Who’s Watching Whom?

Couldn't the bird have been just as interested in me, as I was in it?

In my line of work, a “good bird” is pretty much any feathery wonder that first inspires me to reach for my camera, then sticks around long enough for me to film it doing something interesting. Species vary widely in their tolerance of my camera-pointing presence, and when it comes to Birds of Prey, I typically count myself lucky to capture one or two good behaviors before watching them flash away to prey in peace somewhere else.

The young peregrine falcon above, however, proved quite the exception. It hung around one summer afternoon under the Yaquina Bay Bridge long enough for me to film a broad array of classically beautiful bird behaviors. As tape rolled and my camera purred in contentment, I watched wide-eyed as this prima performer repeatedly fanned its tail wide … stretched its wings left, right and (my favorite) over head … preened-up to a full-body feather ruffle … and even multipurposed its amazing meat-slicing beak to deftly pick pigeon parts from between those long, terror-tipped grappling hooks that peregrines call toes.

This beneficent bird hung around so long, in fact, and put on such a show, that I actually began to wonder, between takes, if this presentation was purposely being performed for … well … for me.

Preposterous as the thought might strike you now, it managed for a minute to seem plausible to moi, standing there that day under a blazing sun, eagerly waiting for the next act to begin. And why not? Why wouldn’t any creature be flattered to see a fan like me applauding from the front row while it struts its amazing stuff on Nature’s stage? Doesn’t every actor not merely appreciate, but need — sometimes even demand — an adoring audience? If nothing else, I am always that.

But then I noticed the boats. The day was not merely sunny, but melt-in-your-hand too hot for a cool-weather coastie like me. As the bird worked as much sunshine into its feathers as it could … while my onlooking mind teetered precariously on the dizzy edge of heatstroke … the rest of the world around us sought respite from the heat in the cooling waters of the bay below.

Fishing boats, tour boats, sailboats, ski boats, rescue boats and more that day chugged and zoomed in and out of Yaquina Bay, under the arching arms of the historic bridge, and the lazing gaze of a preening peregrine. Looking back now, with benefit of cooler head and 20/20 hindsight, it seems prudent to concede that this bird was likely much more intrigued by the burlesque of boats passing below than it was … sad to say … by the enraptured photographer hunched over his camera nearby.

So whether this was, in the end, a reflection of Man watching Bird … or Bird watching Man … or both Bird and Man watching Boats … I can’t really say for sure. But I can certainly suggest one thing without doubt. If you’re even remotely enamored of imagery like this:

Watch this site! There’s always something beautiful happening on Nature’s Coast, and you’ll never fail to see ever more “Reflections of Beauty & Wonder” posted here anew.

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