Seeing Supernatural

September 19, 2023  •  1 Comment

It's been a busy and productive summer of travel and big projects, and now we're in the thick of fall migration. One of my big projects this summer was publishing my book, "Outer Encounters."  You can easily purchase it here on my website, or at one of my shows this fall. It's a limited edition book that I expect will sell out before the holidays, so get your copy while you can.

 

I've certainly taken hundreds of photos over the last few months -- some I've been able to share on social media, while others won't be published and will only be limited collections for book and art buyers (p.s -- look for another book in 2024!).  However, I wanted to be sure to get some of the hundreds of photos I've shot recently in the blog for my website visitors to enjoy!

 

White-breasted NuthatchWhite-breasted Nuthatch

 

Bay Breasted WarblerBay Breasted Warbler

 

Monarchs MatingMonarchs Mating

 

Blue-gray GnatcatcherBlue-gray Gnatcatcher

Common Yellowthroat - femaleCommon Yellowthroat - female

 

Young Cape May WarblerYoung Cape May Warbler

 

Baltimore Oriole - MaleBaltimore Oriole - Male

 

Baltimore Oriole - FemaleBaltimore Oriole - Female

 

Bay-breasted WarblerBay-breasted Warbler

 

Red-eyed VireoRed-eyed Vireo

 

Young Lesser Black-backed GullYoung Lesser Black-backed Gull

 

Great White EgretGreat White Egret

 

American Kestrel - FemaleAmerican Kestrel - Female

 


Don't Ignore These Alarm Bells

June 26, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Am I Real?Am I Real?Real Background, Wildlife Created With Adobe Photoshop (Beta, Generative AI module)

 

I’m selective, which also means careful, about how much news I watch, read, or listen to, and where it comes from. There’s more than a lot of hype and headlines-only out there. So, when I recently started seeing a lot in the news about Artificial Intelligence (AI), and specifically, Generative Artificial Intelligence (Generative AI), including a meeting President Biden just had with tech leaders to discuss regulating AI, I thought I should do some more reading on the topic.

 

This blog post summarizes my recent research on issues and topics in Generative AI, including my discovery that over 140 of my copyrighted images were “scraped” from my website and used by a Generative AI tech company. As a photographer who has active copyright registrations on their work, sells their work, and regularly publishes copyright-protected images on the Internet, the alarm bells regarding Generative AI are deafening. Because Generative AI involves much more than improper copying of photographs from the web, you don’t have to be a professional photographer to be concerned and alarmed by what Generative AI has morphed into, and what the industry has done. Please take the time to read the rest of this post.

 

What is Generative AI?

 

Generative AI is a computer science discipline where computers are “trained” on “vast quantities of preexisting human authored works.” When a user types some words in a text prompt, the computers learn how to generate new content based on the content they were trained on. The resulting output may be text (words), visual (photographs or other images), or audio (music,speech), and is determined by the AI model based on its design and the material it has been trained on.

 

Generative AI models learn the patterns and structure of their input training data, and then generate new data that has similar characteristics. There are several Generative AI models, or systems, including ChatGPT (and its variant Bing Chat), a chatbot built by OpenAI using their GPT-3 and GPT-4 foundational large language models, and Bard, a chatbot built by Google using their LaMDA foundation model. Other generative AI models include artificial intelligence art systems such as Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, and DALL-E.

 

Understanding “training data” is critical to understanding where one of the loudest alarms is ringing in the field of Generative AI. In the context of Generative AI, “web scraping” is a common method to gather large amounts of training data from the internet in order to “train” Generative AI models. Web scraping sounds bad and it can be bad. However, it’s legal when done according to the rules. Scraping the web refers to the automated process of extracting data from public websites. It involves using software tools or scripts to access web pages, retrieve their content, and extract specific information such as text, images, or structured data. Generative AI models including, Stable Diffusion, Midjourney, Dall-E, and ChatGPT make wide-ranging use of content scraped from the Internet. Web scraping does not involve asking for permission or notifying in advance that your website has been “scraped.” Hear the alarm bells?

 

 

Why Does This Matter?

 

Any search on your favorite web browser of “benefits of Generative AI” will tell you something about how Generative AI will revolutionize and transform the world, while also saving money, time, reduce barriers to learning, enhance creativity, and so much more. In a nutshell, there are certainly benefits of Generative AI, and that matters. 

 

What also matters is that we don’t allow the incredible hype of Generative AI to distract from its real risks. The risk I’m personally familiar with is web scraping in order to get training data for Generative AI companies. The Congressional Research Service (CRS) reported in May 2023 (https://crsreports.congress.gov/, Report number R47569, Generative Artificial Intelligence and Data Privacy: A Primer, May 23, 2023),

 

“…. such models [web scraping] rely on privacy-invasive methods for mass data collection, typically without the consent or compensation of the original user, creator, or owner.  Additionally, some models may be trained on sensitive data and reveal personal information to users. In a company blog post, Google AI researchers noted, “Because these datasets can be large (hundreds of gigabytes) and pull from a range of sources, they can sometimes contain sensitive data, including personally identifiable information (PII)—names, phone numbers, addresses, etc., even if trained on public data.”

 

CRS also reported:

 

“Generative AI datasets can include information posted on publicly available internet sites, including PII and sensitive and copyrighted content. They may also include publicly available content that is erroneous, pornographic, or potentially harmful.”

 

These CRS findings point to serious and potentially unlawful activities. Hear the alarm bells?

 

The CRS report also discussed a new tool for artists and others to identify and report content that’s been scraped and found its way into these Generative AI training datasets called “HaveIBeenTrained.” HaveIBeenTrained is an organization created by artists that provides anyone an opportunity to opt-out or opt-in if they discover their content has been scraped up into specific AI training sets. As of June 24, 2023, the landing page for the HaveIBeenTrained website states, “Over 1.4 billion images opted out and counting.”

 

I plugged my website into HaveIBeenTrained and discovered that over 140 photographs from my site had been scraped and were in the LAION-5B training data set. AI researchers download a subset of the LAION-5B data to train Generative AI image synthesis models such as Stable Diffusion and Google Imagen. Although all work on my website is copyrighted, and I didn’t grant permission, give consent, or was compensated, the Generative AI companies decided anyway to copy my work for their use and profit. When users find their work has been scraped, HaveIBeenTrained provides an opt-out or opt-in option. Since I own the domain for my website, I opted out for my domain (my web site). With that said, it’s completely unknown to me whether that occurred in practice. There’s no entity enforcing or overseeing any of this voluntary behavior. I don’t have access to the training data sets where my images were copied. Given the complete lack of good faith and appearance of unlawful behavior by some Generative AI companies, I’m approaching this situation with a large dose of healthy skepticism. I encourage the same to anyone impacted in this way.  Hear the alarm bells ringing?

 

Is it Legal?

 

Very big and critical question. I address two of many legal issues in this area, (1) legality of Generative AI companies scraping from the web and using copyrighted content in their training datasets, and (2) legality of copyrighting content generated from AI systems (i.e., not human-authored content), whether text, image, or audio.

 

First, as mentioned earlier, web scraping is legal when done according to the rules. However, AI companies are seeing a growing number of lawsuits from artists and others concerning web scraping copyrighted content and using it in Generative AI training data sets. In January 2023, Getty Images, a stock photo company, initiated legal action in the United Kingdom against Stable Diffusion AI, a Generative AI company. The basis of the lawsuit is Getty Images belief that Stability AI “unlawfully copied and processed millions of images protected by copyright” to train its software. The following month in February 2023, Getty Images filed a second action in the United States also against Stable Diffusion AI, alleging they copied more than 12 million photographs from Getty Images’ collection, along with the associated captions and metadata, without permission from or compensation to Getty Images, as part of its efforts to build a competing business. Getty Images said, “As part of its unlawful scheme, Stability AI has removed or altered Getty Images’ copyright management information, provided false copyright management information, and infringed Getty Images’ famous trademarks.”

