Thursday, February 28, 2008

NANPA Summit - Robert Glenn Ketchum

The Keynote Address today was by Robert Glenn Ketchum. I sat in awe as I watched imagery from the past. He started with early 1800 landscapes and how landscape painting evolved into more photo like realism. I marveled at the beauty of the earliest photographs. I felt like I was getting a semester class of Photographic History in a mere one hour. I'll post more about these early photographers with links when I have more time.

He finished with his photos of areas of Alaska that are threatened today with mining and oil exploration. These are pristine areas where the salmon industry is still thriving. Both the mine and the new oil wells in the ocean threaten the salmon.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Nancy Rotenberg

Nancy Rogenberg, Natural Tapestries does such great workshops. I am so impressed with how both she and her staff greet you as you enter the room. And her message is always so powerful, creative, and spiritual. It's late and there is not a lot of time to blog tonight, but what a great way to start the Summit!

On the road again!

We left yesterday heading to Florida for the annual North America Nature Photographer's Summit in Destin, Florida. Fortunately that is near Pensacola - on "our" side of the state. We spent last night in Lafayette, Louisiana. We should make it in to our accomodations in plenty of time for my first event at 6:00 tonight.

I will be blogging about some of the things I learn and some of the things that I know will inspire me.

Interesting Wolf Articles - Yellowstone area

The Yellowstone Newspaper has a bunch of links to interesting newspaper articles both about the wolf issues and the bison slaughter. I won't post all the links, but the ones below gave a nice balanced view of the wolf delisting that I think worth passing on.

From the Casper Star-Tribune:

It's important that it be here

Their Greatest Highlight

We're going to start conservatively

A Real Efficient Killer

It's really been a bad deal

From New West:
Celebrate Wolf Recovery, Delisting, and Stop Slinging Arrows

I usually find that with any controversy there are some reasonable issues on both sides. I also see that it is within the nature of people to label the people on the other side of the issue as bad, unreasonable, evil, power hungry, etc. I've been trying to read the articles from the Yellowstone News daily to get a feel for what the real issues are and to try to understand what will really happen as the wolves are delisted. There are a lot of issues - real issues and, yes, some bureaucracy issues as well.

As far as the buffalo slaughter, apparently there are 4700 buffalo in Yellowstone National Park, the target number in terms of proper wildlife management may be only 3,000. But the way this is being handled right now . . . no testing for brucellosis, apparently there is an area where there won't be cows any more that some of these buffalo might could use . . . There has to be a better way than just to round them up and haul them to the slaughterhouse.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Hallelujah! I'm finally feeling better!

Finally, the glimmering of actually feeling "normal" again! While I still have a little cough, today I could feel some actual energy. I had errands to run and the weather was nice enough that I was determined to take a short walk. I did not get to my walk until almost 6:00 p.m. I chose to walk through the Pflugerville park. I so enjoyed being outside again - yes, I've been cooped up too long. I enjoyed the kids on their skateboards, their bicycles and their scooters. The people out walking their dogs. I even saw a male version of Debra's dauschand, Kate - same colors and everything. (Yes, I need another puppy fix - and I got one earlier this week.) There was a bright red cardinal and I scared up at least one rabbit.

I made it a short walk . . . no, I don't have all my strength back. But it did feel SO good to feel energetic enough to get out for even a short walk.

Time is getting short. We need to leave for Florida sometime on Sunday. And I'm still printing photos for my portfolio. Being sick really does slow you down, but at least it looks like I'll be healthy for the NANPA Summit next week. That was one of my prayers.

I am so grateful to be feeling better!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Wolf Reading

Defenders of Wildlife has a good article about the current status of the delisting.

Decisions have been made (and were announced today) that will delist the wolf's endangered status. However, the court battle will delay the effects of this delisting at least for a little while.

Yellowstone's Wolves

Well, they delisted the wolf from the endangered species list in the Rocky Mountain area. I've got mixed feelings about that.

We were visiting Yellowstone when the first plans were being made to reintroduce wolves into the Yellowstone ecosystem. On that visit the buffalo were at one of their largest population levels - really too many for the park's natural resources to sustain. At that time the only wolves in the continental United States were in parts of Michigan and perhaps northeastern Minnesota.

Humans have a love-hate relationship with wolves. Wolves are cunning and very intelligent creatures. They work together as a pack both to hunt and to care for their young. We have many stories about pioneer people out camping or living in very primitive conditions and fending off attacks from a starving wolf pack (at least I have many memories of movie and TV versions of these tales.) And, yes, the wolf is a mighty hunter. In the days when our nation was a more agrarian society, wolf attacks on domestic animals were a real issue.

