Every morning, for the past couple of weeks, the buzzard has been there, perched on a fence beside the main road as I drive to work. Even when I have had the camera with me, there has been nowhere to stop amid the morning traffic. Every afternoon, as I have driven home, he has also been there. And the only days he perched somewhere I could stop, I did not have the camera. Even so, gradually, you are allowed a little closer. This is an old game with the local raptors… but he is a new player.
He watches me watching him… he’s very young, his feathers are pale and downy, his form slight and his flight patterns uncertain and dangerous when the cars rush by. Twice I have seen him almost dive to ruin amongst the speeding cars… and twice I have been poised, heart in mouth, ready to run my car up onto the grass to try and rescue him as he was buffeted by the passage of lorries and thrown close to their wheels. He is learning. But he seems to have grasped the rules of our game very well.
Those rules are simple… I am allowed to see and enjoy. My eye seeks him out daily…and he always looks at me now… but I am only allowed to take pictures, it seems, after I have demonstrated a certain loyalty to the encounter. And then the pictures are limited in both quality and number. Far from making for a frustrated photographer, this makes for a personal relationship with the great birds.
They are wild creatures. It is not at all the same thing as approaching a trained or domesticated bird, one who is used to people and associates them with food. This is permission to approach… and that is truly a privilege.
Called back late to my son’s, I took the camera on a whim, hoping to get a decent sunset. Most of my photographs are currently languishing in the now-dead PC and I have no guarantees of recovering them. The buzzard was sitting there as I drove back and allowed me one unfocused and distant shot before he flew off. I was happy with that, feeling that I had been awarded a gift of approval.
Next morning, I once again grabbed the camera as I headed off very early for my son’s home… the roads were still relatively quiet but I saw him fly out into the flow of traffic. Once again he was buffeted by the currents as the cars passed and I saw him land on the grass looking fairly embarrassed. I pulled into an old entrance a hundred yards or so beyond the bird. I watched for a while to make sure he was okay and, when he didn’t move, got out of the car and walked a little closer. He took off as I raised the camera and disappeared over the trees. I could see he was flying just fine and turned to walk back to the car. The buzzard landed again, just across the road on the fence…
Coincidence? Yes, very probably… but that is really not what it feels like when they look you straight in the eye…