Familiar Sights: Connie Sobchak discovers what you can see when you let go of the need to see and just let your eyes go soft

Some days it seems like there are no creatures stirring; yesterday was not one of those days. Still, it required some vigilance and patience to really see something.
For example, most days we might ignore the black capped chickadee because we see and hear it regularly. Fortunately though, Gary glanced up as one flitted over his head and he watched as it disappeared into a hole in the side of a tree. It emerged with a beak stuffed with sawdust and flew off only to be replaced by its mate. We observed for several minutes, feeling rewarded for focussing on the familiar.

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Further up the valley, we gazed over the cranberry fields making our eyes go soft until suddenly we could see the Wilson’s snipe take shape against the low lying branches. If we looked away for a second, it would take several more seconds to see them again.

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Even though they were almost constantly in motion, a casual glance over the field would lead you to believe there was nothing there except plants.

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Later, we stopped to watch some Canada geese, again rather disappointed to only see such ubiquitous critters. Suddenly, a brownish shape caught my eye and with sharpened vision a bobcat appeared. We settled in to witness the possible demise of a goose. The bobcat inched forward and at times even napped. The geese honked in alarm, then settled. Eventually, the bobcat raised its rear and crouched forward. We held our breath several times, waiting for the charge and were confused when the bobcat gazed down and pounced. The geese were still honking as the bobcat retreated with a muskrat in its mouth. Perhaps this was a kill of opportunity or perhaps the geese got lucky. Again we marvelled at the way the bobcat blended in with the background and were thankful for the flicker of movement that had allowed us to witness the scene.

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Even later, Gary told me to train my binoculars on a log that I had already scanned and ignored. A male and female merganser bobbed up and down in front of the log and just as I was about to look away (more ordinary sights) they took flight and the female flew straight at a stump and into a hole not much bigger than the one the chickadees had excavated. I am still shaking my head at the dexterity required for this manoeuvre.

The resulting images from our big day of viewing bring the creatures into focus for others to share in the experience.  My lesson from this big day will be thus: pay attention to the ordinary; make your eyes go soft.

Photos by Gary Sobchak

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