Year End Countdown # 9 — Under Observation

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We humans are so self centered that we tend to believe that we are the only intelligent life on the planet.   Many of us assume that other fauna consists of inferior  instinct-driven automatons lacking intelligence or curiosity about their environments.  My years of observing wildlife has taught me that this is totally untrue.  The animals and birds that we observe often are looking back at us and are, in their way, as curious about us as we are about them.

A few weeks ago I went over to Agua Caliente Park, a pretty public park on the eastern fringes of metropolitan Tucson, in the hope of photographing ducks.  The light at that park is particularly good early in the morning during late fall, winter, and early spring.  The rising sun slants across the park’s large pond, illuminating the water in beautiful colors and the photo opportunities there can be spectacular.

But, that morning, I was having a problem.  The ducks weren’t cooperating.  They stayed in deep shadow, avoiding the sunlit part of the pond.  I’d set up with my camera under a couple of trees on the shoreline and I waited for the ducks to swim into the light.  And, waited, and waited, and waited, to no avail.  I stood in the same spot for more than 1/2 hour without taking a single photograph.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a flash of color just to my right.  I turned my head in order to see what was going on.  There was a little female Yellow-rumped Warbler perched on a twig just about six feet away from me.  She was watching me.


I immediately began photographing the bird.  The sound of my camera’s shutter tripping caused her to turn her head several times as if to ascertain the source of that noise.  She didn’t fly for more than a minute as we observed each other.  Then, apparently bored, she flew about fifteen feet higher in the tree.

I have no idea what there was about me that caught this little warbler’s attention.  Perhaps it was something I wore.  Or, more likely, it was that I’d been standing in one position for a long time without moving.  The bird may have observed this human standing in what undoubtedly was her territory and had flown to me in order to get a closer look.  But, whatever her motivation, I have no doubt: the warbler was, for a brief moment, as interested in observing me as I was in observing her.

Image made with a Canon 5Diii, 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 ISII zoom lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f8 @ 1/125.

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