Copper Range: Blog en-us (C) Copper Range (Copper Range) Wed, 10 Apr 2024 22:00:00 GMT Wed, 10 Apr 2024 22:00:00 GMT Copper Range: Blog 120 109 Sharing Moments With Other Intelligent Beings Seeing whales in nature is a moving and unforgettable experience. Like seeing many wildlife, seeing whales in nature is a reminder of how diverse and extraordinary life on Earth is and our place within it. The anticipation of spotting a whale and the thrill of finally seeing one in the wild is an exhilarating experience that stays with you long after the encounter ends. Their immense presence commands respect and admiration. During my recent trip to Maui, Hawaii I was graced by several incredible humpback whale encounters. The story of humpbacks is better today than it once was. Once exploited by humans to near extinction, the 1986 ban on commercial whaling was a landmark decision that helped protect these majestic beings from complete slaughter. Though some countries still actively hunt and consume whales, since the moratorium, whale populations have shown remarkable signs of recovery. With the end of hunting pressure, many species rebounded. This resurgence is a testament to the effectiveness of conservation measures and the resilience of whale populations when given the chance to thrive.



Numerous conservation initiatives have been implemented to protect whales and their habitats worldwide. These efforts include establishing marine protected areas, implementing regulations to prevent collisions with vessels, advocating for sustainable fishing practices that minimize bycatch, and public awareness education.


While I was in Maui, I whale-watched and photographed in the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary was created to offer protection for whales while in their preferred habitats, which are the relatively shallow waters less than about 600 feet deep that are found around the islands. These areas include Penguin Bank, the Maui Nui region (Maui, Lāna‘i, Moloka‘i, and Kaho‘olawe), Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, Hawai‘i Island, and O‘ahu. Other protected underwater species also inhabit the waters around the Hawaiian Islands, including several species of dolphin and five species of marine turtles: the green sea turtle, hawksbill, leatherback, loggerhead, and olive ridley. Only the endangered hawksbill turtle and the threatened green sea turtle are commonly found in Hawaiian waters. 


In the United States, the Hawaiian Islands are the principal winter breeding grounds for the North Pacific humpback whale population. Each winter and spring approximately half of the north Pacific humpback whales, representing thousands of animals, visit the waters around the Hawaiian Islands, including sanctuary waters. Here they breed, give birth, and nurse their young. During one of my whale-watching encounters a mother and her calf approached the boat. This happened in a matter of seconds and the boat was buzzing with activity over the sight. I managed to only photograph a portion of the calf's head and tail as it was (quickly!) coming and (quickly) going! 


It was thought this was a weeks-old calf. Those bumps on its head are called tubercles. It's believed they help humpbacks detect vibrations in water which may help them feed on certain fish; others believe it helps reduce drag when whales are swimming and surfacing. In any event, those bumps exist for a purpose. At birth, humpback whales are "only" 12-14 feet long, and weigh "just" 1 to 1.5 tons. Everyday during the first six months of a humpback calf's life they grow around an inch and gain around 100 lbs. The reason for such an enormous growth spurt is the calf feeds only on its mother's milk (about 100 gallons a day) which is a super-concentrated, nutrient and fat-rich product.


Reliably predicting when or where you might see a humpback whale come to the surface, raise a fin or tail out of the water, or perform the most spectacular behavior -- breach out of the water --- is a bit of art and science. If you're on a boat and whale-watching, the challenges for photography increase because everything's always moving -- you, the water, the boat, your camera, the light, and the whales. It can also be difficult, if not impossible, to bring your highest quality camera equipment (i.e., biggest lens) on a whale-watching boat. When you're photographing whales by boat, pack your patience, understanding, and your skills in using your smaller telephoto lens. Fortunately, I was able to do some whale-watching from the lanai (porch or balcony in Hawaiian) of the property I stayed at on Maui. For this land-based whale watching I was able to use my biggest lens (1,000mm) and capture some of the incredible whale activity in the Pacific waters off in the distance. 


I had truly incredible humpback whale encounters while spending time on Maui and the waters of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. In addition, I was able to share my photographs with Happywhale. As a result, I contributed to the science and knowledge about 7 humpback whales. Happywhale is a citizen science platform that plays a pivotal role in monitoring whale populations and migration patterns. Happywhale allows individuals to report whale sightings and contribute to a global database, providing researchers with insights into whale behavior and distribution. Using artificial-intelligence-based automated image recognition Happywhale attempts to identify whale flukes (tails) from voluntarily uploaded photos and distinguish the whales among over 43,000 individuals known globally. Happywhale notifies you of what they find.  Below I provided the results of what I learned about the whale images I provided to Happywhale:

Happywhale DigestHappywhale Digest

Happywhale sounds cute, and it's an important component of conservation and the science behind saving and protecting whales from human exploitation. Here's a few of their recent highlights: 


It's organizations like Happywhale that I love to support, so much so that I became a patron (financial supporter). I named one of the whales that I photographed and that was also in the Happywhale database. I named the whale Nani, which means beautiful in the Hawaiian language. Nani was first spotted in 2005.  I thought it was special that she was still alive when I spotted and photographed her 19 years later in 2024.


Happy whales to you!

(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper citizen science copper Happywhale hawaii life hawaiian islands hawaiian islands humpback whale national marine sanctuary humpback whales maui monterey humpback whales NATGEO whale conservation whale photography whales Whales of Guerro Wed, 06 Mar 2024 22:16:15 GMT
2023 Side B? Side B on records refers to the flip side or second half of the vinyl disc. It's the counterpart to Side A, usually considered the "main" side. Side A typically contains the primary or lead tracks of an album, representing the artist's chosen sequence of songs for initial exposure to listeners. Side B would showcase a different mood or style, providing an additional exploration of the artist's creative range. I took thousands of photos in 2023. There's never enough time or digital space to share them all, so here's a few of my favorite Side B photos from 2023 that are heading to the archive!

White-breasted NuthatchWhite-breasted Nuthatch

(Copper Range) award winning photographers bird photography carolyn conservation copper macro photography nature photography washington wildlife wildlife photography Wed, 27 Dec 2023 21:56:31 GMT
Giving Time to Good Causes Fall is often when I have more time to give some of my time to volunteer work. Last week I joined a group of local neighbors for maintenance work on rain gardens (also called bioretention beds or cells) that are installed in various places around my Washington, DC neighborhood.

Bioretention Bed/Rain Garden, NW Washington DCBioretention Bed/Rain Garden, NW Washington DC

These rain gardens were built under permits from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to help capture and filter out pollutants that accumulate in large quantities during rain and storm events. They're necessary to meet legal requirements and standards of the Clean Water Act. Maintenance of these rain gardens became complicated and misunderstood by some, so a new approach to maintenance was needed so the rain gardens could work as intended.  Environmental issues are personally important to me and I was happy that I was able to help out. It involved lots of digging and planting on a beautiful day.  


Partners and Volunteers Going Over the PlanPartners and Volunteers Going Over the Plan

Maintenance of Bioretention BedsMaintenance of Bioretention Beds

Social responsibility is often a driving force when it comes to volunteerism and charitable work; and it is for me. I have another volunteer event next month with the Owl Moon Raptor Center. This is an organization I try to volunteer with as much as my schedule and commitments allow. If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you may have seen my posts about volunteering for them. They do very important work to heal, rehabilitate, conserve, or end suffering of injured or sick wild raptors when necessary. 

Volunteering with Owl Moon Raptor CenterVolunteering with Owl Moon Raptor Center

Volunteering provides you with the opportunity to be a catalyst for change. Whether you're passionate about environmental conservation, social justice, education, or helping those in need, your contributions can have a tangible, positive impact on the lives of others.

Sometimes volunteering means stepping out of your comfort zone. As you step out of your comfort zone and take on new challenges, you'll develop skills, confidence, and resilience that can benefit you in all aspects of life.

Volunteering brings people together who share a common cause. You'll meet individuals who are as passionate as you are, fostering friendships and professional connections that can last a lifetime.

Numerous studies have shown that volunteering is linked to improved mental and physical health. It reduces stress, increases feelings of happiness, and even enhances your sense of purpose and self-worth.

Volunteering often leads to a deeper understanding of your own values and beliefs. It can help you clarify what truly matters to you and guide your life choices accordingly.

(Copper Range) bioretention beds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation environmental protection rain gardens social responsibility volunteering washington wildlife wildlife rehabilitation Tue, 31 Oct 2023 19:44:11 GMT
Seeing Supernatural 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


(Copper Range) audubon award winning photographer award winning photography best bird photographer birch photographer carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper cornell lab of ornithology natgeo washington wildlife Tue, 19 Sep 2023 22:58:21 GMT
Don't Ignore These Alarm Bells 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 (, 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: and There are other current lawsuits against Generative AI companies, including another filed in July 2023 by accomplished Comedian Sarah Silverman, 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,


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,, 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.






  • Tool that may stop AI from scraping your images, Glaze,  "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

(Copper Range) artificial intelligence carolyn copper photography copper range photography copyright copyright infringement deep fakes fake photography generative ai Glaze haveibeentrained stable diffusion litigation wildlife photography Mon, 26 Jun 2023 20:23:16 GMT
The Science of Coexisting with Wildlife 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?




(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper conservation copper Dr. Morgan Drabik-Hamshare FAA NWRC photography blogs photography podcasts the miracle on the hudson UAS USDA washington wildlife Wildlife Research Biologist Sun, 04 Jun 2023 18:06:49 GMT
How to be Smart and Beautiful 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  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.

