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More Bobcat Beauty

Sunday, August 28, 2016

 This is usually all you see of a bobcat, much less capture in a photo. I've found that the darkish brown ground color and the straight, not humped, backline, making a large dark apparently tailless rectangle, are pretty good identifiers for the brief glimpse one usually gets of a bobcat.

On August 18, that cat came back, several times. I already could not believe my luck at seeing him. To have him intermittently inhabiting the sideyard was simply over the pale. It was the squirrels that brought him. And I could tell he was around when they went from 13 to zero. It wasn't that James was eating the squirrels--it was just that he was around, and they knew it.

Confirmation came in their rough barks and squirrrs, their insouciantly flipping tails. This was a difficult shot to get—a taut bobcat and a very saucy squirrel in one frame. 

How much experience could this squirrel have had with bobcats? And yet it taunts the cat, foraging for sunflower seeds at the foot of the birch clump—the one that’s seen all the action—daring the cat to charge.

I was locked to the window, hoping so hard to photograph a charge, maybe even a capture. Lord knows James could have a squirrel or five. That would be fine. He was like a high-tension line, his pupils narrowed to pinpoints. The squirrel foraged and flirted and made little sorties out, little dashes back up the tree. My camera was smoking.  In this shot, he had started to charge, then stopped in mid rush. Get the whisker position here--all systems GO!

The phone chose that exact moment to ring. It was a telemarketer. I answered it just to shut it up. James fixed a cold eye on me, there inside the studio, speaking in low, urgent tones, trying to get rid of the caller, who was telling me I was due for a refund from a company that doesn’t even supply my electricity. No. No I’m not. Who cares? Get lost.

 Must you? I’m hunting.

I abruptly hung up and returned to my study, only to see James melt back under the spruce. 

I felt bad that I’d inadvertently intruded on his hunt, unsuccessful as it was. I smiled a few seconds later to see his legs through the thick boughs; he was standing just behind the spruce in indecision, in deference to me, who had no wish to be deferred to. It reminded me of what the whitetails do at night, when they run just enough to get out of the headlights' beam, and wait for your car to pass. 

To my great joy, he re-emerged. He knew I was there, watching him, and he was not afraid. Neither was he tame; he was simply untroubled. He raised his lovely face to the birches, looking at the teasing squirrel, and I snapped my second favorite shot of him, the best, I think, being the one I grabbed the first time he visited, staring me down with an ironweed backdrop. This one, though a bit soft, captured his spirit, his peace, his knowing who he is and where he belongs in the Ohio woods and, most amazingly, in my Ohio sideyard. Everything about him, perfect.

He panted a little in the heat, and I got a look at his ivory canines. The same that had punctured me as a youngun'. 

 I thought about some friends’ expressed fears that James might attack Chet, or even me. Perhaps oddly, the thought never occurred to me; fear is my last reaction to an animal this rare, this secretive, this beautiful.

 A partial answer might be that we’ve observed that James has not attacked the pair of baby raccoons that frequent the ground around the feeders. They’re about ¾ grown, and they’re out there most of every day, and Liam came home from school one afternoon, walked up the sidewalk, and scattered all three—the coons and James—from the yard at the same time. If James had wanted coon, he’d have had it by now. If he chose not to attack young raccoons (wise choice!) weighing perhaps 4 pounds apiece, why would he tackle a 24-pound Boston terrier made of India rubber and steel?

James strode out of the shade and into the sun. He picked it up from a lazy saunter to a trot.

 Positioning myself for a better shot (I was shooting at a bad angle through two panes of glass), I tripped over a box of Baby Birds, making a loud crash. DUH.  Arrgh! Worse than answering the phone. He slammed on the brakes and listened.

Strike two, Zick. But oh, the detail I can get in the sun!

 With an animal this secretive and special, I never know when I’m saying farewell. I try to save as many souvenirs as I can. I shot as he walked calmly out the orchard, away from ringing telephones and clumsy artists who trip over stuff trying so hard to save him to look at later, again and again, forever.

It is no small irony that I wrote this post in a gigantic Boeing 757(?), anyway, a widebody beast with four seats in the center rows and three on either side of that, somewhere over Namibia, on my way to South Africa to see...wild cats, perhaps. It was so, so hard to leave James and the baby warblers that were beginning to stream through the gardens; to leave all the young hummingbirds that were just massing around the cardinalflower beds; all these things I care for and about. More than that it was so hard to leave Liam, Phoebe and Bill; Liam just starting classes at the local community college while still enrolled in high school; Phoebe soon to return for a few days from a summer in San Diego and then fly off to Panama until December. It gave me real pain to miss her, having not seen her since June. But one can't plan around schedules not yet decided; jobs not yet landed. The schedule rolls on, and things must be committed to months in advance; the trips must be taken, and in the end I am a very, very lucky girl.

Hoping so hard that James will show himself for Phoebe before she leaves. Sending him a message to appear, if it pleases him.  Ah, James, I could just squeeze those perfectly lined furry cheeks,  and kiss you right on the bridge of that velveteen nose, but I'd likely come away perforated again. 

xoxxooo jz


Love that last photo--a fitting portrait. And so like a house cat in appearance. I think I too would want to snuzzle such a face.
I am sure you are enjoying your SA odyssey...or safari.
Such a lovely part of this planet.

Love that you have a bobcat in your yard! So awesome!

Appreciate your work alcoholic nature; benefits the rest of us greatly! The bobcat photos are amazing. Thank you! May South Africa be a blessing to you and those you encounter.

What wonderful photos of a wonderful creature! I'm hoping that while you are gone Phoebe can do a guest blog on her summer research experience at Scripps--I'm sure many would be interested.

Such a beautiful visitor! Enjoy your trip and perhaps he'll still be around when you return.

I can hardly find the words to say how awesomely beautiful this creature is. I know you cherish every moment you get to see him in your yard. Say hello for me!

Breathtaking James. Stunning James.

Yes, this new love of your life is a handsome brute. Here's to James's return when you return.

Hoping you have a wonderful time. Eagerly awaiting stories when you return. Take lots of photos! Safe traveling!

Loving every word and picture, what a gift! Thank you! ♥♥♥

What beautiful shots - your were so lucky to get such a wonderful visitor. I had a very lucky encounter with a bobcat while visiting a park in South Texas. I was hiking by myself on a trail, came around a corner to meet a bobcat maybe 60 feet down the trail. We both abruptly stopped and I slowly put my camera up to my eyes and started shooting. Then he started to sit down and I took one step forward. This caused him to bolt off the trail. And my encounter was probably less than minute, so I'm jealous of you having him living nearby.


Just stunning--no words do justice. Wish I were there!

He is a beaut. Hope you see some wonderful bigger wild cats on your trip to S. Africa. I stand corrected.

echoing every word offered, above this, and adding a sigh, thank you jz! thank you!

A healthy Bob is certainly among the most beautiful of the cats, big and small. Our Florida sub is smaller and rangier than James -- a real ruffian look -- but no less perfect: the epitome of functional design.

Oh what an enchanting encounter! You certainly lead a blessed life to have such beautiful creatures grace you with their presence. James is absolutely gorgeous!

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