Warning! This song may cause ear worm… but it’s funny in a sick and twisted way.
Warning! This song may cause ear worm… but it’s funny in a sick and twisted way.
A new article about the Path Of The Pronghorn in the Billings Gazette indicates that the fabled Teton herd is suffering losses due to gas drilling on their winter range in the Upper Green River Basin. Marla and I made a trip to Pinedale in December to document the “Mule Deer Crash” of the Pinedale herd. Pronghorn disperse throughout the basin and depend heavily upon windswept slopes to survive the harsh winter. There’s no denying that the decision to drill on critical winter range for both mule deer and pronghorn is heavily impacting both species. Is it worth risking extinction of pronghorn in a National Park?
Pasque Flower Bloom, Mount Galbraith Park, Jefferson County, Colorado
The second driest winter on record is turning into the driest spring anyone on the Front Range can remember. Wildflowers are wilting as soon as they bloom and last year’s tall grass is ready to burst into the next out of control wildfire emergency. But if we set aside negativity and look for what’s right, maybe even look closer than usual, we may find all sorts of beauty. I walked Mount Galbraith this morning, a foothills trail of average beauty by Colorado standards (yes, we’re spoiled) while looking for pasque flowers that were starting to bloom a little over a week ago. Today, this perrenial of the buttercup family were wilting and turning to seed, save for a few that still looked pretty with their pale purple, white, and gold stamens. I laid on my belly, sprawled out across the trail and forgot about everything while making a few macro shots. Macro is like that, any chance of success demands our full attention. (more…)
Sage Sparrow in Wyoming Big Sagrebrush , Gunnison Basin, Colorado
Last may I went out with Dr. Patrick Magee of Western State College in Gunnison to walk a transect and document songbirds. We were near Parlin in a plot marked for the transect, where Pat walks in a pattern and notes every songbird positively identified by sight or sound. It’s one of the many locations in the Basin where sage treatments have been done to improve habitat for endangered Gunnsion sage grouse and obligate species. A variety of techniques are used; including discing, chemical treatments, and re-seeding. The area has a lot of small or dying old sage, with blotches of bare ground, void of necessary native grass and forbs. There are also signs of recovery, with new sagebrush emerging. Cheat grass hasn’t taken hold here, a good sign. We were looking and listening for Brewer’s sparrow, sage thrasher, green-tailed towhee, and sage sparrow, rare for Gunnison Basin. In fact, Pat had just located a sage sparrow nest in 2009, the first positive ID of the bird at the eastern end of their range. I’d been playing songs from the Cornell Itunes “album” and familiarizing myself with the four birdsongs, and quickly recognized the run-on blather of sage thrashers to the north. Green-tailed towhee’s sang from a high perch on the few junipers, and Brewer’s sparrow blasted from across the sage, pausing long enough to sing beautifully in defense of territory. Just when Pat was describing the sage sparrow discovery, he paused for the beep…beep-beep of a male sage sparrow, maybe 50 yards to the east. We couldn’t see him, but we had positive identification. (more…)
Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge is ready to unveil their new LEED Gold visitor center, with the official opening slated for May 21. Volunteers were invited to tour the VC last night, so Marla and I jumped at the chance. I was commissioned to create two huge murals for the exhibits and was happy to see that they look as good as I had hoped.
The first thing visitors will see when they arrive is this bison exhibit with my 11 x 26 foot mural as the backdrop. I stitched together 12 vertical images to make this gigantic panorama. (more…)
Questar Gas Rig and Fracking Pond on the Pinedale Anticline, Pinedale Mule Deer Winter Range. Sublette County, WY
It seems people everywhere are questioning what’s in the “proprietary” hydraulic fracturing compounds that gas companies are pumping into the earth across the U.S. Wyoming stands alone as the most progressive state on this matter, requiring energy companies to disclose the chemistry of their fracking fluid, cancer causing chemicals and all. The rest of the states are hiding behind the “Halliburton Loophole“, Dick Cheney’s lasting gift to the American people. This article, “Truth Comes Out On Fracking Toxins” is one of the more comprehensively damning pieces about “earth fucking” that I’ve seen.
Maybe we’re resigned to gas rigs blanketing the U.S, but you’d think we could at least regulate the industry and know what chemicals to look for in our ground water. Tell your elected officials that you want natural gas drilling regulated, by clicking on this NRDC link then clicking on Yellowstone/Greater Rockies. Thanks for adding your voice!
