2013 Rearview

Flatirons-New-Year 2013

“New Year’s Dawn January 1, 2013, Flatirons” Boulder, CO

How fast was 2013? Four seasons, that’s it, that’s what we get. We plan our adventures for each season and I approach my story-telling photography by nature’s rhythms. Something amazing happens every day and the timing is set – we just have to be there to see it unfold. The Sage Spirit project continues to be my main conservation focus and we found time to walk in the Maroon Bells, Peru’s Huayhuash Mountains and elsewhere. Looking back on long walks, a few epic trips, and ongoing conservation work for the Sage Spirit project, 2013 was a good year. The images that follow aren’t a best of – just a quick glance back before looking ahead to a great Oh-14 Continue reading “2013 Rearview”

RMA Bison Roundup


“Chutes and Ladders” Bison are moved through chutes while those working the roundup open and close doors from the walkways above the bison.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge conducted their annual bison roundup on Tuesday, the 17th. The bison herd, now at 86 animals, is rounded up, cajoled into chutes, and tested for a variety of things such as DNA, diseases, and contamination. It’s a facinating process to watch and in spite of the pros working the roundup, bison still go where they want to go. There’s a lot of bison psychology applied to moving a 1,500 pound wild animal through steel chutes and keeping them calm while taking blood, clipping hair, and extracting a piece of meat from their hind end. Other than a few bloody noses and a broken horn, everything went smoothly for the USFWS team.


“Roundup” Bison are pushed from a large holding pasture to a much smaller holding pen before entering the chutes. Bison like to stay in a group and can easily double back on whomever is trying to move them. They’re very athletic and can run at speeds over 30 mph. This pass caught about 35 bison, with a few breaking free to stay in the pasture awhile longer. The guy in the cherry picker basket is a National Geographic photographer.


“In Chute” Bison are moved into the first open chute in small groups.


“Bull Bison In The Hub” This 1,500 pound bull was extremely pissed off about being moved from a grassy pasture to this metal enclosure. The paddles are used to get the bison to move through a door and into one of the chutes. Three doors were open at one point and the bull pawed the ground, snorted, and kicked the sidewalls, but wouldn’t go through. He was allowed to go back into a bigger holding area to cool off.


“Bison Squeeze” There’s a lot of activity around the machine that holds the bison for blood, hair, and fat samples. Once a bison is in this squeeze machine, the sides are slowly closed in to apply pressure, the head secured to prevent injury, and the bison is processed in a few minutes. If they have a chip (rice-sized under skin) the chip is read to add data about the animal. If not, a chip is inserted while the bison is in this machine.


“Bison Head Secure” Some bison calm down in the machine, others fight the whole process, start to finish. For the latter, this guy goes in and turns the head, securing it with a rope. He holds the bison there until processing is complete and the animal is freed.


“Squeeze” This juvenile was held still by the steel bar until release in just a few minutes.

Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, bison

Frosty Bison Bull : Prints Available

A bull bison is covered with frost in a landscape of hoar frost. The temperature was zero degrees the day after Christmas. Bos bison

The RMA bison are now free to graze the winter grassland.


bosque del apache, sandhill cranes

Cranes Wading : Prints Available

In early morning light, these sandhill cranes wade from their night roost before taking flight to graze in nearby fields. Bosque Del Apache is a well-known birding location, particularly for winter waterfowl. The refuge is winter range for sandhill cranes of the Rocky Mountain Population, which migrate from Bosque to Greater Yellowstone (with stops in Colorado) in spring, returning in fall. 


Grus canadensis


A long awaited trip to Bosque Del Apache finally became a reality this year and this world-class refuge lived up to the hype. I made the trip to photograph the Rocky Mountain Population of sandhill cranes on their winter range. They’ll stay here until late February, then start their migration north, making a couple of stops in Colorado, eventually dispersing throughout Greater Yellowstone in April. They return to Bosque in autumn. It’s a journey they’ve made for millions of years and they need us to conserve critical habitat for their long-term survival. Long live sandhill cranes! More images follow Continue reading “Bosque!”

Sage Spirit Project

pronghorn, stewart peak

Cochetopa Pronghorn : Prints Available

A band of pronghorn stands in golden light backed by pyramid-shaped Stewart Peak (13,989'). Pronghorn were wiped out in the Gunnison Basin by the heavy snows during the winter of 2007. They simply had nowhere to go to find food as snow piled up in feet. Colorado Parks and Wildlife reintroduced pronghorn and they've recovered well, particularly in the Cochetopa Hills region where I photographed this group. 