 

Another lawsuit against Stable Diffusion, and two other AI companies - Midjourney and Deviant Art - was also filed in 2023 by a group of three artists. The artists — Sarah Andersen, Kelly McKernan, and Karla Ortiz — allege that these organizations have infringed the rights of “millions of artists” by training their AI tools on five billion images scraped from the web “without the consent of the original artists.”

 

Shortly after I published this blog article, in June 2023, two new class action lawsuits were filed against Generative AI company, OpenAI. More information on these actions are found here: https://clarksonlawfirm.com/togetheronai/ and https://www.saverilawfirm.com/chatgpt-language-model-litigation. There are other current lawsuits against Generative AI companies, including another filed in July 2023 by accomplished Comedian Sarah Silverman, https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/23869693-silverman-openai-complaint. It’s important to watch these cases, particularly for future litigation, including class actions.

 

A second issue that’s come up with Generative AI is whether products of this tool can be copyrighted. Generative AI starts with entering a text prompt, sort of like doing a Google search. For example, if you wanted a photo of a grey owl against a snowy background, you would simply type that in the prompt and the AI will generate it for you. Is that copyright-able?  This issue has come before the US Copyright Office, and will likely continue to come before the Office. The Office’s current policy position, expressed in a March 2023 Federal Register Notice (Copyright Registration Guidance: Works Containing Material Generated by Artificial Intelligence, Federal Register /Vol. 88, No. 51 /Thursday, March 16, 2023 /Rules and Regulations, U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress), reads:

 

“In the Office’s view, it is well established that copyright can protect only material that is the product of human creativity [not Generative AI products]. Most fundamentally, the term ‘‘author,’’ which is used in both the Constitution and the Copyright Act, excludes non-humans. The Office’s registration policies and regulations reflect statutory and judicial guidance on this issue.”

 

While anyone can mark anything with a copyright symbol it doesn’t mean it’s registered with the U.S. Copyright Office, or that it could be registered. Official copyright registrations (which I have on my published photographs) is what secures the ability to take legal action for copyright infringement. The Federal Register notice provided examples of cases where the US Copyright Office has refused to register Generative AI-based copyright applications.

 

Matters surrounding Generative AI and copyright protections are currently very active policy issues with the U.S. Copyright Office. In spring 2023, the Office hosted four virtual listening sessions on the use of artificial intelligence to generate works in creative fields. “Copyright Office staff asked participants to discuss their hopes, concerns, and questions about generative AI and copyright law. The sessions were fully remote and focused on literary works, including print journalism and software; visual arts; audiovisual works; and music and sound recordings.”

 

In June 2023, the U.S. Copyright Office hosted another virtual event exploring guidance for registration of works containing Generative AI content. More events are on the way -- on July 26, 2023 the Office will host a virtual discussion on global perspectives on copyright and AI. Event description -- "Leading international experts will discuss how other countries are approaching copyright questions such as authorship, training, exceptions and limitations, and infringement. They will provide an overview of legislative developments in other regions and highlight possible areas of convergence and divergence involving generative AI."   Sign up for notices about all U.S. Copyright Office events here, https://www.copyright.gov/events/

 

Anticipate more to come on this.

 

 

 Is it Ethical?

 

The use of AI raises ethical questions because an AI system will reinforce what it has already learned. This becomes a problem because the kind of machine learning that underpins many of the most advanced AI tools are only as smart, fair, accurate, and balanced as the data they’re trained on. Because humans select the data used to train an AI program, the potential for bias in what the machine has learned is a risk and must be monitored closely.

 

Other ethical issues are that AI makes it difficult to determine the authenticity of media and the products of Generative AI, including images and artwork. This works to erode trust in the people (artists, photographers, authors, students, creators, journalists) and their industries or avocations (journalism, art, photography, education, etc…) and leads to confusion about the truth.  Hear the alarm bells ringing?

 

 

 

What’s the Government Response?

 

Some good news -- although the federal government doesn’t appear to move as fast as the tech industry, the government has issued guidance, executive orders, a “Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights,” and has taken other action related to the growth and growing use of AI.  The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs held a hearing in March 2023, on “Artificial Intelligence: Risks and Opportunities.”  In June 2023, President Biden met with technology professionals in California to discuss rapid developments in AI. The goal of the meetings was to have an in-depth discussion about how AI should be regulated in the future so that its economic and security potential can be fully realized.

 

Reading the tea leaves indicates that U.S. regulation is coming. Many leaders in the industry are calling for it. Those familiar with the regulatory process know it’s anything but fast, but a signal that government regulations are coming often prompts action from those who know they’ll be coming under regulation.

 

The AI Bill of Rights Blueprint is an important document, released by the White House in October 2022. It suggests ways to make AI more transparent, less discriminatory, and safer to use. There are many important aspects of this Blueprint, some of which will likely be reflected in future regulations. I highlight a few of the many important provisions of this Bill of Rights below, as they reflect the values and intent of government decisions regarding AI:

 

You should be protected from unsafe or ineffective systems. Automated systems should be developed with consultation from diverse communities, stakeholders, and domain experts to identify concerns, risks, and potential impacts of the system. Systems should undergo pre-deployment testing, risk identification and mitigation, and ongoing monitoring that demonstrate they are safe and effective based on their intended use, mitigation of unsafe outcomes including those beyond the intended use, and adherence to domain-specific standards.”

 

You should be protected from abusive data practices via built-in protections and you should have agency over how data about you is used. You should be protected from violations of privacy through design choices that ensure such protections are included by default, including ensuring that data collection conforms to reasonable expectations and that only data strictly necessary for the specific context is collected. Designers, developers, and deployers of automated systems should seek your permission and respect your decisions regarding collection, use, access, transfer, and deletion of your data in appropriate ways and to the greatest extent possible; where not possible, alternative privacy by design safeguards should be used. Systems should not employ user experience and design decisions that obfuscate user choice or burden users with defaults that are privacy invasive.”

 

“You should know that an automated system is being used and understand how and why it contributes to outcomes that impact you. Designers, developers, and deployers of automated systems should provide generally accessible plain language documentation including clear descriptions of the overall system functioning and the role automation plays, notice that such systems are in use, the individual or organization responsible for the system, and explanations of outcomes that are clear, timely, and accessible.”

 

 

Final Thoughts (for now)

 

There will be much more to come on Generative AI. It’s my goal to update this blog piece with new information as things will undoubtedly evolve, change, and improve.

 

Here are a few final thoughts for now:

 

 

Be a Responsible User of AI

 

  • Visual outputs of Generative AI, like images, aren’t photography, or original art. If you ask a Generative AI system to “create a realistic photograph of a snowy owl against a winter scene,” and it produces that for you that’s not photography. There will be a debate about what we should call such generated images, but for now they’re “artificial images,” “artificial art,” “imitation art,” “artificial intelligence art,” “artificial photography,” and the list could go on. Most important -- be responsible and transparent about how you label the visual outputs of Generative AI. This is my practice.

 

Photography Competitions and Art Show Promoters – Review your guidelines, criteria, and jury process

 

  • If you believe AI generated images don’t meet the standard or reflect the values of your organization, competitions, or art shows, you must develop, implement, publish, and be willing to enforce those standards. State that AI generated images are not allowed. If an image is suspected to be AI generated, have a fair and appropriate process to check that. That can include having a community of experts that review images and requiring submission of RAW image files when questions come up. Educate your jurors on the possibility that AI images could be submitted in attempts to fool or “get one over” on your competition or art event.

