My daughter, Sophia and I have been visiting one of our local state parks (when I am home) for the past 4 months, Bensten State Park. Specifically, one of the bird feeding stations here. We visit this spot religiously, because of a bobcat that has been stalking the bird feeder daily here.
When we found out it was possible that we could encounter bobcats at this park, we decided that this was the place we needed to be. Our first encounter with a cat here was an accident. We were walking around the park center, looking for birds to photograph when we saw a bobcat walking by one of the buildings here. Sophia and I dropped our gear and began snapping images of the cat. We ran after it, and it slowly walked away, we snapped more images of it, mostly of its butt and tail. It walked back into the bush and disappeared. We were both on fire and fell instantly in love with this wildcat.
After that first encounter, our obsession with bobcats began.
I began researching into where we could reliably encounter one. There are a few parks where they are regularly seen, mostly in the summer, when it is really hot and water becomes scarce. During that time of year, they begin visiting the water features at these parks. However, this was winter season and there was plenty of water around, so that was out. Another option was the rumors that a bobcat would visit one of the feeders at Bensten park. The park begins feeding birds during the winter season, which is during fall migration. We decided to follow up on this one to see if it was true.
Happy to report, the rumors were true.
It started out as an occasional visits to this feeder. It took a few visits for Sophia to get use to the idea of sitting still waiting for wildlife. That is the hardest part for this type of photography; Long hours of waiting, with nothing happening, and no guarantee you will see any animals.
Trying to photograph this cat was not easy, there were a lot of missed opportunities and no shows. Plus it does not visit the feeder everyday. Somedays we would arrive only to find out that the cat had already successfully hunted a bird and was gone. Missing it by 5 minutes. Other days it was a no show. Weather was also a serious issue, cold, wet and windy conditions made for miserable moments out there, especially for Sophia. She does not handle cold weather very well yet.
After a couple of weeks of misses, the first sighting happened. The bobcat appeared from out the bush, grace us with its presence for a few seconds and then disappeared again. I snapped a few images of it, excited that I finally got a glimpse of it. Sophia decided to sleep in, she was worn out with visiting this cat. When I texted her the images from that day. She was so angry, she sulked around the rest of the day.
We continued visiting the feeder with more misses and more no shows. Finally a couple of weeks after that first encounter, we got another sighting. The second encounter, it attempted to catch a bird but failed. It was an incredible moment, it tried to jump up onto a four foot tall feeder to catch the bird. It missed, looked at me briefly when it landed and then disappeared into the bush. It tried again and failed. As I was leaving that day, I spotted our bobcat walking on the side of the road. I snapped images like crazy as it crossed the road in front of me. I was on fire, it was such a good day. Again, my Sophia was not with me. This time, her cousins were visiting from out of town and she stayed in. Again, my Sophia was not a happy camper.
February 24 - We arrived at the feeder bright and early, set up our tripods and began our normal routine of watching and waiting. Finally a red-winged blackbird dropped down onto the water feature and our cat exploded out, trying to grab the bird. He missed and slunk back into the grass. An hour later he tried again and missed. We snapped some fun images of him and then called it a day. Sophia was on fire, she finally got her cat. She named him Bob. Now that we both had captured some images of Bob, it was time to up the ante. We wanted some images of the cat with a successful hunt.
We spent the next few days waiting by the feeder to see if he would show up, but nothing, Bob was either a no show or he never had any birds at the feeder to chase, so he never came out of the grass. However, our enthusiasm and energy was renewed. After our encounter on the 24th we were willing to wait as long as it took for our dream shot.
We did not have to wait long…this morning we visited the feeder and set up tripods and cameras and began the wait. The park volunteers showed up soon after to refill the feeders. A flock of blackbirds were all over the feeders as soon they left. Within 30 minutes they were completely relaxed and two birds dropped down onto the water feature. Sophia and I were ready and waiting. Seconds later, our cat exploded out and finally captured a bird in front of us. We rapidly fired away, image after image. We kept snapping until our cameras tired out and would only shoot one image at a time. Which was frustrating. But it was done. We captured images of a successful hunt.
I threw up my hands in victory and let out a yell! Cheering away. There were a few people there, including a couple from Canada who also had been stalking this bobcat. We all high fived each other. It was sad that this bird lost its life, but it was also the reason why this cat could continue to live...the circle of life thing. Sophia and I hugged tightly, happy that we finally accomplished this goal.
We got home, happy with the images we captured. We thought after we had accomplished this goal that we would move on to our next goal, which is to photograph a grey fox that has been hanging around at Edinburg wetlands. But nope, we are addicted…we are far from done with our time with our wildcat. They are keeping the feeders open till the end of April, which means we have two more months with our cat. So tomorrow at 6:30, we will again be out there, hoping, waiting, and wishing for another shot at our buddy Bob.
Thanks for reading,