American White Pelican stretching

American White Pelican stretchingAmerican White Pelican stretching – Nikon D200, tripod mounted, f7.1, 1/3200, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, full frame, natural light.

A while back I read something I found rather interesting when someone posted an image of an American White Pelican in breeding plumage on an online image critique gallery ( where the person who posted the pelican photo stated that the image would be perfect except for the growth on the bill.

The photographer seemed repulsed by the horn or caruncle (a fibrous, epidermal plate) on the bill and seemed to focus on it instead of the technical and aesthetic weaknesses in their image.

The caruncle or horn is a growth on the bill of American White Pelicans that occurs yearly during the breeding season. It isn’t an ugly wart or malformation, it is a naturally occurring feature of the American White Pelican and as such I feel the horn adds to my image rather than being distracting. It is really no different than the change in color of the bill & lores of a Reddish Egret in breeding plumage and I have seen photographers scramble like fiddlers crabs over each other to get shots of Reddish Egrets in breeding plumage.

White Pelicans can be challenging to expose properly and show detail in the plumage as most white birds can be but with the correct settings and the right light it can be done. The key for my image above was using -0.3 EV compensation to help control the exposure of the whites while still allowing detail to be seen in the feathers even in the shadow under the wing.

This American White Pelican was photographed at a pond a few blocks away from my home in 2010.  The pelicans and other birds that frequent the pond have gotten used to the fishermen, walkers and other people so they are often less skittish and will come in close enough to get images where the subject nearly fills the frame. I do wish I had taken the time to zoom back a little, this is a smidge tighter than I would normally like.

As for the photographer who thought the horn made their image less than perfect? Different strokes for different folks I guess.

Life is good.


Juvenile dark morph Harlan’s Hawk

Juvenile dark morph Harlan's HawkJuvenile dark morph Harlan’s Hawk – Nikon D300, f8, 1/1250, ISO 500, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

Harlan’s Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis harlani) are a subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks (Buteo jamaicensis) that breed in Alaska and northern Canada and spend their winters in the northern Great Plains. Harlan’s Hawks are a very dark form of Red-tailed Hawks with dark plumage interspersed with marbled white and they have a dark tail instead of a red one.

Lately I have been seeing reports that the Harlan’s have started to show up here in Utah again to over winter and that has me excited. I haven’t been able to photograph many Harlan’s Hawks but in January of 2013 I spotted this juvenile dark morph Harlan’s feeding on a coot at Farmington Bay WMA.  This was during a very cold and snowy part of the winter when all of the raptors were having a hard time finding food to sustain them because of heavy snow cover on the ground. Quite a few hawks, eagles and owls died during that cold stretch of time due to the harsh conditions we had.

I will be looking for Harlan’s Hawks now along with Rough-legged Hawks which are also Arctic breeders and hope to photograph some of them soon.

Life is good.


Nature’s Gifts

Coyote on a sunny winter dayCoyote on a sunny winter day

Human beings, as a whole, deny to animals any credit for the power of thought, preferring not to hear about it and ascribing everything they do to instinct. Yet most species of animals can reason, and all men have instinct. Man is the highest of living creatures, but it does not follow a corollary that Nature belongs to him, as he so fondly imagines. He belongs to it. That he should take his share of the gifts she has so bountifully provided for her children, is only right and proper; but he cannot reasonably deny the other creatures a certain portion. They have to live too.

– Grey Owl

75,326 coyotes in 2013 were “denied” their portion of Nature’s gifts when they were senselessly exterminated by USDA’s Wildlife Services and they were among the 4 million other animals in that were also killed in 2013 by Wildlife Services. Here is a link to that report but be warned, it seems that USDA Wildlife Services purposely make the report difficult to read.

Bear in mind that the actual number of Coyotes killed each year is much much higher than the USDA Wildlife Services figures due to bounties being put on them by individual states and other laws that allow the killing of them just because they are predators that “need to be controlled”.

The Wildlife Services agency is out of control, the agency is not transparent and the methods used to kill animals by their agents are not humane. Just do a Google search on Jamie Olson Wildlife Services to read about how inhumane his actions were and then understand even though what he did was disturbing, cruel and disgusting that he is still employed by Wildlife Services.

866 bobcats, 528 river otters, 24,390 beavers, 3,700 foxes, 12,186 prairie dogs, 973 red-tailed hawks, 419 black bears and at least three eagles golden eagles and 18 bald eagles were also killed by Wildlife Services. Millions of birds were also exterminated including endangered and threatened species.

On the report I linked to above Wildlife Services indicates which species are invasive by making the species name in red. If you look for House Finches the idiots have listed them as invasive even though they are native. maybe they got them confused with invasive House Sparrows. Wonder how many other things they are confused about.

The USDA’s War on Wildlife has to be stopped. This page from Predator Defense is an excellent resources for articles from the Sacramento Bee and other news agencies, the history of Wildlife Services, the arsenal of weapons used by Wildlife Services and more.

And they aren’t just killing “wild” animals, they also kill pets and domesticated animals. They kill “feral” dogs but how do they ACTUALLY know which are feral and which might be a lost pet?

They don’t.

Those poisons and traps catch, maim and kill animals that are not targeted and I strongly suspect the number in the annual report from USDA’s Wildlife Services does not actually reflect the numbers of pets and domesticated animals that are killed each year.

Wolves, cougars and bears are exterminated by Wildlife Services. Sometimes entire packs of wolves are killed because a rancher complains about wolves near his ranch at enormous cost to taxpayers.

There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t read disturbing news on Wildlife Services.

Their war on nature needs to be stopped. The agency should be more transparent.

Better yet, I think they should end the Wildlife Services Program.

I guess the title for this post is a bit misleading but it doesn’t really say much about Nature’s Gifts but is more about how other creatures are slaughtered and denied those gifts.

They have to live too.


In 2011 Wildlife Services killed 227 coyotes a day even though scientific studies indicate when there are fewer coyotes they have more pups and the population just grows. See my post about that here.


A Rock Hopping Chukar

A Rock Hopping ChukarA Rock Hopping Chukar

I’ve been missing Chukars on Antelope Island for the past few months. They have been visibly absent which just means they might have been in higher elevations which aren’t accessed by the roads. Anyway I have been hearing that people are seeing them on the island again and I hope I see them soon too. This rock hopping Chukar was photographed in April of this year when I was still seeing them all over the place.

Life is good.


Tricolored Heron in the waves of the Gulf

Tricolored Heron in the wavesTricolored Heron in the waves – Nikon D200, handheld, f7.1, 1/640, ISO 200, Nikkor 80-400mm VR at 250mm, natural light

Just a simple Tricolored Heron image this morning that I created at Fort De Soto County Park in March of 2009. It was a great day for wading birds and I went home with quite a few images of this Tricolored Heron and a Reddish Egret that I was very happy with. Both birds completely ignored me as I laid flat on my belly in the sand and water because they were more interested in foraging for prey.

Life is good.