Raptors and Chiggers... Blackland Prairie Raptor Center
I love shooting birds... with a camera, that is! That does not necessarily mean that I do it well, but rather, that I like the challenge of trying to get the shot, particularly when shooting flying birds. Actually, I never attempted it very often until I started visiting White Rock Lake and it was there that I have gotten the most practice as there is a proliferation of birds on a regular basis... pelicans, coots, ducks, geese, pigeons, common backyard birds as well as the occasional green monk parakeet. And what could be more fun than shooting the seagulls flying by to catch a piece of bread?
So when I heard about the Blackland Prairie Raptor Center in Lucas, Texas, having a Photo Day, I was on it!! Once a year, in May, they invite photographers to come and photograph the birds. Your donation of $20 gets you "in the door" and helps to support their work. It is particularly helpful that they will put the birds in the tree or on a log mindful of choosing a spot with good light so that we may get the best photo possible. You are literally as close as an arm's reach to the birds. They are very thoughtful and protective of the birds to prevent them from getting stressed or too hot.
My friend Tess and I arrived a little after 7:30AM and met up with Mary, Robin, Joanna and her friend Leslie. There were other familiar faces there from the Heard Nature Photography Club as well. The volunteers were spread out around the pond with the various raptors and they were most knowledgable and willing to share the bird's story. Registration is limited to 200 photographers and you can wander from bird to bird and shoot throughout the morning. What a great opportunity to get a shot that might not otherwise have been possible in the wild.
This was actually my 3rd year to attend... and yes, you see many of the same birds as they are imprints and cannot be released in the wild and are now used for teaching purposes.
My first year to attend, I was eaten alive by chiggers!
I'm a Jersey girl... what do I know about chiggers? I strolled through the knee-high prairie grass shooting and having a marvelous time. Two days later I am sitting at breakfast and scratching at a bite (initially thought to be a mosquito bite) on my leg. I go to work and by noontime my dime size "mosquito" bite is now red and angry looking and is about 4-inches in diameter. One of the nurses looked at it and questioned if it was a brown recluse spider bite. Yikes! That is nothing to mess around with! Fortunately the ICU was not busy that day so I went down to the ER to get it checked out.
The final verdict... the doctor was not sure what caused the bite but it was infected and needed to be drained and packed! So... 45 minutes later I was back at work after getting treated and had a hospital bill of nearly $1500! And who says you don't need health insurance?
As the day wore on... more bites were popping up all over my body and some places I would rather not mention! I was itching like crazy and so afraid of more infection. After further consultation with Texans in the know, I determined I was covered with chigger bites. I stopped counting when I got to 200!
I tried dabbing them with the clear nail polish as I had read and doubt that did any good and then went to an over-the-counter anti-itch ointment and also took benadryl. Two weeks later, they were beginning to subside. And that was my introduction to those mean and nasty chiggers!
This is an all out war now when I enter prairie grass and "OFF" is my best friend.
DON'T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!
I always keep a bottle of it in my car and am more than willing to share!
So... in spite of my first experience in the prairie shooting raptors, I have returned each year since, after spraying with OFF, and I am pleased to report it does a great job!
A special thank-you to the BPRC and all the volunteers who make Photo Day possible and to those beautiful raptors that keep me coming back year after year.
To read more about their good work:
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