In the movies, TV news crews are always dashing from one late-breaking locale to the next. In reality, things don't always move so fast. Take today. Stymied by unanswered phone messages and a 'No Trespassing' sign, our quick-turn bird-disturbed story turned into a sweltering, slow motion stakeout. Not to worry, I told Jeff Varner, if sixteen years of meeting deadlines has taught me anything, it's that 85 percent of electronic image acquisition is being in the right place at the right time. Vaguely aware I was talking again, our weekend anchor rifled through his phone's text messages and willed the thing to ring. Eventually it did, resurrecting our inconvenienced avian storyline from the ash heap of yesterday's newspaper article.
Fifteen minutes later Jeff, a rather eloquent land-owner and I craned our necks upward. Far above, a smattering of wildlife stared down at the news crew and nice lady, no doubt wondering what all the fuss was down below. I hardly knew myself, only knowing the empty hawk's nest at the top of the tree stood in between me and lunch. Properly motivated, I zoomed in, locked down and pressed 'Record'. In my earpiece I could hear the steady patter of Mrs. Landowner as she unspooled a saga involving her own personal wildlife preserve, the city's aim to bulldoze it down and a catch-phrase known to strike dread in the hearts of property holders everywhere: eminent domain. Of course none of that mattered if we didn't capture a glimpse of the cursed birds above.
For the longest time, we didn't. Apparently Mr. and Mrs. Hawk didn't receive our fax and were unaware we wished to interview them. So, we were forced to wait, to hurt our necks, to make whispery small talk while scanning the canopy for furtive movement. A veteran of stalking the many North Carolina Zoo exhibits, I knew just what to do. I let my camera battery run out, sent Jeff back to the car for a fresh one and counted to ten under my breath. Sure enough the hawk couple swooped in on cue, fed their babies the back half of a woodchuck and posed defiantly for my lack of lens. Mercifully, Jeff returned with a fresh battery just in time for me to center up and roll. Fifteen seconds into my viewfinder the large hawk smirked at the terrestrials, stepped off the limb and vanished - leaving me with just enough feathered footage to limp across our afternoon deadline.
I love it when a plan comes together...