(Copper Range) #CHOW art for the planet capitol hill ocean week carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper CHOW coastal style conservation interior design ideas Lake Erie Islands and Shores non-profit fundraising non-profits photos of Lake Erie The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation auction washington Tue, 30 May 2023 17:16:22 GMT
For Your Protection - Earth Day 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,
  • Befriend your freezer and leftovers
  • Pick up litter, join a cleanup,
  • 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,
  • 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!;
  • Start a compost bin in your backyard,
  • Start your own garden, or petition your local government to start a community garden.
  • Cut down or eliminate plastic bottles
  • Make your voice heard:
  • Donate to any number of reputable environmental or ecological steward organizations,;;
  • Adopt a plant-focused diet,  
  • Stop pesticide and herbicide use



  • 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:

(Copper Range) carolyn cooper conservation earth day environmental environmental action environmental advocacy environmental organizations green activism green planet tree hugger washington wildlife Thu, 20 Apr 2023 12:16:47 GMT
Natural Creators 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






(Copper Range) art show artwork carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper flower photography macro photography One of A Kind Artists photography for sale washington wildlife Sun, 16 Apr 2023 17:43:33 GMT
Birds – The Gateway Drug to Conservation 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:

(Copper Range) atlantic flyway bird banding bird photography birders birds bombay hook national wildlife refuge carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper drug gateway drugs geese snow goose washington wildlife Fri, 10 Feb 2023 23:30:53 GMT
Breaking Barriers - Virginia Wildlife 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.






(Copper Range) animals birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper facebook podcast rehabbers social media virginia wildlife vultures washington wildlife wildlife rehab wildlife rehabilitation Wed, 25 Jan 2023 23:46:30 GMT
Why We Need An Alliance For Responsible Nature Photography 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 -


  • 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” ( 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 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:

(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper ethical photography leave no trace national parks photography nature first washington wildlife Sat, 17 Dec 2022 04:15:23 GMT
If I Could Rename Woodpeckers, They’d Be Called Master Wood Carvers 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


(Copper Range) bird lovers bird photography bird watching birding carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper carolyn copper photographer conservation copper copper range photogoraphy nature outdoors washington wildlife woodpeckers Tue, 22 Nov 2022 23:58:29 GMT
Pleasant Surprises in the Mountain State, West Virginia 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


Female Ruby Crowned KingletFemale Ruby Crowned Kinglet


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:

(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper carolyn copper photography conservation copper copper range photography dolly sods fall mountain state mountains photography seneca rocks travel photography traveling washington west virginia scenery wildlife winter Thu, 27 Oct 2022 00:23:21 GMT
Fall Pumpkins - Turn a Wasteful Tradition Around 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:

(Copper Range) autumn carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper climate change conservation copper copper range photography environmental protection epa fall season food waste halloween photography pumpkin recycling recycling pumpkins reuse washington waste diversion wildlife Sat, 08 Oct 2022 22:16:45 GMT
In a City Defined by People and Politics, He Makes Headlines Because of Birds “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:



(Copper Range) biology" birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper copper range copper range llc copper range photography dan rauch dc district of columbia department of energy and the environment district of columbia government doee washington wildlife wildlife biologist Sun, 07 Aug 2022 15:14:20 GMT
Osprey in the Spotlight 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).



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.



My Time Is ComingMy Time Is Coming






Sources and Information:

(Copper Range) Audubon Society award winning bird photography best bird shots bird lovers bird photographers birding birds of prey birdwatching carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper NATGEO osprey washington wildlfe photographers wildlife Sun, 17 Jul 2022 19:04:28 GMT
Birds of Prey - The Best Prescription Never Written 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

(Copper Range) annapolis creative bald eagles breast cancer survivors carbofurna poisonings carolyn carolyn cooper conservation copper donna cole washington wildlife Wed, 01 Jun 2022 20:53:27 GMT
The American West has to be seen to be believed and has to be believed to be seen "The landscape of the American West has to be seen to be believed and has to be believed to be seen." - N. Scott Momaday


That quote sums up how I usually feel when I return from a west coast trip. Having been raised and lived all of my life in more eastern regions of the United States I know there are amazing and truly inspirational sights and historical places on our side of the country. Some are unmatched anywhere in the world – including in Washington, DC – my home for the last 30 years. That said, the mountain west also has its own unique history and lessons, but its natural beauty is just unsurpassed. Traveling through Utah in April I was reminded (again!) that we live in a diverse, resilient, and sacred place, when we allow ourselves to see it that way. I’ve posted on my social media a few of my favorite scenes from my recent Utah adventure, which I’m including in this blog along with their stories and some new images. I encountered incredible scenery, landscapes, wildlife, and great people throughout Utah, and the biggest impact was visiting Monument Valley – part of the Navajo Nation located in Utah, near Kayenta, Arizona. Let’s start there.




Monument Valley - "Sacred Land, Sacred View."


Sacred ViewsSacred Views


After spending about 48 hours in Monument Valley, witnessing the incredible rock formations and listening to native Navajo stories about creation and the significance of the land, I purchased the book “Sacred Land, Sacred View,” in a local shop. I read it front-to-back on the plane ride home and found that some of my photographs of the rock formations in and near Monument Valley - all on Navajo land - were talked about in the book. I had heard some of the stories I read about during my tour of Monument Valley where I had the great experience of learning about Navajo culture from Larry Team, a Navajo guide with Monument Valley Tribal Tours. One of the best descriptions I’ve read of how Navajos view the environment and land is: “Navajos read their environment as a spiritual text: the gods created the physical world to help, teach, and protect people through an integrated system of beliefs represented in nature.”


Larry Team - Navajo Guide, Monument Valley Tribal Tours

Larry Team - Navajo GuideLarry Team - Navajo Guide


The dramatic beauty of Navajo Land and its people left me, and still leave me speechless. The Navajo Nation is the largest Indian reservation in the United States, comprising about 16 million acres, or about 25,000 square miles, approximately the size of the state of West Virginia. Some of the most photographed scenery in the United States is on the reservation, notably Monument Valley.



Sunrise, Monument Valley


Some Navajo interpretations of the rock formations shown in the photo above -- specifically what are called the "Mittens" on the left and in the center -- say that these formations are two hands that were left behind by the gods as signs that some day they will return and rule with power from Monument Valley.



The photograph below shows Agathla Peak or Agathlan (Navajo: Aghaałą́, Spanish: El Capitan) which is located south of Monument Valley. It rises over 1,500 feet (457 meters) above the surrounding terrain. In Navajo tradition, this formation is believed to be a "sky-supporter", also described as a "transmitter", capable of communicating prayers.


Agathla Peak or El Capitan

Sky SupportSky Support


Anthropologists believe the Navajos probably arrived in the Southwest between 800 and 1,000 years ago. The Navajo people call themselves Dine', literally meaning "The People." After the United States defeated Mexico in 1846 and gained control of the vast expanse of territory known today as the Southwest and California, the Navajos encountered a more substantial enemy. Colonel Kit Carson instituted a scorched earth policy, burning Navajo fields and homes, and stealing or killing their livestock. After starving the Navajos into submission, Carson rounded up every Navajo he could find - 8,000 men, women and children - and in the spring of 1864 forced his prisoners to march some 300 miles to Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Navajos call this "The Long Walk." Many died along the way, and died during the four long years of imprisonment. In 1868 after signing a treaty with the U.S., remaining Navajos were allowed to return to designated lands currently occupied in the Four Corners area of the U.S.


Generations of Navajos were raised with the belief that what the natural world provides is sacred, greater than us, and essential for survival, harmony, and peace. Social media is loaded with incredible pictures of Monument Valley. But there’s much, much more, to learn and know about this place that the Navajo people see as sacred. They were taught to live in harmony with “Mother Earth”,” Father Sky” and other elements including people, plants, animals, and insects. Those beliefs have enabled the protection and care of natural resources for generations.


Monument Valley Mesas, Mittens, and Formations


A view of "Ear of the Wind", in Monument Valley Backcountry

Ear of the WindEar of the Wind


The photo below is another of many places we stopped during our backcountry tour of Monument Valley. Our Navajo guide told us to lay on our backs and look up at this formation. He asked if we saw the eagle? Some of us did. Did you?



Find the Eagle, Monument Valley


Do You See the Eagle?Do You See the Eagle? Seeing the EagleSeeing the Eagle



I could never do justice to the powerful stories Larry – our Navajo guide -- shared with us -- passed on to him from his Navajo grandfather -- or come close to describing the feelings evoked when Larry sang a Navajo song of love, sung over Navajo-born US soldiers experiencing post-traumatic stress. But one thing Larry said clearly summed everything up for me..."when we pray, we give thanks to nature first.” This and so many other moments revealed a culture that reveres, loves, and respects the natural world.


Larry Team - Navajo Guide -- singing Navajo healing song

Larry Team - Navajo GuideLarry Team - Navajo Guide


In the Navajo culture, medicine men perform ceremonial cures that are targeted at body, mind, and spirit. There are nearly 100 Navajo chants of varying range and intricacy. Originating from the Navajo Creation Story, a Navajo medicine man learns only one or two over many years of apprenticeship. Ceremonies last anywhere from one to nine days and include chants, songs, prayers, lectures, dances, sweat baths, prayer sticks, and sand paintings. In order for a ceremony to be effective, everything must be done as prescribed in the legends.


