As we all know, wildlife photography can provide us with some great stories and, perhaps, some moments of embarrassment. Here is one of those moments that happened to my good friend Walt and me.
Sweetwater Wetlands Park is a small 60-acre park on the west side of Tucson. It is known for its multitude of bird species including the Belted Kingfisher, Gila Woodpecker, hawks, falcons and, of course, Coots galore. Sweetwater’s wonderful birding opportunities aside, we had come to find it’s somewhat elusive bobcat (Lynx Rufus). On a crystal clear Wednesday morning, Walt and Carol Anderson (Mr. and Mrs. Better Beamer Flash Extender) and I started our search. While several friends had seen the bobcat, I had not had the opportunity to photograph the beautiful animal and I wanted this disappointing streak to end.
After an unsuccessful search, Walt and I started back for the parking area to meet Carol, who had gotten a call from work and had stayed near the lot. As we approached the parking area I spotted the bobcat as it darted from the shelter of some velvet mesquite – the chase was on. When we finally got a clear view of the bobcat’s hindquarters it slid into some more of the mesquite. We waited and waited with our cameras ready for the action we knew would follow.
It came, fast and furious. In a flash out came the cat, the cameras were up and all I heard was the sound of 12 frames a second. I was ecstatic. I had head-on photos of the cat in beautiful light as it raced towards us. As the animal got close, the cameras came down and Walt and I looked at each other and stopped the high fives. Walt stated, “That was a cat!” An embarrassed look crossed our faces when we realized what had just happened. An actual big brown feral cat had sprinted out of the mesquite not wanting to get close to the bobcat. What’s worse, at that moment we saw the real bobcat walking on the path towards where Carol was standing, with her camera up photographing like crazy. As we approached, all we heard was the sound of laughter. Carol was so excited, she could not even speak, and the laughter just continued. She finally looked at us and said, “did you get images as good as I hope mine are?” Walt and I looked at each other when he finally stated, “we missed the bobcat but we got terrific images of the long tail of the very beautiful feral cat.”
Carol’s images were great, and because she knew she could keep reminding us, she offered to buy breakfast. I still don’t have images of the bobcat but I’m back in Tucson for the winter and am planning many return trips to the wetlands.