Sage Thrashers – Mockingbirds of the Sagebrush

Sage Thrasher singing on Antelope Island State ParkSage Thrasher singing on Antelope Island State Park – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/125, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

I spent some time yesterday on Antelope Island State Park photographing and listening to a very cooperative and melodious Sage Thrasher. The light was not the best because of clouds blocking the morning rays of the sun but the bird kept singing so I kept photographing it. Its not like bad light has ever stopped me before. :-)

Singing Sage ThrasherSinging Sage Thrasher - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/160, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

This Sage Thrasher was singing from the top of an old stump of a dead Sagebrush close to the road, this stump is a favorite of Western Meadowlarks too.

Sage Thrasher looking upSage Thrasher looking up - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/200, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

Sage Thrashers and Northern Mockingbirds are from the same family and they can mimic the sounds of other birds, in fact yesterday I thought I was hearing another Sage Thrasher in different location on the island but it turned out to be my first of the year Northern Mockingbird!

You can listen to the song of the Sage Thrasher here, they sing during the day but will also sing throughout the night especially during a full moon.

Sage Thrashers are currently listed by the IUCN as a species of least concern but a recent study by the USGS suggests that climate change may affect their habitat and could cause a 78% decline in their overall population.

I’m glad the Sage Thrasher are back on Antelope Island because I enjoy listening to them and photographing them is great too.



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A goofy look from a Short-eared Owl in Montana

A goofy look from a Short-eared OwlA goofy look from a Short-eared Owl – Nikon D200, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 400, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

Most of the time the birds and animals I photograph look majestic, elegant or their poses convey action but some times they look just plain goofy. It seems that owls in particular can get into funny poses or have goofy expressions like this male Short-eared Owl I photographed in Glacier County, Montana during a lovely golden sunset. The Short-eared Owl was peering at something in the barley field across the road, what ever it was I couldn’t see it.

Enjoy your Saturday!


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Fracking does not belong in our National Wildlife Refuges

Centennial Mountain View from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MontanaCentennial Mountain View from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

As a bird and nature photographer I often visit National Wildlife Refuges and soak up the natural beauty found within them when I am photographing birds, scenery and wildlife. National Wildlife Refuges can be found in all 50 states and the territories of American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and the U.S. Minor Outlying Islands. As of December 3, 2013 there are 562 National Wildlife refuges and 38 Wetlands Management Districts.

What is the Mission of our National Wildlife Refuges?

Mission Statement
The Mission of the National Wildlife Refuge System is to administer a national network of lands and waters for the conservation, management, and where appropriate, restoration of the fish, wildlife, and plant resources and their habitats within the United States for the benefit of present and future generations of Americans.

This land is absolutely priceless and the habitat within them is needed to protect our nation’s wildlife today and for future generations of animals, plants and people .

Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, UtahBear River National Wildlife Refuge, Utah

National Wildlife Refuges are home to birds, mammals, fish and plants some of which are at risk or endangered by habitat destruction and by pollution outside of the refuge boundaries. Some National Wildlife Refuges have had a part in saving endangered species, for instance in 1932 there were fewer than 70 Trumpeter Swans in the U.S.  and half of those were found at Red Rock Lakes in the Centennial Valley of Montana.  In 1935 Red Rock Lakes Wildlife Refuge was established, the swans were protected and today the estimated population of Trumpeter Swans is 46,225. That is quite a comeback!

But now there is another danger to these natural treasures. That danger is oil and gas exploration and the possibility of fracking within our National Wildlife Refuges. We have to say no to fracking by raising our voices and telling our elected officials and those responsible for the preservation of our refuges that there is No Fracking Way we want these refuges or the wildlife within them to suffer the consequences of fracking.

Centennial Mountain View from Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, MontanaThis is not a view we want to see of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Montana

Oil and gas companies want to come in our National Wildlife Refuges to explore for oil and natural gas, they want to exploit; not preserve and protect,  the resources found within the boundaries of our National Wildlife System. They want to tear up the land for new roads and other construction possibly putting endangered species at further risk. With the oil and gas industry comes noise, light pollution, the possibility of toxic chemical spills, waste, air pollutants, and water pollutants.

