In pursuit of a passion
Wildlife photography has always been something I enjoyed, but the past couple years it has become a passion — getting a nice shot of a beautiful bird like this singing prothonotary warbler can make my day. Just spending time out in nature also gives me great pleasure though, in addition to its scientifically proven health benefits.
During a recent discussion at a book club gathering, it became clear that all kinds of passionate endeavors can evoke feelings of delight, happiness and contentment for many people. One young woman shared how growing plants from seeds is helping her learn about plants and flowers, while another woman related that inventing recipes fills many happy hours for her.
Our discussion topic arose after re-reading a passage by David Gessner, author of Soaring with Fidel, a book about people who observe and conserve habitats for ospreys. He wrote: “I liked the feeling that all the usual worries, the everyday anxieties, the quotidian burdens were subsumed by the quest to see and learn about the birds.Having a quest seemed, among other things, a way of both organizing and intensifying the unruly mess of life. Better, it gave life a plot line. There is an undeniable pleasure in a certain amount of monomania, if there can be such a thing.”
One of the things that our pursuits seemed to have in common was the element of learning. That certainly makes my wildlife photography interesting — watching the animals and birds to see if I discover something new about their behavior. In 2016, for example, I discovered two young ospreys building a nest.
My aim was to follow them as they completed the nest and raised their young. It turned out, however, that they were not very happy with my presence. Even though they were very high up in a towering tree, they loudly warned me to go away and flew overhead calling with alarm. My goal changed to visit only occasionally, as I didn’t want to cause them to leave their nest because of me.
Last year I visited them a few times at nesting season, but they also called out when they saw me nearing. This year, when I approached, the male took off and began calling to his mate. She got off the nest and perched on a branch over it, keeping an eye on me. She didn’t call, however.
As I took a few photos, she watched but didn’t make a sound and the male didn’t fly over me as a warning either. My conjecture is that, at 4 or 5 years old, they have experienced enough people so that they don’t become as nervous anymore. They must understand that a person with a large camera lens won’t be harming their offspring.
I may visit the pair a little more often this year, provided they remain relatively relaxed when I arrive. In the meantime, I’ve watched blue-gray gnatcatchers gather nesting material for their lichen-covered nests and watched red-headed and red-bellied woodpeckers working on their nest cavities.
A Northern cardinal, Carolina chickadees and house wrens are nesting in my yard and I hope to see their babies fledge. The other wildlife is active, too. For example, I’ve seen a swamp darner dragonfly laying eggs and I hope to see much more interesting wildlife behavior this spring. I hope you also enjoy some passion or hobby that will give you pleasurable activities to experience in the coming warmer months!
Maria de Bruyn is a nature photographer who enjoys observing all types of animals and plants and sharing her findings with others. She has donated her photos to non-profits such as the Friends of Sandy Creek Park, the Outdoor Explorer Book Club and New Hope Audubon Society and has had exhibitions of her work in various venues. She writes a blog, serves as a virtual “ranger” for Project Noah, and is a co-vice president of the Chapel Hill Bird Club. You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org