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The Cat Came Back!

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My friend Walt Sweet, fiery-haired maker of my Irish flute, used to sing The Cat Came Back, a picaresque folk tune in a minor key, which detailed one ludicrous end after another for a cat that couldn't be gotten rid of. I've been humming it lately.

James came back. And back, and back. As I write, it's Saturday night. James first showed up on Monday,  August 15, 2016. I got the shot of a lifetime through the glass patio door, every hair defined, the highlight in his greengold eyes, his tail curled up over his back. I figured I had had my ultimate chance to photograph a wild bobcat. I could die happy. And then he came back the 17th, 18th, and 19th, too. 

Needless to say, I was glued to the studio window, my magic portal to the world of wild things. How could I leave my station? At any moment, there was the possibility that I might see a bobcat, one of the most elusive of Ohio's animals, one that was nearly extirpated and fought its way back and is now  repopulating its historic range. To me, that's a miracle in itself. To have one show up in my yard, and then come back? Manna from heaven. 

On the morning of Wednesday, August 17, Bill and I were catching up, talking a blue streak about the kids, and all the events we have coming up. He'd just gotten back from a trip, was getting ready to take off for England again, and I was showing him the bobcat portraits on my laptop, when he saw a brown blur run up the very same birch tree that brown blur had run up on Monday. 

But where did it go? I ran to the east side of the big studio windows and behind the birch clump, and saw this:

James had a squirrel treed, and he was hoping it would lose its nerve and leap out of the top of that tree. He's putting a hex on it, trying to stare it down and freak it out sufficiently to crack its cool. 

This failed. So James tried another tactic: Disappearing. He stopped moving his head, and moved only his eyes.

There followed a series of expressions so beguiling I wondered if he was trying to charm that squirrel out of the tree.

Stop, you!! I know that behind those gorgeous muzzlepuffs, there is a lethal set of ivory fangs, and in that clever head is a prey drive that makes Chet Baker look like a Care Bear. 

You're not fooling me.

I've actually been bitten by a bobcat, when I was a dopey twenty-something. Someone had one on a leash at a Massachusetts shopping mall (remember, I grew up in the 1970's, when people thought they could keep things like bobcats and mountain lions and ocelots--shudder!--and they actually got away with it). Sort of. As much as one gets away with treating any wild animal like a dog. And, being the animal freak that I am, I reached slowly out to stroke its back. Wearing a studded collar and being held on a leash only made it look domesticated. That cat whipped its head around in one lightning move and sank its teeth into my wrist. I remember being instantly and deeply impressed at the crushing power of its jaws; the way those shining white canines seemed to be hooked into oh, I don't know...a vise? Gawp. That was a good one for the Bite List. Memories, good times.

Bill and I stood transfixed, he watching James through binoculars; me wielding the Canon 7D, both of us beyond delighted that he got to see the bobcat before taking off for the British Bird Fair that same day! I love seeing this stuff, but being able to share it with someone who digs it too is the bomb.

Eventually James tired of the disappearing act, and his attention wandered. We got a look at those delicious stenciled, spray-painted earbacks. 

He mrrowed several times, to whom or at what I don't know.

And then he got up

unfolding that beautiful fluid body, his long cat-hams working

and I noticed how he slung his hind feet under his body so that his tracks would be in a perfect line; this perfection unconscious, springing from how he is made

with a flexible spine and the softest of velvet padded paws making his progress as noiseless as an owl's 

and that slinky crafty cat was gone, to thrill another day.

I am still inwardly squealing at the very thought that Bill and I once looked out my studio window and saw this, THIS, crouched under the birches. 

This. This photo makes all my bells go off. It gives scale and presence to this apparition. It's incongruous and unbelievable and wonderful, a bobcat with an overturned urn and a weeping blue ginger plant from Logee's. A bobcat with geraniums, on my mowed lawn.

This wildest of wild things, this least expected, most wanted, never dreamt of apparition. This beautiful bobcat. 


I think you have your totem!



So delightfully house-catty-looking in many ways...
Any idea how big his range is, or where he hangs out when not in your backyard?

Wonderful series of shots and wonderful to have a partner that "gets it".

Posted by Dirck harris August 21, 2016 at 4:03 AM

I can only imagine....did you even breathe the entire time? So happy you are getting this experience! (and hoping I do too some day.)

Simply magical! Wow.

Having noted your name for bobcat--James--I thought of the Spanish name...Santiago.
Love love love the face--a pussy cat is a pussy cat. The look on that face--priceless and so utterly recognizable and yet so wild.
I hope James keep reappearing and you keep posting blogs with pics.

What a beauty! Thanks for sharing the story and the images.

He's certainly charmed me enough to want to reach through the computer screen and pet him! Beautiful cat! What luck for him to keep returning!

I told you he'd be back!! He's found Paradise.

Enjoying the hell out of these Bobcat posts. John and I watched The Aristocats the other night in a stupor after a 10-hour work day, and the song that's now stuck in my head is 'Everybody Wants to be a Cat'. I think your band has to do this song!

Very cool!!

These portraits remind me of "Where the Wild Things Are", with those perfect huge yellow eyes! Fabulous captures, Zick!

I think he pretty much trumps the hummingbirds of the previous post for Best title.

I can't stop smiling reading your words, seeing these amazing photos, knowing it's happening right there! The expressions on his kitten-face are priceless, giving a hint at the workings of his feline mind. May you find him to be a familiar visitor, a familiar indeed. Can't. Stop. Smiling.

This post took my breath away!

Love seeing these photos. What an amazing treat to have him in your yard! He's so handsome and looks very strong and healthy. Hope he works on the squirrel population and leaves your birds alone.

I love this bobcat and your utter happiness about his presence. He is such a stunning beauty.


You are one powerful woman to call in this level of wild and wonderful beauty.

You are so lucky! Beautiful pictures and story.

What a wonderful world. Thank you for sharing it with us.

that is awesome! those pictures of an incredible animal.priceless!

Posted by leo Lantz August 21, 2016 at 6:47 PM

It is amazing how much they look and act like house cats!

What a gorgeous animal! Do you worry about Chet Baker being outside? Or yourself, for that matter?

I think you're a little large to be prey for him, Julie, no offense intended, unless I'm wrong. Chet on the other hand might be just right for a big dinner for this guy. I was thinking the same thing as Karen. He looks so gentle and at ease. Hope your hummers are still up high where he can't jump.

Wow!! Speechless. James is do handsome.

I don't think he'll give up, do you? What a magnificent creature! Maybe the squirrels will move on.....we need a bobcat here in our yard...your photos are glorious! They'll be in a book, correct?♡

Beautiful kitty, doing what he's built to do. Have you seen Bun around lately?

What a beautiful animal!

Supreme serendipity! You are chosen.

Just back from Mexico and catching up on your posts. This is the cat I've wanted to see forever. We have them here in Western Kentucky, so I'm told on good authority. A neighbor once surprised one in his shed, and they both screamed as the bob fled. Hope you're having a grand time birding in South America.

This is thrilling...and what incredible pictures. I am reminded of my daughter's encounter with a mountain lion in the mountains south of Asheville, NC, where she was a camp counselor at Green River Preserve that summer. She was on a morning run and didn't have a camera, but when she conferred later with the local naturalists, there was no doubt about what she saw and how thrilled they all were that she saw it. Rare encounter, thankfully a peaceful one.

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