 

  • If you believe AI generated images do meet the standard or reflect the values of your organization, competitions, or art shows, have a separate category for this kind of work, but don’t include it as part of Photography or Digital Art. In general, neither Photography or Digital Art accurately describe what Generated AI images represent.

 

 

 Stay Informed and Protect Your Work

 

I’ve provided links and references to the sources I’ve used in preparing this blog. I encourage everyone to review these yourself and to keep up with developments in AI. It is here to stay and will only grow. Here’s a few of the key documents and reading:

 

  • Congressional Research Service, https://crsreports.congress.gov/, Report number R47569, Generative Artificial Intelligence and Data Privacy: A Primer, May 23, 2023

 

 

  • Federal Register /Vol. 88, No. 51 /Thursday, March 16, 2023 /Rules and Regulations, U.S. Copyright Office, Library of Congress. https://www.federalregister.gov/

 

 

 

 

 

  • Tool that may stop AI from scraping your images, Glaze, https://glaze.cs.uchicago.edu  "Glaze is a system [designed by University of Chicago Researchers] to protect human artists by disrupting style mimicry. At a high level, Glaze works by understanding the AI models that are training on human art, and using machine learning algorithms, computing a set of minimal changes to artworks, such that it appears unchanged to human eyes, but appears to AI models like a dramatically different art style."

 

 

 

Other Sources, Information, and Latest News

https://www.copyright.gov/events/

https://blogs.loc.gov/copyright/2023/08/our-summer-of-artificial-intelligence-copyright-office-hosts-two-webinars-on-copyright-and-ai/?loclr=eacop

https://ipwatchdog.com/2023/06/29/u-s-copyright-office-generative-ai-event-three-key-takeaways/id=162771/

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/chatgpt-judge-fines-lawyers-who-used-ai/

https://glaze.cs.uchicago.edu/

https://www-forbes-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/www.forbes.com/sites/paultassi/2023/06/21/artists-are-mad-about-marvels-secret-invasion-ai-generated-opening-credits/amp/

https://www.hsgac.senate.gov/hearings/artificial-intelligence-risks-and-opportunities/

https://www.responsible.ai/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9t3XS1XtRE

https://zapier.com/blog/ai-art-generator/

https://time.com/6266606/how-to-spot-deepfake-pope/

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-my-ai-image-won-a-major-photography-competition/

https://www.thephoblographer.com/2023/02/24/ai-generated-visuals-dont-deserve-to-be-called-photos/

https://generated.photos/humans

https://www.theartnewspaper.com/2023/04/20/are-ai-photographs-actually-photographs

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Generative_artificial_intelligence

https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=1b32633f-91ea-482c-bed9-4cf8ed9bba80

https://sports.yahoo.com/lawsuits-over-stability-ais-stable-164923270.html?guccounter=1

https://petapixel.com/2023/04/26/photo-contests-are-woefully-unprepared-for-ai/


The Science of Coexisting with Wildlife

June 04, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Dr. Morgan Drabik-HamshareDr. Morgan Drabik-Hamshare

 

 

In my latest podcast, I’m excited to have as my guest Dr. Morgan Drabik-Hamshare, a research wildlife biologist with the National Wildlife Research Center in Sandusky Ohio; a component of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). This podcast is another in my series to expand awareness of wildlife professionals, careers in wildlife protection and management, and why this work is important.

 

Morgan’s research focuses on understanding, preventing, and mitigating the negative effects of wildlife collisions with aircraft, other vehicles, and structures. Morgan is a skilled wildlife scientist, researcher, and author of many publications in USDA’s Wildlife Services collection. Her current research evaluates unoccupied aircraft systems (UAS) technology for wildlife hazard management. In short, that means she’s conducting work to identify effective ways to prevent bird strikes at airports using various drone technologies.

 

Some of you may remember the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson”, where a USAIR pilot safely landed a plane with 150 passengers and 5 crew on board in New York’s Hudson River after the plane had a critical bird strike with Canada Geese during the plane’s initial climb out of New York LaGuardia airport. Morgan’s work contributes to how to make airports safer from these kinds of events and protect birds in the process. Morgan is also an avid birder. Her world life list is at 828 species, though we find out she’s a bit partial to vultures.

 

 

Here’s what we talked about. Listen to the podcast now.

 

  • Tell us about yourself

 

 

  • In your research with NWRC, you’ve had to spend time at landfills and around landfill birds (gulls, vultures, etc…). Tell us about why these conditions are useful for the research you’re leading.

 

  • Based on your recent research, it seems promising, the role of UAS’ as a tool to reduce the hazards to birds and humans at airports, as well as a tool for monitoring wildlife populations.  How is this research being used in practical applications – e.g., to enhance airport safety?

 

  • You have a Master’s degree and a PhD in Zoology, and this means you know more than a thing or two about wildlife and their role in our environment. Is there something you particularly appreciate or admire about wildlife?

 

  • We must switch gears and talk about birding!  Did you have any particularly exciting or unexpected bird finds this season?

 

  • Knowing birds like you do, do you have any advice or tips for birders?

 

 

REFERENCES AND SOURCES

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Morgan-Pfeiffer

https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/programs/nwrc/sa_research/sa_scientists/ct-research-scientist-by-id?p=Pfeiffer_M

https://www.instagram.com/vulturevagabond/

https://ebird.org/profile/MTg2NDk5/world

https://twitter.com/VultureVagabond

https://www.gri.msstate.edu/spotlight/

https://www.facebook.com/projectvulture?paipv=0&eav=AfYg_IZqKVdlSrhdzVHTJSUNoKrJdNE6CPzH9FG_wPIISyDPpz707GBqLUys2iMiGF8

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/US_Airways_Flight_1549

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-01098-5

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5479521/

https://insideunmannedsystems.com/drone-based-bird-herding-is-taking-off/


How to be Smart and Beautiful

May 30, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Sunset on Lake Erie

Support artists and organizations that drive positive change for the planet and future generations.

 

You can make this Copper Range Photography print yours during the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s ongoing silent auction. The winning bid will be a 100% donation to support efforts that conserve and expand National Marine Sanctuaries for a healthy ocean and coasts, to safeguard species and the places they call home, and to preserve America’s maritime history. 

 

The auction - part of Capitol Hill Ocean Week – is the nation’s premier ocean and Great Lakes policy conference that convenes policymakers, scientists, managers, business leaders, conservationists, educators, and more, to engage in dialogue and debate on significant issues that impact our ocean and Great Lakes.

 

The auction is now open to the public. You don’t need to be present at Capitol Hill Ocean Week to submit a bid or win an auction item. Bidding will close on June 8. It’s easy to bid -- visit https://event.gives/chow23.  My image, Sunset on Lake Erie, is Item 0111.

 

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation has earned a Four-Star rating with Charity Navigator, which means you give with confidence. The Foundation also has the “Platinum Seal of Transparency” from Candid, and that means it shares clear and important information with the public about its goals, strategies, capabilities, achievements, and progress indicators that highlight the difference the Foundation makes in the world. The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is also an environmental partner with “1% for the Planet”.

 

Get your bid in!  Thank you for supporting trusted artists and organizations that drive positive change for the planet and future generations.


For Your Protection - Earth Day

April 20, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Earth Day, April 22, 2023, recognizes over 50 years of environmental achievements and accomplishments by millions of people worldwide. It’s a steady call to never rest in the work to protect the only planet known to sustain human life, because we now know it’s a myth that pollution and overpopulation must be the marks of a prosperous society.

 

It’s easy to be a participant in Earth Day, every day. Here’s a few ways.