The states surrounding Yellowstone National Park are still primarily rural with farming and ranching as major industries. When the wolf was reintroduced to Yellowstone, provision was made to pay ranchers for any livestock lost to wolf predation. Wolves caught in the act of harming livestock or threatening humans were fair game to be killed. Ranchers were worried . . . but a lot of effort was made to keep them from being financially harmed by this experiment.

But as much as people feel threatened by wolves, we are also fascinated by them. They are beautiful creatures with an amazing social structure. I've been privileged enough to get to see a morning reunion of a wolf pack - and it is a joyful amazing event. The sound of the wolf howls and barks of greeting are an amazingly primitive call that thrills that still wild part of our nature. There is quite a large number of people who come and spend time in Yellowstone each year both to study the wolves and their packs and to enjoy them. We've named their packs, identified individuals and mourned the losses that occur when two packs get too close together.

I've been more than willing to get up at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning to trek across the park to be in position to watch the morning activities of a pack. I've stayed out after sunset (even when it was a long 2 hour drive back to the campsite) in hopes of hearing the wolves or catching a glimpse of their evening activities. I'm secretly jealous of those people who get to spend weeks or months EVERY summer and know exactly where to find which pack and who know the wolves "by name."

The wolves that were introduced into Yellowstone have indeed spread throughout the park. However, wolf packs are very territorial and I remember hearing that the wolf numbers are not increasing right now due to wars between the packs where individual wolves die.

Humans were able to totally remove the wolf from its original range. And, there were law suits that wanted to remove the wolves from Yellowstone. But wolves were part of the original ecosystem at Yellowstone and the park has seen many benefits from the reintroduction. Aspens and willows are coming back from elk over grazing. The elk and buffalo herds have a natural predator keeping the numbers at more reasonable levels for the ecosystem to support.

But with the delisting, I suspect that the wolf population outside the park will be at greater risk than before. I wonder how long before the only wolves in the Rockies are the ones in Yellowstone National Park and perhaps Grand Teton National Park. Will it be easier or more difficult to put them back on the endangered species list then? What will the politics be?

My heart says we have too few wild places left. My heart wants them to stay wild. My heart wants to protect the "critters."

Dreaming of spring

Because of lingering health issues from the infection I had last week, and because I need to have my photography portfolio ready, I've been stuck in the house the last couple of weeks. My outdoor spirit is SO ready to be out and about with my camera taking photos. But I am enjoying printing out photos that I took last year.

This set is encouraging because I don't think we'll get to do the same amount of travel this year. These photos were taken near bird feeders I had set up in Amarillo. I have bird feeders around the Hutto house as well. I just have not been healthy enough to sit outside with the camera with our temperatures that have been chilly in the mornings. (And yes, I'm also trying to be disciplined and have my portfolio ready - so that means sitting inside in front of the computer.)

So, for some of the rest of you that are cooped up inside right now for whatever reason - here are some harbingers of spring:

American Robins:

I love the expression on this mother curve bill thrasher face as she feeds her demanding youngsters:

Golden Fronted Woodpecker:

And yes, woodpeckers eat seeds as well as insects.

I'm SO ready to be out and about with my camera. Maybe I'll get a few photo opportunities on our trip to Florida next week.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A piece of good news for the buffalo

I know that being sick this past week or so has left me with a more pessimistic look at the world. (Hopefully that will turn around as I begin to feel better.) I've been finding myself reading various news articles and feeling that things are looking pretty discouraging right now. So when I was doing my last internet surfing before I went to bed, I found this article, The New West. I sure hope it gets circulated in "all the right places." It was definitely an encouraging article to me - people trying to find workable solutions to difficult problems.

A reasonable look at alternatives for the yearly buffalo migration out of the park during the winter, it also gives some ideas that could actually work - fencing the few cattle in the migration route away from the buffalo. It also describes well the public distaste for the current methodology.

Reducing numbers of buffalo for native American hunting (the Nez Perce - see story here.) and for the health of the buffalo herd is one thing. (They have also been hunting buffalo near Grand Teton, but for different reasons - see story here.) But the current hazing and needless slaughter of the Yellowstone herd (even though - yes the meat is being used and the hides donated to native groups for ceremonial purposes) seems unreasonable to me. Especially since there are some nearby public lands that are part of their historic migration area.

Yellowstone's buffalo are part of our national heritage and should be managed respectfully and wisely. I sure hope someone in authority is "listening."

