Animal Behavior by Ron Toel

Animal behavior was one of the two favorite classes I took in college….The other was form and function which is the study of why body parts are shed in the best possible way depending upon the function they perform. Never did I ever think at that time that I would be using either in the capacity that I now do as a photographer of wildlife indulging in some of their behavioral acts.

Most animals have a limited number of predictable activities….most of these are centered around feeding, drinking, defense of territory, courtship display, mating, nest building, birthing, greeting, migration and predator-prey relationships. Of these behaviors many are tied to a particular location, or time either day or season. Taking advantage of this knowledge and awareness can improve the photographers chance of getting that shot.

For many animals the most active time of day is early morning or late afternoon. Colonial animals, mostly bats and birds tend to routine schedules of feeding…..leaving and returning at scheduled times. Most small animals tend to be nocturnal, making them difficult to photograph

The larger predators never as numerous as their prey also are difficult to find, because they are accustomed to stealth and concealment and have turned each into a well developed skill. However, if one watches the prey and their behavior, one may see nervous actions due to the predator being close. Also listen to bird calls to convey that message. Look for fresh scat and tracks and many other signs left by animals.

Migration….a word usually associated with birds, however mammals migrate as well. The wildebeest of the Serengeti and elk and caribou on North America. Many animals migrate to breeding colonies whereby thousands of animals congregate in order to breed. An example of these are the seals and their family members.

Volumes of books are filled with this type of information, however, the easiest way of finding wildlife is to hire an experienced local guide. If he/she is good it only means being in a certain place at a certain time. There is no substitute for good local knowledge. Advance research will give one the heads up of what is likely to happen and local information will then help one to put in practice the information about the animal one seeks. The more knowledge one possess the better photographer one will become.

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