I’d admit to a growing obsession, and be happy to curb my time wandering through the woods with my camera, if I wasn’t getting so damn lucky. From yesterday morning (sorry, folks, this is a long one):
It was another weekend, another beautiful morning, and I was on the trail earlier than I typically get to my office. About an hour along a mostly quiet trail, a flock of Steller’s Jays raising a ruckus several hundred yards off to the left should have given me a clue. I stopped and listened, tried to gauge the exact direction of the jays high-pitched screeches, and tried to decide if I wanted to go off trail to pursue them. But as I listened, I saw something moving slowly down a slope and along a rock wall. I was far enough away that I couldn’t tell by eye what it was, and at first, I thought it must be a coyote---it certainly looked big enough to be one. When I looked through my zoom, I realized it was something else, something I had been hoping to photograph for a long time, and an opportunity I did not want to screw up. Luck got me this far, but I had to do the rest. I moved through the open ponderosa forest using the spaced-out trees and sparse brush as cover, until I was close enough for a first, but still distant, shot. When I looked through my viewfinder, I couldn’t see him anymore, and I worried I had missed my chance. I moved closer, looked again, and realized it had laid down and all I could see was a bit of fur and a tufted ear sticking up above a rock. It was settling down for its morning nap! O.K., a bit more luck, as it hadn’t heard me, and as long as it didn’t hear me, it wouldn’t see me either. I took the next 15 to 20 minutes to cover the last couple hundred feet, moving as slowly and as quietly as I ever have. The jays had left, and there wasn’t a breath of wind, so I cringed with every crunch of pine needles or rustle of oak leaves. Finally, I was really close, surprisingly close, close enough for a good shot. But he was still mostly out of view, curled up like a house cat on a couch, lying on the rocks, and warming in the sun. I was behind a tree, with my long lens steadied against the trunk. As I scraped against the bark to get into position for a shot, he raised his head, blinked his eyes a few times, and looked straight at me. Click. Click. Click. Now, there was nowhere else to go, so it was time to show myself. I slowly stepped out from behind the tree, and though I was expecting him to bolt, he only raised up a bit. Click. Click. Click. I lowered down to the ground, where I could steady my camera on a rock, and he raised up a bit more. Click. Click. Click. I stood up and moved closer, and as his eyes widened just a bit, I stopped. Click. Click. Click. I turned and walked away, my heart thumping.
Male Bobcat; Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
NatureWildlifeCatBobcatJemez MountainsNew Mexico