 

  • Bike or walk
  • Carpool or take public transportation
  • Choose an energy efficient vehicle
  • Make fewer trips by grouping your errands
  • Drive smart: go easy on the breaks and gas, use cruise control, and keep your car well-maintained
  • Reuse or repurpose containers, clothing, and cloth grocery bags
  • Give clothes a second life by donating or buying used
  • Know what items your local recycling programs collects, and what items are recyclable
  • Repair leaky faucets and replace old equipment like toilets and dishwashers when possible
  • Turn off the water to brush teeth and shave
  • Run full loads of laundry and dishes
  • Collect rainwater to use in your garden
  • Check your refrigerator, pantry, and freezer before shopping to avoid buying foods you don't need
  • Plan your meals for the week before heading to the store
  • Properly store fruits and vegetables so they last longer, https://www.almanac.com/how-store-vegetables-and-fruit-keep-it-fresh
  • Befriend your freezer and leftovers
  • Pick up litter, join a cleanup, https://www.earthday.org/actions/green-up-with-a-cleanup-volunteer-for-a-cleanup-in-your-community/
  • Plant a tree
  • Make a call-to-action to share on social media: Get your environmentally-conscious message out there and show your support for Earth Day by posting an educational video on your social media feed.
  • Give your friends an Earth Day Challenge to try, like picking up 15 pieces of litter, or simply share a few facts about global warming or rainforest preservation to help spread awareness.
  • Build (or buy) a quality birdhouse or bird feeder, https://www.wbu.com/
  • Brainstorm energy-friendly ideas for your house or apartment, such as switching to LED bulbs, turning off the AC when you're not home and other simple, energy-efficient ideas.
  • Go on a nature scavenger hunt -- Learn about local birds, wildlife, flora and fauna by searching for flowers, plants and trees, and observing wildlife in your region or around your neighborhood. Look for a regional list of birds, animals, and plants online to help guide your search! https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/what+is+it; https://ebird.org/home
  • Start a compost bin in your backyard, https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/compost/how-to-compost/
  • Start your own garden, or petition your local government to start a community garden.
  • Cut down or eliminate plastic bottles
  • Make your voice heard: https://www.earthday.org/action/
  • Donate to any number of reputable environmental or ecological steward organizations, https://www.networkforgood.org/topics/animal_environ/earthday/; https://www.overshootday.org/; https://www.earthovershoot.org/
  • Adopt a plant-focused diet, https://www.pcrm.org/good-nutrition/plant-based-diets  
  • Stop pesticide and herbicide use

 

FOR BUSINESSES

  • Reduce paper usage by printing on both sides, using digital files, or implementing paper-free days.
  • Provide opportunities to teleconference rather than travel when possible.
  • Repair and update old equipment before replacing it. When it must go, research donation or eco-friendly disposal options.
  • Turn electronics off when not in use, enable auto-sleep options to save energy.
  • Host your own event, like tree-planting, a cleanup or Teach-In.
  • Sponsor a local student group to conduct an environmental project.
  • Adopt a river, roadway or vulnerable species.
  • Promote environmental awareness on company social media.
  • Challenge other business in your community to go green.
  • Switch to post-consumer waste paper products, LED light bulbs, and rechargeable batteries.
  • Hire a green cleaning company or purchase eco-friendly cleaning products.
  • Create a company garden or green roof.
  • Plant native species to support pollinators and reduce run-off.
  • Implement compost collection and host a workshop on reducing food waste.
  • Conduct an energy audit to identify efficiency improvements.
  • Replace equipment with energy efficient options.
  • Switch to a renewable utility provider.
  • Switch to renewable auto-fleet.

 

Key Sources:

https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2023/

https://www.epa.gov/earthday


Natural Creators

April 16, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

Spring tends to be a busy time for me. Not only am I out with my camera witnessing as much magnificence of the changing seasons as I can, Spring is also when my Art Show schedule has me traveling to new and familiar places where my work is exhibited. This Spring I'm very excited to be among many talented artists and exhibitors at the One of a Kind Spring Show, held in The MART, Chicago, April 28-30.  The show featured me in a recent blog about artists they call "Natural Creators".  Read it here, Natural Creators.

 

If your Spring travels have you out in the Chicago area, stop by the show. It will be a great one!

 

Here's just a few of the images I'll have for sale.

 

OvercomeOvercome SpeechlessSpeechless FlooredFloored Impossible PinkImpossible Pink DeepDeep Small and MightySmall and Mighty PageantryPageantry Fair OneFair One

 

 

 

 

 


Birds – The Gateway Drug to Conservation

February 10, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

I spend a lot of time around birds, feeding them, researching them, traveling to see them, photographing them, writing and talking about them, and - when needed – getting injured or orphaned birds the help they need. I do this because I love doing it. I also do it because birds are a gateway to inspiring awareness, conservation, and protection of the habitats they need to survive. Conserving and protecting habitats that birds need also helps our species survive and thrive. Though birds can’t save us from ourselves, they can help.

 

When I’m out with my camera and binoculars, I regularly get powerful reminders of the conservation and protection work that so many have done and continue today. Whether it’s seeing waterfowl in a desert wetland or multiple pairs of successfully breeding bald eagles living along the shoreline of one of America’s -- former -- most polluted Great Lakes (Lake Erie).  

 

So many people naturally love or are intrigued by birds. Something I saw recently was another powerful reminder of how birds are truly a gateway to conservation. Across social media, I follow other photographers -- professionals, amateurs, and hobbyists alike. I also follow wildlife groups and bird groups. A photographer member of a Facebook group dedicated to photography from Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware recently posted a photograph he took of a banded Greater Snow Goose. Bird banding is a conservation tool that allows those with the proper permits to uniquely mark birds with specially issued bands. That way scientists and other interested parties can track individual birds over time learning about their movements, locations, and longevity.

 

This photographer did what everyone should do if they have a photo of a banded bird -- he reported it to the federal government’s bird banding laboratory. He got back a certificate with the details on when and where the Goose was banded, which is normally what happens when a band with sufficient and accurate information is reported. When I looked further into the information on his certificate, I learned that the Snow Goose was a female and she traveled over 2,300 hundred miles to Bombay Hook from the location she was banded. The Goose was banded in a high Artic Region of Canada and, likely, migrated along the Atlantic Flyway with a large flock of her fellow Snow Geese.  She may have made that trip a few times, because she was banded in 2019 as a young goose.

 

Besides being a jaw-dropping adventure completed by a 6-ish pound Greater Snow Goose, what’s the link to conservation?  Migrating birds like geese can travel very far distances in a single day. For example, Canada Geese can fly 1,500 miles in one day. However, all that flying requires a layover to rest and feed. Layover spots are often called a “stopover” in the bird world.  Stopovers along bird migration routes must be able to provide safe, protective, and healthy habitat for, sometimes, huge flocks of traveling birds. Birds like migrating Snow Geese, and others traveling along the Atlantic Flyway, have several choice habitats set aside and conserved for just these kinds of purposes. Some of these include Cape Cod National Seashore, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Assateague Island National Seashore, Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and others in the northern and southern Atlantic Flyway region. These places are vital for migratory bird survival and health – most birds simply would not survive their epic migrations without them. These undeveloped, protected and natural places also contribute to healthier habitats for us. Though birds can’t save us from ourselves, they can help.

 

If you spot a banded bird, whether dead or alive, from a safe and respectful distance, get the clearest photo you can of the numbers imprinted on the band and report it.  Read my other blogs about the banded bird I found and participating in a bird banding workshop.