“Please Take Care Of Our Gunnison Sage Grouse, by Browne Troop 10512, Gunnison, Colorado”
Impressions From The Gunnison Sage Grouse Summit, April, 2011
I just attended the Gunnison Sage-grouse Summit in Gunnison, CO; three days of presentations on all things related to saving the namesake grouse from extinction. And while the academic papers were impressive and the scope of the conservation effort mind-boggling, I kept looking at this mural made by the local Brownie Troop, a symbol of a community united for their endangered species. It also stands for hope, education, outreach, teaching kids the value of this place they call home and the fragility of an animal that may be the toughest bird out there – fragile because they need freedom to roam. I listened to the presenters talk about how our efforts will be measured 20 or 30 years from now, and thought about those Brownies just coming of age, finding their own voice. It’s part of what keeps me coming back to Gunnison, a sense of community that is real; ranchers, top Western biologists, agencies, conservationists, sportsmen, even the Brownie Troop rowing the same direction. (more…)
Sunset from the top of Pacific Butte, Oregon Buttes Wilderness Study Area, Red Desert, Wyoming
My amazing wife, Marla has organized a fund-raising event that will happen this Saturday, 4/23 from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m. at Indian TreeGolf Club in Arvada. We’ll have a silent auction, appetizers, beverages, and a slide show with new images from the “Sage Spirit” conservation project. Patagonia, Mountainsmith, and many others have generously donated great items for the auction. There’s still time to come out on Saturday – here’s the scoop:
Please join us as we celebrate the beauty and the wild of the American West at a fundraising event on Saturday, April 23, 2011 at Indian Tree Golf Club, 7555 Wadsworth Blvd., Arvada, CO from 3:00 to 6:00 pm. We will have a silent auction and a presentation of Sage Spirit. If you are unable to join us at this event, you may make a donation via Paypal. Use firstname.lastname@example.org and select the gift option. If you would prefer to send a check for your donation, please make the check to “Laramie Audubon Society” and note “SageSpirit” in the lower left portion of your check. Everyone will receive a receipt via email. The address is: Dave Showalter, 6640 Moss Court, Arvada, CO,. 80007.
Male Gunnison Sage-grouse perform an elaborate display… with a tail shimmy at the end.
It’s dark-thirty and I’m sitting in a blind waiting for birds again. It feels familiar, the early spring chill that seeps into my bones, sounds of coyotes, cows, a ranch dog barking, wood smoke wafting across the valley floor, a mountain valley waking up. I’ve been here before, but the feeling is different, the anticipation building. And I’m not alone – circumstances led to a blind-sharing arrangement, so I find myself spending the wait for birds and light with Noppadol Paothong, a top-notch conservation and wildlife photographer who’s working on a book about the lekking birds of North America. Nop and I are here to photograph Gunnison Sage-grouse, one of the most endangered creatures in North America, yet only listed as a candidate species – “warranted but precluded” from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Whatever their status, there are roughly 2,500 birds in eight counties, most in the Gunnison Basin, and people come from the world over for a glimpse of the bird and their elaborate display. They spend their life in sagebrush; and because of their secretive nature and low numbers, spring lekking season is the only realistic time of year to see Gunnison Sage-grouse. (more…)
Buddy Jacoby traveled from Florida for a bucket list opportunity to photograph sandhill cranes.
Some 27,000 of the world’s 80,000 Greater sandhill cranes stop in Colorado’s San Luis Valley on their migration route between Bosque Del Apache and the Greater Yellowstone. The spectacle happens from mid-March to the end of the month and draws birders and photographers from all over the world. The Valley is enormous – 125 miles long and 65 miles wide – and bordered by the mighty Sangre De Cristo Range to the east and the La Garita Range to the west. And it’s not easy to fit the character of the place in a box; agriculture dominates, mostly potatoes and cattle, there’s a significant Spanish presence, it’s a climber and recreational Mecca, and the windswept valley created Great Sand Dunes National Park. There’s grit, character, culture, and wild for everyone. Michael Forsberg asked me to assist with a new sandhill crane photo workshop at the Nature Conservancy’s Zapata Ranch and I accepted without reservation. Mike has published two epic books: “On Ancient Wings” and “Great Plains”. He’s a force in conservation, a fellow in the International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP), and one of the top photographers anywhere. He’s also a heck of a nice guy, a salt-of-the-earth Nebraskan who’s helped me a lot along the way. Mike’s wife and business partner, Patty and their two beautiful girls also made the trek to Colorado. (more…)