Earth Day 2014

Landing American White PelicanLanding American White Pelican – Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Utah

Yesterday while I was out photographing at Bear River I saw and photographed some amazing behavior between American White Pelicans fighting over a huge carp and though I would have liked to post some of those images today but all day yesterday I thought about the significance of what today means to me. I will share just this one image of an American White Pelican I photographed yesterday.

It is Earth Day and I wanted to write about it this morning. I remember Earth Day 1970 and how I hoped that people would realize that our Earth was being polluted, torn apart and how all wildlife was suffering. We have come a long way since then, rivers have been cleaned up, the Endangered Species Act was born and people became aware of how pesticides were killing more life than we knew. People from all walks of life came together and on April 22 twenty million Americans protested the deterioration of our environment, our Earth.

The Earth Day movement became global in 1990. A LOT of good has come from everyone’s involvement in Earth Day but there is still so much to be done.

Coyote hunting in the snowCoyote hunting in the snow – Antelope Island State Park, Utah

I know I get overwhelmed by articles that I read, documentaries I see and by my own experiences in the field as a bird and nature photographer. Birds and animals that are endangered and near extinction. Apex predators being killed even though science says we need them for natural balance. Sea life is dying because of the pollution we have put into our oceans. Poisons are leaching into our soil and our water supplies. Air quality is suffering. Habitat is being destroyed. Forests are still being felled at an alarming rate.

Yes, some things have gotten better since 1970 but many things have rapidly gotten worse.

I worry what the climate will be like for my grandchildren’s children. As a bird photographer I wonder if they will only know some of the beautiful birds we have today through images their great-grandmother and others have taken?

Layers of Time - Capitol Reef National ParkLayers of Time – Capitol Reef National Park, Utah

Earth Day is an important day but truthfully every day is or should be.

We can all make a difference individually and as a global community every day of our lives. One action multiplied by millions can and does make a change.

There are many organizations we can volunteer for, donate to, join or support that have made positive changes through education, action and awareness. I am going to list a few here and hope that my readers will also feel free to add others in their comments and perhaps why they feel the organization is important or the organization’s mission.

Mia

My list in no particular order:

Earth Day Network – All about Earth Day, its history and goals.

Project Coyote – Promoting coexistence between people and wildlife through education, science and advocacy.

Pledge to Fledge - A grassroots birding outreach movement, the Global Birding Initiative (GBI) mobilizes birders throughout the world to share their appreciation for birds with others.

NRDC Save BioGems – Our citizen action network is saving America’s last wild places.

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) – NRDC works to safeguard the earth — its people, its plants and animals, and the natural systems on which all life depends.

American Kestrel Partnership – A project of the Peregrine Fund, a network of citizen and professional scientists working to collaboratively advance kestrel demographics and conservation.

Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance – The mission of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA) is the preservation of the outstanding wilderness at the heart of the Colorado Plateau, and the management of these lands in their natural state for the benefit of all Americans.

American Birding Association (ABA) – The American Birding Association inspires all people to enjoy and protect wild birds.

WildEarth Guardians - WildEarth Guardians works to protect and restore wildlife, wild places and wild rivers in the American West.

The Nature Conservancy – The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.

Great Salt Lake Institute – The Great Salt Lake Institute (GSLI) at Westminster College endeavors to increase the appreciation and understanding of Great Salt Lake

HawkWatch International – The mission of HawkWatch International is to conserve the environment through education, long-term monitoring, and scientific research on raptors as indicators of ecosystem health.

National Wildlife Refuge Association – The National Wildlife Refuge Association’s mission is to conserve America’s wildlife heritage for future generations through strategic programs that protect and enhance the National Wildlife Refuge System and the landscapes beyond its boundaries.

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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?