Monument Valley Backcountry

Back CountryBack Country



Near the end of the Monument Valley Tour, we visited a traditional, and working, Navajo hogan – the name given for a Navajo home or dwelling. These are humble buildings constructed with natural materials that all have significance, meaning, and function. Men and women live in separate hogans, and the hogans are sized and shaped differently for men and women. In the female hogan we met a native Navajo woman who showed us the traditional methods for spinning, dying and preparing wool for Navajo rugs. It's a completely all-natural, power-free, process.


Another traditional Navajo skill we learned about is basket-making. Little did I know that the design of Navajo baskets is deliberate and every aspect of the design has meaning.  Baskets are not only functional but are a symbol and reminder of Navajo beliefs. Many Navajo baskets have the traditional Navajo basket design with the red, white, and black colors. The black design symbolizes the darkness (night) and clouds that bring the rain. The white part inside the black design represents the sacred mountains. Usually, there are four or six points in this part to designate the sacred mountains. If there are four points, then they represent the four sacred mountains. If there are six points, then two more sacred mountains are added. The outside white area represents the dawn and is tied together with the outside rim which represents a person's thoughts, prayers, and values. The red part within the black design represents the life-giving rays of the sun. The photo below shows our Navajo guide explaining the basket design. A source for the background on Navajo baskets is here.


Interior of (female) Navajo Hogan, Weaving and Navajo Basket

Navajo CultureNavajo Culture



More Amazing Utah and Regional Scenery

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe BendHorseshoe Bend


On the way to Monument Valley, Horseshoe Bend in Page Arizona is a somewhat newly popular tourist attraction. It’s part of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and I like how the National Park Service describes Horseshoe Bend as a “social media darling.” At Horseshoe Bend, the Colorado River created a roughly 1,000 ft (305 m) deep, 270-degree horseshoe-shaped bend in Glen Canyon. It’s unique, and interesting to photograph. However, best to get there very early in the day or late around sunset to avoid shadows in your photographs (which I did not!)


There were other great sights along the short hike to Horseshoe Bend, including many buck moth caterpillars. I had to do my research on these since I’ve not seen them out in nature before. Everything I’ve read says that buck moth caterpillars will sting defensively and therefore people should avoid picking them up or touching them. However, it’s actually very hard to see their spines – and know that you’re looking at a buck moth caterpillar, as they’re crawling around. Perhaps the best advice for all, "not-a-bug-expert", (that's most of us!) is to not harass, touch or pick bugs up. The buck moth caterpillar is very showy and I’m always glad to run across new species when I’m in new places. They get the name buck moth because they hatch during fall and are seen flying in the fall around the same time deer are often seen.


Buck Moth Caterpillar

Buck Moth CaterpillarBuck Moth Caterpillar


Here's a few other new wildlife sightings while I was traveling Utah.  You can also visit my INaturalist profile, where I regularly post new wildlife sightings.


Mountain Bluebird


Golden Eagle

Golden EagleGolden Eagle


Antelope Squirrel

Antelope SquirrelAntelope Squirrel



Bryce Canyon National Park – Millions of Years in the Making


Sometime in the late 1800s, Scottish immigrant Ebenezer Bryce, was sent to Paria Valley, Utah by the Mormon church, which he was a member. While living in southern Utah, he oversaw the construction of a road to the rim of Bryce Canyon. During this time, the red rocks and hoodoos were referred to as Bryce’s Canyon. Due to its natural and geological significance in the area, Bryce Canyon later became a national monument in 1923 and officially became a national park in 1928. I took hundreds of photographs of Bryce Canyon; and if you’ve visited this area, you understand. Bryce Canyon National Park is simply a stunning geological sight, highly unique among the National Parks. It’s known for its “Hoodoos” (irregular columns of rock). While these exist on every continent, Bryce Canyon has the largest concentration found anywhere on Earth.


Bryce Canyon

Bryce CanyonBryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon


Bryce CanyonBryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon

Bryce CanyonBryce Canyon


Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon National ParkBryce Canyon National Park


Bryce Canyon


Bryce CanyonBryce Canyon


Sources and Information:

(Copper Range) bryce canyon carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper hoodoos monument valley monument valley tribal tours national parks national parks photography native americans navajo sacred land scenic monuments travel photography wildlife wildlife photography Wed, 25 May 2022 12:57:14 GMT
Low Country Conservation Wins It's been a very busy spring 2022! Lots of travel, an art show, planning for upcoming art shows, some other projects, and lots of incredible photography to process and share. Before the next big event, I wanted to be sure and get back to the blog to share my latest inspirations from Hilton Head Island, South Carolina.



If you follow my blog or social media you know that I regularly travel to Hilton Head, and have for years. The first time I visited, it was the natural and peaceful beauty of this place that I fell in love with. Many people associate Hilton Head with golf, but I'm not a golfer; and there's so much more than golf to Hilton Head! As a wildlife photographer, Hilton Head has diverse species and some of the most unique birding photography anywhere in the United States. How does a warm and sunny Atlantic coast beach environment, that's been named "America's Favorite Island", have great wildlife?  Because Hilton Head is also dedicated to conserving natural habitats and the ecosystems that make it possible for both humans and wildlife to thrive on the island.



Here's just a few of the ways Hilton Head has stepped up to protect the island and its ecosystems (source: ).


  • Hilton Head Public Service Department irrigates the Island’s six major watersheds with high-quality, treated domestic water to preserve hundreds of acres of native old-growth wetlands, which are home to rare and endangered wildlife and vegetation.



  • Hilton Head's Tree Protection Ordinance, in effect since the 1980's, protects against and mitigates the loss of trees based on ecological standards. It also encourages the protection of under-story vegetation. Even for single-family homes, tidal wetland buffer standards require that native vegetation be left intact in accordance with the Tree Protection Ordinance. Hilton Head has also been a Tree City USA Community since 2002. In addition, buildings are capped at a specific height to protect the integrity and aesthetic of the natural local landscape. Trees that are protected -- particularly tall, old growth trees, provide vital habitat for birds and raptors including bald eagles, ospreys, hawks, and kites.



  • To protect the sea turtles that travel miles through the Atlantic Ocean to nest specifically on Hilton Head beaches, the Town of Hilton Head Island requires light structures visible from the beach to be covered or turned off between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am during nesting and hatching season from May to October. Volunteers with the Sea Turtle Patrol Hilton Head Island also monitor the beaches daily during these crucial months to mark and track sea turtle nests, minimize pollution, and raise awareness of the importance of the sea turtle’s protection.



  • In 1987, a group of local residents created the Hilton Head Island Land Trust, a non-profit corporation with a mission to preserve and protect natural habitats from over-development. Today, nearly 300 acres of Island lands are under the land trust’s stewardship, including the Whooping Crane Pond Conservancy, Cypress Conservancy, Northridge Tract, and Fort Howell from the Civil War era.



  • The Town of Hilton Head Island has played a significant role in land conservation. Beginning in 1991, the Town began a plan to manage and control growth on the Island with a similar program created to preserve the open spaces in Nantucket, Massachusetts. As a result, the Town has purchased well over a 1,000 acres. These protected areas have precluded commercial development, hotel development, and new homes in favor of green space, parks, and natural habitat conservation. On December 27, 2017, Audubon International certified the Town of Hilton Head Island as the first public Audubon Sustainable Community in South Carolina. Read about Hilton Head's certification and sustainability success (scroll down to look for Hilton Head).




These conservation and sustainability actions have resulted in one of the most pristine, peaceful, diverse, and enjoyable places to vacation and photograph anywhere along the U.S. Atlantic Coast. Everywhere in the world, conservation is a long-term commitment and practice to mitigate the effects of population growth and impact.


Photographs from my latest trip provide proof of conservation wins in the low country of Hilton Head Island.


Hilton Head Sunset

Osprey with Grouper Catch

What It's All AboutWhat It's All About

Laughing Gull

Laughing GullLaughing Gull

Male Painted Bunting

Painted Bunting - MalePainted Bunting - Male

American Oystercatcher

American OystercatcherAmerican Oystercatcher

Female Painted Bunting

Brown Pelican

Brown PelicanBrown Pelican

Piping Plover

Piping PloverPiping Plover

Semi-Palmated Plover

Semi-palmated PloverSemi-palmated Plover





Brown Thrasher


Black Skimmer Black SkimmerBlack Skimmer




Royal Tern


Royal TernRoyal Tern

Sea Star

Sea StarSea Star

Hilton Head Sub-species of White-Tailed Deer

Hilton Head Sub-species of White Tailed DeerHilton Head Sub-species of White Tailed Deer

Time Out

Calibogue Sound

The SoundThe Sound


Sources and Information:

(Copper Range) birding carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper hilton head photography landscape photography NATGEO over population population south carolina sustainability wildlife Fri, 20 May 2022 19:32:34 GMT
Sustaining Generational Respect for Wild Places On my latest podcast I'm talking with Isaac James Baker. I got to know Isaac through Instagram. The more he posted, the more I wanted to know. Isaac has worked as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer, and editor. He has a Master’s Degree in fiction writing, he reviews wines for an award-winning wine blog, and is an author for The Good Men Project.  Among things we’ll talk about – Isaac -- in his own words, is a “newb” and “constant learner” wildlife photographer and posts his wildlife shots and sightings on Instagram, which include great birds, Coyotes and other species. Isaac calls Coyotes his “homies”, and he’s taken and posted some very nice shots of Coyotes. Isaac lives around the metropolitan DC area and we’ve been following each other on Instagram for a while. In the “9-to-5-world”, Isaac is a journalist. He’s currently a communications specialist for the Federal Election Commission. That’s an independent regulatory agency that “protects the integrity of the federal campaign finance process by providing transparency and fairly enforcing and administering federal campaign finance laws.”


