Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) are one of the most colorful birds I ever see when I walk the Tuolumne River for my exercise sessions, but they are also one of the most wary. I know of one or two spots where they would hang out during quieter pre-flood days, but no matter how quiet my approach on the trail, they would shoot off before it was possible to get a picture. I've trying to catch up with my bird picture archives since last spring, and I realized that I had captured a couple of almost-clear pictures. The difference? The much higher river had pushed the birds higher on the banks, and the rushing waters masked my approach. These shots may look fairly close, but I'm guessing I was at least fifty yards away, using the zoom lens.
I don't know the ducks all that well yet, so it was a surprise to me to see the duck perched on a tree branch. It turns out that the Wood Ducks have stronger claws than most duck species, and are quite comfortable in trees, often building nests there. Once I learned that, I remembered the videos I've seen of ducklings jumping out of high trees on their first journeys to water. Here's an example from National Geographic: