Wild Birds I Have Come to Know and Love
24 Sep 2013
I have always held a deep fascination for wildlife. Since I was very young they have held me under their spell.
I really have no favorites. Each species has their place and purpose which they serve so incredibly well. I often wonder how migrating birds manage to return to that tiny little bit of bush in the middle of nowhere, or in the midst of a huge city to that tree where they fledged the summer before.
Even more intriguing to me is the case of a pair of horned grebes who nested on our pond for three summers in a row. They don`t fly in together.. that would be so much easier. Instead, they meet each other there. The male arrives first, usually.. and in a few days the female joins him. I have witnessed this three years in sequence and it never failed to impress me.
Obviously there must have been some type of arrangement happening there.. or was it just perchance? I don`t know, but it was an incredible strike of good fortune for me that they chose my pond, in the middle of nowhere, thousands of miles away from where they winter each year.
This year the male grebe arrived in May, as usual. But the female did not. He waited for two weeks, eagerly, patiently, and finally with an obvious realization in his gaze that he would be the only one to arrive at their meeting place this year. My heart felt so heavy for him. Having lost my husband earlier in the year I knew how devastating it must be for him. I had such high hopes for their future this summer and the promise of a good hatch and kept checking for her arrival. But it was not to be. And so he left, no doubt to join others in the area and carry on as birds do.
The grebes are the birds I had become most familiar with, having had the privilege of observing them for three summers in a row and the honor of gaining their trust. They gave me so many wonderful photo opportunities and I am so grateful to them for that. Their images are my only lasting contact with them. I doubt the male will return, but will not give up hope.. maybe, just maybe in time he or one of his young will return to the pond.
Come winter the snowy owls return to the area in good numbers. They have a tendency to love power poles, especially those situated along a lonely country road beside the open fields where mice reside and become their main source of food.
For the last three winters I have had the opportunity to become acquainted with these incredible birds. Last winter there were four of them situated not far from where I live. I would head out in the mornings, maybe once or twice a week, in search of them. Usually they were there, perched on a power pole keeping a keen eye out for a mouse that might be travelling far down a field.
They became very tolerant of my presence. I would park a fair distance away, grab my camera with the long zoom and quietly hike over towards them. Often it was very cold and windy.. that`s the best time to find them. So getting a capture was a challenge, but well worth a bit of frost bite. One in particular, a large male whom I called Big Boy, became like a friend to me. I just fell in love with him. He had such a sweet way about him and would watch me walk ever so slowly towards him.. then just as I was about to lift up the camera and try to zoom in on that perfect pose.. he had to turn his head! How many times that happened I won`t try to count, but it was exasperating. They are always on the lookout for food, after all it`s winter and even an owl has to eat :) Between Big Boy, Miss Uppity and a couple other very charming and beautiful snowys I got a lot of shots that I treasure. Mainly I treasure them for the memories. The moments spent communicating silently with a creature that is known to be very evasive and leery of man are incredibly exciting and unique. It was hard work holding up that zoom lens, and it quickly begins to weigh a ton. Getting and keeping a good focus on these birds in temps as low as -30 C is a real challenge. But I wasn`t going to let an opportunity like that pass me by and I had a toasty warm truck waiting for me.
It`s moments like this that make this fascination with wild birds so well worth the effort. Even as I write this that feeling encompasses me.. and I cannot wait for their return this winter, God willing.