Photo Essay: Wildlife on Campus
Coming from a small town in rural Michigan, one of my biggest fears in the transition to college was the lack of nature that I would be around on a daily basis. I was so used to having all kinds of wildlife just steps from my house. Spending time photographing animals has always been my stress relief and happy place. College is such a new environment, I wanted to make sure I still had that quiet place to breathe and create. These photos are a small collection of what I saw around campus first semester.
My first sighting was of this beautiful Red Tail Hawk, which was the most relaxed bird of prey I have ever had the chance to photograph. My friend texted me one afternoon that there was a huge bird in the Diag that I should go check out. I grabbed my camera bag from my dorm and sprinted down State Street, luckily making it in time.
This hawk had absolutely no fear of humans, which is rare among birds of prey like this one. He contently sat with me for ten minutes, before gracefully taking off and flying past the Ugli towards Ross. What surprised me the most was how the hundreds of students around me walked right past and were looking down so they missed it entirely.
A Downy Woodpecker perched on a tree.
The most important aspect of wildlife photography is respecting the subject that you are photographing, it’s frustrating when I see photographers sprinting at wildlife and getting as close as possible. I have a large enough lens that I fortunately do not need to go as close, so I stay as far as possible. Between every few shots I look outside of the viewfinder and try to asses how comfortable the animal is. If there are any signs of the animal being uncomfortable, I back up or leave entirely.
The second hawk that I was able to spot in the Diag after class one afternoon was a very different story than the previous. This one was a Coopers’ Hawk, smaller than the Red Tail with yellow eyes.
This hawk was more tense and hard to work with. He flew to many different trees and was very restless so I stayed much further back. He grew more comfortable with me as time went on, but never as comfortable as the other hawk.
My time spent with these animals is always therapeutic, and it was comforting to have wildlife around such an active city. Although I don’t have as much time or opportunities to be shooting wildlife, it is always there when I need it to be. It allows me to escape from the everyday semester problems. And when you are walking through the Diag to class, look around sometimes, you never know what you might find.
This wouldn’t be a tribute to wildlife on campus if I didn’t include a shot of one of the famous Diag Squirrels!