Saturday, February 16, 2008

La Jolla Seals - Legal Problems

It's a cold, gray day here in Central Texas. As I've gotten to feeling better, I've been back at my computer more. Next week, I'll be working on the photos from last year to put in my portfolio for the NANPA summit. I've been browsing some of my internet bookmarks - the Yellowstone Newspaper and today one of the pages about the La Jolla Seals.

The controversy out there continues. The news articles say that the court has ruled that the seals must go.

I read a lot about both sides of the controversy last spring. That wonderful retaining wall that lets you get so close to the seals to enjoy them and to photograph them was built with a generous donation from Ellen Browning Scripps with the intention of creating a permanent children's pool - a safe place for children to enjoy the ocean water. And for generations, people came with their children and shared the beach with the seals. The wall had to be altered when a child got caught in one of the openings where the sea water washed through the wall back out to sea. When those holes were closed, the waves deposited a lovely sand beach where the pool was. And the seals found a great place to haul out, to rest, and to give birth to their babies.

As the number of seals grew on the beach, some safety issues caused a closure of the beach for human use. More seals came. Many people enjoy the seals. They enjoy getting such an intimate look at the life cycle of these amazing sea creatures. Others remember the days when humans also used the area. The conflict about the usage of this area has become heated. One group wants to protect the seals - the other wants to evict the seals. It has gone to court. Right now, the courts are not ruling in favor of the seals' use of the beach - because of the laws that were made when the wall was built back in the 1930's.

There is no way to know what Ellen Browning Scripp would think about today's situation. Would she be angry that her children's pool is unavailable for children to swim in because of the seals or would she be happy that children can enjoy the area in a different way - being up close and personal watching seals and their babies.

I'm sure these seals can find a new home if they are forcibly evicted. I hope it won't happen during baby seal season. I wish it would not happen at all. If they have to find a new home, it won't be where so many people can enjoy watching baby seals being born, making their way across the beach for their first swim, or the bonding between mom and pup.

I hope someone can find a legal solution so this wonderful seal rookery can continue to thrive.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Grieving over Yellowstone's Buffalo

Here is the National Park Service's explanation of the buffalo (bison) round up that is ongoing right now.

Now, I grew up in cattle country and still own ranchland. And I know that I don't have nearly enough information about the current buffalo slaughter to even have a very good informed opinion.

Brucelosis is a problem disease for cows that causes still born calves. The cattle industry naturally wants to eradicate the disease for reasonable financial reasons. Cattle ranchers are real people who just want to feed their families like the rest of us. And, they have to fight bad weather, years with no rain, prices for their product that they can't control - it is NOT easy to be a cattle rancher. It is hard work and I have a great deal of respect for all aspects of the agricultural sector.

However, in terms of the Yellowstone buffalo, there does not seem to be adequate research as to whether buffalo can actually spread the disease back to cattle. Folks, that research needs to be done - it does not make sense to kill animals because they "might" pose a threat. How much would it have cost to test the buffalo that were sent to slaughter? If elk can also carry the disease - why are we picking on the buffalo?

Why does it matter? Why do I care? Why does this news story bother me right now?

The story of the buffalo is part of our American culture and history - part of the story of the American Plains Indians. The slaughter of the buffalo in the 1800's whether to feed the workers building the railroad or to remove the food supply of the Indians (depending upon which story you were told) was a great tragedy in so many ways. We almost lost a species (actually we did lose one of the types of buffalo.) Certainly, the buffalo are one of the symbols of the great American west. And, thankfully, the population of existing buffalo is currently healthy.

Having been to Yellowstone numerous times, buffalo are fascinating to watch. Watching the bulls follow the cows during mating season - hearing them grunt . . . The wonder of a buffalo swimming across the Yellowstone River . . . the energy of calves play, the herd behavior as the buffalo move from one area of the park to another. All of this is part of the wonder that is Yellowstone.

We idealize our national parks - we want nature to rule. We want the animal deaths in a national park to be natural ones - from predation, weather, old age, etc. (And the laws are structured that way) It just feels ugly that the Park Service would be killing part of the natural resource of the park. And I think I would feel very differently if they were doing the slaughter because of over population to prevent suffering from starvation.

Another reality, the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is HUGE! Why is there not room for this free ranging buffalo herd to live in peace? Don't we have plenty of grazing land away from the park boundaries? Should tax payer money (or private money) be spent creating a fenced barrier zone so that these buffalo don't have to be needlessly killed? As in so many things in life - I wonder why different groups of people can't get together and work out more positive solutions to issues like this.

