This is a picture of the town center Gazebo in Green Mountain Falls, Co. My family and I were in this mountain paradise for a family wedding. One night, as my 8 yo son fitfully tossed and turned, getting over an upper-respiratory bug I decided to get some night photos of this quaint scene.
I dressed and grabbed my camera, walking the two blocks from the hotel. As I approached the pond, it was a picture of peaceful solitude.
Darkness enveloped all around me but the immediate area around the town’s small pond and Gazebo, as the folds of the front range of the Rocky Mountains blot out any star and moonlight. I stopped and looked out on the Gazebo and water….appreciating the simplistic beauty of the scene. The only sound was a slight breeze rustling leaves on the trees and the surprising conflict between some ducks.
Then, a sudden fluttering low overhead. I looked up and saw nothing, but suddenly felt I was being watched. A moment later, from the deep shadows of the branches of a nearby tree came the call of a large, but un-seen bird. It wasn’t the sweet chirp of a Robin, or even the ragged caw of a Crow, It was something that one would normally hear reverberating off the hills high above. Something of a hunting call.
As I couldn’t see whatever it was, I focused my attention back on the scene and my camera. Capturing the silent beauty of this tiny community’s piece of paradise at rest the best my photographic skills would allow. As I moved around the West end of the Lake to the walkway leading out to the gazebo island, again came the call.
Then out of the darkness, a sudden flapping and rustling of very large feathered wings approaching. Then as the sound seemed to draw closer overhead, silence. I don’t know if it was being awake at 2am in an un-familiar place, or the cool breeze, but the second the flapping stopped and I lost track of where the feathered hunter was the hair stood up on the back of my neck.
I tried to ignore the rising feeling of fear in my gut, but the thought came that whatever Raptor was overhead may in-fact be watching me! I know enough about Raptors to know they are often drawn to shiny surfaces, an lucky me: I have very short and thin hair and had not put on a hat.
I kept an ear out for further motion, but for several minutes, all I would hear was the high-pitched call from any of a dozen nearby trees. The amazing thing was out on the Gazebo island were a dozen or more Canadian Geese, all fast asleep and not stirring when I walked nearby.
Then, just as I was feeling satisfied, again the ethereal call and the flapping of wings. Again, it circled the lake just out of sight in the darkness. Then, as I walked slowly back toward the path back to shore, much lower, heading in my direction the call and the flapping came. This time stopping just 15 or so feet away…..the silence…..and this time, the sound of the airflow against a large feathered body just feet overhead.
That was the most fear I have felt in many years……I never discovered the exact type of Raptor that was near, but I’m guessing it was either a large owl, or red-tailed hawk. But the combination of the deep darkness of the mountains in the dead of night and the hour sure contributed to the thought that I just experienced what other creatures do. The feeling of being hunted.