Greater Roadrunner — Perching On “The Snag”
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When I go out in the field to photograph birds I often follow a route that I’ve traversed many times in the past. The farmlands northwest of Tucson are criss-crossed with dozens of miles of dirt roads abutting huge fields, and it is along these roads that I often find my subjects.
There’s a landmark on one of these roads that I and my photographer friends sometimes refer to as “the snag.” It’s the remnants of a dead Cottonwood Tree. At one time that tree may have been huge. Today, it consists of a rotting stump, still impressive due to its height of about 15 feet (about 4.6 meters). The exposed top of the snag makes for a highly photogenic perch — if only something would perch on it. I’ve driven past that snag at least 100 times over the past three years and have never seen anything perched there except for an occasional Common Raven that flew long before I could train my camera on it.
This past Sunday I was in the vicinity of the snag, accompanied by two friends, Dan Weisz and Rene Clark. We approached the snag from the “wrong” direction, with the sun shining directly into our faces. But, even from a distance we could see that something was perched on top of the snag. In order to photograph it, I had to drive past the snag and turn to get the sun behind us. I held my breath as we drove past, expecting the perching bird to fly. But, it stayed put, and as we drove by, we realized that it was a Greater Roadrunner, posing somewhat nobly. I angled my car and the three of us photographed the roadrunner through the vehicle’s open driver’s side windows.
It was a bit surprising to see the roadrunner perched so high above the ground. Roadrunners can fly, but they are very weak fliers and I almost never see them perched more than a few feet above ground level. This bird, however, occupied its perch as if it owned it.
The roadrunner cooperated for at least one-half minute before deciding to vacate the premises. Our success renewed my optimism. I’ve joked for years that one day I’d find an eagle perching atop the snag. Well, maybe, some day . . . .
Images made with a Canon 5Div, 400mm DO II lens+1.4x telextender, aperture priority setting, ISO 640, f5.6 @ 1/2500.