Monk parakeet (a.k.a. quaker parrot; Myiopsitta monachus)
“Is he taking pictures of the grass?”
“Looks like it.”
They didn’t notice the parakeet rummaging about the ground beneath a shade tree. All they noticed was that I stood there taking photos of something they failed to see.
Male green anole (Anolis carolinensis)
“Dude, are you taking pictures of your patio fence?”
“No. There’s a lizard standing here challenging me. I thought I might snap a few pictures.”
He looks at the reptile before returning his gaze to me and saying, “Just a lizard?”
He sees just a lizard, just a small, insignificant life that offers nothing for his world.
I see a master of his territory, a predator controlling the local insect population, a marvelous creature with the climbing ability of a gecko and a color-changing ability superior to that of a chameleon. I see a grand living thing.
Female eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis)
“What are you taking pictures of?”
“Everything. Birds, trees, flowers, lizards, insects—”
“Oh, cool. Seen any interesting bugs?”
“There were some beautiful dragonflies around the marsh back there.”
“Really? We must have missed them.”
They missed a plethora of life, so many insects filling the air and foliage that I found it impossible to count them. All they noticed was the man taking photos as he walked the edge of the marsh and woodlands.
Male muscovy duck (Cairina moschata)
“Wait, Mom. I wanna take a picture of the ducks.”
“They’re always here, sweetheart. Let’s look for something more interesting for you photograph.”
Her daughter noticed, noticed how uncommon the common can be, how beautiful nature is in all its forms even when we see it day after day.
I noticed, especially when Elvis walked right up to me to see what I was doing kneeling in the grass. He and I have developed a bond of trust such that he’ll come to me to investigate and will gladly stand next to me in case I have something to offer. He knows I won’t hurt him. And he knows I never ignore him.
Male swan goose (Anser cygnoides)
They climb out of their car and walk directly to where the swan geese are sleeping and preening.
The father lets his two small children chase the animals, each screaming in joy as the birds honk and flap their wings as they run.
I worry as there are goslings mixed in with the crowd.
I hope one of the parents beats up your brats, I think to myself.
Then I watch as a large male knocks over the young boy and bites at him before fleeing in the opposite direction. The child screams in shock or pain, or both, and I laugh to myself.
They don’t notice the beauty of these creatures. Both children and their father see nothing more than entertainment, creatures to be chased and abused to satisfy a need to be cruel, to be hateful.
Great egret (Ardea alba)
A dog rushes headlong toward ducks lounging in the shade at the lake’s edge. The owner stands by and does nothing.
Wings flap and flutter as panic strikes the group. They all retreat toward the water as they take flight.
The reeds next to the flocking birds hides something else, something besides the water lapping at the shore.
Frightened by the commotion and the rushing canine, an egret takes flight, limping as it struggles into the air. Its leg is hurt such that it might be broken.
The dog cares little for such things and its owner even less. They don’t notice the pain, the limp, or even the unnecessary stress their antics place on these animals.
But I notice. I shake my head with evident disgust before walking away. I ignore the dog’s owner as he heaves primitive insults at me for my obvious disapproval.
Male cicada-killer wasp (Sphecius speciosus)
“I was at the pool yesterday, and there are some really big bees over there by the bridge.”
“You mean the cicada killers?”
I already feel good that he knows what they are.
He continues, “The big wasps, you mean?”
“I guess so,” she replies.
“They’re harmless. They won’t hurt you. All they do is kill cicadas.”
By the look on her face, I doubt she believes him.
His response is so calm, so understanding, that I realize he has no intention of doing anything about the second wasp colony a block away from where I live. He knows they pose no threat, knows they only live for a few months.
I feel a great sense of relief and pride that he notices them, understands them, and has no intention of interfering with their short lives.