Western Scrub-Jay perched on an oak

Western Scrub-Jay perched on an oakWestern Scrub-Jay perched on an oak – Nikon D810, f6.3, 1/2000, ISO 500, +0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TX, natural light, not baited

I love Jays. I love how smart they are. I love their flashy colors when they are on the wing. I love their calls. I love how they seem to travel in families. And I also love how bold they are.

Except when I try to photograph them. They usually fly away once that big lens is pointed at them.

Last month I was able to photograph this Western Scrub-Jay on my way up to Cascade Springs in Wasatch County, Utah as it perched on an oak near the road. I am not sure if this is a White Oak or a Gambel’s Oak but I do know that acorns from oaks are their primary food source.

I was tickled to get the images of this Western Scrub-Jay that crisp early fall day in the Wasatch Mountains because they have been a nemesis bird for me as far as photographing them. I was just as happy to get images of this bird as I was the juvenile American Dippers I also photographed that morning.

But then I am always happy to have birds in my viewfinder.

Life is good.


Utah’s Bounty Program on Coyotes is just plain stupid

Morning CoyoteMorning Coyote

There is an article about the coyote bounty program in the Salt Lake Tribune that has me ticked off, or should I call it the ignorant name the state gave it, “Mule Deer Preservation Act”.

This is the article: Utah bounty hunters kill 7,041 coyotes in a year

This is a quote from the article:

“When you are dealing with coyotes, it is hard to tell exactly what impact is happening because we do not know their population,” said Leslie McFarlane, mammals program coordinator for DWR.

We do not know their population?

Isn’t it just plain stupid to exterminate when you don’t have population numbers but instead go by the complaints, real or fictional, that come into the DWR without verifying that there actually IS a problem linked to those complaints?

The state spent $140,000 to fund 14 coyote-removal contracts in the recent budget year, resulting in a net cost of $593 per animal. The year before, three hired guns were paid $45,000.

Five hundred and ninety three dollars per coyote removal?  That $140,000 dollars would be better off spent on educating the children of Utah, especially in a state where many families have well over the national average of children per family. The $500,000 used for the bounty program could help a lot with the education of those kids too.

Governor Herbert announced this Bounty Program on coyotes, umm excuse me, “Mule Deer Preservation Act” during a time when the mule deer population was actually INCREASING not decreasing. Facts are facts Governor. This was just a BS program and you know it. I seem to recall that he announced it at a press conference held in a sports venue too. Pandering much are we Governor Herbert?

It is a well known fact, not superstition or hyperbole, that when apex predators are removed from the environment through extermination that the natural balance goes out of whack. Deer and elk populations exploded when wolves were removed which led to starvation, chronic wasting disease and more which caused the populations of deer and elk to plummet. In the case with coyotes rodent populations explode when coyotes are removed. Those rodents cause far more damage than the coyotes do but hey, DCon will make a killing. Literally. I guess then the state will hand out big bucks to contractors to get rid of the rodents.

And while the state is sanctioning and paying for coyotes to be removed they are also paying contracts out to have deer removed killed because they are a problem for some homeowners. Yep, kill the same creatures they think they are trying to protect with the “Mule Deer Preservation Act”

Plain stupid.

Scientific studies have proven that killing the coyotes just increases their population because the ones that are left have more young and with less competition they increase even more.

Oh but wait, I think I live in a state that ignores science. I live in a state that boasts about the natural wonders and wildlife in advertisement to draw tourists in.

Yeah, why not put the photos of those dead coyotes and crows in your commercials, billboards and the handouts located at the visitor’s centers located just inside the state line? Let the tourist see the blood and guts that are spilled in this state.

Why not be transparent about the real reason for this bounty?

Please don’t think I hate hunters, I don’t. I respect the ethical hunters.

But I do despise killing just for the sake of killing which is exactly what this coyote bounty and the crow hunt is about. Those folks aren’t hunters at all.

Ignore the science and we will ALL pay. Probably sooner than later.


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 (Naturescapes.net) 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.