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Natural Beauty of Ray County: It’s for the birds, but for the people, too

By David Knopf, News Editor

I like to use the Tom and Jerry metaphor to describe what it’s like to take photos of animals. As determined as Tom might’ve been in pursuing that little mouse, he was almost always outsmarted.
If you’re not a Tom and Jerry fan, try Elmer Fudd trying to blast Bugs Bunny to smithereens.
It’s not size, but savvy that matters most.
I enjoy what I do, so I accept the frustration that comes with it. For every good photo I get, there are 10 bad ones … at least. Hitting a Major League fastball may be easier than getting a good shot of a hawk or coyote.

The bird looking down from his deluxe accommodations seems to be saying, ‘Now why didn’t I think of this before I got up here.’ (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

To continue the sports metaphor, I choke up, stay within myself and hit where the ball’s pitched. Oh yeah … and spend lots of time at the batting cage.
My field of play is the 35-mile commute I make to and from work. After almost three years, I look forward to a drive I haven’t gotten tired of it (I will admit there are times after a long day I wish I could just be there NOW, or have someone else do the driving).
But there isn’t a day when I get to the downhill grade that feeds into the Missouri City river bottom that I don’t feel energized.
The open spaces, sunlight, seasonal colors, low-lying clouds and haze all contribute to the visual smorgasbord, but so do the animals, many of them of the winged variety.
To make the trip interesting, I look for photos I’d like to get – when the lighting’s right; when I’m not in a rush to get to work; and when I can “see” a shot that simultaneously makes me feel good.
For example, there’s a row of hay bales on the south side of Highway 210 just before you reach the turnoff to OZ … the sign at Orrick that points drivers toward Routes O and Z.
There’s a hawk – I’m convinced it’s a very specific hawk who’s claimed the area as territory –  who perches on the eastern-most bale to hunt.
Because I drive that direction in the morning, the hawk’s always got the sun at his back. He’s also got the hyper-sensitive ability that animals have to alert themselves of danger – in my case a car pulling off onto the shoulder or a window being lowered.
I’ve never gotten a good shot of that hawk, although I have to say I’ve enjoyed the routine, and the pursuit. It’s a hackneyed expression, but it’s not the destination, but the journey that makes life rewarding.
Tom may not catch Jerry, but that doesn’t mean he stops trying. Just the opposite. And it’s something we all enjoy watching, over and over.

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