Close Encounters of the Herd-Thinning Kind

Okay, first thing’s first…Digger 14

I went to the zoo this morning. Again. (Yes, I know.) Most of the photos I’ll just post over at so as to not repeat, and they’ll be UberSized. I have a couple for here, however.

It was a good trip, regrettably cut short by the onset of a migraine–I kept trying to focus on a tortoise and kept wondering why everything was in focus except a chunk of the head. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t the camera, it was my optic nerve. How galling. So I left early while I could still drive.

However, it was all worth it!

If you go early enough in the morning, it’s cool enough that the beasties are out. Not being able to get up THAT early in the morning, I have to pick which part of the zoo to hit while it’s early–last time I visited the giant anteater and the antelope. This time I went into the Arizona wildlife, saw the puma and coyotes roaming, the bobcat, the Arizona thick-billed parrots pitching a bright green fit, and coatis and delightefuly scruffy javelinas out and about, and was happy. Then I dropped by the Mexican wolf pen.

I didn’t expect much. They’re never out, they have tons of places to hide. But lo! I saw something trotting through the bushes off in the distance! “Aha!” thought Ursula’s photography-brain, which has an exaggerated opinion of its own cunning, “I’ll focus on that clear patch way out there, and when it crosses the clear patch, I’ll get a shot! It’ll be at the limit of my telephoto, but it might work!”

So I set up the telephoto, focused, tripoded my elbows in a hellishly uncomfortable position, braced my foot in a biting ant nest, and settled down to wait.

After about ten minutes, during which a gaggle of small children came, expressed disapproval of the failure of the wolves to materialize, and left again, I was beginning to question the wisdom of this plan. “Patience!” I thought. “You’re not starving in a garret, so this is how you get to suffer for your art!” I refocused, shook off the ants, offered them the other foot by way of apology, and settled down to wait again.

There was nothin’.

There was more nothin’.

There were some doves, which are basically winged nothin’.

I thought “Crap, maybe I have to get here at 7 AM or something.”

Then a gray wave of blur passed over my vision. I fumbled, looked up, and discovered a Mexican wolf about three feet away, nose pressed through the chickenwire, eyeing me with what I’ll swear on a copy of Origin of Species was jaded amusement.

I am, of course, a tower of calm in the face of adversity. I said “BRWOOGAAWK! Fuck! Nyerk!” and then, rather stupidly, “My, aren’t you gorgeous!” as I tried desperately to refocus my camera, backpedalled furiously to actually get him in the range of the telephoto, swung the camera wildly to the side to get a focus object so I wasn’t taking a close-up of chickenwire, twisted my ankle, hopped, could practically hear the wolf thinking “Man, this one’s just begging to be thinned from the herd,” and managed finally, balanced on one ant-bitten foot and uttering a running stream of profanity in the most soothing, wolf-friendly tones I could, to snap off five photos.

Four of them are blurred shots of a wolf butt moving off through the bushes. This is the fifth one.

Mexican wolf

So that was cool.

Also, I realize I’m asking the near impossible of my bird-watching brethren, but I’ll ask it anyway, on the off chance they can spot this. There were these tiny little birds. Tiny. The size of hummingbirds. They were not, however, hummingbirds, although they were insanely fierce and one squawked by about three inches from my nose in hot pursuit of another one. They also wouldn’t hold still worth a damn. I got this one, terrible photo. The bird was about the length of my thumb. If anyone knows what they are, I’ll be impressed and grateful, and really, I’ll buy my own damn bird book any day now…
mystery bird

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