More random buffalo facts:

One of the first national wildlife refuges was set up for buffalo habitat in Oklahoma. It is still ongoing - buffalo are still doing well there. There are lots of cattle operations in Oklahoma. Difference: The Oklahoma refuge is probably completely fenced such that the buffalo can't leave, but they live pretty ordinary buffalo lives. And perhaps the herd at the Oklahoma refuge has been tested and found free from brucelosis.

There are other herds of buffalo outside Yellowstone. The current slaughter of buffalo in Yellowstone will not cause an extinction of the species. And there are many private herds of buffalo being raised for the meat outside the park. (But why aren't nearby cattle people upset about brucelosis issues with domesticated buffalo - perhaps they are vaccinated or tested???)

And . . . by the way, yes, probably it is more scientifically correct to call the bison - not buffalo. But I was raised in the American west, and in some way, they will always be buffalo to me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Yellowstone's Buffalo

The other thing that I'm noticing at the The Yellowstone Newspaper are a number of articles about the winter slaughter of buffalo. I know that there are big issues with brucelosis and that at one point the Yellowstone herd was too large for the Yellowstone ecosystem to provide forage in the winter. But one thing that disturbs me about the reports right now, buffalo were being hazed IN THE PARK to an area where they were going to be slaughtered. There are one set of issues when buffalo are already out of the park and causing problems. And maybe these particular buffalo had already strayed out of the park and had gone back in . . . I don't know.

Things I do know: Buffalo have in the past over populated to unsustainable numbers for the habitat. The wolves were supposed to help reduce the numbers naturally. Buffalo are hard on their environment damaging trees and small shrubs. I know less about the brucelosis issues.

But right now the numbers of buffalo in Yellowstone do not reflect overpopulation. I saw some of the "herding" of buffalo in Yellowstone last summer - while the calves were still young.

There is a lot of conflict right now between Montana ranchers and hunters over not only the buffalo but also the wolves.

If wolves are delisted (as appears likely), then the wild ones outside the park are likely to be killed probably rapidly.

While I may not be totally in agreement with The Buffalo Field Campaign, I am glad there are people out there working to raise awareness of what is going on right now with the buffalo in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

Americans spending less time in nature

I've been couped up at home these last few weeks working on submissions and then being sick. I've been going back to the Yellowstone Newspaper website for a couple of reasons. I am hoping some year that we get to make a winter visit to Yellowstone. So I was interested in hearing what the winter visitors were talking about. I also have been working photos from last year, so as I worked my Yellowstone photos my thoughts were going in that direction anyway.

One of the articles that caught my attention was: NPR's John Nelson's "Americans Spending Less Time in Nature. I've seen a similar article talking about fewer visits in our national parks. I think this is a disturbing trend for many reasons.

I believe that as humans we have spiritual needs that are tied with nature. The world around us is grand, big, diverse, and amazingly beautiful and complex. Although sometimes we try to tame or conquer forces of nature, they inevitably prove to be stronger and more powerful than mankind's efforts to tame them. Our bodies need sunlight not only for the Vitamin D but also because the sun's rays increase our seratonin levels giving our spirits a positive boost.

But in today's world, many things keep us indoors. Most of us have to work in offices, many in small cubicles far from any windows. Even when we get off work, there is much to explore on our computers, the TV, or the many video games. So we don't get enough exercise, certainly not enough fresh air, nor do our spirits get fed by a beautiful sunset, a babbling creek, the flutelike notes of a songbird, or the energy of a thunderstorm.

I was a Girl Scout both as a girl and as an adult. And while camping is still part of the Girl Scout way, fewer and fewer troops actually practice those outdoor skills. It takes time and effort to get ready for a camping trip, to get the certifications, and to get willing parent volunteers to go with you. I was lucky, my girls spent time in the outdoors. They learned how to build a fire and cook over it. We saw owls fly in at an evening campfire program at a local state park.

One of my goals as a nature photographer is to produce images that will encourage people to step away from their computers, their TV shows, and their video games. I want to capture the beauty I see in such a way that others will want to get up early to see the sunrise or stay out to see the sunset hues. Even in the city, nature is all around us. I want people to notice the natural world on their way to work. I want to inspire people to take time and spend a day or a week enjoying the natural beauty that surrounds us. Because I think humans have an inner need for the spiritual feeding that can occur when you are in the natural world - that touch of God's hand, his amazing handiwork calls us to worship and appreciate something we as humans can't create.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hanging in there

Faithful readers . . . I have to apologize . . . I came down sick this weekend. Started with a tickle in the throat which got worse. And, of course, it landed during an "endurance" weekend. A wonderful ladies' retreat that I did not want to miss, an important baby shower, and an important wedding - all on the same day. I made all my events, but I knew deep down that I was going to have a sick day. My motto on Saturday, I've got to make it through today . . . tomorrow I can be as sick as I want . . . Fatal last words.

