Birding is fun indeed! Why? I think Burton Guttman stated it so well--
is a fascinating, exciting, challenging game. It requires and
encourages ever-growing skill. It may involve us in great adventures
and wide travel, sometimes in difficult terrain. Seeking new birds to
check off on our life lists may draw us further into the lives of these
birds, challenging us to learn more about their life cycles, their
behaviors, and ecology; and as our ecological perspectives expand, we
may be stimulated to become more involved in conservation work, to
protect the habitats of the many species we enjoy.” (Burton S. Guttman,
Birding, February 2004)
birds are beautiful, so mobile, so visible, but not the only things that make birding fun. While birds are the objective of
any "birding" expedition, they only open a small window on what
lies out there on the wild side.
One cloudy morning in early
December, the dew point was high and the air very still when we walked
out on the wetlands adjacent to our south Florida home. Viewed from our
patio a little before sunrise, the sky looked ominous..
of my early morning photos had not been as sharp as I expected, and I
had an "Aha!" moment when I noticed the fog covering my camera lens.The
camera had spent the night in air-conditioned comfort. Warm, moist
air had kissed the cold glass. My microfiber lens cloth came in handy,
and I did much better after that. The first test of the fog-free lens
was this image of watery pearls that festooned the spider silk.
Tall blades of grass, weighed down by the dew, drooped over the trail.
That morning we
almost scrubbed our walk in our local wetlands birding patch. Mary Lou
woke up not feeling 100% and suggested I go on without her. She knows
how much I like getting out, and either she started recovering rapidly,
or, more likely felt bad for me, for she soon said she thought the
cool morning air might be good for her. Once having decided to go out,
she wasted no time getting dressed, and had to wait for me. Usually we
are out about a half hour before sunrise, but this
morning it was 7:25 AM before we left the house and started down the
gravel road that leads into the wetlands. I didn't know it, but
we were in for a big surprise.
The day before, I had gotten some pretty images of a female
Prairie Warbler as she foraged for insects among the ripening berries of
an exotic Brazilian Pepper.
The warbler looked so small and delicate.
Palm Warblers were everywhere.
I could tell from his red eyes that this Eastern Towhee had migrated in, as our locals have yellow or whitish eyes.
This Eastern Towhee exhibited the familiar white
eyes of the southern subspecies.
A White-eyed Vireo stared out between the branches of a small shrub.
A Common Ground-Dove looked down from a safe perch.
sometimes get fleeting looks at Bobcats on our bird
walks, usually only if we are out very early. This morning, despite the
later hour, we decided to check out
the area where we usually had seen them. We reached the intersection of
the gravel road and the two-track path that runs south along the SW
Avenue Levee. Except for the portion of the path nearest the
road, Water District maintenance crews had mowed the entire top of the
levee and pulled up all the trees and shrubs
on either side, moving them down the slope opposite the
canal, to the west. This opened up the sight distance in a straight
line for about a mile
south to the Miami-Dade County Line. This was great for photography, as
intervening vegetation had hampered our earlier attempts to photograph
the Bobcats as they hunted for rabbits along the trail. The downside
that the lack of cover made it almost impossible for us to hide along
We walked the first 50 feet or so through
high grass, almost to the open part of the path, and checked to see if any Bobcats
might be visible. At first we saw nothing, but suddenly the
shapes of at least two mammals appeared. At 400 or more yards,
the binocular view was barely adequate to identify them as Bobcats.
They were very active, running back and forth across the trail. A
larger Bobcat then emerged. Now I realized that she was the parent and
they were her two mischievous cubs, much too far away for my camera to
pick up much more than their silhouettes. The two cubs engaged in
all three disappeared into the trail-side cover, only to re-emerge into
plain sight on the trail. I took advantage of this by moving out of the
secluded area unto the path, where I did my best to stay far over on
the side of the open swath, to help conceal my profile. Satisfied with
the distant views, Mary Lou continued back on her walk without me. In
small stages I moved nearer to the cats, getting to within about 50
yards. I took over 400 photos in the space of an hour. A Northern
Harrier, the first I'd seen this season, flew up from the trail in
front of me and passed right over the Bobcats.
To my surprise, the two Bobcats starting walking towards me, an adult on the right and a nearly full-grown cub on the left. At
this point, I had to stand perfectly still in full view, in the center
of the path, holding eight pounds of camera gear up to my face. Only
about 50 yards away, they stared at me, maybe trying to figure out who or what I
second cub appeared behind them, and the adult sat down and waited for
it to join them. The second cub was noticeably smaller. By now, my camera felt like it weighed a ton.
The smaller cub walked over to the left side of the trail:...
...and looked into the brush that bordered the canal.
forward a couple of weeks to one morning just before Christmas. Forgive me, but I did say
that "Birding is fun." This is still a blog about "birding," but while
it was too dark for birds, I was single-minded in my pursuit of
Bobcats. We got out early, and it was about 15 minutes before
sunrise when we stopped to check out the usual spot for Bobcats. We
immediately saw three, far ahead to the south on the levee path. It was
the same adult female with her two half-grown cubs. Mary Lou again left
me to resume more conventional "birding," knowing I would remain uncommunicative and
glued to my camera as long as Bobcats were in sight. I stalked closer
to the cats. To my advantage, there was a slight SE breeze in my face.
The adult cat was concentrating on the cubs, which had
disappeared into the grass to the left. I walked a few steps
and then took a shot. I reached a point about 40 yards from the
adult, then moved out into the path to get a clear shot.
She was intent on watching the cubs, so I moved a bit nearer. Suddenly
she turned and saw me, and began watching me intently. I froze, out in the open.
stood up and then walked diagonally in my direction before rather
purposefully disappearing into the brush while continuing towards me.
House Wren began chattering near her position. Soon the wren, or
another, began scolding more to my right. In the meantime, the larger
cub had emerged onto the trail and was sitting on the path just staring
in my direction. The cub finally began to look alarmed and ran off into
the high grasses of the expansive wetlands to the right.
Meanwhile, the chattering of the
wren started coming from just alongside me, then moved a bit behind me
to my right. I assumed that the parent Bobcat was checking me
out, but I could not see or hear any sign of her. If she were a
panther, I would have been very anxious about coming between her and the
cubs. Then, the second, smaller of the two cubs startled me by walking
out on the path, only about 25-30 feet in front of me.
The smaller cub looked back towards where its larger litter-mate had disappeared into the brush.
It stepped slowly towards me and stopped. For a while it seemed to be looking past me.
admit that the hair stood up on the back of my neck, and the
suspense was too much, so I turned my head to see if the mother had
moved onto the path behind me. I did not see her, but my movement
scared the cub and it twitched its tail before running off.
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