Nearly every park and trail I’ve visited in Florida listed bobcats as one of the species you may see. Having never seen a bobcat in the wild before, I was skeptical at best. I figured there was no real chance of actually getting to see one, let alone photograph one…. and if in the super rare chance I did, it would look a lot like this:
A really distant photo with the bobcat just a tiny little spec in the frame…
And then I would try to creep closer and as also happened in this case, put on my teleconverter for a bit more reach on my telephoto lens… but despite all that, I’d just get a photo of its butt as it went back into hiding… and it would still be but a slightly larger speck in the frame…
In all truthfulness, the two photos above are of my second bobcat encounter, but I kept the photos just to illustrate this point. Wildlife photography is not easy.
Anyway, the first encounter was much more rewarding. During one of my sessions of scrolling around Google Maps looking for green areas on the map that might indicate a good place to explore, I stumbled upon a marker labeled SWA Greenway Trail System not in a green area which explains why I’d missed it previously. Further investigation revealed that SWA stands for Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County – aka the local landfill. Apparently they set aside 300 acres to serve as conservation area, including a large area that functions as a breeding rookery for native birds (that part is off limits this time of year to further promote the wildlife there) as well as several trails for hiking and biking. As it was only a few minutes further up the road from one of the other nature areas I’ve been visiting, I figured it was worth a shot.
When I first arrived, I liked how much more wooded the area appeared to be – a relative rarity among the places I’ve been able to visit – but I honestly didn’t think I would see much wildlife, so I set off without even taking my camera out of my backpack. I figured it would be a quick couple mile walk and I’d be back at the car in an hour having seen next to nothing and head over to Winding Waters to see what I could find there.
Then about 10 minutes into my walk, I see a shape about 200 yards up the trail and instantly realized it was a bobcat! I instantly dropped to one knee, slid my backpack off and start pulling the camera out… the whole time cursing myself for being a bad photographer and not being prepared.
Luckily, the bobcat was incredibly calm about things and though it stopped a few times and looked back – so I knew it knew I was there – it let me slowly follow it and even more slowly close the distance between us. Eventually it did decide it was time to go and disappeared into the woods, but not before I got some at least respectable photos. The last two are slightly cropped, and I never did get a good opportunity to put my teleconverter on, but you can see from the next two photos that I was at least relatively close.