Distractions. I have come to embrace the part of me that is easily distracted! I guess at my age, I have no choice as by now I don’t think I will be changing anytime soon. But just where does an artist draw the line between good and bad distractions? Between procrastination and possible inspiration?
The sound of hammering in the woods around the house guarantees that I will drop everything, run and grab my camera and go hunt for the elusive pileated woodpeckers even though time after time they fly just as I find them or just when I get the camera pointed at them. I have even tried to resist their hammer call. About two weeks ago, I was in the studio bright and early in the morning working, only days into my new scheduled calendar and a new outlook for productivity, when I kept hearing ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ from somewhere in the near woods. Trying hard to ignore the hammering, I worked until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Looking out my 3rd floor studio window there he was, on a tree at my eye level close to the house. I dropped everything, ran down 3 flights of stairs and grabbed the Canon SX50, ran back up 3 flights of stairs, tried to shoot through my 3rd floor window but there were too many branches, ran back down 3 flights of stairs, grabbed the big camera and out of breath, tiptoed outside to the side of the house, where I clandestinely got off a few shots, stalked a little closer, got a few more shots before it saw me and flew off. Triumphantly I turned to go back in, but resigned to only a few shots when I heard it in a different part of the yard. Slowly I tiptoed around the house. There it was! I snuck up on it, it was actually posing, and starting snapping pics until all of a sudden the camera stopped snapping. Swearing under my breath, I looked at the LCD screen only to see that my 64GB card was FULL!!! I frantically starting dumping photos from the beginning of the card, shooting a bunch to fill up again, dumping, shooting, filling, etc and all this while the pileated just stayed there as still as a statue, posing and taunting me! I half expected to hear the familiar Woody the Woodpecker laugh as he finally flew off. Really, you can’t make these things up!
So back to work I went…
…when I just ‘happened’ to see that the snowy owl that had been in and around Milford, CT for several days had been seen at the Milford Audubon Center that morning. Now, I have to guiltily admit that I saw the news in two places; one on a CT Birds group on Facebook and the other on the CT Birding list server. Remember, I am supposed to be working! I spend too much of my time on Facebook and the internet, a habit I really need to rein in and usually it is a ‘bad’ distraction. However, sometimes the bad leads to good. Easily distracted me said ‘Let’s chance the 1 hr and 20 minute drive (without traffic) just in case it is still there.’ But new productive me was saying ‘What if I hit traffic, it’s already after 1pm and sunset is around 4:30pm and I really need to work’. Guess which me won? Of course, easily distracted me! Armed with a good book on my iPod, off I went getting on the road around 1:30. I drove into the parking lot of the Milford Audubon Center around 3pm noticing that there weren’t too many cars, not a good sign, but there was a couple loading scopes and cameras back into their car, could be good or bad. As all birders do, I asked if they saw the snowy. Yes, they did, they answered but that it had just flown from a log up onto someone’s roof. They told me to look for the guys with scopes to see if it is still there. I followed their directions but I found no owl and no guys with scopes. I would have scanned the rooftops with my binoculars except for the fact that there were two women walking a dog on the private section of the beach and I always feel uncomfortable using binoculars on private homes. I went back to the center slightly disappointed and asked about the owl. I was told the last they knew it was on a rooftop and she gave me directions to pick out the house. So back to the beach I went, and scanning the rooftops, sure enough there was a little white blob!
I walked as far as I could on the public part (which isn’t too far!) and then decided that I would probably get a better look from the beach front road. I followed a cut from the beach to the road and turning onto it I spy a pair of guys with scopes watching the owl. I joined them and we watched for a bit when it decided to leave.
Through the spaces between homes, we could see it flying west back along the beach in the direction of Stratford. Fingers crossed I went back out to the beach hoping it hadn’t gone too far. Luck was on our side, it had decided to stay on the Milford side and even better, pretty much parked itself in front of the Audubon Center’s viewing platform. It gave all of us birdwatchers an unbelievable show, eating ice and snow, preening and relaxing as the sun set, bathing the owl and the ice in many shades of ice blue, lavender and gold. It flew off down the beach only after the sun had set, leaving a bunch of shivering birders very warm and contented.
Here is a case where a habit of bad distractions led this wildlife artist to an encounter I will always remember and cherish, and perhaps paint someday in the near future. You decide, procrastination or inspiration?!