A Nature Photographer’s Thanksgiving, Part 1

A bugling elk in Yellowstone is a favorite subject of photographers.
A bugling elk in Yellowstone is a favorite subject of photographers.

Story & photo by Frank Gallagher

As we approach Thanksgiving, many of us make an inventory of those people and things for which we are grateful. In that list we often find the landscapes and animals and plants that give us such joy when we’re out with our cameras. Not surprisingly, many of the items on our list reside in national parks. But, if we are so grateful for them, what are we doing to protect and preserve them?

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Dramatic Decline in Bird Numbers in North America

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology's new study documents widespread decline in bird numbers.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s new study documents widespread decline in bird numbers.

“If you were alive in 1970, more than one in four birds have disappeared in your lifetime.”  So begins a Cornell Chronicle article about a new study by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  That loss represents about three billion birds, across the US and Canada and across all biomes. Researchers examined decades of data on 529 species and found massive declines (53% loss) in the numbers of grasslands birds as well as big drops (37%) in shorebirds. As Ken Rosenberg, lead author of the study said, “It’s a strong signal that our human-altered landscapes are losing their ability to support birdlife. And that is an indicator of a coming collapse of the overall environment.”

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Bugs, Photographers and NANPA’s Conservation Handbook

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on milkweed flowers. This meadow, planted with milkweed, is an important stop on the Monarch butterfly migration, but also provides food and shelter for many other insects, birds, rodents and reptiles all year long. Photo © Frank Gallagher.

An Eastern Tiger Swallowtail feeds on milkweed flowers. This meadow, planted with milkweed, is an important stop on the Monarch butterfly migration, but also provides food and shelter for many other insects, birds, rodents and reptiles all year long. Photo © Frank Gallagher.

You might have seen headlines about an “insect apocalypse,” a dramatic and alarming decline in the numbers of insects, collapsing bee colonies, once-common species becoming increasingly rare.  Should we be worried?  And what has this got to do with photography?

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