Antilocapra americana

I’ve been working hard on the Sage Spirit conservation project during my break from blogging – it’s not because I ran out of things to say. It’s an exciting time to be planning completion of fieldwork, writing, lining up partnerships, planning for the book and multimedia campaign, and developing an advocacy plan for the imperiled sagebrush ecosytem. I’m working with an amazing group of people at one of the top publishers in the U.S. and I’m grateful for their support. This post isn’t about making a big announcement, just to let folks know that all of these plans are in the works, so please stay tuned. The fieldwork will wrap up in June of 2014 and we will roll out the book and multimedia campaign in 2015. In the meantime, I’m available to photograph on assignment, present to any size group, and assist with stock photography requests.

* Fieldwork is expensive and I’d be grateful for your donation – it’s easy and tax-deductible, just click on the green Donate button (upper left) on this blog. Thanks!

Sandhill Crane Family

hoback river,noble basin

Sandhill Crane Family : Prints Available

Sandhill cranes with colts (chicks) feed in a wetland near the Hoback River. The area was severely threatened by planned industrial scale natural gas development and is now protected. A strong grassroots effort led to the purchase of the gas leases by Trust For Public Land, who retired them forever - giving the land back to the American people. The Rocky Mountain Population of sandhill cranes are Greater sandhills that migrate from winter range at Bosque Del Apache in New Mexico to Greater Yellowstone from spring through the end of summer, where they mate and raise their young. By September, these tiny colts are juveniles ready to fly 500 miles to New Mexico. 

While shooting an assignment for Trust For Public Land celebrating the permanent protection of the Upper Hoback, Dan Bailey mentioned sandhill cranes with chicks. I said “Of course I’m interested!” before he was done asking. This family was on a perfect nesting site surrounded by water in a marshy wetland, next to the Upper Hoback River in southern Greater Yellowstone. The colts (that’s what sandhill crane chicks are called) were feeding around the adults, who weren’t concerned with the two-legged observers on the hill. Their second colt is to the far right. They didn’t like the coyote chorus that started up across the sage meadow, but went back to feeding as soon as the concert ended. It’s remarkable to watch these tiny colts raise their legs and peck for food just like their parents, although the adults were helping out with mouthfulls of aquatic vegetation. I’m preparing for my first trip to Bosque Del Apache NWR, winter home of the Rocky Mountain Population (RMP) that migrates between Greater Yellowstone and New Mexico. I might even see this family at Bosque. Around 20,000 of these prehistoric birds make the trip twice a year, just like they did when they flew over dinosaurs. You can’t help being fascinated with them for their strong family bonds, grace, human-like characteristics, and resilience in such a rapidly changing world. And although sandhill cranes are remarkably adaptable to change, it’s imperative that humans protect the most important habitat throughout the migration route to sustain another million years of migrations.


Raven Portrait : Prints Available

This common raven posed for a tight portrait only because he's a beggar experienced in human interactions. Nevertheless, ravens are magnificent birds known for their superior intelligence and diverse vocalizations. 

Corvus corax


My Halloween contribution – Trickster God in Native American mythology, goddess Morigghan in Celtic myth, and harbinger of death Mabinogion in Welsch myth, the raven is simply smarter than all the other creatures – and probably many people. If you see one this Halloween, jsut say hello – he may answer with a deep-throated croak.

Parks Shutdown – a Look Back

american bison, grand teton national park

Bison and Teton Range : Prints Available

American Bison graze on Antelope Flats in Grand Teton National Park. The iconic Grand Teton backdrop is partially obscured in layers of morning clouds that are typical in Jackson Hole. 

Bison bison

Before I start this philisophical post, I’d like to thank the settlers of Kelly, Wyoming for locating the town in a corner of Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) in the 1890’s. Back then the town was named Grovont, eventually chaged to Kelly to avoid confusion with another town in the area. For visitors in Jackson Hole during the government shutdown, the road to Kelly provided acccess to the edges of GTNP along Antelope Flats, and a route through the park to the Gros Ventre Valley while GTNP and YNP were officially closed. I’m still pissed at those that caused the whole shutdown debacle – we all know who they are, so there’s no need to mention them here. The common theme among photographers during that week was to focus on a much smaller area with gratitude for the few opportunities we had. It was a sort of Thoreauvian mindset of checking on the bison herd, the three moose along the Gros Ventre River, the pronghorn herd – still in rut and not migrating because of mild weather in Jackson Hole – and the Great gray owls on the edge of town. All of that and the lingering fall color seemed to keep everybody busy, and focused. The image on this post happened only because I wasn’t somewhere else at the time – there’s something to the concept of persistence and working the same area. But, these are our lands and we should never be denied access. There are a couple of lessons beyond beyond the obvious “make the best of your situation”: First, national parks have imaginary borders that wildlife don’t recognize; so explore the edges. Second, never miss a chance to be inspired or to inspire others. And finally, to those who would shut the gates and deny access to our national parks, our legacy, and the opportunity to inspire others, may your actions be repudiated harshly. May you rot in hell. A lot of folks were hurt across the country – that’s a damn shame that we won’t soon forget.