I made it through the lovely wedding and reception but when we left, I was exhausted on the ride home. I woke up to every part of my respiratory system inflamed and angry. And, of course, on a Sunday, you go to the Minor Emergency Center and wait . . . We left home around 10, I saw the doctor at 12:30, turned in the prescription around 1:15, bought the necessary Kleenex, orange juice, Afrin, Ocean Spray, grabbed lunch, went back for the prescriptions, went through the drive through a second time as they had missed one of the prescriptions . . . got home around 2:30.

I took all my meds and crashed.

Yesterday was pretty much a write off. Today is better, but I'm still far below par. The antibiotic is very strong, so it may not be until after I'm off the antibiotic that I truly feel "good" again.

I don't know about you . . . but I absolutely hate being sick. It feels like such a waste of precious time - you can't be productive - and part of me (yes, a silly part) equates productivity with self worth. So . . . when unproductive due to illness, I get a double whammy - physically and mentally.

However, there is one up side to being ill. I know that the day will come when I will feel better. And you really appreciate feeling good after feeling so miserable. I'm looking forward to that day!

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Kenya - A Voice of Hope

I've backed off reading Kenya news every day, but I do go to a site that lists articles about the Kenya situation a couple of times a week. The bad news is that the violence continues. And it seems so irrational - hurting people who had no power over the politics such as the school that was destroyed recently and tearing down the infrastructure of the country - the railroad lines.

But I found one article about someone who may eventually help heal the deep wounds being created in Kenya right now - From the Christian Scientist Monitor comes a story of a man whose mission is to reconcile people. It sounds like he did a great job after 9/11 reconciling Christians and Muslims in Kenya. Let's hope and pray that he is not killed in this senseless violence sweeping Kenya.

May God touch the hearts of the people in Kenya. He alone can bring healing and forgiveness after such horrible things have happened. May God also touch the hearts of the leaders and give wisdom to the mediators working to end this crisis.

Let's hope and there are more people like Hezron Masitsa who can help bring healing when this political crisis is over.

Saturday, February 02, 2008


Today I was lucky enough to get to attend the annual Sparrowfest at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. It was a wonderful day.

I'm too tired to do a lot of posting tonight, but here is the list of bird species seen on my two field trips:

American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
Orange Crown Warblet
Ruby crowned kinglet
Canyon towhee
Eastern Phoebe
Chipping Sparrow
Rufous crowned sparrow
Bewicks Wren
Ladder Backed Woodpecker
Savannah Sparrow
Lincoln Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Northern Mockingbird
Field Sparrow
Golden crowned kinglet
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Red tailed hawk
Dark eyed junco
Carolina Wren
Eastern Phoebe
Yellow rump warbler
lesser Goldfinch
Red admiral butterfly
Lark Sparrow
Clay Colored sparrow
American goldfinch
House finch
Northern harrier
Hermit Thrush
Black crested titmouse
White crowned sparrow
Vesper sparrow
House sparrow
Song Sparrow

Another group saw a prairie falcon. I count 39 species in the groups I was with. It was a good day.

Friday, February 01, 2008

A Special Treat for your eyes

I started reading Julie Zickefoose's blog after last year's Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. She is a talented artist, a musician, and a great speaker. I find her blog interesting because we get a glimpse of her family life, wonderful birds and plants, and sometimes her art. This week she ran a series on a painting that she just did. This series is worth reading and enjoying for several reasons. For one thing, you get to see how a beautiful water color painting is done. For another, the birds she painted are beautiful.

So, go on over . . . enjoy the story behind that beautiful painting.


I'm trying to pull out old photos for a new vintage photo stock agency. This morning I pulled out a bunch of stuff out of my office closet. You should have seen me at one point - I had all these boxes and "stuff" barricading me into a small area by the closet. Some of that stuff really needs to go bye-bye rather than back into the closet.

While the photos I was looking for were not in the deep depths of that closet, something else I was hoping to find was - my mother's souvenirs from her Europe trip.

For the vintage photos I had her Europe photos and I knew I had other things, but since it had been 10 years, I did not remember what I had done with them. With the things I found this morning, I can go back and put together her itinerary and perhaps give more details about the photos that I'm planning to market.

All my life I had heard stories about mother's Europe trip. But I don't think I ever got to look at these memorabilia with her. I had also gone through some of the family photos so I would have some names to put with the faces, but not nearly enough.

As I upload these old family photos, I'm enjoying getting a glimpse into my family's history. I looked at these 10 years ago. I'm glad I have an excuse to look at them again.