Birdman of the lakes - San Diego, California News Station - KFMB Channel 8 - cbs8.com

Birdman of the lakes

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SANTEE (CBS 8) - Among the fowl that flock to the serenity of Santee Lakes, you'll find one rare old bird who's shot them all.

"They claim there's 196 varieties here. I got 216," Jeff Dodge said.

For the past 30 years, Jeff has been coming here almost daily to photograph his feathered friends.

"I think some of these birds know me. Yeah, ospreys. I think he does. He says, I'm just another one with a big beak," he said.

The years have flown by, and now at age 88, he doesn't migrate like he used to.

"I used to walk, now I sit under that tree," Jeff said.

In the shade of an oak more ancient than he, Jeff waits for his friends to find his lens.

"They come to me. We're buddies," he said.

Over the years, Jeff has taken over 24,000 pictures of the lake's inhabitants.

"There's two things that you've got to have -- patience and get close. That's why I have this thing," he said of his camera.

With an unwavering eye and a lens that gives him all access, his work is pure poetry in motion. And of all the denizens of the trees of Santee, Mr. Dodge does have a favorite.

"Well my baby is the osprey. He looks at me like he's going to kill me sometimes," he said.

Somedays, Jeff doesn't even get out of the Caddy. He slowly trolls the lakes like a bird circling for prey, seeking out his favorite spots for the money shot. Speaking of money, he makes none off his pictures. He just gives them away.

"I don't have anything else to do now, Larry. I do what I can do," he said.

Age has limited his mobility, but on the wings of his subjects, he shoots, he soars.

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