 

 

Sources and More Information:

https://www.usgs.gov/labs/bird-banding-laboratory/science/report-a-band

https://www.fws.gov/project/bird-banding-conservation-tool-within-migratory-bird-program-ducks-geese-doves-and-more

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow_goose

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlantic_Flyway

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Snow_Goose/maps-range

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/snow-goose

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Understanding-Conservation

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2018/2/update-on-bird-heroes

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2019/9/on-the-road-to-conservation


Breaking Barriers - Virginia Wildlife

January 25, 2023  •  Leave a Comment

In just over three years, the Virginia Wildlife Facebook group amassed over 46,000 members, and it’s still growing.  What got my attention about this group is the help it provides in educating the public about wildlife, demystifying wildlife, and providing prompt reliable assistance with wildlife emergencies. Managed by volunteers with diverse skills in wildlife rehabilitation and science, the Virginia Wildlife Facebook group works to break barriers to humane and respectful coexistence with wildlife. With some exceptions, Virginia has many of the same wildlife you’ll find in other regions of the United States, and even other countries, so even if you’re outside Virginia, this group has something to offer anyone with a problem, or those interested and curious about wildlife. And they frequently feature outstanding wildlife photos! Virginia Wildlife has blazed a trail that others can follow. 

 

Listen now to my latest podcast episode with Kathryn Huntress, one of the admin/moderators for Virginia Wildlife.

 

 

 

 

 


Why We Need An Alliance For Responsible Nature Photography

December 16, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Whether you own a camera or not; whether you’re a professional or amateur photographer, or you just like to take photos when you’re out with your cell phone; my latest podcast is relevant to you. I’m talking with two of the co-founders of Nature First -- well known photographers from Colorado – Erik Stensland and Scott Bacon. Nature First was launched in 2019 due to concerns about the growing impact photographers – of all skill levels -- were having on the environment. Nature First is a global organization with over 5,000 members from 72 countries who have formed an alliance that promotes the protection and preservation of the world's natural and wild places through inspiring, educating, and uniting everyone that takes photographs and videos in nature; empowering them to be ambassadors of the natural world.

 

Here's what we talked about. Listen now - https://www.buzzsprout.com/711591/11886933

 

  • What led you to create Nature First?

 

  • Tell us about the most surprising thing you’ve personally witnessed regarding photographers causing harm to the natural environment.

 

  • Is there a common question you frequently get asked about Nature First?

 

  • Let’s talk numbers and impact. How do you determine how you’re doing on the goals for Nature First?

 

  • The Leave No Trace program identifies something called “Hot Spots”, which are natural areas “suffering from severe human impacts” (https://lnt.org/our-work/protecting-parks/hot-spots/).This looks like a potential tool people could use to help educate themselves about the places they photograph. What are the tools, or resources, Nature First has identified for people to educate themselves about the places they photograph?

 

  • The two founding members of Nature First are both long-time photographers in Colorado. Have you developed Nature First resources for photography in Colorado?  For example, a list of “hot spots”, or areas in Colorado that experience a lot of human visitors and may be vulnerable to stress or damage?

 

  • What are the most useful resources that help you be an ethical nature photographer?

 

  • As we wrap up, what else should we know about Nature First?

 

Please visit Nature First’s website www.naturefirst.org to learn more about Nature First important principles, make a donation, or join the organization. Nature First is also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

Sources and More Information:

https://www.copperrangellc.com/blog/2021/10/it-takes-all-of-us

https://lnt.org/why/7-principles/


If I Could Rename Woodpeckers, They’d Be Called Master Wood Carvers

November 22, 2022  •  1 Comment

Woodpeckers live up to their namesake – they peck wood. They peck wood to hunt for insects and to create nest cavities. Woodpeckers are called a “keystone species” for their role in creating habitat that other wildlife use for nesting and protection. Abandoned or unused Woodpecker nest-holes become nests or roosts for small Owls, Kestrels, some Ducks, and many birds including Blue birds and Tree Swallows. An unpleasant-looking dead tree, broken off at the top and with multiple holes in it, may actually be one of the most valuable trees in a forest. In simple terms, other bird species have better survival odds because of Woodpeckers.

 

It's late fall and Woodpeckers are reminding me why they’re one of my favorites. In part it’s because they’re one of the few species that remain in my region year-round. It’s also because they’re always beautiful and always enjoyable to watch. I want to spotlight several of my favorite Woodpecker images and share some facts and tips about these Master Wood Carvers -- including how to peacefully coexist with them.

 

 

  • Woodpeckers prefer dead trees. Unless a live tree is loaded with the kind of bugs woodpeckers like, they typically do their wood pecking (feeding) on dead trees. This is just one reason why it’s important to leave dead trees in place, when safe and possible.

 

Red Shafted Northern FlickerRed Shafted Northern FlickerWoodpeckers prefer dead trees

 

  • Woodpeckers are found nearly everywhere in the world; except Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, Madagascar, and the extreme polar regions.

 

  • Woodpeckers drum on wood to find food, but also to communicate with other Woodpeckers. Specifically, to attract mates and claim territory.  

 

  • Some woodpeckers have a sweet tooth. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers drill holes to tap into the sugary sap in trees. They’ve also been known to eat berries, which is where I photographed the sapsucker below. If you place hummingbird feeders up you may also notice downy or hairy woodpeckers occasionally drinking from them for a sweet snack.

 

Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

 

Downy WoodpeckerDowny Woodpecker looking for some seeds in winter

 

  • Woodpeckers have excellent hearing and can hear bug movement in wood. The sound of bugs in wood is one thing that triggers them to drum into wood.

 

Red-Headed WoodpeckerRed-Headed Woodpecker

 

  • It’s all in their heads. Woodpeckers have powerful muscles around their heads. These muscles and surrounding tissues allow them to safely drill into wood with force and to do it repeatedly. The total length of a woodpecker tongue can be up to a third of the bird's total body length and part of the tongue is anchored in their heads. If our tongues were the same proportion as woodpeckers’, they would be around two feet long. Woodpeckers need those long tongues to reach the bugs and insects they feed on.

 

Male Pileated WoodpeckerMaster Wood Carver

 

  • On occasion, and temporarily, some Woodpeckers, including Northern Flickers, will drum on metal. When trying to attract mates, Northern Flickers learn that some of those metal parts high up on our homes make a really big sound when pecked. Perfect for attracting other Northern Flickers! It’s happened at my home and my neighbors’ homes, though no damage ever resulted. Woodpecker drumming for territory or social reasons typically occurs in the early spring at the start of the breeding season and lasts for a very short time. With that said, you can buy flexible foam or plastic padding from a hardware store and wrap it around the metal cap. The muffled sound can encourage woodpeckers to move on.

 

Yellow Shafted Northern FlickerListening for Bugs?

 

  • It’s also the case that a woodpecker might be attracted to pecking on wood parts of your home. This is usually because rotting wood is present and bugs have made their way into the wood. If this happens, the first thing to do is KNOW THE LAW. Woodpeckers have protection under federal law (the Migratory Bird Treaty Act). This means there are things we can and can’t do when trying to control woodpeckers. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is the authority on this and they have a helpful article with resources and information.

 

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

 

Last and not least -- there are things we can all do to help Woodpeckers

  • In the colder months provide suet, peanut feeders, and/or peanut butter feeders (a favorite of Northern Flickers) when other food sources are scarce.
  • If you have to cut down a tree, consider leaving part of it as a snag. You’ll be helping the woodpeckers, and all the species that depend on them for homes.
  • Keep cats indoors
  • Avoid pesticides

 

 

 

 

 

Sources and Information

https://wildlife-damage-management.extension.org/how-do-i-stop-woodpeckers-from-pecking-on-my-house/

https://abcbirds.org/blog20/woodpecker-species-united-states/

https://birdwatchinghq.com/woodpeckers-in-the-united-states/

https://www.audubon.org/news/woodpeckers-keystone-species

https://www.kpbs.org/news/2022/10/31/nature-woodpeckers-the-hole-story

https://www.birdsandblooms.com/birding/bird-species/medium-sized-land-birds/woodpecker-facts/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woodpecker

https://www.fws.gov/story/woodpeckers-and-your-home

https://abcbirds.org/blog21/woodpecker-tongues/

 


Pleasant Surprises in the Mountain State, West Virginia

October 26, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

One of my recent Fall getaways took me to the Mountain State of West Virginia. This is a region that I think many underestimate. I’ve traveled and photographed many of the iconic western mountain regions of the US, including Washington State, Wyoming, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, and Arizona. I’ve also traveled to the stunning Canadian Rocky Mountain region of Banff. I’ve seen many of the most stunning mountain landscapes North America offers, and I’m now adding West Virginia to that list. In my latest blog see a few of the photos from my trip to, and surrounding, Tucker County West Virginia. If you’re inspired to visit the Mountain State, definitely visit the West Virginia Tourism website.

