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Retired psychologist’s photos catch birds up close and personal

  • A short-eared owl

    A short-eared owl

  • A vermilion flycatcher

    A vermilion flycatcher

  • A  heron

    A heron

  • A short-eared owl
  • A vermilion flycatcher
  • A  heron

The warbler lands near the coast, completely exhausted, starving. A 5,000-mile night trip with nothing but a set of bird wings will do that. But before he can sleep, he needs to eat. He flits around, searching for tiny bugs, mosquitoes, whatever’s around. Just as he makes his move, Udo Rauter reaches out and captures him, forever mid-hunt.

“They move very, very quickly,” Rauter said. “And that is where the challenge of the photographer comes in. To take a picture of a warbler is really an extraordinary event. They are hopping so quickly; within a fraction of a second they move from one location to the next, just frantic feeding.”

Rauter’s work, which includes close-up photos of warblers, snowy owls, herons and a variety of other birds, is on exhibit at the Conservation Center, the headquarters of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, in Concord through Aug. 28.

“The exhibit is strong because it shows so much detail of these creatures that you wouldn’t normally get to see,” said Brenda Charpentier, a spokeswoman for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “You know you don’t really get to see the true beauty of birds in the wild; they move so fast or they’re too far away. But Udo’s photos capture all the intricate, kind of creative detail you would miss otherwise.”

Though not a professional photographer, Rauter has spent the better part of his 71 years honing his photography skills, trying to get closer and closer to his subjects.

Rauter, who lives in Chichester, grew up in Germany near Dusseldorf. As a teenager he began traveling extensively and invested in a used Leica F3 camera.

“I think it was one with a 60

mm lens that you just put in your pocket,” Rauter said. “I wanted to have a little pocket camera. . . . I was traveling a lot and wanted to take pictures to send home to my parents.”

In those days, he and his Leica captured bits of faces, and people and landscapes in Geneva and London and Paris. He still has some of the photos.

Still, photography was only ever a hobby of his and he went on to become a chief psychologist at New Hampshire Hospital and was on the faculty at Dartmouth Medical School. But about 15 years ago, he started taking pictures of the myriad birds that populated his backyard and became fascinated with getting closer to them. To do that, he continued to buy better and better cameras with lenses that picked up more and more details and nuance: a slight change of color in the feather or an almost human expression.

Since his retirement about five years ago, he’s been able to devote more time to his birds, and he’s traveled across the country, the region and the state in search of new subjects.

Many of Rauter’s photos show birds in action, Charpentier said. For example, a photo of a Cape May warbler shows the bird stretching its neck while opening its beak in pursuit of an insect two inches ahead of it. In another, a determined-looking northern hawk owl is flying toward the camera. Yet another caught an egret with a wet tadpole in its beak.

“So when people come in for conferences or meetings or just to see the exhibit,” Charpentier said, “they are going to come away with the beauty of the natural world, a beauty that we don’t always get to see up close.”

Rauter’s photographs are available for viewing Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the Conservation Center Conference Room, located at 54 Portsmouth St. in Concord.

The Conference Room is used for meetings, so call 224-9945 before visiting.

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