Isaac also comes from a long line of outdoor lovers, including his mother who was the first women to surf in his local New Jersey town. As a young boy, Isaac also spent several years in Ukraine during a different, but also difficult time in that country’s history. That experience helped him develop an appreciation for wild canids. Canids include dogs, foxes, coyotes, and wolves.  Love, enjoyment, and respect for the outdoors were instilled in him young, and he’s living a life that celebrates, in many ways, what nature provides us.


The ability to be active in the outdoors actually helped Isaac overcome some pretty dark times in his personal life, and Isaac shares some things from a darker and difficult time in his life. Isaac is conscious about passing the generational respect for nature on to his daughter. I talled with Isaac about a lot of topics – including his love of nature, sustaining generational respect for our wild places, his years in Ukraine against the backdrop of today’s violence in that country, his project to document the hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park, things on his wildlife photography wish list, and more.


Here's the questions we talked about. Listen to the podcast now


  • You’re active in a lot of outdoor endeavors.  How did all that get started?  Why surfing, hiking, mountain climbing, and wildlife photography?


  • Shortly after Russia’s February 24th invasion of Ukraine, you shared a photo on Instagram from Kyiv, Ukraine, taken in 1995, that showed you, your siblings, and other children playing on overturned military tanks. In that post you said your “heart was breaking for the people of my former home, who showed me so much grace and hospitality.”  How did those years living in Ukraine influence you?


  • Speaking of things on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, you review wines for an award-winning wine blog. Your interest in wine started on the other side of the Atlantic. How did that get started?


  • Changing gears a bit Isaac,  if folks were to search you on the Internet they’d easily find, that like many of us, at one point in your life, you experienced some dangerous and traumatic events. You’ve written and published about some very dark times in your life. Now that you’re on the other side of that, how has your perspective changed? Has the ability to get outdoors and enjoy the outdoors helped you?


  • When I look through your Instagram posts, it’s exactly what your profile says you’re about, “nature, waves, metal, wine, etc..”. One exception is that you periodically post about your daughter. Maybe when you next update your profile you’ll add, “dad”? 


  • You mention generational respect for our natural places. How are you trying to pass that on and sustain that?


  • You started a project in 2020 to hike and document every mile of every trail in Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah National Park is 75 miles from DC and has over 500 miles of trails. How is the project coming along? Do you plan to publish about it?


  • Do you have places or wildlife on your travel or photography “wish list”?



Sources and Information

(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper conservation copper coyotes isaac james baker living in ukraine love photography podcast ukraine war in ukraine washington wildlife wildlife photography Mon, 04 Apr 2022 22:13:50 GMT
There’s more to this neighborhood than meets the eye  


I don’t travel anywhere these days without my photography gear, and that includes a recent trip I took to Las Vegas. I’ve been to Vegas several times. I know that -- despite the Bellagio fountains, swimming pools available in nearly all resorts, and lots of flowing beverages everywhere -- Las Vegas is a big place in a very dry desert -- the Mojave Desert. On my latest trip to the strip, I was looking forward to the possibility of seeing desert wildlife that don’t exist where I am on the eastern side of the US.  My research found several excellent birding and other natural areas within a 20 to 40-minute drive from where I was staying, just a block off the Las Vegas strip. What I discovered when I got there, is that while these good wildlife photography locations looked very promising in writing, they were spectacular in person.


What made these areas so spectacular was the diversity and numbers of species I observed and was able to photograph – in the great bright light of clear desert days. In this blog, I’ve shared some of my favorite photographs. However, the species I observed were far more and some numbered in the hundreds. For example, I observed a few hundred Northern Shoveler ducks at Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve. I’ve never seen that many Northern Shovelers in a single location at the same time – and the only other location I’ve seen a higher concentration of waterfowl –anywhere -- is during winter along areas of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.  I haven’t yet been everywhere in my life, but it’s an understatement to say I was stunned at the number of waterfowl I saw out in the desert.


What brings birds to the desert?  The same thing that brings birds to the east coast, Midwest, central plains and many other places – water and other suitable habitat where they can spend the winter or rest during long migrations. There’s water in the desert?  Yes – but like with so many of our natural resources – there’s not as much as there used to be. The southeastern part of the Mojave Desert where Las Vegas is located is also home to Lake Mead. Lake Mead, located 24 miles from Las Vegas, is the largest reservoir in the United States. It provides water to more than 20 million people in the region.  Because water is such a premium in desert environments, the various water authorities in this region are mindful about water use and conservation measures. Much of the water is recycled or reclaimed and used water (wastewater, urban runoff, stormwater) is conserved and put back to use again.  An interesting side note – while watching the local news out of Las Vegas one evening there was a story about fines for watering residential lawns on days that weren’t allowed. The Las Vegas Valley Water Authority has a mandatory schedule for watering that comes with fines for violators. They also have many other important and necessary conservation requirements on water use.  Take note -- those of us who live in environments where enforceable water restrictions are unheard of.


There’s an urban river that runs through the Las Vegas valley called the Las Vegas Wash. The Wash, which is connected to Lake Mead, carries more than 200 million gallons of water per day and is fed by reclaimed water, urban runoff, shallow groundwater and stormwater. Along the Wash are wetlands. Wetlands are areas where water covers the soil, or where water is present either at or near the surface of the soil all year or for varying periods of time during the year, including during the growing season. In simple terms, wetlands are marshy, swampy areas that are normally wet all year long, but can be dry at times. Wetlands – everywhere -- provide critical benefits to humans and wildlife. They protect and improve water quality, provide fish and wildlife habitats, and store floodwaters – helping to manage the impacts of flooding, among other benefits. In the Las Vegas Valley, wetlands at the Wash serve as "nature's kidneys," cleaning the water that runs through them by filtering out harmful contaminants.  However, they also provide habitat for diverse wildlife. Many of the bird-wildlife find this area because they travel one of the major north-south migration flyways that run through or next to Nevada -- the Pacific and Central Flyways And this explains the spectacular wildlife viewing that happens right outside Las Vegas.


I visited three locations along the Las Vegas Wash – Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, Clark County Wetlands Park, and part of the Wash that runs through Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and I also visited the Lake itself.  There was even more scenery and wildlife at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Rainbow Owl Preserve, which I also visited. Enjoy these photos!


Burrowing OwlsBurrowing Owls Northern Harrier - ImmatureNorthern Harrier - ImmatureClark County Wetlands Park American AvocetAmerican AvocetHenderson Bird Viewing Preserve American CootAmerican CootLake Mead National Recreation Area Common Merganser - MaleCommon Merganser - MaleLake Mead National Recreation Area Common Merganser - FemaleCommon Merganser - FemaleLake Mead National Recreation Area Ring Necked Duck - MaleRing Necked Duck - MaleClark County Wetlands Park Ring Necked Duck - FemaleRing Necked Duck - FemaleClark County Wetlands Park Red Head DuckRed Head Duck - MaleLake Mead National Recreation Area Common Goldeneye - FemaleCommon Goldeneye - FemaleLake Mead National Recreation Area Red Shafted Northern FlickerRed Shafted Northern FlickerClark County Wetlands Park Greater RoadrunnerGreater RoadrunnerClark County Wetlands Park Gambel's QuailGambel's QuailRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area - Calico Springs Vermillion Flycatcher - MaleVermillion Flycatcher - MaleHenderson Bird Viewing Preserve Phainopepla - MalePhainopepla - MaleRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area VerdinVerdinClark County Wetlands Park

Desert CoyoteDesert CoyoteLake Mead National Recreation Area White Tailed Antelope SquirrelWhite Tailed Antelope SquirrelRed Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Desert Cottontail RabbitDesert Cottontail RabbitRainbow Owl Preserve - Nevada Red Eared SliderRed Eared SliderClark County Wetlands Preserve

Anna's Hummingbird - MaleAnna's Hummingbird - MaleClark County Wetlands Preserve Canada GooseCanada GooseHenderson Bird Viewing Preserve Great Horned OwlGreat Horned OwlClark County Wetlands Park Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler - MaleHenderson Bird Viewing Preserve

Sources and More Information:

(Copper Range) audubon society bird lovers bird photography bird watching birding carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper central flyway clark county wetlands park colorado river conservation coyote photography coyotes desert desert wildlife henderson bird viewing preserve las vegas NATGEO nevada birders nevada wildlife pacific flyway rainbow owl preserve red rock canyon sustainability the las vegas strip what to see in las vegas wildlife Wed, 16 Mar 2022 20:38:04 GMT
Get to Know a Naturalist and Discover All Kinds of Nature I’ve lived in Washington DC for 30 years, but I’m from Sandusky, Ohio and I know a lot about that area. Sandusky is located along the Lake Erie coast, in Erie County Ohio, making it home to many migrating birds in spring and fall. For me, this means good bird photography. In fact, there’s a few areas in Sandusky that are considered by the experts as birding Hot Spots. There's even a bird festival in the region during spring migration because the birding is that amazing. Before a recent trip to the area, I was researching birding areas in Erie County and surrounding locations. My research unexpectedly brought me across Martyn Drabik-Hamshare; who is a Naturalist with Erie MetroParks.  I like to say Martyn arrived in Ohio via England and South Africa -- he was born and raised in England and studied in both the UK and South Africa.  Not all of us know what a Naturalist is – in a few words -- Naturalists observe nature and communicate the importance of our natural resources using various programs and activities. Martyn does his work with the Erie MetroParks, which encompass 12 public parks, 30 miles of trails, and more than 300 free public programs each year. I’m excited to have Martyn on the podcast and hear about his experience and insights on all kinds of nature.


