Making a Ruckus!

Yesterday I arrived a day early in Del Norte, Colorado for what I’m sure will be a wonderful San Luis Valley photo tour led by the talented wildlife photographer, Ed MacKerrow. This will probably be my last chance to photograph “my” cranes, which have migrated north from the Bosque del Apache to the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge. Clearly, I’ve fallen in love with these feathered creatures!

As has been the case at the start of every photo “mission” this year, fog and rain were my traveling companions. This time I got an added dose of mud and slush! Needless to say, it was yet another opportunity to sift out some good images under less than ideal lighting conditions. But I didn’t find many cranes! As expected, they had flown to the surrounding fields, whose locations are still unknown to me. 

I did find a small flock on the side of the highway on my way down and back from the refuge, but it was impossible to pull over on the shoulderless two-lane highway. I certainly would have tried, but the town had placed two enormous “DO NOT PULL OVER ON THE HIGHWAY” signs precisely where the flock was dancing around in perfectly snowy conditions, supporting a theory I’ve been working on for years that all birds are assholes. (If you ever try photographing a bird, you’ll know what I mean. 😜)  

But! A photographer must take the weather, and the disposition of every feathered creature (whose main goal in life isn’t to serve ME) as they come, so I persevered and ended up being the only person along the rainy refuge loop braving the conditions. And honestly, it was absolutely beautiful – even with the surrounding mountains completely obscured by cloud cover, I found myself stepping into a place of wonder. 

Although a single crane wasn’t to be found on the loop drive it afforded an opportunity to pay attention to a flock of Canadian Geese making a fine ruckus in one of the ponds amidst the plentiful cattails. I startled this pair into taking flight when I stepped out of the car, but they came back in for a smooth landing after making a quick semicircle skimming the snow-dusted weeds.

My goodness! The ruckus this pair made, protruding their pinky-pink tongues during their cacophonous and feathery display. I was reminded of Horton Hears a Who and the chorus of “CAN THEY HEAR US NOW?”

Yes, I heard you! So much so, I’m sharing your story here! But to tell someone’s story, requires listeners and doers – is anybody listening?

The deeper I venture into wildlife photography the more I am seized by a need to give voice to the voiceless beauty we seem so hell-bent on destroying through our quest to “sustain” our unsustainable ways of being in the world. Just last week a good friend and colleague in Europe said he’s astounded that we continue to lack the will to change our collective behavior. We both wondered what conditions will be required to start making a ruckus and take action instead of sparking endless streams of conversation. The birds aren’t the assholes. We are. 

In both photography and life, we must learn to squeeze what we can from the circumstances each moment delivers us and take action in the midst of them. I love this shot, and the more I look at it the more grateful I feel for the gift of taking time away to celebrate my birthday among the many feathered creatures who have captured both my heart during a season of so many transitions. May this time be a catalyst to strengthen our purpose which drives new habits and behaviors. 

Photo Credits: Ruckus Makers by Susan J. Preston, Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge © 2019, all rights reserved
Technical: Fuji XT-3 | 400mm (XF 100-400mm  f4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR) | 1/2200 sec f5.6 |ISO 500

 

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