Something very ugly has been happening in Montana near the Yellowstone National Park boundary. Over the past few years the Montana Division of Livestock, US Park Service and the Department of Agriculture (APHIS) have been capturing, hazing, killing and experimenting on the last wild bison in the US. The bison in Yellowstone National Park are the descendents of the few survivors of the attempted extirpation of the bison in the late 1800s.
Under the guise of “The Interagency Bison Management Plan” bison are forcibly removed from federal lands (primarily National Forest) in Montana that the bison have used for millennia and still use as winter range and calving grounds. Helicopters, riders on horseback and ATVs harass, haze and run bison from these federal lands up to 7 miles into the national park, without regard for pregnant cows, cows giving birth and very young calves. All for the wrong assumption that domestic cattle can be infected with brucellosis from wild bison, no transmission of this disease has ever been recorded from wild bison to domestic cattle (the brucellosis that bison carry originally came from the introduction of domestic cattle). Elk also carry brucellosis but no such actions are carried out against elk. The people involved with these actions in the state of Montana are not wildlife biologists, they are brand inspectors and others concerned with domestic livestock issues. Bison are not cattle, they are part of our wildlife legacy.
There has been an ongoing campaign to stop this abuse. The Buffalo Field Campaign (www.buffalofieldcampaign.org) has been active in the field, documenting what’s been happening in Montana, working to stop bad legislation in the state of Montana and alerting the public (as well as a very small nonprofit can) to this very sad chapter in our treatment of wild bison. More people need to be made aware of this travesty and give their support to our wild heritage. Please go to the BFC website to educate yourself about these issues and take action to save our wild bison.
Watching a bighorn dance down a nearly vertical wall can take your breath away. Drop to an invisible knob of rock, hold there for a split second, turn slightly and drop to another nearly invisible ledge, turn again on one hoof and find yet another place for hoof and balance to work with and against gravity. With hooves built for walking or running on rock, hard bony outer ridge protecting an inner softer pad , grips, wedges and holds the dancer going up or down. Bighorns, like cats, can turn in midair to land on their feet. (more…)
The light is fading, it’s snowing over the Sangre de Cristo mountains to our south and west. The sun has dropped behind those snow clouds and its cold, 10 degrees fahrenheit and slowly dropping with a soft breeze, ok a breeze with that temperature is anything but soft. I’m out here looking for three cats that our neighbor had described over the phone as 3 or 4 times the size of a house cat, solid tan color but with a dark band down the back and over the tail, and yes, the tail was quite long. I suspect Mountain Lion but 3 small ones?(more…)
It would seem to be a cliché to be writing about the past year and yet, by this time of the year, we tend to do just that. I like to think that past can be prologue, rather than wishing more had been checked off the to-do list or celebrating those things that were checked off. Nothing wrong with that but since we photograph and travel, looking into the future a bit is more satisfying. More of the same could be seen as a good thing, making images of the places and inhabitants of those places that we find interesting if not down right mind-blowing.
Nature photography and using digital cameras gives us the opportunity for endless learning and that, I think, is key to not letting the political class drive us totally crazy. “Walk in beauty” isn’t just an adage, it’s a directive that we can use to find that sometimes elusive key to happiness.
Contentment may lay in the past but life itself is ahead. So….. here are a few images from 2012 and a sincere wish that this coming year is very good to you.
Walking along this trail one thing becomes clear, we’ve been away from the tropics for way too long. Heliconias, red and yellow glow in a sea of green. Sweat runs in rivulets down my face, heat and humidity, the necessary ingredients for this untamed mass of life, hard to handle after years spent in Colorado. Howler Monkeys roar and howl from mid-level in the trees overhead, a misty rain drifts through the canopy, makes my shirt even wetter but doesn’t cool. Surrounded by an almost unbelievable diversity of life, plant, animal and insect make a dreamscape for a photographer.