I combined two photos above, one of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge taken near the Lower Lake looking out over the Centennial Valley towards the Centennial Mountains and one that I had taken of a fracking operation in northwestern Montana to show you and other people what it could look like if fracking is allowed in our National Wildlife Refuges.  Those flowers and green grass could not survive fracking. And the animals that call the meadow home? They would die or have to move.

This is NOT what I want to see when I go to visit a National Wildlife Refuge. It is not want I want to hear or smell either.

Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, UtahDon’t allow this to happen to Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Utah

This is what Bear River National Wildlife Refuge could look like if fracking is allowed within its boundaries. The surface water there would become polluted and the earth would be injected with dangerous chemicals polluting the ground water which in turn could seriously affect every bird or animal that lives or breeds within the refuge.

The oil companies can not protect the environment, their safety policies are inadequate and their proven track records for spills, pollution and explosions are simply beyond pathetic. Think Exxon Valdez, think Deepwater Horizon, think of the smaller oil disasters that have killed millions of fish, sea life, mammals and birds and left habit destroyed for our lifetimes and those of our grandchildren and their grandchildren too. Think of those dangerous chemicals injected deep within the earth fracturing the very ground we stand on. The polluted aquifers.

We don’t want fracking or oil wells in our National Wildlife Refuges. Please let Mr. Scott Covington, Refuge Energy Program Coordinator of the US Fish and Wildlife Service know by signing this NRDC petition to protect our National Wildlife Refuges from fracking today. All of us need to raise our voices for that which can not speak for itself.

Juvenile Swainson's Hawk, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife RefugeJuvenile Swainson’s Hawk, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge

This last image pretty much sums up what I think about fracking in our National Wildlife Refuges and the oil companies who want to exploit and violate these National Treasures.

I have signed the petition, will you?


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I didn’t have a rosy dawn but I can share one

Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Rosy DawnRed Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge Rosy Dawn

I have hit a lot of bumps on the path that my life has taken me and yesterday I hit another when my site experienced an outage. I had hoped that when I woke up the outage would be resolved but dawn for me wasn’t that rosy.

Nor was it as rosy as the dawn I photographed at Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge two years ago.

I often think of natural places when life gets stressful for me and I thought of Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge to help soothe and calm me while getting through the stresses of last night and this morning. I wish I had been able to get out this glorious morning with my camera in hand but it wasn’t to be. Some times I get the short straw.

Back to thinking about nature, birds, photography and the amazing, wild places that await me.


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Roseate Visions

A Roseate Spoonbill in a Tidal LagoonA Roseate Spoonbill in a Florida Tidal Lagoon

The sky outside is cloudy and gray this morning so I thought I’d share some images with rosy colors to brighten my day and hopefully yours as well.


The Roseate Spoonbill is only found in North America and of the six species of spoonbills in the world it is the only species that has such vivid, rosy colors. Roseate Spoonbills have rose red eyes, carmine red in its scapulars and soft pink bodies.

A Roseate Dawn at Fort De SotoA Roseate Dawn at Fort De Soto

Clouds in the morning with the sun just beginning to rise over the horizon can create roseate dawn colors which are a visual delight. For me; when a day starts with rosy pink clouds it is easy to be optimistic about what wonders the day might bring.

The sky shown in my image above certainly had a roseate glow to it and although those clouds came onshore and the rain started falling those rosy clouds certainly brightened my day.

Roses in Dunedin, New ZealandRoses in Dunedin, New Zealand

The word Roseate has its roots in Middle English and stemmed from Latin roseus ‘rosy’ (from rosa ‘rose’). I can easily see the colors of these Roses in the Roseate Spoonbill and the clouds  in the images above.

Who needs rose-colored glasses when we have such beautiful roseate colors in the natural world?


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