So as some of you know, I’m not big on birds.
Well, for starters, they aren’t bears.
Yes, I realize that not being a bear didn’t stop me from falling head-over-heels in love with otters and foxes and salamanders. But they’re cool. Birds, on the other hand, are decidedly uncool.
In fact, birds are so uncool that I don’t understand how truly cool people (Judy Lehmberg) can love these truly ridiculous flappy objects.
You might think my hatred of The Flying Ones is a bit over the top.
I tried to take the time to appreciate a stupid bird and instead of sitting gracefully and taking off in the direction of my camera, the eagle stared at me like an idiot for three hours before taking flight the wrong way. Yes, the wrong way.
And, of course, to make matters worse, I missed a bear.
A grizzly bear.
Right, so now you are beginning to feel my pain.
But do you know what real pain is? Approaching a group of cars parked beside the road, looking into the timber with hushed excitement.
A grizzly? A pine marten?? A wild cat???
No, a Grueber-Faced Green Bird or some type of flimsy, obscure songbird got them all in a tizzy and had my heart pumping that I was finally – finally – about to get my first pine marten photo.
Then there was that awful movie, A Big Year, that I was forced to endure during a flight thanks to my laptop battery failing me and my book being accidentally packed in my suitcase.
Now you are starting to understand – and agree, no doubt – with my hatred of birds.
For years, if I was in nature with my family and we’d see a bird in a beautiful setting, we’d pass it by (well, my dad and I would pass it by…my mom wasn’t given a say on this matter…we fear that she loves birds…and might even be a closet birder).
But when Jill started joining me in the wilderness, she was a little taken aback by my burning hatred of birds. I wouldn’t go as far as saying she disagreed with my reasoning (though she sometimes will talk about birds in the positive, leading me to fear that she too is a closet birder), yet she wondered if there was some way to melt the ice surrounding the part of my heart where one should love The Flying Ones.
As it turns out, just ever so slightly, she chipped away at the ice enough to find an exception to my golden rule of bird hatred: Pelicans.
Now of course, I had seen many pelicans in my pre-Jill years, but they would always take off before my camera was secured to a tripod. Or they’d turn away from me. Or they’d do some idiotic bird thing that made me annoyed.
But, you see, Jill loves to nap (it might have something to do with me forcing her to spend her summer working and getting up at 4am everyday). I don’t. And what is a photographer to do with spare time in a place like Yellowstone? Maybe sit by a river. Enjoy nature.
It started out very innocently. Jill would take a nap in the parking lot of LeHardy Rapids in Yellowstone National Park and I’d look to see what I could see.
Then a pelican flew up to me.
And then it drifted downstream with the current.
After a few minutes it flew back.
And the process was repeated.
I think its goal was to fish, but it seemed to be enjoying this game far more than finding food to survive. It was like inner-tubing on a hot summer’s day in pelican land.
Occasionally, the pelican would stop the game and sit on a rock to ponder life.
And look at me.
And be generally photogenic.
Then it would fish – and would even succeed. You could see the fish, alive in its throat…
…and, finally, watch it be swallowed. Whole.
Pelicans are badass! Who knew.
So year after year, I will now sit by streams and watch pelicans.
I take hundred of photos.
I appreciate their antics.
I laugh at their quirks.
And, yes, I’ll admit it, I love pelicans.
Of course, there must be an exception to every rule and this is mine. Just don’t tell me to love a Grueber-Faced Green Bird or whatever some silly, flappy thing is called. That’s just a wing too far.
I should add that I love owls. Love them. They’re the bears of the sky. So please understand, when I say I hate birds, I’m not referring to owls. They’re too good to be called a bird.