Mia

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Clark’s Grebes and their young

Adult and juvenile Clark's GrebeAdult and juvenile Clark’s Grebe

Earlier this week I saw several Clark’s Grebes while on the auto tour route of Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in northern Utah along with numerous Western Grebes. The photos I am presenting this morning are not from this year but do represent what I will be seeing later on in the season. Clark’s and Western Grebe were considered the same species for quite some time but they are now considered separate species.

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a wonderful location to see nesting Clark’s Grebes as well as a great place to see them rearing their young. There are many locations where the water in the impoundments is close to the auto tour route which can allow close up opportunities for observation and photography.

The photo above shows the moment after the adult Clark’s Grebe passed a small fish to the juvenile. The adult was going out of breeding plumage by this time and the immature grebe’s eyes were starting to turn the cherry red that I enjoy seeing so much.

Juvenile Clark's Grebe and preyJuvenile Clark’s Grebe and prey

Not long after the adult passed the prey to the juvenile Clark’s Grebe it paddled away from the adult and shook it’s prey several times, dropped it into the water and picked it back up before ingesting it.

Clark's Grebe back broodingClark’s Grebe back brooding

Clark’s Grebes leave the nest soon after the last chick has hatched and from that point on will back brood their chicks until the chicks are two to four weeks of age. This image shows one of the Clark’s Grebe chicks resting on one of the adults while the other parent was searching for food nearby.

Before the chicks are hatched this year the adults will be courting, displaying and dancing on the water as they rush and I hope to spend time trying to photograph all of those behaviors to share with you.

Mia

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Reflections and a Western Grebe

A Western Grebe head on with a wiggly reflectionA Western Grebe head on with a wiggly reflection – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/2500, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

The water impoundments at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge are alive with the sounds of calling Western Grebes once again. I have missed their calls all winter long plus their flashy red eyes and dashing black and white plumage. The numbers of Western and Clark’s Grebes are still low but that will change rapidly because the days are getting longer and warmer.

Yesterday I photographed this Western Grebe on the south side of the auto tour route and I loved the head on pose which gave me a great view of both cherry red eyes, the bill with water dripping from it and a wiggly reflection which elongates the reflection of the head and shows three pairs of eyes.

Western Grebe drinking and a squiggly reflectionWestern Grebe drinking and a squiggly reflection - Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/3200, ISO 640, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited

This photo was taken one frame after my first image where the Western Grebe has raised and tilted its head to drink the water it had caught in its bill and the reflection was squiggly; or in more grown up terms, serpentine-like. The Western Grebe is beautiful enough on its own but I feel that these reflections add even more interest.

I am looking forward to photographing Clark’s and Western Grebes through the spring, summer and fall at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge as the adults court, mate and rear their young.

Mia

P.S. Yesterday I also saw my first of the year Caspian Terns, Franklin’s Gulls and Swainson’s Hawks! Yay!

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Red-winged Blackbirds are Courting and Nesting at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

Male Red-winged Blackbird on a CattailMale Red-winged Blackbird on a Cattail – Nikon D300, f6.3,  1/500,  ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

The Red-winged Blackbirds at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge have courting and nest building on their minds now that spring is upon us. The flashy males can be found singing and displaying on top of cattails and rushes in an attempt to find a mate.

Yesterday Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge looked marvelous with plenty of water in the impoundments, a clear sky, and signs of vegetation greening up and in the background the snow covered Wasatch Mountain Range.

Female Red-winged Blackbird with nesting materialFemale Red-winged Blackbird with nesting material - Nikon D300, f6.3,  1/500,  ISO 320, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 400mm, natural light, not baited or called in

Female Red-winged Blackbirds aren’t as flashy as the males and can be easily overlooked but that doesn’t stop me from finding and photographing them. I photographed this female as she searched for suitable nesting material right at the edge of the auto tour route. She eventually dropped the material in her bill and moved on to locate more.

A spring morning spent at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is always a gift.

Mia

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge is a jewel of a wetland not too far from Brigham City with easy access from I-15. The views are spectacular and the birds are terrific.

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