Something interesting is happening in the wooded hills of northern Georgia. Thanks to the Black Bear Project, people and bears are learning to peacefully live together and avoid dangerous situations. NANPA member Mary Jo Cox has been involved in this project and gave us the story.
Editor’s Note: While spring 2018 is struggling to make its appearance through much of the United States, we can already look in our backyards and see the early signs that it’s on the way. Our backyards are always one of the best places to look for flowers, birds, and occasionally, something larger. This post by Amy Shutt appeared in 2014, and what she describes sounds like the ultimate back, front, and side yards for observing wildlife.
Story and Photography by Amy Shutt
We live on 7.5 acres of land in a little town in Louisiana. Although I’ve only been here for a few years, my husband, an ornithologist, has been living here for quite some time. It’s 95% woods. He gardens the area around the house exclusively for hummingbirds and the rest is untouched. Yep, we are the eccentric neighbors with the overgrown yard with signs designating the ditch in the front as a ‘Wildflower Area’ so the city won’t cut or spray.
I see swamp rabbits almost daily. We have deer…and deer ticks. I have heard foxes in the darkness just off the driveway in the woods. We have enjoyed listening to coyotes howling in unison. Barred owls belt out their crazy calls nightly. Prothonotary Warblers nest in boxes we make for them around the house and in the woods. Point is, it’s pretty cool out here and we share this land with a lot of critters and plants. Continue reading
Story and photo by Budd Titlow
Many years ago, I was walking through a lovely old-growth stand of northern hardwoods on a glacial moraine hillside in northeastern Connecticut, conducting a bird survey for a proposed residential subdivision. With each step, my mind slipped deeper into despair over sacrificing this beautiful woodland habitat for human housing. Continue reading
Story and Photography by Jorel Cuomo
When I attended NANPA’s High School Scholarship Program (NHSSP) in 2004 in Portland, my eyes opened to exploring wildlife photography as a medium. I greatly benefited from the one-on-one instruction and support of fellow photographers, both peers and mentors. Before attending this program, I never knew all this support existed; I felt that I was exploring nature and my camera by myself. Being a scholarship winner gave me the opportunity to harness my potential. Being surrounding by world-class photographers that shared their knowledge and experience opened my eyes to the possibilities that awaited me in our magnificent world.
There’s always something new under the sun. There are always surprises waiting for us in the most unlikely places. Recent studies are showing plants may be far more than the yard decorations and colorful picture elements we’ve taken them for. These beings that we’ve always considered to be merely ground cover are capable of movement, communication–yes, they can talk to their neighbors–and even arithmetic–some species need to know the hours of darkness and calculate if they have enough starch to survive the night. Charles Darwin recognized intelligent, purposeful movement in plants, and he even wrote a book on it. The scientific community ignored his findings for more than 120 years. Continue reading
This Birding Life is a new monthly column by NANPA Member Budd Titlow.
SAGE GROUSE – Happy Hour on the High Plains
Image and Story By Budd Titlow
Sometimes Mother Nature provides a perfect microcosm of human life.
Many years ago, I was invited to observe an annual ritual that had all the elements of happy hour at your favorite neighborhood bar. Totally full of themselves, the males were strutting around in tight circles with their hairless chests puffed out. As they walked, they repeatedly made burping and belching sounds while aggressively posturing toward any other males that came too close to their domains. Meanwhile, all of the females skittered demurely in, out, around, and through all of the absurdly displaying males—acting as if the showboats didn’t exist.
Rather than watching patrons in a dark, after-work bar, I was driving along a Colorado high mountain sagebrush prairie at sunrise next to a “lek,” which is, appropriately enough, the Swedish word for “play.” And the clientele I was observing were chicken-sized wild birds known as sage grouse.
The largest grouse in North America, sage grouse live on the high plains of the American West—at elevations of four thousand to nine thousand feet—including populations in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nevada, Utah, eastern California, and western Colorado.