Ghost Of The Forest

great gray owl, ghost of the forest

Great Gray Autumn : Prints Available

A great gray owl hunts with a backdrop of gold in Jackson hole. Great grays are our largest owl, standing as tall as 27'. This 'ghost of the forest' loafed in an aspen stand in the afternoon and became very active at dusk. Although considered uncommon, great grays can be spotted throughout the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. 

Strix nebulosa

Although both Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks remain closed, two great gray owls made my recent trip to Jackson, Wyoming a lot more enjoyable. It’s common for great grays to show up for a few days to hunt in a general area before moving on. Quite a few photographers and birders were thrilled to view these magnificent birds at close range on the edge of forest and a ranch close to town. I was fortunate to photograph the owls with Tom Mangelsen, a legend of nature and conservation photography and heck of a nice guy. Great grays are often called “ghosts of the forest” for their ability to blend into the landscape – in spite of their size. They are noble, stealthy hunters with an appetite for small mammals, mostly at the ends of the day. Continue reading “Ghost Of The Forest”

Wake Of The Flood

Big Thompson Destruction

A curve on Highway 34 in Big Thompson Canyon gives a glimpse of the devastation from the September 2013 flood.

With so much devastation in the wake of our historic 1,000 year flood event in September, there are still many closed roads, standing water, and Front Range canyons are shut off, isolating rural communities. Fortunately, I was able to fly with LightHawk pilot John Feagin on September 30 to see first hand the scale of the flood around Greeley and the lower Big Thompson Canyon west of Loveland. Two weeks later, and after the news organizations have moved on, Colorado has a very long way to go as we recover. These images support the Platte Basin Timelapse story of a river that matters far beyond our relatively small geographic area. Continue reading “Wake Of The Flood”

National Parks Shutdown


Grand Teton in Grand Teton National Park – which closed today.

I’m saddened and more than a little ticked off about today’s government shutdown, but I’ll skip my political take in favor of posting the following statement from the National Parks Conservation Association that spells out the impacts of this senseless result of non-governing:


October 1, 2013

Statement by: Theresa Pierno, Acting President, National Parks Conservation Association

Government Shutdown Closes National Parks Nationwide
Hurts Local Economies, Planned Family Vacations & America’s National Heritage

“The National Parks Conservation Association is deeply disappointed that Congress and the President have failed to reach agreement on a budget deal that consequently has forced the federal government and our 401 national parks to shut down indefinitely. The closure of America’s crown jewels threatens the livelihood of park businesses and gateway communities; the more than 21,000 National Park Service staff we expect to be furloughed; and countless American families and international visitors who rely on national parks being open for business to enjoy our national heritage.

“The government shutdown has forced the National Park Service to close park entrances, visitor centers, campgrounds, bathrooms, concession stands, and other park facilities. Education programs and special events have been canceled, permits issued for special activities rescinded, hotels and campgrounds emptied and entrances secured. Many national parks have also been forced to close during peak visitation season, including places such as Acadia and the Great Smoky Mountains where people visit to enjoy the fall foliage or Civil War sites that attract school groups. Many people also visit places like the Grand Canyon and Death Valley this time of year to enjoy cooler weather. The loss of more than 750,000 daily visitors from around the world who typically visit national parks in October may cost local communities as much as $30 million each day the national parks are closed.

“Whether it’s a senseless government shutdown or a damaging set of budget cuts, national parks and the people who enjoy and depend on them continue to suffer from a failed budget process. After hundreds of millions of dollars in budget cuts to the parks the last few years, we have two questions for Washington—when are you going to reopen the parks, and what will you do to repair the damage this budget process has already done? Our national parks should be open, and funding should be restored to provide visitors with safe and inspiring experiences.

“As we approach the centennial of our national parks in 2016, on behalf of our 800,000 members and supporters, and families and businesses throughout the nation, we call on Congress and the President to swiftly re-open our national parks to visitors, and to agree to a budget that ends these indiscriminate cuts to the National Park Service.”

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