Below are the questions Martyn answered.  Listen to the podcast here.


  • You were born and raised in England, studied in both the UK and South Africa, and now you work in Sandusky, Ohio – a mid-size city that sits on Lake Erie and is probably best known as the home of Cedar Point -- an amusement park in operation for over 150 years that features a world-record 71 rides and world-record-setting roller coasters. Martyn, start us out by unraveling the interesting story of your worldwide study and travel and what brought you to northern Ohio.


  • What’s a day in the life of an Erie MetroParks Naturalist like?


  • Tell us about the most surprising thing (or things!) you’ve learned during your explorations or work in Erie County Ohio.


  • As you’ve certainly learned, we Americans love our bald eagle. On a recent episode of the Erie MetroParks podcast, “Off Trail”, you noted that there were 46 Bald Eagle nests in Erie County, as of the last census. How do you go about conducting a census of bald eagle nests?


  • The last time I was in the Sandusky area (Fall 2021), I made a trip up to Maumee Bay State Park (an Ohio state park) which was about an hour by car along the Lake Erie Bay shore from my location. On that drive, which was about 60 miles, I saw 14 adult bald eagles.I was really shocked and never remember seeing anything like that in that area before.What do you think contributes to that region being – apparently -- good habitat for bald eagles?


  • Ecologists often study and explain how human actions affect other living things and their environment. What kinds of activities that you’ve been involved in with Erie County MetroParks fit that description?


  • I’m pretty sure I would never have visited Pipe Creek Wildlife area in Sandusky (managed by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources) had I not seen some of your posts about the birds and other wildlife in that area. While I’m familiar with the part of Sandusky where Pipe Creek is located, I was never familiar with this area as a birding and wildlife area. North central Ohio is really a top birding destination. What are some of the other best places to see nature and wildlife in Erie County, and the surrounding areas?


  • Have you ever encountered any issues with wildlife crime (poaching, etc..) or was that ever discussed in your studies or job?


  • Do you have a favorite species?



Resources and Additional Information:

(Copper Range) bird photography birding birding hotspots birdlovers carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper ebird erie county ohio erie metroparks inaturalist martyn drabik-hamshare nature tortoises travel washington wildlife Wed, 16 Feb 2022 17:28:13 GMT
Conservation Photography – Would You Know if You're Photographing Threatened Species? I’m a photographer because I love and treasure nature. I understand it’s importance to the global health, survival, and well-being of our human species and the biodiversity of our planet. I’m committed to connecting others to the scenes, places, and moments I capture because they tell the story of what makes our places complete, what dwells among us, what’s relevant to our well-being, and what’s worthy of protecting. I also like creating beautiful things.



In 2020 I joined iNaturalist, a joint initiative of the California Academy of Sciences and the National Geographic Society. On iNaturalist, I upload my photographs of species that are unique encounters for me, or species I recognize as unique or out of the ordinary for the location I’m visiting. iNaturalist is a massive online platform for recording and identifying observations of plant or animal species anywhere in the world. Users upload a photo or sound recording and propose an identification of what they’ve recorded, or they receive suggestions from community members. As of January 2022, iNaturalist contained over 88 million observations of over 340,000 species contributed by over 2 million observers world-wide -- and it just keeps growing.



You don’t need a professional camera to be in the iNaturalist community. iNaturalist allows anyone with a phone or camera and an Internet connection to upload and identify photos of plants and animals anywhere in the world. There are guidelines for using iNaturalist, and if you’re new to this platform, head over to their website and learn all about it. One of the goals of iNaturalist is to generate scientifically valuable biodiversity data from the personal encounters we have with the natural world. There’s been good progress on that goal as information gleaned from the platform has contributed to more than 1,400 studies. One of the most common research uses of iNaturalist data is the development of species distribution models.



Since joining in 2020, I’ve added 160 observations covering 118 species, primarily birds. One of the features of iNaturalist that adds incredible depth and significance to observations is the system may provide the conservation status (extinction or extirpation risk) of the species you identified. Let’s define extinct and extirpated before going further because these words will come up again. Extinct means the end of a species; when a species dies out completely its classified as extinct. Extirpated means a local extinction; when a species no longer exists in a particular area, but still exists elsewhere.



Of the 118 species photos I’ve contributed to iNaturalist, about 20 (mostly birds) have some type of imperiled conservation status association with them. In other words, these species were identified as extinct, extirpated, critically imperiled, imperiled or vulnerable in the regions I photographed them. That’s significant. It means that while you think you’re seeing just another cool hawk fly by, when you snap a picture and upload it into iNaturalist you may discover, and help others discover, a rarely seen and threatened species. These are valuable observations that can be used by scientists and researchers to support our understanding of species distribution and further species conservation research and intervention.



iNaturalist conservation status rankings derive from NatureServe and/or the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature’s) Red List. Established in 1964, the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has evolved to become the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species and is a critical indicator of the health of the world’s biodiversity. NatureServe uses a suite of factors to assess the conservation status (extinction or extirpation risk) of species of plants, animals, and fungi, as well as the conservation status (elimination or extirpation risk) of ecosystems. Conservation status is summarized as a series of ranks (letter and number codes) from critically imperiled to secure, and these ranks may be derived at global, national, or sub-national levels.



Below I’ve summarized several of my iNaturalist wildlife observations that had some type of imperiled conservation status. Remember that conservation status codes may be location-dependent. In other words, a bird that’s doing well in Montana may be extirpated (locally extinct) in Ohio.




Snowy Owl

Location of photograph: Washington, DC (District of Columbia)

Conservation Status is IUCN Vulnerable. This means the best available evidence indicates that snowy owls are facing a high risk of extinction in the wild.



Bald Eagle

Location of photograph: Washington, DC (District of Columbia)

Conservation Status is NatureServe S2N/SXB. This means (1) non-breeding bald eagle populations are Imperiled, or at high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors (S2N), and (2) breeding populations of bald eagles are Presumed Extirpated (SXB). This means breeding age eagles are believed to be extirpated from the jurisdiction; not located despite intensive searches of historical sites and other appropriate habitat, and virtually no likelihood that it will be rediscovered. This is equivalent to “Regionally Extinct” in IUCN Red List terminology.





Location of photograph: North central Ohio/Lake Erie Region

Conservation Status NatureServe SX. This means Merlins are presumed extirpated, or locally extinct. The species is not located despite intensive searches of historical sites and other appropriate habitat, and virtually no likelihood that it will be rediscovered. Extirpated species become less resilient to environmental, ecological and biological changes, making them more susceptible to extinction.




Location of photograph: Northern Maryland

Conservation Status NatureServe S1N. This means non-breeding populations are critically imperiled, or at very high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.




Location of photograph: Washington, DC (District of Columbia)

Conservation Status NatureServe S1N. This means non-breeding populations are critically imperiled, or at very high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.



Red-Shouldered Hawk

Location of photograph: Washington, DC (District of Columbia)

Conservation Status NatureServe S2B/S3N. This means (1) breeding age populations are imperiled or at high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors (S2B), and (2) non-breeding populations are vulnerable or at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors (S3N).



Cooper’s Hawk

Location of photograph: Washington, DC (District of Columbia)

Conservation Status NatureServe S3N/SHB. This means (1) non-breeding Cooper’s Hawk populations are Vulnerable, or at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors (S3N), and (2) breeding age populations are possibly extirpated. They are known from only historical records but still some hope of rediscovery. There is evidence that the species or ecosystem may no longer be present in the jurisdiction, but not enough to state this with certainty (SHB). Examples of such evidence include (a) that a species has not been documented in approximately 20-40 years despite some searching and/or some evidence of significant habitat loss or degradation; (b) that a species or ecosystem has been searched for unsuccessfully, but not thoroughly enough to presume that it is no longer present in the jurisdiction.



American Coot

Location of photograph: Southern Maryland

Conservation Status is NatureServe S3N - Vulnerable. This means non-breeding populations are at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors.




Long-Tailed Duck (female pictured; conservation status applies to both males and females)

Location of photograph: Southern Maryland

Conservation Status ICUN Vulnerable. This means the species has a very high risk of extinction as a result of rapid population declines of 30 to more than 50 percent over the previous 10 years (or three generations), a current population size of fewer than 1,000 individuals, or other factors.




Pie-billed Grebe

Location of photograph: Northern Virginia

Conservation Status NatureServe S1S2B/S3N. This means (1) breeding populations are imperiled to critically imperiled or at high to very high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors (S1S2B), and (2) non-breeding populations are vulnerable or at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors (S3N).



Black-crowned Night Heron

Location of photograph: Northern Virginia

Conservation Status NatureServe S3B/S4N. This means (1) breeding populations are vulnerable or at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors (S3B), and (2) non-breeding populations are apparently secure, or at a fairly low risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors (S4N).



American Black Duck

Location of photograph: Northwestern Ohio/Lake Erie Region

Conservation Status NatureServe S2. This means all populations are imperiled, or are at high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.



