Mountain Musings

Here kitty kitty: Story behind the Cambria directory cover shot

Special to The CambrianMay 12, 2014 

As my husband, John, was looking out the window, enjoying the hillside view, he caught a glimpse of a young bobcat on the little slope behind our house. I jumped up and watched with total delight as the bobcat cautiously crept toward our fence and started checking out gopher holes adjacent to the sliding door in our living room.

Until the last couple of years, the only bobcats I ever saw were streaking across the road in front of us or high-tailing it across a field, offering only a blurry butt-shot as they ran for cover. In these instances, I either didn’t have my camera with me, or I was unable to fumble it out of my camera bag in time to get even a bad picture.

One of the greatest rewards of living in the Santa Lucia Mountains in Cambria’s backcountry is the frequent visits from a variety of wildlife species. Bobcats are near the top of my “love-to-watch” list. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen these gorgeous cats often. When we do, it’s a special treat, especially when they are going about their business, unaware that they are being observed.

When these rare sightings occur, the trick is to remember to dash for the camera to try to snap a picture before the cat disappears. Many times, I’ve been too intent on watching the bobcat and totally missed my photo op as the bobcat took off over the bank or into the woods.

There are probably several bobcats living nearby because the habitat here is so perfect for them. At least one adult has been coming around occasionally for a few years, but we only spotted the young one once. Fortunately, I had the presence of mind to grab my camera.

As I watched it walk along the hill and scoot behind a huge oak tree, I thought I’d blown it – again. John jokingly refers to me as a crack wildlife photographer because of all the times I’m not prepared and miss great shots. However, in this case, after a few seconds, the cat peeked around the far side of the oak, giving me the best chance I’d ever had to capture the beauty of a bobcat with my camera. I was lucky enough to have time to snap several quick shots before the bobcat took off in search of more gophers and other delicacies.

I never realized how hard it is to photograph wildcats until I moved here and tried unsuccessfully for years to “shoot” bobcats. Photographing other animals, like deer and wild turkeys, is a piece of cake. They hang around and practically pose for the camera. Not so with the wildcats. I still haven’t even seen a mountain lion, although I know one has lived up here in the past.

Maybe someday I’ll get a great photo of a mountain lion — as long as one crosses my path when I’m not having one of my crack-wildlife-photographer days.

Marcia Rhoades’ column is special to The Cambrian. Email the resident of Cambria’s mountain community in the Santa Lucia range at ranchers7733@yahoo.com.

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