Sunday, March 28, 2010
"Come in Dr. Lobkova!"
At our ranger station in Valley of Geisers in Kronotsky Nature Reserve I was always the first to wake up way before sunrise. That way I could get to my shooting place in morning twilight. My dear friend and colleage, reserve ranger Volodya Zlotnikov, on the other hand, liked to stay in bed until 9am, when he had to radio reserve headquarters. Before leaving I usually had enough time to light the fire in the fireplace, to make coffee, and sometimes I even had time to write something to my journal. The same routine was going one morning, when I heard someone’s footsteps on the porch outside as I was sitting down to drink my fresh coffee and work on a laptop. “Come on in Dr. Lobkova” – I said aloud inviting a guest.
Couple of days earlier Dr. Lyudmila Lobkova, a well known biologist, has arrived to the Valley of Geisers research center. For several decades she has been studying how the insects have adapted to use the natural heat sources here in their life. Last night Dr. Lobkova, Volodya and I were having a tea party at our cabin – and Lyudmila brought a frying pan with some food. When she was going home, Lyudmila left it with remaining leftovers for us and said that she will come back in the morning to get the pan. So now I could not understand why she was still hesitating outside. “Come in, we are awake!” I repeated, but Lyudmila remained outside. The wooden floorboards were gently squeaking as she was shifting her weight from one foot to another, apparently feeling shy to come in.
I thought that maybe she did not hear my invitation, so I got up holding a laptop in my hands and pushed the door open with my foot. The door rammed into something soft so I have started to apologize... but stopped short when I lifted my eyes and saw a bear on! He looked quite peaceable and even embarrassed that he has violated our privacy. But who knows what is going on bear's mind!! I immediately grabbed the door handle and closed the door, noticing that both rifles, my friend’s and mine, were hanging on the wall by the entrance behind the bear.
When I put the laptop on the table inside, I heard “Dr. Lobkova” starting to turn apparently intending to leave. But the porch was quite narrow for such an “outstanding” visitor so household objects started falling down from the walls as he was turning. The rattle of falling firewood, metal buckets and empty boxes has wakened Volodya up. “What’s happening?” he asked sleepily. “Oh, it’s Lyudmila Lobkova: she looking for her frying pan on the porch.” I answered with perfectly calm intonation. Volodya jumped out of the bed, grabbed the pan from the table and rushed outside... But the door forcefully hit the bear’s bottom pushing the animal outside. Volodya instantly understood the situation and slammed the door closed.
We were listening to the snow crunching under the paws as our "Dr. Lobkova" went outside. In a second the animal appeared on a snowdrift next to our window. He was staring at us; our noses were not more than 2 feet apart separated only by a thin glass. Worryingly close we were studying each other. The bear’s nose and lips were silently moving as if he was trying to say something. “What could he be thinking?” I wondered in my head. And Volodya, as if he could read my mind answered: “He is inviting you outside to wrestle!” At this moment the bear probably understood that nothing useful can be found in our cabin and turned to walk away from our window towards the valley…
This photograph, that I took when just before our visitor left, is my first win in Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition in 2006 in a category “Urban and Garden Wildlife". And I hope, not the last :)
You can view the original post in Russian here.