“To add to the oddities of this strange and early spring, wildlife seldom seen is also making an appearance, seeming fairly unaware that it is seen.” – Ed Lehming
It’s been a very interesting and energizing spring. The warm temperatures have opened wildflowers early and wildlife abounds, including this porcupine that I initially spotted at a distance from a hillside I was standing on. I first noticed him as a medium-sized brown mammal of some sort, wandering slowly across an open field. Based on its size, I initially thought it might be a beaver travelling between the two ponds below me, but when it moved between the ponds and not towards them, I thought it odd. I still had no idea what this animal might be, never thinking it might be a porcupine, as they are primarily nocturnal, yet it’s shape and slow movement was not like a racoon either and it was to large to be a muskrat or ground hog.
I took my time approaching it, being careful not to spook it. As I got closer, it did not seem to notice me and I soon realized that my mystery mammal was in fact a large porcupine. As I got closer it had left the low grasses and got into a patch of tall horse-tails, eventually peering over at me and moving more cautiously and deliberately into the scant cover they provided. As I look at this image I realized how the coarse and dried horse-tail looked a bit like the porcupine’s quills and provided the closest thing to camouflage available. Though he seemed very much aware of me, he did not seem to be on the defense, rather, more curious about my presence.
Interestingly, I had just had a conversation with a fellow hiker a few days before that they had seen very little wildlife this past year, largely due to the increased use of the forest trails as COVID weary crowds try to escape the cities. This increased traffic includes a multitude of off-leash dogs which scare off the once plentiful wildlife. For this image, I had actually stepped off the formal trail system and explored an open meadow a short distance outside the actual conservation area. So, this fellow is a bit of a testament to my statement about the busy trails. The wildlife has moved just outside the busy trail area.
That said, for me, this spring has actually presented me with quite a few wildlife photography opportunities, which I’m happy for. While trees and wildflowers are satisfying in there own way, to see the animals which inhabit the forests in this environment and to be able to watch them as they interact with that environment, is very satisfying.
Back to the porcupine, of the many images I made of him, he never did present me with an opportunity to get a clear shot of him, particularly his face. He remained in the cover of the horse-tails the entire time, changing his position as I slowly circled, looking for a better angle and maintaining a distance so as no to frighten him, thus the title that I chose for this image.
Tamron SP 70-200mm f/2.8 Di VC USD @ 200 mm
1/250 sec, f/8.0, ISO 400
I would say that it became a perfect image, where it seems to trust its surroundings but with its eyes firmly fixed on you.
It never stopped watching me.
Well-spotted, Ed, and I like that you took the shot where you did. It really emphasizes the camouflage idea. I’ve only seen one of these in the wild in Wyoming many summers ago. I pity any dogs that decide to investigate this guy!