Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (Plum Island), Ipswich, Massachusetts. A beautiful sunny day. A slight breeze moves over the landscape making the goldenrod sway back and forth. Birds chirp from the shrubs. A trio of monarchs and several cabbage whites dance from flower to flower sipping sweet nectar. This spot is a picture of beauty and peace.
This left me in the middle of a dilemma. Do I move back and take a risk of scaring whatever prey might have been there? What of the bird that seemed intent on getting a closer look and possibly grabbing a much needed meal? If I moved, I undoubtedly would have distracted the bird and scared it too. Knowing how important it was that this bird be allowed to continue his search, I stayed as still as I could, lens raised as I took a few more photos (yes, taking advantage of this close proximity but also fearful that even the act of my lowering the lens might have been cause enough to make the bird leave). I thought it best to more or less freeze in place. Luckily, I had the shutter set to silent mode. And all the while, I could feel my heart in my throat amazed with the closeness of this bird.
At first I hesitated to share my images for fear of being called an unethical photographer and this blog I hope serves as a way to educate and to fully disclose that my close proximity was something the bird chose - not I. I did not wish to be in the bird's way or disrupt it's need to hunt and I could not have predicted that my position would be exactly where this raptor would choose to hover and seek possible prey. I had backed away from the tree to get a clearer look at the bird as it sat atop the tree and yes I did take some photos to record the observation.
I still ask myself if I was doing the right thing being at that particular spot to see in such incredibly close proximity this raptor. Could I have moved away? Maybe. However, was my decision to stay there and record digital images of this incredible encounter alright to do. My final decision to ease my mind was to accept that I was given a miraculous chance to see something so beautiful up so close. I chose to stay put and as still as possible while hitting the shutter release button reducing my being a distraction. Some may criticize that I should have been farther away. I thought I was certainly far enough off when this bird was up at the top of a perhaps 30 or 40 foot (or more) tall tree and I had backed up to the shed. The distance between the shed and tree was at least 80 feet as measured via Google Earth. I had no way of knowing the bird would launch itself in my direction and approach so close. Interfering with any wild animal is never something I would intentionally do - not to just get a photograph. In this situation, I took it as a very special situation that I was able to capture images of - images of a majestic bird who perhaps didn't consider me a threat to what it needed to do. My images were made as a means of immortalizing this event - to share the majesty of this raptor - and to serve as a way to teach others that when we are respectful, sometimes beautiful encounters happen - and the encounter is authentic - not artificially created.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge
The Condor: Behavior and Food Habits of the Red-tailed Hawk