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Field Notes
Ziegler
Photograph courtesy of Christian Ziegler
Christian Ziegler

What was your best experience in the field covering this story?

For two months I had been trying to track down the dominant male ocelot on Barro Colorado Island. I had started to wonder if he even existed, when a 42-pound (19-kilogram) ocelot the researchers had named "Bobby" let us get close one night. He had just finished eating and was resting on the ground when I walked within 20 feet (six meters) of him. Bobby gazed up at me, and I captured a few frames before he got up slowly and walked away. It was a very tense but beautiful moment.

What was your worst experience in the field covering this story?

One day while walking around I heard a high-pitched whine. I traced it back to a fuzzy baby ocelot stuck in a hole in the ground. It looked like it was only three weeks old, and it was just crying its soul out. Apparently this ocelot's mother had abandoned it because the food supply on the island had run low. But I couldn't do anything to help it because there's a no-touch policy with wild animals. So I checked on it every 12 hours, hoping its mother had returned. But after two days, it died of starvation.

What was your quirkiest experience in the field covering this story?

I had a lot of random visitors to my camera trap, including a bird that danced and ruffled its feathers in front of my camera four mornings in a row. I think it must have been responding to its reflection in the camera lens because the same thing happened with a forest hawk. It actually passed through the infrared beam set up to my camera so many times that it triggered 150 pictures of itself in one day.