Black Scoter

Location of photograph: Southern Maryland

Conservation Status ICUN Red List NT. This means the Black Scoter is a Near Threatened species, and does not yet qualify for Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable now, but is close to qualifying for or is likely to qualify for a threatened category in the near future.




Hooded Merganser

Location of photograph: Northwestern Ohio/Lake Erie Region

Conservation Status NatureServe S2. This means all populations are imperiled, or are at high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.



Hooded Merganser

Location of photograph: Northern Maryland

Conservation Status NatureServe S1B. This means breeding populations are critically imperiled or are at very high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to very restricted range, very few populations or occurrences, very steep declines, severe threats, or other factors.



Prothonotary Warbler

Location of photograph: Northwestern Ohio/Lake Erie Region

Conservation Status NatureServe S3. This means all populations are vulnerable, or are at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors.




Pine Warbler

Location of photograph: Northeastern West Virginia

Conservation Status NatureServe S2N/S4B. This means non-breeding populations are imperiled, or at high risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to restricted range, few populations or occurrences, steep declines, severe threats, or other factors (S2N), and (2) breeding populations are apparently secure, or at a fairly low risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors (S4B).



Hermit Thrush

Location of photograph: Southern Maryland

Conservation Status NatureServe S3S4B/S4N. This means (1) breeding populations range from vulnerable to apparently secure, where vulnerable means at moderate risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to a fairly restricted range, relatively few populations or occurrences, recent and widespread declines, threats, or other factors and apparently secure means at a fairly low risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors (S3S4B), and (2) non-breeding populations are apparently secure, or at a fairly low risk of extirpation in the jurisdiction due to an extensive range and/or many populations or occurrences, but with possible cause for some concern as a result of local recent declines, threats, or other factors (S4N).




If you’re not already involved in iNaturalist I hope you’ll visit and see how easy it is to make observations and how valuable they can be. Even though a species is common in one region, it could be extinct or imperiled in others, which is why it's important to record observations, in all areas you visit. That "common" red-shouldered hawk you see, may in fact be threatened in the region. Interested in viewing my iNaturalist observations?  Once you’re on the website, search for my name, Carolyn Copper. I’m a monthly supporter of iNaturalist, helping to support its growth and the discovery of biodiversity.




Sources and More Information:

(Copper Range) babies birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper Carolyn Copper Photography conservation conservation photographer conservation photography copper Copper Range Photography dc ducks eagle extinct species extirpated species hawk iNaturalist IUCN Red List love maryland merlin NatureServe ohio photography raptors scoter threatened species virginia washington west wildlife wildlife photographer Sun, 23 Jan 2022 22:12:41 GMT
Talons Crossed: The Incredible Work of Rescuing Raptors I first heard the phrase “talons crossed”, on an Instagram post from Nancy McDonald -- a raptor rescuer located in Maryland – who is sometimes called the “Osprey Lady.”  Talons crossed – is a take on the expression “fingers crossed” -- something said when praying in our own way for a good outcome.  Raptors – hawks – owls – eagles – and ospreys have talons, not fingers, so that phrase, “talons crossed”, is a good fit. Nancy – an Army Veteran, and a former federal Aviation Security Investigator among those who helped shut down United States air space during the September 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. -- has probably said a lot of “talons crossed” over the years she’s been rescuing Hawks, Owls, Eagles, and Ospreys. In 2021 alone, she rescued 125 raptors and that’s double the number she rescued in 2020. She’s rescued them after they’ve been found hit by cars, hanging from trees caught in improperly discarded fishing line, laying injured on the ground after their nests were destroyed, and even after they’ve been shot. Yes, shot. 


I met Nancy in the summer of 2021 after I became a volunteer transporter for the injured raptors, she and another raptor rescuer -- Donna Cole -- were rescuing and trying to save.  Myself, and several dozen other volunteer transporters, drove these birds, part of the way or all of the way –sometimes well over a hundred miles round trip -- to the designated wildlife rehabilitation center that could help them, or humanely end their suffering.  I’m still helping transport these injured raptors today.


It takes courage, strength, skill, a calm mind and a big heart to save wildlife from suffering.  I’m excited to interview Nancy in my newest podcast and hear about her courageous and compassionate work to help save the lives of injured and orphaned raptors.  Listen now, and follow Nancy’s Instagram account @rescuingraptors to learn about this incredible work of rescuing raptors.


Here’s the questions Nancy answered:

  • Let’s start with the numbers.How many years have you been doing this (raptor rescue) and have you kept track of how many birds (raptors) you’ve rescued?


  • You live close to the Chesapeake Bay and you do some sailing.Did this have any influence on how you got started in raptor rescue – particularly Ospreys?


  • On your Instagram account you have a post mentioning your desire to write a book about your rescue stories.What rescues are the most memorable or important to talk about?


  • How do you coordinate with the permitted wildlife rehabilitation centers once you’ve rescued an injured raptor?


  • We haven’t yet come up with animal ambulances, but there is a volunteer transport group for the injured raptors. I’m in this group, and I have to say I was surprised at the number of raptors that needed transporting just since I became involved. There are of course peaks and valleys in transport needs, but this is great resourcefulness and ingenuity to solve the big challenge of getting these birds the help they need.How did the volunteer transport concept come about?


  • Can anyone just go out and capture and rescue an injured hawk, owl, eagle, or osprey?


  • You’ve had more than one occupation over the years –which I think is a great thing to showcase. Earlier in life you served with the Army and then went on to work for the federal government for over 23 years. And what really got my attention was information you shared in one of your Instagram posts about being one of the Federal Aviation Administration representatives who helped shut down US air space during the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. I was living just a few miles from the Pentagon at that time. What can you tell us about that part of your work-life?


  • What else should we know about this (volunteer!) job of rescuing raptors?


Blog photo credit: Mary Hollinger


Resources and More Information:

(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation raptor photography raptors rehabbers rehablilitation washington wildlife wildlife rehab Mon, 03 Jan 2022 22:23:59 GMT
Life is Better With Birds It seems birds have always delighted people all over the world. They’re beautiful, powerful, engaging and make a lot of us very curious. Bird-watching or birding – the observing of birds either for fun, science applications, or other professional purposes, is an incredibly popular activity and it’s one of the fastest growing outdoor activities. It’s fair to say that dedicated wildlife photographers that include birds in their craft are also birders – me included. I’ve learned a lot from birders!


In my newest podcast I’m excited to talk with Jay Sheppard who had a career as an ornithologist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service; is a fellow in the American Ornithological Society; has birded in all 50 states; and more recently has been leading tours to observe short-eared owls on a Maryland property slated for commercial development.  That’s how I came to know Jay. 


Jay is certainly a birder, but he’s also a bird scientist and dedicated conservationist. In addition to his 23-year career with the US Fish & Wildlife Service, in retirement, Jay wrote a nearly 500-page life-study of the LeConte’s Thrasher – a bird found in the desert southwest. Jay’s study was published by the organization of Western Field Ornithologists, and can be purchased from them or it’s also available on Amazon. I’m excited to have Jay on the podcast today – listen in – to hear from someone who has dedicated his life to the study and conservation of birds and their habitats. He’s seen a lot and done a lot.


Here’s the questions Jay answered in my newest podcast.

  • You've been watching, studying, and following birds for decades, and you had a career focused on birds. What interests you most about birds?


  • You’ve been organizing short-eared owl tours at the Konterra, Maryland private property for a few years. I’ve been on these tours and loved it. I have a few questions about this.
    • First, how do you describe Konterra?
    • How did you discover Konterra, Maryland?
    • How many people have joined the Konterra tours?
    • Do you expect Konterra will be developed some day?
    • What makes the Konterra property good habitat for the birds and other wildlife that live and migrate there?
    • What can those of us who benefit from birding and bird photography do to support the Konterra habitat?


  • Do you have a favorite bird?


  • We’re coming into winter season. You have a helpful post on your Facebook page about laying down a tarp when it snows to create a bare patch of grass for birds. Can you describe this and why it’s helpful for birds, as well as birders?


  • You’ve birded in all 50 states and Canada which means you’ve seen some amazing bird life. What’s the most unusual or unexpected encounter you’ve had?


  • What tips would you give new birders?


  • What tips would you give seasoned birders?


Listen now on my podcast.


Sources and More Information:

(Copper Range) babies birding birdlovers birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper Carolyn Copper's podcast conservation copper Jay Sheppard Konterra leConte Thrasher love Maryland Maryland Birding ornithology photography Prince George's County raptors short-earred owls washington Western Ornithological Society wildlife Wed, 15 Dec 2021 18:12:49 GMT
The Power to Make Humans Feel Human, In an Inhuman World The power to make humans feel human, in an inhuman world.  This Veteran’s Day I’m thinking about war, what war does to people, and how animals of almost every kind, and particularly horses, have helped many veterans, first responders, and others, manage the trauma and blunt emotion that often follows war.


Feeling HumanFeeling HumanWild Colonial Spanish Mustang - Outer Banks, NC


Just last week in Washington DC, the funeral of General Colin Powell was held at the Washington National Cathedral. I watched the funeral on TV. Watching and listening to the funeral reminded me of so many things because Colin Powell was at the height of his military and government career when I was early in my federal government career here in Washington, DC.


