Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Close Encounter...

Visiting the Ashton/K-Pond for a quick shorebird count after work, I checked another drainage pond along Woodland Drive before heading home. Successful bird portraiture combines a mixture of elements that come together by way of opportunity and recognizing when conditions are ideal. Being in the right place, the right time with great light and having a cooperative subject – knowing when it’s going to work even before the camera is turned on.

On this particular evening an opportunity came in the form of a Least Sandpiper foraging in duckweed. Viewing a Least Sandpiper from dozens of yards away, it’s easy to think it’s just another one...it’s just another Least Sandpiper.

But now the bird is right at the edge of my close focus and I see something that transcends the name we’ve given it. I admire the pattern of its intricate feathers in the warm light. I appreciate how its wet belly feathers and duckweed cling to its tiny legs. I study its complex bill with nostrils drawing in invisible breaths - it’s breathing...this living critter before me. We both pause...my world completely alien to it, and again I contemplate the unattainable – what is it like to be this bird?

People must have renounced, it seems to me, all natural intelligence to dare to advance that animals are but animated machines. It appears to me, besides, that [such people] can never have observed with attention the character of animals, not to have distinguished among them the different voices of need, of suffering, of joy, of pain, of love, of anger, and of all their affections. It would be very strange that they should express so well what they could not feel.”

- Voltaire, Trate sur la tolerance

All images © 2006 Mike McDowell

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