Monday, May 21, 2012

A surprising bobcat encounter

A bobcat pauses in its pursuit of dinner to observe two humans

Simply Living
May 21, 2012

I never know what I’ll encounter when I take a walk around the lake but I know enough to bring a camera along in case I happen to be in the right place at the right time to catch sight of something spectacular. 

It’s a good thing I do because something spectacular happened the other day.

Ralph and I were chatting away as we walked along a well-worn path. Suddenly in front of us a rabbit dashed across the path into a dense hedge of bamboo. Rabbits are plentiful on our property so seeing one was no surprise, but the sighting triggered a thought I've had many times before.

"I wonder if one of these days I'm going to see a coyote or a bobcat chasing a rabbit."

No sooner did that thought enter my mind than a bobcat popped out of the scrub. Ralph and I saw it and immediately froze.

"My gosh!" I exclaimed while fumbling inside my fanny pack to extract my camera. "It's so close!"

The bobcat, immediately aware of our presence, paused in its pursuit of dinner to evaluate the situation.

We knew it was trying to determine its safety and to appear unthreatening we needed to keep our movements to a minimum. However, I desperately wanted to capture the moment on film. Doing so required two things: 1) Getting my camera out of the bag into which I had foolishly stowed it and 2) Unhooking the bifocals from my shirt collar and putting them on my eyes so I could see what I was doing.

My nearsighted husband has worn glasses since childhood but my farsightedness is a result of aging. Although I've had progressive lenses for almost two decades, I don't like wearing them. I take my eyeglasses off whenever I have the chance, including the other day as we took our evening stroll.

While my mind considered the situation's logistics, the bobcat must have been doing some mental calculating of his own because he sat down in the middle of the path and proceeded to give us a good long stare.

By then — much to my relief — I retrieved my camera. My glasses, however, proved too tricky to unhook so I left them in place, squinted into the viewfinder and let my fingers feel their way to the shutter.

I have no idea what the bobcat was thinking as it silently watched the two silly humans who had interrupted its hunt, but it graciously stayed put long enough to allow me to snap several shots. Then, as quickly and silently as it had appeared, the tawny predator dashed into the bamboo hedge and disappeared. Ralph and I tried to follow, but even though we were only seconds behind, we were unable to see any sign of the wildcat at all.

"That was incredible," I said as we re-entered the path brushing twigs and spiders from our hair. "I can't believe we saw a bobcat and that it actually sat down and watched us watch him. I hope my pictures come out."

As it turns out, most of them did.

In addition to photographs, the experience also yielded the following useful lessons:

1) When taking a camera expressly to capture images of surprise encounters with wildlife, do not bury said camera in the bottom of an overly stuffed fanny pack.

2) If the intention is to take pictures, it's a good idea to actually wear the lenses designed specifically to improve eyesight even if doing so is a reminder that aging eyes can no longer see clearly.

3) Bobcats are much more adept than humans at navigating dense underbrush and bamboo thickets.

I may not be adept at following bobcats through thickets of bamboo, but I'm a skilled practitioner at following my heart when it comes to observing wildlife in my surroundings. On our property, nature encounters seem to happen with a predictable irregularity. If I expect the unexpected and prepare accordingly, there's a good chance memorable experiences will follow.

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