photos to illustrate their stories. Ashley told me that Blake liked African fish eagles and giraffes so, on my African safari, I took pictures of both species and shared them with Blake to enjoy.

Through that experience I got to see more of Blake’s photography. His passion for birds was evident in the pictures he shared with me. I asked Blake how he got interested in waterfowl and photography and he shared with me this inspiring story in his own words.

“My passion for photography began with my love for the outdoors. Through photography I began to appreciate all living and nonliving things around me in the outdoors. What I enjoy most, much like any photographer is the end product, which is a result of a long, enjoyable journey to get the shot. The satisfaction I get from a good photo is hard to beat. The memories created by looking at a picture are simply unmatchable.

“As for my interest in ducks, it kind of just came about. I do not know exactly how but my dad took me out duck hunting several times and I just fell in love with it. The time spent with my family and friends is the best part of a duck hunt. Through duck hunting I began to admire ducks and waterfowl in general even more. Their ability to trick and deceive even the smartest of species, humans. They truly are magnificent creatures. One of the only species that can survive on land, water, and in the air. Their massive long-distance migrations are incredible.

“Career wise, I would like to work with wetlands, not only for ducks and geese, but simply for humans. A wetlands intricate design is so valuable to humans and are being threatened at a high rate. I want to increase human knowledge of how valuable wetlands, and the environment in general, are to us. It is so important to realize what we are doing to ourselves by destroying the environment. One last interesting thing is, my favorite duck is a wood duck but have yet to get a good picture of them.”

We wish Blake well as he pursues his dream of getting a picture of a wood duck and of helping educate the human species on the importance of healthy wetlands for all species who depend upon them for their survival.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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