Like many wildlife mating rituals, the “dancing” of the male sage grouse around a lek is all about influencing female choice. Leks are circular open areas in dense stands of sagebrush where sage grouse have been performing every February through April for eons. Here, male sage grouse spend their time puffing out their large colorful breast sacs and proudly displaying their sharply pointed tail feathers while aggressively defending their territories—leaping high in the air with feet and spurs fully extended and striking out at their nearest competitors for feminine attention.
While the female sage grouse pretend that they don’t notice, in the end, only the males with the showiest exhibitions—typically less than 5 percent of those trying—mate with all the females. After a few hours, the losing males skulk off to recoup their grouse-hood in hopes of faring better when the next day’s dances begin.
Because they tend to be such show-offs, sage grouse are the subject of many tales—both tall and otherwise—told far and wide in the high plateaus of their Rocky Mountain homeland. Many western riders swear that sage grouse sit hidden in their sagebrush hollows secretly plotting the precise moment to burst up with wings beating wildly askew in front of horses galloping across the open range. The result of this supposed comic plotting is of course that the horses rear up, violently tossing their hooves and manes wildly and summarily flinging their riders—derrieres first—into the nearest clumps of sagebrush.
Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service now lists the sage grouse as a “candidate species” for protection under the federal Endangered Species Act. The primary reason for the decline of this species is the wholesale loss of its high plains habitat throughout much of its native range.
A Professional Wetland Scientist (Emeritus) and Wildlife Biologist, Budd Titlow is also an international/national award-winning nature photographer and a widely-published writer/author. Throughout his career, Budd has shared his love of photography and nature by presenting seminars, workshops, and field trips Nationwide. He has also authored four books: BIRD BRAINS – Inside the Strange Minds of Our Fine Feathered Friends (ISBN 978-0-7627-8755-5), SEASHELLS – Jewels from the Ocean (ISBN 978-0-7603-2593-3), ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK- Beyond Trail Ridge (ISBN 0-942394-22-4), and ENVIRONMENTAL SUPERHEROES: Now Climate Change Needs A New One (In Press). Budd’s work is featured on his web site (www.buddtitlow.com).
The notes of the rail came loudly to my ear, and on moving toward the spot whence they proceeded, I observed the bird exhibiting the full ardor of his passion. Each time it passed before her, it would pause for a moment…and bow to her with all the grace of a well-bred suitor of our own species.—John James Audubon, 1840
What Audubon witnessed is something most folks will never see as this secretive marsh bird is heard more than it is seen. In 1926, ornithologist Arthur Cleveland Bent wrote this about how to see a Virginia rail: “Take up one’s station near a pond or marsh frequented by them and watch patiently, silently, and immobile….” Wow, patience. What a concept.
Images and text by Jeff Parker
The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!
Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.
Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.
The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country. Continue reading
Text and Images by Scott Bean
Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.
Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors. Continue reading
Check out The Web of Water Project – A Collaboration between NANPA Members jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden
The Web of Water project is a unique partnership with Upstate Forever, Fujifilm, Hub City Press renowned writer John Lane, photographers jon holloway, Ben Geer Keys, Clay Bolt, and Tom Blagden and corporate sponsors. The goal of highlighting through fine art photography the beauty, fragility, and critical importance of the Saluda-Reedy watershed and Lake Greenwood was a five year undertaking.
The Web of Water project tells the story of the watershed and those that depend on it for food, water, business, or recreation. A unique combination of beautiful and alarming images raise awareness about the watershed’s importance to the surrounding landscape and communities, current threats to the watershed’s health, and steps that citizens can take to preserve this precious natural resource in their midst.
This project will provide Upstate Forever with new opportunities to educate the community. Photography is one of the most powerful communication tools in assigning a higher sense of value to our environment. Often in the field of research, the visual connection between science and community is the untold story. This project will help bridge the gap and become a catalyst for community responsibility, awareness of cause and effect, and provide the public with unique opportunity to directly make a difference in the future of South Carolina.
Here are a few images from the Web of Water Project: