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Backyard Wildlife

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Published on: Jul. 2, 2009

Last revision: Dec. 15, 2010

Early in the morning, as the sun started to rise, I dressed in camouflage clothing and sat next to a tree, waiting in anticipation. An hour passed without success. I decided to play a trick I’d learned while photographing coyotes out west. I played the sound of a rabbit in distress. All of a sudden, I caught a glimpse of a small mammal peeking through the thick cedar trees and bushes.

It was a handsome grey fox, standing no more than 25 feet away. It was one of the most beautiful foxes I had seen in years. My senses told me that it had probably been watching me for some time.

I snapped a few frames with my camera. The sound of the shutter startled the fox, but it must have decided that I wasn’t a threat. I couldn’t believe how close he approached as he tried to make me out and locate the sound (I was more like a bush than a human at that point). Several times he even barked at me while circling.

The whole scene lasted less than 20 minutes, but it felt a lot longer. The experience was especially terrific because it happened in my own backyard!

Most people picture a wildlife photographer as someone who tracks and stalks wildlife in distant and remote areas, hoping to get a once-in-a-lifetime shot. That is often true. I do spend numerous hours searching for wildlife in a variety of places. Yet, as much as I enjoy traveling to remote areas to document wildlife, I also have discovered that many opportunities exist in the very near vicinity, such as parks, nearby ponds or my backyard. One summer, I discovered a field of native prairie flowers not too far from my house. I spent many mornings photographing seasonal flowers and insects, such as dragonflies and beetles.

If you look around, you might find photographic opportunities close at hand.

Those who have a garden can observe various species of butterflies, insects and songbirds. Wild turkeys or deer can easily be observed in the parks or in your backyard. Because there is usually no hunting in these areas, and the animals are more accustomed to humans, your subjects may be less wary of your presence. They seem to be more relaxed, which gives you a better chance to capture good images.

The fox has since long gone, but the drama of that spring morning still replays in my head.

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