 

 

As the 3rd most forested state, West Virginia is the perfect place to see fall color.

The Mountain State, West Virginia

 

West Virginia has three state parks that are designated official Dark Sky Parks by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA). There are also many other locations with low or no light pollution making stargazing, and night/astrophotography, pretty spectacular. I was thrilled to capture this image of the Milky Way on the property surrounding Canaan Valley Resort and Conference Center (a West Virginia State Park).

 

End on a High NoteEnd on a High Note

 

For another stargazing adventure, I was up bright and early at 3:00 am (yes…3:00 am!) to try and capture something from the Orionid meteor shower. For the three hours we were out, I saw many more meteors than I was able to photograph. Several were spectacular in size and color. Photographing meteor showers requires the right equipment and knowledge -- but in the end -- it’s all guesswork regarding precisely when and where a meteor will flash across the sky. In the photo below look for the small white line in the lower left – that’s a meteor from beyond! 

 

Wish Upon a MeteorWish Upon a Meteor

 

 

Parts of Tucker County are in higher elevations with colder temperatures and unique climates. This means it can, and does (!) snow in the Fall. There was a snow day (or two) during my visit to the higher elevation locations in mid-October. The snow provided beautiful backdrops for the local wildlife and scenery. The two photos below were taken in Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

 

The MountainsThe Mountains

 

Ruby Crowned Kinglet Snow DayRuby Crowned Kinglet Snow Day

 

And what would a fall mountain snow day be without deer? Love the lashes, girl.

 

Mountain Snow Day

 

If the fall color and mountain scenery weren’t enough to cause distracted driving, the wind turbine farms were. Wind turbine farms??? Yes. It was exciting to see this corner of West Virginia apparently gone a little “green”. 

 

Feel the Energy

 

We traveled through a couple of large wind farms on the way to Tucker County. Wind turbines can be standalone structures, or clustered together in what’s known as a wind farm. In the U.S., wind is now a dominant renewable energy source, with enough wind turbines to meet the energy consumption needs of about 29 million average homes. One turbine can generate enough electricity to support the energy needs of a single home.

 

Wind farms are usually located on top of a mountain or in an otherwise windy place in order to take advantage of natural winds. There are about 57,000 wind turbines in the United States, both on land and offshore. As long as we continue to inflate our population, demand more energy for more electronics, and try to stem climate change, sustainable energy sources like wind are necessary. On one hand, it does seem alarming that we accept placing huge metal structures like wind turbines (many which can’t be recycled) on top of incredibly majestic and scenic mountain landscapes – and that we accept the inevitable disruption and death that happens to birds, other wildlife and their habitats. On the other hand, the fossil fuels we now rely on also clearly introduce harm and risk, they are a limited resource, and there are ways to minimize and mitigate some of the environmental impacts from wind turbines. Research shows that wind projects rank near the bottom of the list of human-related bird mortalities, resulting in far fewer annual deaths than those caused by house cats, building collisions, or vehicle impacts. The Audubon Society also strongly supports properly sited wind power as a renewable energy source that reduces the threat posed to birds by climate change. For reliable information on wind energy, the US Department of Energy has an excellent web site of frequently asked questions (FAQs).

 

Greening the Mountain State

 

Canaan Valley has been described by ecologists and conservationists as "a bit of Canada gone astray".  One place that shows that best is Dolly Sods Wilderness. The 17,371-acre Dolly Sods Wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest is a rocky, high-altitude plateau with sweeping vistas and lifeforms normally found much farther north in Canada, including snowshoe hare. Elevations range from 2,500 to over 4,700 feet. If you have difficulty with heights, and narrow, winding, high elevation roads, this may not be for you.

 

What happened to Dolly Sods isn’t a great story, but where it is today is a better ending. Through logging and agricultural use, early settlers and explorers decimated the massive forest that was once the top of Dolly Sods. The trees were 60 to 90 ft (18 to 27 m) tall and some measured at least 12 ft (3.7 m) in diameter. This area once held the greatest stand of red spruce in the world. After logging and other human uses left the area desolate, wildfires took what was left, and then for a time the US Army used Dolly Sods as a training ground. Live ammunition is still periodically discovered in Dolly Sods. Fortunately, today, Dolly Sods is a protected area with deer, black bear, raptors, and a variety of other birds and mammals making it home. Also within Dolly Sods Wilderness is the Nature Conservancy-owned Bear Rocks Preserve.

 

 

Dolly Sods WildnernessDolly Sods Wildnerness

 

 

One of the best known and most scenic landmarks in West Virginia is Seneca Rocks, just outside of Tucker County in Pendleton County, West Virginia. It’s a beautiful landmark and a great attraction for skilled rock climbers. Seneca Rocks is one of those sights that’s very difficult to capture its full beauty from ground level. I’m not a rock climber, but I did my best from ground level. Seneca Rocks Park also has some wooded trails and a stream running through it, which provides good habitat for birds and other wildlife.

 

Seneca RocksSeneca Rocks

 

 

For all my fellow raptor lovers, I saw many raptors in this area -- Kestrels, a few Bald Eagles, Black and Turkey Vultures, Sharp Shinned Hawks and others. They were just faster than me and my camera this time!

 

Sources and Information:

https://wvtourism.com/

https://wvstateparks.com/things-to-do/stargazing/

https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/mnf/recarea/?recid=12366

https://canaanvalley.org/traveling-west-virginias-route-48/

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200302-how-do-wind-farms-affect-bats-birds-and-other-wildlife

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2017.0829

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0006320713003522

https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-energy-technologies-office

https://fws.gov/library/collections/wind-energy-monitoring-reports

https://fws.gov/story/2012-03/interior-announces-onshore-wind-energy-guidelines

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power_in_the_United_States

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_impact_of_wind_power

https://wvtourism.com/company/tucker-county-convention-visitors-bureau/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaan_Valley

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milky_Way

https://scienceexchange.caltech.edu/topics/sustainability/wind-energy-advantages-disadvantages

https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/frequently-asked-questions-about-wind-energy

https://www.fws.gov/refuge/canaan-valley

https://earthsky.org/clusters-nebulae-galaxies/everything-you-need-to-know-orionid-meteor-shower/


Fall Pumpkins - Turn a Wasteful Tradition Around

October 08, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

Let’s get it over with -- the hard facts are:

  • Well over a billion pounds of pumpkins are trashed – unused – wasted – sent to the landfill after Halloween.
  • That adds to methane gas production - a greenhouse gas more dangerous than carbon dioxide (the stuff produced from burning fuels like coal, gasoline, and oil)
  • In other words, our love of decorative pumpkins is a climate-changer.
  • There are ways to live easier on the planet, and still have your pumpkins.

 

The choices we have for making better use of our seasonal, decorative pumpkins keeps getting better. We don’t have to trash the guts after carving or toss the remains of carved or whole pumpkins in the trash when the season is over. Well over a billion pounds of pumpkins are produced and sold in the US every year, but most are never eaten. They're thrown away when their cuteness fades. And that makes the global pumpkin trade – and us pumpkin consumers -- substantial producers of greenhouse gas emissions.

 

Here are some ways to reduce our carbon footprint when it comes to our love of pumpkins.

