From time to time, I will suddenly be overtaken with the urge to “go stalk some birds” near Union Bay. Belatedly charging my camera batteries and finding my lenses, I head off across campus in search of some flight-capable animals. The initial goal of photographing them is often sidetracked by their seemingly cacophony of sounds, for I instead spend too much time tracking down the soft twittering kinglet in the bush or finding that elusive chickadee.
Today I resolved to get a wonderful picture of a Northern Shoveller, one of my favorite local birds. This noble creature resembles a mallard in many ways, except for one important difference: it has an enormous sculpted bill. As this bill is well-adapted to skimming along the lake floor and shores for food, the “shoveller” moniker is well-earned.
The walk down to Union Bay was certainly enjoyable, as I think a campus police officer started to think I was some sort of thief. They was everywhere I happened to be, and only when I pulled out my camera and began taking pictures did they actually think I had some sort of legitimate purpose. Of course, I’m being vain and they probably never actually never noticed me, but I like to think that I’m the center of the known universe from time to time.
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Alas, I can only stalk birds when completely alone and there is not a human in sight. Unfortunately on this particular expedition, there had to be an individual who I deem a “fun killer.” This fun killer was a man in his 50s who was well-dressed but slow walking and often had to remark to anyone nearby about how there was heron in the bay. I’m sure he’s very nice and the heron was quite impressive, but I simply cannot operate under those conditions. And to make it worse, he was moving at a mosey-like pace, which was just slow enough so I could easily get ahead of him and begin to scope out a shot when out of the corner of my eyes I could see him begin to wander towards me. Flanking speed engaged!
After these episodes, I resigned myself that bird pictures would not be in my agenda. On the way back through campus, I happened upon a squirrel I henceforth will refer to as “Colonel Pudg’ums.”
It’s probably a good time for an aside regarding naming of creatures and strangers, two groups I often attach semi-unique titles to. When wandering around, I often tend to name animals that I meet. My naming formula is quick and easy, and can often be applied to most anything. Here’s how to do it.
First you must choose a rank for this particular critter. This is a very important step. Popular choices are “Captain,” “Colonel,” or “Admiral.” This rank has no real importance, and is often chosen at random. Alliteration and syllable considerations are most likely the deciding factor for this choice. As you have already no doubt guessed, this squirrel shall be a “Colonel.”
The second step is to actually pick some describing attribute that makes this individual deserving of the “individual” title. For otherwise we are all soulless entities that speak in perfect English and have flawless ethics and morals. Philosophical discussion of what makes an individual unique aside, this squirrel is “Pudg’ums.” As you can tell, I am not entirely sure of how to spell this. Most of these phrases are better suited to be pronounced.
Finally, you can assign this individual a honorific surname or affiliation if so desired. Generic examples that I often produce can be “Admiral Awesome of the Fun Squad,” “Colonel Cranky of the No-Fun Patrol” or “Major Squeaky the Small.” Colonel Pudg’ums doesn’t need one of these.
Adjust the title as necessary for humor.
Getting back to the story at hand, I stumbled upon a very large squirrel excitedly chewing on something. Slowly sneaking around to view his tasty morsel, this champ was gnawing on either a very firm piece of chicken (probably from HFS) or a rice cracker. And, my friends, this was no regular squirrel-sized piece of food, but appeared to be roughly his food supply for the entire week.
I had packed away my camera and switched out my 200mm lens for the standard “walkabout” 28-75 when I left the shoreline. As I was not about to switch out lenses and risk losing the chance to photograph the Colonel, I pulled it out and slowly approached him while silently praying to the large squirrel god that it not notice me.
My prayers were rewarded.
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This is the first picture. Clearly the Colonel was aware that I was there, and I was just getting into range with my lens.
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I’LL GET YOU HUMAN. BEHOLD MY KARATE HANDS.
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He decides I’m not much of a threat and continues to munch upon this chunk of… something.
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His tail is also adorable: it was a wind vane that always pointed away from the direction of the wind.
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Resume eating. Perhaps it’s cheese?
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Just look at those widdle cheeks full of food. Also look at just how large around the waist this guy is.
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The colonel is quickly (for a squirrel) calculating the risk of me suddenly eating him with the reward of consuming this entire piece of protein. I don’t know if it actually is protein, but it looks protein-ish.
He finally decided to skitter away when my lens was about a food away from his little face. Clearly these squirrels are the pampered campus variety who fear not of danger and humans.
You’ll note I’m using the male pronoun for this squirrel. I’m no expert on squirrel anatomy or behaviour, but I can’t imagine a female would be such a little piggy.
Finally, an awesome car that I walked past on Roosevelt.
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Yes, those are laser guns on the hood, under the hood, and on the hood.
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Some flight-stabilizing fins behind the doors, additional laser batteries on the side, and some awesome starship exhaust ports where the license plate usually exists.