In that career, I had a position in the government where I was part of a project that performed clear-eyed oversight of military programs and activities. One of those activities was Operation Desert Storm (aka the Gulf War), a military campaign in the early 1990’s to expel Iraqi military forces from Kuwait. At the time, Colin Powell was the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  I learned a lot about the technical and strategic aspects of war during those years I worked on the Operation Desert Storm project. I also learned a lot about what war does to humans.  It’s an immeasurable gift that the quiet love and acceptance of animals can help heal very deep human wounds and trauma.


There are many terrific organizations that use horses to help heal and equip veterans for life after traumatic events and difficulties. I list a few below, along with other resources.


Sources and Information:


(Copper Range) anxiety carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation grief horses military operation desert storm post traumatic stress ptsd stress the gulf war trauma veteran's day war horses washington wildlife Wed, 10 Nov 2021 16:38:11 GMT
Spread Ideas That Work I was delighted to be thinking about my career at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) during my latest podcast where I speak with Katie Butler. While I was there, Katie wore a number of hats at the EPA’s Office of Inspector General and was a skilled and effective leader. Post-EPA, Katie recently launched a new business -- The GeoLiteracy Project LLC. The GeoLiteracy Project’s mission is:


“We help environmental leaders optimize their programs and maximize their results. We advise on the best science, strategy, and management techniques to help you save the Earth faster." 


If you’re managing or leading any business or organization that’s expected, or required, to show environmental results, head on over to the podcast. Here’s what I asked Katie to share with us.


  1. What led you to The GeoLiteracy Project?
  2. How do you define “geo-literate”?
  3. What should we know about the GeoLiteracy Project?
  4. How did your EPA work influence the GeoLiteracy Project?
  5. I know you’re a supporter of drone technology and the benefits it can provide. Drones are fun – and to my surprise -- bounce-back well from crashes (😊). Importantly, drone mapping and monitoring can provide highly valuable data and information.  What are your thoughts?
  6. You just launched your company a few months ago.Can you share any perspective on what your clients are striving for?
  7. I worked with you (Katie) for years on highly challenging, complex and difficult issues, and I know first-hand how confident clients should be in working with you. Anything else we should know about The GeoLiteracy Project?


Visit to learn more, get free tools and resources, or schedule a free consultation with Katie.


StillStillLake McDonald - Glacier National Park, Montana



(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation consultants copper environmental results geoliteracy katie butler logic models program evaluation save the earth washington wildlife Sun, 31 Oct 2021 22:40:04 GMT
It Takes All of Us For me, one of the most difficult things about wildlife photography is probably not what you think. It’s not the technical skill, research required, strength, discipline, travel to many and varied places, or exhibiting and selling work that’s hardest. Of course, those things have challenges, and don’t come easy; but what I find most challenging is witnessing other photographers – professionals, amateurs, hobbyists -- and other outdoor enthusiasts -- engaging in what’s come to be understood as unethical wildlife photography.  This doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen; and even things that occur in small amounts can do serious harm.


Here’s what’s so challenging. We have a lot of people talking about unethical wildlife photography, including popular wildlife photographers and prominent organizations issuing very well-crafted and thought-out guidelines and policies on the dos and don’ts of wildlife photography. But we lack lucid, concrete, steps that we can take when we find ourselves right next to, or in the company of people engaging in unethical, or even dangerous behavior, while photographing wildlife. I’ve been thinking a lot about this recently because in my region of the US, we’re heading into owl season, and put simply, owls are keenly sought after by wildlife photographers, birders, and other wildlife lovers. In the last couple of years, I’ve had several encounters with other wildlife photographers, birders, and others, who were either, (1) willfully ignoring and by-passing clear protections to prevent people from getting too close to nesting owls; or (2) were not aware of the potential consequences of creating noisy, crowded conditions while photographing wildlife.  


Great Horned OwletGreat Horned OwletVirginia


You might ask – Isn’t there a place where such unethical people and behaviors can be reported so these actions can be stopped and prevented?  Well, in most circumstances, there is no such place or authority. Except for the few people who report what they believe is unethical behavior on Facebook birding groups or other social media groups, there are essentially no consequences to humans who choose to intentionally or unintentionally engage in unethical, disruptive and harmful wildlife photography or wildlife watching.That’s a hard truth, and completely unjust to the wildlife we love.


One of the things I see a lot in discussions about unethical wildlife photographers is a recounting and social-media, or email sharing, of an ethics policy from an authoritative source that states and describes the wrongs of unethical photography. There are a few of these ethics policies out there, and I’m grateful to the organizations that have invested the time, resources, and thought into developing ethics policies. Since I belong to and follow a few birding groups, the ethics policy I often see distributed among birders is the American Birding Association (ABA) Code of Ethics. It has three main provisions along with clarifying points on each of these provisions. The guiding provisions are:


  1. Respect and promote birds and their environment.
  2. Respect and promote the birding community and its individual members.
  3. Respect and promote the law and the rights of others.


There are also a few guidelines for ethical wildlife photography. For example, Principles of Ethical Field Practices, by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) and Audubon’s Guide to Ethical Bird Photography and Videography.  NANPA’s guide emphasizes three ethical field practices, which align closely with ABA’s. A useful and important feature of NANPA’s ethics guide is its emphasis on photographers being knowledgeable and having knowledge and awareness of what they’re doing, where they’re going and others around them. For readability, I added “(have)” to each of the three NANPA principles below. 




Ethics policies and codes like these are essential, educational tools and resources that I believe make a difference. But what happens when you’re out in the field and you witness something unethical and inappropriate?  These real-world scenarios aren’t covered by any of the ethics policies or guidelines I’ve reviewed. Not everyone wants to be that person that tells a stranger, to their face, they’re doing something wrong.  In fact, many people avoid these kinds of situations because they don’t feel equipped to manage the situation effectively. There’s understandable fear and anxiety about these kinds of encounters with our fellow humans.  Alternatively, there are those that may speak up when they see an unethical photographer in action, but who may come off offensive and harsh because the only way they’ve been equipped to handle these situations is by reminding the offender that they’re “breaking rules.”  


In winter 2020-21, at the height of pandemic closures and staying-at-home in the United States, I had an encounter with a visitor who was among the thousands to visit the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Maryland to get a glimpse of the male painted bunting that had shown up in our area. The visitor was standing along with me and many others who were waiting for the bunting to appear when she started using a bird sounds app on her phone. There were several others nearby who saw and heard what I did. The disappointed looks on their faces signaled that they might have believed this was wrong, but no one said a word.  Using bird call recordings isn’t permitted in National Parks because, according to the National Park Service, “mimicking animal sounds is considered harassment, which is illegal.” ( ).


Painted Bunting - MalePainted Bunting - Male


At that time, I didn’t know that bird calling apps and sounds weren’t permitted in National Parks. By the way, many or all of the National Wildlife Refuges also prohibit bird calling. But here’s what I did know -- bird calling, under those conditions, was potentially harmful to this male painted bunting. Birds have excellent hearing and when they hear what they think is another bird in the area it can raise alarms, cause them to flee the area, cause them to search out the bird, and generally cause them to use up valuable energy. Further, it was the middle of winter; it was cold, food was scarce and the painting bunting was hundreds of miles from its warmer, and normal, winter range. This rare vagrant painted bunting was already under stress from many factors, and using bird calls just so the visitor could get a photo, just wasn’t a good choice. I told the visitor that the bird calling app was likely to add to the bunting’s stress. The visitor appeared to ignore me, continued to play the app for a few more seconds, eventually turned it off and then left the area.  


What if I had known the National Park’s position and policy that bird calling sounds and apps are considered wildlife harassment and therefore illegal?  I could just have led with that and told this visitor they were a rule breaker – period – done -- I can now go back to what I was doing.  Alternatively, as advised by NANPA’s ethics guidelines I could: “Report inappropriate behavior to proper authorities. Don’t argue with those who don’t care; report them.”  Both of these options are not unreasonable, and importantly, there could be situations where these are the only or best options. But, reporting someone, or getting in their face to tell them they broke a rule aren’t the only options. Also, these approaches get in the way of one critical thing – educating others on the impact they’re having.  Many people actually don’t know that things like bird calling, feeding wild animals, or getting too close or being too loud has consequences and can harm wildlife.


This is where a communication technique called “Authority of the Resource (ART)” can be invaluable because it supports effective and respectful interactions. This technique is embedded in the  “Leave No Trace” conservation principles, which have been broadly adopted by US National Parks and other recreation or public land areas. 


ART was laid out in 1990 by Dr. George Wallace, a professor specializing in human dimensions of natural resources at Colorado State University. He believed those who cause impacts in natural areas do so because they’re (a) unskilled; (b) uninformed; (c) careless; or (d) unintentional. Dr. Wallace observed a variety of law enforcement rangers in the field. He noted that rangers who incorporated an educational message in their interactions were more likely to successfully influence a visitor’s outdoor ethic.


A first step in using ART is recognizing that people who visit wild places, go hiking, birding, or photographing wildlife, aren’t usually there to cause harm. Should harm occur though, if we can clearly explain the impact their actions had, the consequences of the impact, and help them understand the preferred alternative, we can be successful in peacefully and respectfully changing behavior.


There’s a good deal of information on the internet about ART and some organizations offer training. Search your favorite web browser with “Authority of the Resource.”  Below, I provided a 4-step summary of how an interaction could proceed; and I use the experience I described earlier, witnessing a birder using a bird calling app in a National Park. One recommendation is that when you start your conversation, stand shoulder-to-shoulder (vs. face-to-face) with the person you’re addressing.