 

 

Buy locally

  • If you have to have pumpkins (ask yourself that), visit your local pumpkin patch, farm, garden center, or other merchant that you know sells locally grown pumpkins.

 

Use every part of the pumpkin

  • If you carve your pumpkins, save the “guts”, including the seeds and all the parts you carved out. If you don’t plan to use these parts in recipes, compost all of them.

 

  • If you have a yard or space that you know wildlife visit, put pumpkin remains out for wildlife to eat. Squirrels, foxes, deer, racoons and birds could use the extra food particularly during colder months when food is typically more scarce. Just make sure all pumpkin parts are cut up and small enough to eat.

 

 

  • If you don't have a yard to keep pumpkins in, or a compost pile consider donating them to a local hobby farm, community garden, animal shelter, zoo, or wildlife center. Many of these organizations gladly take pumpkins at the end of the season depending on their condition.

 

Check for other pumpkin recyclers in your area

  • Visit your county or state government’s trash and recycling website and search for pumpkin recovery or drop off. Many local governments now have pumpkin drop off days shortly after Halloween, including my local Washington DC government.

 

  • See if you live near a non-profit pumpkin collection site. One of the brightest lights in cutting down on wasteful pumpkin behavior are non-profits that accept pumpkins after the season. Organizations like SCARCE and Pumpkins for the People have drop-off sites where you can take your old pumpkins. They'll compost them to keep them out of landfills.

 

What am I doing with my pumpkins this year?

  • No painting
  • No carving
  • At the end of the season, we’ll cut up our whole pumpkins and put them on the compost pile. Some pieces will no doubt be eaten by our local wildlife but most will decompose and enrich our compost for next year’s garden.

 

 

Sources and More Information:

https://newswire.caes.uga.edu/story/8776/pumpkin-recycling.html

https://www.epa.gov/recycle/composting-home

https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2021/10/26/is-a-pumpkin-a-fruit-or-a-vegetable/

https://agrilifetoday.tamu.edu/2021/10/01/creative-ways-to-use-pumpkins-this-fall/

https://www.treehugger.com/donate-leftover-pumpkins-pigs-5085790

https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/wasted-food-programs-and-resources-across-united-states

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2015/10/30/452856477/are-we-wasting-millions-of-jack-o-lanterns-that-we-could-be-eating

https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/reducing-waste-and-harvesting-energy-halloween

https://www.treehugger.com/ways-reuse-your-halloween-pumpkin-4868398

https://www.treehugger.com/how-to-go-green-for-halloween-4859913

https://www.bhg.com/halloween/pumpkins/ways-to-use-leftover-pumpkins/

 https://pumpkinsforthepeople.org/

https://www.scarce.org/pumpkins/  

https://yaleclimateconnections.org/2021/10/nonprofit-makes-composting-as-fun-as-smashing-pumpkins/

https://dpw.dc.gov/page/food-waste-drop-pumpkin-recovery-event

https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/11/where-pumpkins-go-after-halloween/601699/

https://unionstreetjournal.com/2021/11/how-rotting-halloween-pumpkins-contribute-to-climate-change/

https://www.midwestfarmreport.com/2021/11/02/reusing-pumpkins-as-food-for-wildlife-and-farm-animals/

https://wasteadvantagemag.com/the-best-way-to-dispose-of-pumpkins-after-halloween/

https://lifehacker.com/stop-throwing-your-rotting-pumpkins-in-the-trash-and-d-1847868056


In a City Defined by People and Politics, He Makes Headlines Because of Birds

August 07, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

“We can learn a few things from birds at this time. One is that even though our lives are in a very strange place, nature is doing its best to continue on.” Dan Rauch, Fisheries and Wildlife Biologist for the District of Columbia, quoted on American University Radio

 

In my latest podcast, I’m talking with Dan Rauch. Dan is a Fisheries and Wildlife Biologist at Washington, DC’s Department of Energy and Environment. If you love, or even like wildlife, then you should love a wildlife biologist too. Dan does a lot of interesting and important work on behalf of the citizens of the District of Columbia – which I’m one – but also on behalf of the diverse wildlife that make Washington, DC their home. Many in the DC area -- and beyond -- first learned about Dan because he’s often in the news. Whether he’s helping bald eagles, snowy owls, turkeys, or helping DC residents coexist with wildlife, Dan loves what he does. In a city of over 700,000 residents – not counting the additional hundreds of thousands that come to work in DC; thousands of wild animals, and mostly highly developed land, it’s a big job.

 

 

 

Here's the questions we covered on the latest podcast. Listen now.

 

  • Tell us about yourself.

 

  • Wildlife biologists serve throughout local, state, and the federal government. What’s the role of wildlife biologists in the District of Columbia?

 

  • What excites you about being a Wildlife Biologist?

 

  • This past winter (winter 2022) the District was visited by a Snowy Owl who took up residence near Union Station. Photographers began documenting that she was eating rats in the area – which is great – except for the concerns about the use of rat poison in that area. You got involved in addressing those concerns. Walk us through what happened and how the District responded.

 

  • What have you learned from being in this field that other people should know?

 

  • What are some common things people struggle with in your field?

 

  • Do you have a favorite species?

 

  • Where can listeners learn more about more you and the District of Columbia’s wildlife?

 

 

Read more about Dan and the District of Columbia's Department of Energy and the Environment:

https://wamu.org/story/20/04/08/youre-stuck-inside-but-the-birds-arent-tips-to-start-watching-from-home/

https://doee.dc.gov/service/fisheries-and-wildlife

https://doee.dc.gov/

https://www.facebook.com/DOEE.DC

https://washingtoncitypaper.com/article/184569/longtime-residents-and-newer-urbanites-find-common-ground-in-bid-to-save-the-eagle-valor/

https://www.washingtonian.com/2020/03/09/dan-rauch-bird-man-viral-stories-dc-wildlife/

https://wtop.com/animals-pets/2020/05/tired-of-netflix-birds-provide-a-show-right-outside-your-quarantine-window/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/05/05/eagle-cam-national-arboretum-dc-eaglet/

https://www.facebook.com/dan.rauch.3

https://www.newsitem.com/several-recent-run-ins-with-owls-leave-some-washington-d-c-residents-rattled/article_f735faaf-58a9-58e0-b38a-1ead07ec4200.html

https://www.fox5dc.com/news/dc9-eaglet-removed-from-nest-tagged-for-research-purposes

https://www.nbcwashington.com/news/local/angry-bird-wild-turkey-attacks-people-on-dc-trail/3036735/

https://citywildlife.org/return-of-the-ravens/

https://www.wusa9.com/article/news/verify/birds-dying-disease-2021-virginia-dc-maryland-dmv-take-down-bird-feeders/65-9e135025-86bc-4e29-bd44-9cb44dd43909

https://www.usnews.com/news/us/articles/2022-02-25/bald-eagle-lays-two-eggs-in-washingtons-national-arboretum

https://www.npr.org/local/305/2021/08/05/1025115128/tropical-pink-bird-spotted-in-d-c-for-the-first-time-it-s-not-a-flamingo

https://www.npr.org/local/305/2020/05/07/852083400/d-c-area-wildlife-is-thriving-while-humans-are-stuck-inside

https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/01/10/spotted-snowy-owl-dcs-union-station-where-she-ate-pigeons-rats/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/express/wp/2018/02/06/two-snowy-owls-have-taken-up-residence-near-the-mall/

 

 


Osprey in the Spotlight

July 17, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

The Osprey’s scientific name, Pandion haliaetus, comes from a mythical king of Athens, Pandion, whose daughters were turned into birds, and the Greek words halos (sea) and aetos (eagle).