Living in the city one loses most sense of nature but after living for many years in the rural foothills of Colorado which most people call the boonies, in a landscape of pinyon juniper forests, undeveloped wild lands and mountains all around, my senses have been intensified. Its easier to see, to smell and touch. Its easier to hear, easier to listen.(more…)
Cold, really cold, dark and quiet except for a very low, almost imperceptible, muted sibilance, like voices at a distance, heard but not understood. Waiting for the day to give enough light to see and then photograph the hundreds of birds also waiting out the dark on an iced over pond in the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. Winter here brings tens of thousands of ducks, geese and Sandhill Cranes to the wetlands and farmed fields along the Rio Grande River south of Socorro, New Mexico. Morning does arrive and the cold is forgotten as the thousands of lives in front of us unfold in a myriad of ways.
It is laying there among large gray boulders in the dappled shade, body relaxed, yet alertly watching as we sit among autumn colored wild roses with their bright red rose hips. A distance away to be sure, yellow Aspen and Willows coloring the gray boulders, a small waterfall nearby. Mountain Lion, there is no other animal in our mountains that says “wild” as these big cats do. While traveling back roads in western Colorado, looking for some jaw-dropping autumn scenery Barb said something like “There! Its a, a, stop! See it? Stop, it’s a…..Stop!” OK, you get it, and no, she isn’t usually incoherent, I stopped but ol’ Eagle Eye here didn’t see the Lion in the tawny grass of the road side. It quickly disappeared down the steep slope to our left and even though having stopped, I had only a small glimmer of hope that we might get a very brief view of the cat moving off through the trees. Across the space of a small mountain canyon, below us was the lion. To see a Puma, Cougar, Mountain Lion, Catamount, Painter, and whatever else people call these big , solitary cats is rare and is usually a very brief flash in the headlights.(more…)
Don’t know if you have noticed but there has been a lack of posting here lately, seems as I’m not so good at doing this in a timely manner and I will try to do better. Want to take macro photos, or better macro images? Stay tuned. Meanwhile, here are a few thoughts on spring, droughts and our local bears.
Many apologies for our sluggishness in getting a new post out to you. Here in southern Colorado as in the rest of the country it’s summer and hard at times to sit down at the computer. Even with high temps and smokey skies from the fires blazing all around, we’ve been busy photographing the backyard birds. One of the many is the Pinyon Jay and with their flock numbers, they are a dominant presence………..
Colorado National Monument is positioned in the north-east part of the Colorado Plateau, that big chunk of canyon country that Ed Abbey so eloquently wrote the praises of. It sits west of Grand Junction, Colorado and north-east of Moab, Utah, its dry country, bisected by some great gulch topography, vertical sandstone walls, hot in summer and cold in winter. Spring is pretty close to perfect, especially if you come from country not yet released from winters drab cold. We arrived in late afternoon with warm light on the rock walls, red, buff, salmon and all gradations between. A few electric blue Penstemons were blooming under the ridge of a rocky hogback, along with radiant carmine Paintbrush, next to a beautiful purple Milk Vetch.
When spring and summer give us a mind-boggling number of potential photo subjects it’s sometimes difficult to narrow down the field and concentrate on a particular thing. If one of your interests is in capturing images of wild birds and would like to concentrate on hummingbirds either to add to your files or just figure out how to capture images you can be proud of, stay with me.
Digital cameras allow us a lot of flexibility when trying to capture fast-moving subjects. High speed flash has been the standard solution and still is for many subjects but with adjustable ISO settings it is now quite easy to get a shot that in the past required an elaborate set up. Finding an open shady place with room for multiple flashes, some on light stands; floral arrangements with a hummingbird feeder, a suitable background and possibly a commercial or at least homemade backdrop; as well as a spot for you and your camera with long lens on a tripod and perhaps in a blind can be difficult not to mention a little intimidating. Expensive comes to mind as well. Such a set up can yield excellent images. It’s hard to argue with the consistent lighting and framing that can result from all of this attention to detail. Let’s make this a little easier.