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If you can fill the unforgiving minute ... with sixty seconds’ worth of distance run ... Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it.
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Monthly Archives: July 2009
My afternoon runs are photo runs. I started doing “photo runs” during chemo -- I wasn’t spending as much time running, so I started heading out on hikes and walk/runs with my camera. Mostly restored to health, I’ve kept up the hobby, doing jogs through the woods at an easy pace, camera tucked safely away in a backpack. If I see something, I stop and shoot. If I don’t see anything, well, then I keep jogging around until I do. I’ll shoot anything in nature as my extremely varied portfolio of Northern Ohio wildlife attests, but I mostly like birds. Birds are amazing and beautiful and wonderful.
Of course, there are birds I like more than others. I will shoot just about anything I see, but some birds have a special place in my heart. I’m a great fan of herons and large wading birds like egrets, and of course, I have confessed here before how much I love pileated woodpeckers. I like crows and cardinals, finches and hawks. Not as much into water fowl, but I have a soft spot for wood ducks and goslings. But my favorite of late has been the sprinter of the sky -- the belted kingfisher.
Kingfishers boast a high twittering laugh call and they’re fast. They’re the Bolts of the sky, darting, swift, extremely elusive. Getting close to a kingfisher would frustrate a saint. Their numbers seem on the upward trend, though, so I figure one day I’ll get lucky, and I’ll get my chance to photograph one of those sprinters of the sky.
Today’s spot came about two miles into my photo run and was a great blue heron. He was up on top of the beaver dam and he was systematically dismantling it, throwing sticks everywhere. I could tell from the coloration that this was a juvenile, and he was acting his age. Seemed to be greatly enjoying tossing the sticks everywhere -- I’m sure the beavers won’t be as thrilled with this wanton mayhem.
I settled down with my camera behind a tree to photograph the juvenile delinquent. Was getting some decent shots when suddenly I saw the heron’s head shoot up -- and then I observed what I thought was probably a distressed fish flopping around in the water about fifty feet away. Except the strange part was I knew if it was a fish the heron would certainly go spear him, and instead he was just looking sort of quizzical.
Of course, it wasn’t a fish -- it was a bird. Closer examination through the camera lens revealed it was actually a kingfisher. The regal king of the skies was flailing about in the water, desperate just like a wounded fish.
Confusion washed over me. Fortunately, the bird thrashed its way over to a log and managed to drag itself out of the water. This was certainly unusual behavior -- I figured the most likely scenario was bird must have dove, gotten stunned, and just needed time to catch its breath. It was too far away to photograph, so I continued studying the heron, all the while ready to switch the camera setting to hopefully catch the kingfisher when it decided to take off.
A few minutes passed and the kingfisher indeed tried to take off. I caught its take off -- and the subsequent failure to lift more than just a few inches above the murky pond water. The kingfisher crashed back into the water, thrashing and sloshing about once again, looking not unlike a deflated balloon. This time I started taking off my shoes -- it was automatic, instinct, I couldn’t let the little guy drown so I was going to go wade into that muddy morass and save it. However, before I could finish getting ready to go in, it flopped over to a tree and perched there once again.
I alerted the naturalist who examined the little fellow. Turns out it is just a juvenile and its flight feathers aren’t quite fully grown in just yet. My guess is it got waterlogged and that along with the short flight feathers is why its having trouble lifting off. Fortunately, we found its parents hanging around so it is fine.
At first, I thought “poor baby” about the kingfisher. But then I realized it wasn’t “poor” -- instead, it was out taking maybe the biggest risk of its young life and learning to do something grand. It was learning to fly. It most certainly wasn’t coming easy to him but it seems like nothing worth doing is ever easy, at least at first. Today didn’t go too well, but I’m pretty confident that soon it will be sprinting around the skies … It only takes a day or two for the flight feathers to grow in well enough for it to dart about like mom and dad.
The little kingfisher is a good reminder of both how difficult and how glorious it is to take a risk, to try out new wings, to learn to fly. Going out was certainly not without risk for this little guy -- the pond is fraught with lurking dangers like snapping turtles, but to fly, to be a glorious kingfisher, it had to take some lumps and take the risk. It had to take the first step out.
The kingfisher learns to fly just as how we learn to run -- we have to take that very first step out into a brave new world that is fraught with uncertainty. Its not always easy, but if you persevere, running, like flying is worth it. After all, running is like flying -- it’s the chance we get to break the ties that bind us to earth -- if you look at a series of pictures of yourself running, you’ll see you do momentarily get to float, both feet off the ground.