Friday, August 3, 2012

Killdeer, No Egrets






I have fifty pictures of this killdeer. Mostly they show him standing on the same spot, on one leg or two, looking left or looking right, pretty much expressionless. That is, if you’re able to discern a killdeer’s expression.  I didn’t want that many pictures of him, but I was afraid to stop shooting.

I had just arrived at Bryan Champagne’s Cajun Swamp Tours dock in the bayou country of Louisiana.  Bryan was cleaning his boat with one hand and holding a cell phone with the other. He was way too busy to talk to me and I was way too early anyway.  

Bryan is a true Cajun, or so he claims in the flyer advertising his swamp tour business. I picked one up in a motel lobby and called for the nine AM tour. At this point all I knew about him was from this oversized postcard. Somehow though, I seemed willing to head into the swamp with him.

A beautiful Great Egret was standing in the shallows near the boat launch, but flew away before I could get my camera out.  At the same time, a killdeer landed to my left. A killdeer isn't much of a consolation prize…a ten-inch squat, shrill-voiced bird, as apposed to a three-foot tall, pure white, elegantly proportioned bird, but the killdeer was my only option.

Killdeers are very common birds.  They range from Canada to Mexico. You can find them in farm fields everywhere, but because this had been a rather Bird-Lite trip so far...I took the killdeer. Ten frames later I think I’m finished...I’m not!

I’m watching him through the camera on the tripod; the shutter release is in my left hand.  Suddenly I feel a cold, wet nose on my right forearm.  I looked down and here is a full-grown Doberman Pincher, his dark eyes fixed on me, his cropped-ears pointing straight up, his three-inch bobbed tail pointing straight back and he's wondering who the hell I am.

It's already too late to run, anyway, he’d probably like that; so what do I do?  I take a few pictures, thinking it's best to ignore him.  But he doesn't want to be ignored and he gives me a good poke into my right thigh, again with his cold wet nose.    I try to avoid eye contact for fear of upsetting him even more.  He shoves his nose into my right hand as my left hand involuntarily takes a few more pictures.  

Hey, he just wants to be petted!  OK, WOW, SURE, I can do that!  I start to pet him gently.  Just how happy was he though, with me trespassing in his territory? I don't know? I scratch his pointy ears…a few more pictures.  He’s seems pleased?  I stop…he’s not pleased.  I keep scratching…a few more pictures.  This goes on for a while and I start to wonder ‘how am I going to stop this?’

Rescue comes in the form of two ‘locals’ walking down the road wondering what I’m doing.  The man and woman knew the dog and called it something ‘female’, calling it away from me.  I stopped shooting.  ‘He’ now ‘she’ Doberman was a known ‘good girl’ from the swamp neighborhood and I had nothing to fear from her.  That was a relief! I dropped the shutter cable.  Whew, I wish I’d known that ten minutes earlier!

So now what do I do with an extra forty-nine, nearly identical, sad-faced killdeer pictures?

Allan