This morning we woke to another unseasonably cool summer morning. A cold front moved through the area back on Monday and brought north winds that delighted us all. Until, that is, the unrelenting force of the Gulf of Mexico realized the error and turned the wind around. Normally, south winds bring both unrelenting heat and unbearable humidity (and a tropical storm or two) out of the gulf all summer long.
I grabbed the camera (and the dog) and headed for the trail, as always, looking for a glimpse of the elusive Painted Bunting that has become my “holy grail” of outdoor photography. The two mile trail, grown over by branches of the adjacent trees, is a verdant tunnel where birds and other critters dart in and out, rarely offering more than a seconds view. In one half mile section, the trail opens up on one side to a wetland area where grasses and insects provide an attractant to lure birds out of the dense cover where they spend most of their time.
Flying out of the trees and into the wetland grasses, an Indigo Bunting caught my attention. As usual, not being fast enough with the camera, I snapped a completely unfocused image. Then, a yellow flash dropped onto a branch about 50 feet away. One of the most vociferous summer visitors to the wetland, the Chat must have 50 different calls – all very loud ones. You could never pin this bird down to one call but when you hear it, you know it is a Chat! I got several great shots of the bird as he sat nestled in a bed of bright green willow oak leaves.
Read the Wiki article on this incredible bird @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow-breasted_chat
I walked a few more steps down the trail and saw a rustling in the grass on the wetland side of the trail. I’d seen rabbits here many times so I eased off the trail, expecting to see rabbit ears sticking out of the grass, to get a picture. As I stared into the grass, it rustled again. I strained my eyes still unable make out the long ears I’d expected to find protruding up and out of the grass to give away the rabbits location. Then a movement to my left as a full grown bobcat lumbered across the trail into the dense cover of trees and brush on the other side. She was only a few (probably 10) feet away and I only saw her for a total of 2 or 3 seconds. What an incredible sight. I started to raise the camera but instantly realized the futility of even trying.
A few more steps down, a pair of completely hidden Black Bellied Whistling Ducks launched from the water which, at this time of year, is covered with a dense cover of wetland plants. This time I did get the camera up to get a pretty good shot though the camera was not setup properly. The lens aperture was “wide open” from a previous shot which gave me a very narrow range of focus. That’s why one of the birds seems perfectly in focus and the other shows a slight blur.
Wildlife photography must be one of the most challenging things you can do with a camera. Even knowing the myriad capabilities of my Canon camera and it’s lenses and having the ability to change settings quickly does not help much with capricious movements of the subjects I stalk – not to mention the always changing light conditions. The two or three acceptable shots I might eek out of a hundred taken in a beautiful summer morning walk, though, make it all worthwhile. Maybe I’ll see that Painted Bunting tomorrow.