Often, the best places to see wildlife, especially birds, are in areas with good habitat that are frequented by people. That would seem to be counterintuitive - you would think wild animals would avoid people. But if a natural area is healthy, with plenty to eat and cover when seclusion is sought, and if human activities are relatively quiet and routine (i.e., the same sort of activity is present from day to day) animals accept humans as just part of the background noise. Go into a bird house at the zoo during the day, and the birds go about their business as if you weren't there. Go there in the evening, after hours when the public is not usually present (as we did once on a special "behind the scenes" tour), and the inhabitants become quite alarmed. One of our favorite places to take walks near our home is the Watershed Nature Center. There is a good variety of habitat with ponds, forest, and some prairie, and the paths are frequented by dog- and children-walkers. That's where this Pileated Woodpecker, a bird that is normally very shy, let us get within ten feet as he (it is a male) foraged for carpenter ants on a decomposing tree carcass. And last week this immature Red-tailed Hawk seemed unconcerned as we walked along the path not twenty feet away.
Brent Langley is an internationally known artist who enjoys sharing his views on art and nature.