 

I'm HomeI'm Home

 

Ospreys have provided me with some of my most memorable wildlife photography experiences and wildlife encounters. I’m always stunned by these birds not just because of how they look but how they’ve adapted to living fairly close to humans with all of our human noises, human gazing, and humans regularly closing in on them to get closer looks. In a recent social media post, I refer to Ospreys as having the equivalent of a PhD in survival.

 

Osprey hunting skills literally astound me – they can see fish underwater when they’re flying at heights up to 130 feet above the surface of the water. Not only can they see with that level of precision, they dive at tremendous speeds into the water sometimes submerging their entire bodies to catch fish in their talons. And if that wasn’t enough, once they catch a fish, they use the physical strength of their wings to get out of, or off of the water and fly off with their catch. If you’ve been underwater, you know water is heavy – yet Ospreys make it look like a breeze to surface out of the water.

 

Once they’ve caught a fish then they fly sometimes considerable distances with an extra half pound (rough average) of fish in tow.  That might not sound like a lot of weight, but when you consider that adult Osprey usually weigh no more than 4 pounds, even a half pound of fish would be 12% of a 4-pound Osprey’s body weight.  How would you do carrying 12% of your body weight (let’s say you weigh 170 lbs. – 12% is 20 lbs.) a few times a day, usually every day, for miles in all kinds of weather? The Cornell Lab bird authority says: “Ospreys are excellent anglers. Over several studies, Ospreys caught fish on at least 1 in every 4 dives, with success rates sometimes as high as 70 percent. The average time they spent hunting before making a catch was about 12 minutes—something to think about next time you throw your line in the water.”   Watching, photographing, and when necessary, rescuing Ospreys never gets old.

 

 

Ospreys’ tendency to be fairly comfortable around humans and our built-up environment means that it’s not so unusual to see Ospreys in the news. See the “Sources and Information” links at the bottom of this post for some of the headlines Ospreys have created for many journalists.

 

There are now several live-streaming Osprey nest cams from around the US that provide important and moving insights into Osprey behavior. Knowing their behavior, lifestyle, and desired habitat has allowed many photographers, me included, to capture incredible photos of this majestic and fierce raptor. Following are a few of my greatest Osprey photographs to date. I expect there will be more to come! Click on any photo to purchase or contact me to discuss buying a print.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources and Information:

https://www.hawkmountain.org/raptors/osprey

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Osprey/overview

https://www.nwf.org/Educational-Resources/Wildlife-Guide/Birds/Osprey

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osprey

https://maryannsteggles.com/2022/07/07/another-loss-in-osprey-land-and-other-news-in-bird-world/

https://explore.org/livecams/ospreys/osprey-nest

https://www.raptorview.org/about.html

https://www.vims.edu/bayinfo/ospreycam/about_ospreys/

https://www.counton2.com/top-stories/osprey-recovered-from-folly-beach-cell-phone-tower/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2018/06/01/wildlife-experts-concerned-about-osprey-nest-on-construction-crane-in-southwest-washington/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2021/08/20/two-young-osprey-were-removed-their-nest-euthanized-so-workers-could-replace-light-southern-maryland-park/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/ecologists-track-dc-ospreys-long-journey-home--from-south-america-to-the-anacostia/2014/04/18/78a5dd18-c3fc-11e3-b195-dd0c1174052c_story.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/capital-weather-gang/wp/2016/10/25/climate-change-is-disturbing-hundreds-of-bird-species-including-our-beloved-osprey/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/animalia/wp/2016/08/03/watch-an-eagle-snatch-an-osprey-from-a-nest-like-its-no-big-deal/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/apr/26/dorset-ospreys-produce-egg-for-first-time-in-200-years

https://www.birdwatchingdaily.com/news/species-profiles/tracking-project-reveals-osprey-migration-feat/

https://www.audubon.org/news/now-resurgent-ospreys-once-faced-uncertain-future

https://www.ctinsider.com/living/article/ospreys-in-connecticut-16649886.php

https://www.fws.gov/story/2022-04/birds-eye-view-cape-cod-ospreys

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/cams/savannah-ospreys/


Birds of Prey - The Best Prescription Never Written

June 01, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

On my latest podcast, I’m talking with Donna Cole. Donna is an award-winning multimedia and investigative journalist; bird of prey rescuer; mom, breast cancer survivor, and a U.S. Navy veteran. During her US Navy Service, Donna was recognized with a number of military service medals and honors including the National Defense Service Medal (Gulf War/Operation Desert Shield), Good Conduct Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy Overseas Service Ribbon and a Cold War Recognition Certificate. In the spring and summer of 2018, Donna broke the story about carbofuran, a federally banned pesticide, being illegally used and resulting in the death of 13 bald eagles in the state of Maryland. Donna's reporting led to national and global news coverage. I'm talking with Donna about her investigative work, among other very inspiring things.

 

Donna Cole at Raptor Rescue Training 2019Donna Cole at Raptor Rescue Training 2019

 

I got to know Donna through her bird of prey rescue work. She led the effort to organize a large group of volunteer rescue transporters – people, including me, that pick up the rescued birds and transport them to licensed wildlife rehabilitators. Donna’s own involvement with bird of prey rescue got started following a difficult and painful recovery from breast cancer, which she shares with us. We have a lot to talk about with Donna today and I’m so excited that she’s able to join the podcast!

 

Here's the questions we covered. Listen to the podcast here.

 

  • You have an active on-line presence which makes it so easy to learn about and keep up with you. Perhaps that’s the journalist in you? Tell us about yourself.

 

 

  • Do you have any raptor rescues that are more memorable than others?

 

  • In 2018 you broke the story that the federally banned pesticide carbofuran was responsible for the 2016 deaths of 13 bald eagles in Maryland – and possibly more we’ll never know about. That story got national attention. That was the largest number of eagles that were known to have died in Maryland in 30 years; and we know bald eagles don’t just fall out of the sky in numbers like that and die. Carbofuran is a pesticide to control pests in soil and on leaves in a variety of field, fruit, and vegetable crops. In 2009 the US EPA effectively banned carbofuran by not allowing it be reregistered because EPA concluded that “dietary, worker, and ecological risks are unacceptable for all uses of carbofuran. All products containing carbofuran generally cause unreasonable adverse effects on humans and the environment and do not meet safety standards, and therefore are ineligible for reregistration.”  Tell us about how you got involved in this case and what you learned from it.

 

 

 

 

Sources and Information

https://www.annapoliscreative.com/

https://www.facebook.com/AnnapolisCreative/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/donna-l-cole-10ba9316/

http://upstart-annapolis.com/cause-bad-a-bird-woman/

https://twitter.com/annapcreative

https://abcbirds.org/article/epa-issues-landmark-decision-prohibit-deadly-pesticide-carbofuran-residues-food/

https://www.annapoliscreative.com/birds-of-prey-came-to-my-rescue-in-the-aftermath-of-breast-cancer-and-in-the-midst-of-an-opioid-epidemic-ive-tried-to-return-the-favor/

https://www.annapoliscreative.com/30-dead-bald-eagles-in-maryland-how-virginia-solved-the-problem-but-maryland-didnt/

https://www.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=1909736845757368&id=138573172873753

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/federal-officials-focus-on-human-causes-in-death-of-13-bald-eagles-in-maryland/2016/03/11/18368f76-e778-11e5-bc08-3e03a5b41910_story.html?utm_term=.4216728e0798&itid=lk_inline_manual_4

https://www.audubon.org/magazine/spring-2020/this-brutal-pesticide-creates-circle-death-so-why

https://archive.epa.gov/pesticides/reregistration/web/html/carbofuran_noic.html

https://bmcvetres.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12917-020-02534-w

https://www.mvj.network/mvj-speakers-bureau-for-2022/

http://npic.orst.edu/reg/restricted.html

https://www.epa.gov/safepestcontrol

https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/united-states-uses-85-pesticides-outlawed-in-other-countries-2019-06-06/