Early bird gets the shot

BlogHer Original Post

I left my warm bed at 6:00 a.m. sharp (and when is 6:00 a.m. not sharp?) last Saturday morning to expand my photographic horizons. Thankfully, this required no speaking.

When I purchased my digital SLR at the neighborhood Wolf Camera a couple of months ago, they signed me up for Hawkquest, a photo class that focuses on raptors. “Ummmm, sure,” I said, still reeling from the financial impact, gripping the glass counter to steady myself. “Birds. Big birds. Mean birds. Whatever. Sounds great.” I didn’t pay much attention but it turned out to be a wise use of my beauty sleep.

‘Twas already 84 degrees in Denver, a scorching day loomed ahead. I grabbed some snacks, loads of water and the biggest, fattest lens I owned. It was my first real chance to steal my 28-135mm Canon Ultrasonic lens from my film camera (I felt like such a traitor!) and snap it on to the Fancy New Kid, the Canon Rebel XTi.

There were about 30 of us sleepless fools gathered at Bear Creek Lake Park so I set to take a stealthy crowd photo which is when I discovered my dead battery. Heh-heh, yup, got plenty of power bars but no actual power. I be a moron. Thanks to an empathetic spare-batteried soul named Connie, my embarrassing situation was rectified and I was back in bird business. (Charger now live in Moron Purse.)

I didn’t really know what to expect from Hawkquest. It sounded like a New Age self-help camp or something best communicated through an airbrushed van. It’s actually the realized dream of one man, Kin Quitugua, a gentle soul who began the all-volunteer organization 20 years ago with a double mission. Hawkquest provides a home for rehabilitated raptors who, for various reasons, cannot survive in the wild. It also functions as an educational source for all, a ‘Classroom-in-the Wild’ he calls it.

Approaching the birds in small groups at a time, we obtained some carefully orchestrated face time with Bard Owl, Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Some Other Falcon and my favorite, Barn Owl. The specifically do not give them cuddly names like Stanley Stare-meister or Chloe because they don’t want people to think of them as pet-like. This approach demands that the many schoolkids who see these programs learn their proper names. These flying meat-eaters look tame but trust me, these birds are not cuddly and have no apparent sense of humor. They will not fetch nor will they sleep at the foot of your bed and if feeling particularly peckish and ambitious, will eat your cat.

Because it was a sparkling day, I switched over to the “AV” dial and opened up the aperture as wide as it would go. I am greedy (but only by nature) and wanted all the delicious sunlight I could grab. Wolf employees were standing by at all times to suggest ideal settings or just answering general camera questions. There were plenty of folks with point-and-shoots, sheepishly accompanying their long lensed-spouses, but thankfully, snobbery doesn’t get up that early.

Fun results, a few on Flickr here. Makes me rethink the bird feeder. And the cat. But not the charger.

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