Spotting rare birds
I've never been good at seeing rare animals, or even regular animals. Other friends go out and they say they saw some unusual bird or shy little creature. Not me! I mean, I see normal things squirrels and birds. But honestly I think I've seen more deer dead by the side of the road than I've ever seen in life.
I think it's a bit like seeing celebrities. Some friends of mine always seem to be in the right place to see famous people and I just don't. Perhaps I'm oblivious to them, my inability to see the red-speckled-whatever being the same as my inability to spot the Emmy winner in the coffee shop.
My few celebrity sightings are tragically mundane. I saw Ben Stiller one time, walking down the street in Manhattan. I saw Eric Boghossian in the audience at a play. And I stood behind Colin Farrell for about 20 minutes in the so-called express security lane at Heathrow (I was frantically texting friends OMG IT’S COLIN FARRELL!!!, but I didn’t take pics or bother him).
My lack of brushes with fame could reflect on my failure to attend the trendy restaurants and parties, and it's possibly because celebrities don't necessarily look the way they do on film when they're just heading to the supermarket.
A few weeks ago I travelled to London, and while I was there went to see the wildlife photographer of the year exhibit the Natural History Museum. I’ve always loved this photography contest (I did enter once, years ago, with some pictures of monkeys in Indonesia). Entries come from all over the world, and they often take pictures of animals I've never heard of. The lengths they have to go to to get some of these pictures is incredible. There's often a short narrative from the photgrapher about how they were in waist-deep water for a week trying to catch a picture of some elusive amphibian, or bivouacing halfway up a mountain to see a snow leopard. Sometimes they set up a camera with a sensor, and leave it - coming back to see if the animal has essentially taken an unwitting selfie.
Photography has taught us a lot about animal behavior and how species adapt in different circumstances. One of this year’s finalist pictures was of cheetahs fording a river in a group: they were once believed to be largely solitary, but now there are known to be some who operate in gangs.
And for the photos of animals in less-serious poses, there is the comedy wildlife photo award, which I only discovered this year.
I think as we enter our second year of the pandemic, this pigeon is all of us: