In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. - John Muir
This week I planned to go on an adventure to see if I could see a snowy owl. I headed out to the popular spot as a beautiful pink sunrise was on the horizon and the temperature was a crisp 34 degrees. The wind was ripping and even though I was warm, tears streamed from my eyes.
I knew I was in the presence of the owls when I was suddenly in the presence of four photographers all aimed at a white bird flying around and intermittently landing on driftwood. Before I could begin to enjoy the moment and appreciate everything that was happening to me, one of the photographers reached into the pocket of his jacket, pulled out something small and dark and tossed it into the air toward the owl. The owl immediately jumped on whatever he had thrown and they were all snapping away. I was completely disgusted, those men weren't there to appreciate the rare opportunity of being in the presence of a snowy owl. They were there to get the money shot and they don't give a shit about the owls. Excuse my language, but I find myself getting emotional all over again. I wrestled with myself...Do I say something to them? I just wanted to see the owls, if I got a shot that would be awesome, but I really was there to see the owls. Was I just as selfish and ridiculous as those guys? Am I a hypocrite? I have a bird feeder in my yard. Is that what wildlife photographers do? Did that guy buy some mice and then kill them to feed the owls? These were not my people. I decided not to engage with them, they made me uneasy and since I was alone I found my own spot away from them and with my rented zoom lens I started taking pictures of them. Not sure what I will do with those yet.
The four photographers did not stay much longer, they wandered off. I enjoyed watching the owls for a while, as the sun came up they became more active, this one landed closer than I was expecting. It was very exciting to see them so close. As more and more people showed up I was worried we might be getting in the way of their hunt. I decided I would remove one of the people and leave.
When I returned to my vehicle I called WDFW and the woman I spoke to let me know it is not illegal to feed wildlife in Washington. They have been working on legislation to pass laws but they have not yet been successful. She informed me that feeding wildlife leads to their dependence on food from people and makes them less likely to survive on their own.
As she was talking, two of the four photographers showed up in the parking lot. One of them walked into the brush right in front of me, not looking to see if anyone was around, and relieved himself. His buddy, with a cigarette hanging from his lip informed his friend that I was there and he looked completely embarrassed and I thought, well at least he's embarrassed about something.