1. Introduce yourself and take a moment for ice breaking conversation.

Example: Hi, I’m Carolyn. I’m here like so many others to photograph this amazing bird. Is this your first visit out to see the painted bunting?


2. Give an objective description of the undesirable behavior observed.

Example: I noticed you were playing bird calls that sound like a painted bunting.


3. Reveal/"interpret" the implications of the undesirable behavior.Focus on how the behavior impacts to the resource or the experience of others.

Example: This little bunting is really a survivor out here. There’s a lot of people out here, it’s cold, and food can’t be easy to find out here. Those things put a lot of stress on this little bird.  Playing bird sounds can actually add to that stress. These birds are always on alert. The bunting will pay attention to the call and might even fly out from where it’s trying to rest, stay warm, or find food.


4. Describe the desired behavior. Communicate appreciation for the resource and model desired behavior when possible. Describe agency norm when appropriate.

Example: I’m really excited to see this bunting too. We all want to see this bird make it out here and not make things harder for it. It just takes patience. I feel like I should also let you know that it’s actually illegal to use bird call recordings in National Parks. The National Park system considers it harassment. You can find that on their web site, along with other rules for visiting the Parks.



As we wildlife photographers, birders, nature lovers, and other outdoor enthusiasts head into owl season, it’s not a bad idea to anticipate that we might encounter a few cases of photographers, birders, and enthusiasts, at all levels of expertise and skill, engaging in behaviors that put our wildlife and birds at risk.  Before you head out, refresh your memory on the ART technique, imagine the scenarios where it might be used and practice how to intervene effectively. You’ll be doing something great for the wildlife we love so much. 


It takes all of us.



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(Copper Range) american birding association birding birding ethics birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper love north american nature photography association owls photography photography ethics raptors rules for birders rules for wildlife photographers washington wildlife wildlife lovers wildlife photography ethics Mon, 25 Oct 2021 19:37:07 GMT
If a butterfly lands on you it’s probably tasting you…. And more interesting truths. I’ve never set out to intentionally photograph butterflies, but the places I travel to intentionally photograph other species and landscapes, at certain times of year, are often the same places I encounter amazing butterflies. Most of us learned something about butterflies during elementary school. We may even remember a bit about the astonishing lifecycle and transformation of butterflies. I remember some of what I learned about butterflies, but since I come across so many different butterflies doing all sorts of interesting behaviors – that I don’t remember learning about – I was curious to brush up on my butterfly facts. I’m glad I did.

Zebra Swallowtail ButterflyZebra Swallowtail Butterfly



Butterflies are beautiful and there’s a lot of them. There are about 28,000 butterfly species worldwide. Butterflies are found in all types of environments but most species are found in tropical areas, especially tropical rainforests. We should enjoy them while we can. With some exceptions, the average lifespan of an adult butterfly is roughly three to four weeks. Some butterflies, like the North American Monarch, can survive for nearly eight months. 


Monarch ButterflyMonarch Butterfly

Wings That Wow

One of the most eye-catching things about butterflies is their wings, and specifically, the color of their wings. Butterflies have scaled wings with colorful designs unique to each species. Those wings make butterflies good fliers. It’s a good thing that they’re good fliers because many species of butterflies migrate. Although butterfly migration isn’t well understood, some species like the Painted Lady, the Red Admiral, and the Common Buckeye are known to migrate a few hundred miles, but others like some Monarchs migrate thousands of miles. The monarch is the only butterfly known to make a two-way migration as birds do.

Buckeye ButterflyBuckeye Butterfly


The fastest butterflies can fly at about 30 mph (about 48 km/h) or faster. Slow flying butterflies fly about 5 mph (about 8 km/h). It may look like butterflies have two wings but all butterflies have four wings – one forewing on each side closest to the head; and one hindwing on both sides in the rear.

Cloudless Sulphur ButterflyCloudless Sulphur Butterfly


Besides being eye-catching to us humans, butterfly wings also have an important optics function to other butterflies, and other species. The colors and patterns on a butterfly’s wings help it communicate and attract other butterflies of its species, and warn, camouflage, or distract it from predators. In the case of poisonous butterflies, like the Monarch, the wings store toxins. Just know that you would have to eat Monarchs to be exposed to the toxins. Hopefully no one you know is eating Monarch butterflies!!


Have you ever wondered what happens to butterflies when it rains?  How is it that they just don’t disintegrate or get completely destroyed in a summer downpour? Butterflies take shelter, or roost, in or under plants, trees, leaves or any other area including human-made structures where they can stay dry, warm, and hopefully away from predators. Taking shelter obviously goes a long way for protection but research shows that butterflies have a layer of wax on their wings that repels water. Not only that but they also have “microscale bumps” on their wings that serve to break up and disperse water droplets. In short, when a water drop hits the surface of butterfly wings, it ripples and spreads.


Butterflies are cold-blooded so that means their body temperature isn’t stable but changes with the environmental temperature. One main reason that we typically only see butterflies on warmer days is because they can fly as long as the air is between 60°-108° F (15.5 – 42.2 C), but temperatures between 82°-100° F (27.7 - 37.7 C) are best. If the temperature drops too low, butterflies might bask in a sunny spot with wings spread out to soak up the sun's heat.

American Snout ButterflyAmerican Snout Butterfly


Butterflies can’t survive winter conditions in an active state. But they may be able to survive cold weather by hibernating in protected locations. They may use the peeling bark of trees, plants, logs or old fences, or the eaves of houses or buildings as their overwintering sites. They may hibernate at any stage (egg, caterpillar, chrysalis or adult) but generally each species of butterfly is dormant in only one stage. With that said, If the weather begins changing some species migrate in search of sunshine.


Again, because they’re cold-blooded, when the outdoor temperature gets too warm, butterflies may head for shade or for cool areas like puddles. Some species will gather at shallow mud puddles or wet sandy areas, sipping mineral-rich water.


Silvery Checkerspot ButterflySilvery Checkerspot Butterfly


The Transformation

One butterfly fact I didn’t forget from my elementary school days is the metamorphosis of butterflies – the caterpillar (larva); the chrysalis (pupa); and then the butterfly (adult). Well, it’s a little more complicated. A butterfly starts its life as an egg, often laid on a leaf. The female butterfly attaches the eggs to leaves or stems of plants that will also serve as a suitable food source for the larvae (caterpillars) when they hatch. Caterpillars are very particular about what they eat, so the female lays her eggs only on certain plants. Caterpillars don't move much and may spend their entire lives on the same plant or even the same leaf, so it needs to be the right leaf!



The female butterfly can recognize the right plant species by its leaf color and shape. Just to be sure, she may beat on the leaf with her feet. This scratches the leaf surface, causing a characteristic plant odor to be released. Once she’s sure she found the correct plant species, she lays her eggs. The eggs get fertilized as they’re being laid with the sperm stored in the female’s body since mating. A sticky substance produced by the female enables the eggs to stick where ever she lays them, either on the underside of a leaf or on a stem. Male butterflies search for and pursue female mates.  As with many species, mating involves some courtship dances and cool maneuvers designed to win the attention of that special lady butterfly.


Passion - Gulf Frittilary Butterflies on Passion FlowerPassion - Gulf Frittilary Butterflies on Passion Flower

The larva (caterpillar) hatches from the laid egg and then eats almost constantly. This constant eating means the caterpillar increases up to several thousand times in size before pupating (turning into chrysalis); it also means the caterpillar molts (loses its old skin) many times as it’s growing. Molting occurs because the outer skin (exoskeleton) doesn’t grow as the caterpillar enlarges and grows. A caterpillar may go through as many as four to five molts before it becomes a pupa.


When the eating is done, it’s time to rest and turn into a pupa (chrysalis). The caterpillar attaches itself to a twig, a wall or some other support and the exoskeleton splits open to reveal the chrysalis. The chrysalis hangs down like a small sack until the transformation to butterfly is complete. Although the chrysalis is motionless during this resting phase, this is where the caterpillar's structure is broken down and rearranged into the wings, body and legs of the adult butterfly. WHAATT??? I’ve been underestimating caterpillars and leafy greens. 😊 Depending on the species, the chrysalis stage may last for a few days or a year or more. Many butterfly species overwinter or hibernate as a chrysalis.


The fourth and final stage of the metamorphosis of butterflies is becoming an adult. Once the chrysalis casing splits, the butterfly emerges. It will quickly go on to find food, locate a mate, and lay eggs to begin the cycle all over again.


Most butterflies live on nectar from flowers. Some butterflies sip the liquid from rotting fruits and a rare few prefer rotting animal flesh or animal fluids, including fluid found in animal droppings. Butterflies drink through a tube-like tongue called a proboscis. The proboscis uncoils to sip, and then coils up again when the butterfly isn’t feeding. The butterfly proboscis doesn’t have taste buds or similar sensors to determine taste. Instead, those sensors are located on the back of the butterfly’s legs. So, yes, one of the coolest facts about butterflies is that they use their feet to taste. If they land on you, they’re probably tasting you. 

Yellow Tiger SwallowtailYellow Tiger Swallowtail Spicebush Swallowtail ButterflySpicebush Swallowtail Butterfly


Attracting Butterflies

There’s many useful, free, resources that identifies steps for attracting butterflies and other pollinators to your yard. These may help, or do a search on your web browser of choice!


Sources and Other Information

(Copper Range) butterflies butterfly photography butterfly pics carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper metamorphosis washington wildlife Wed, 04 Aug 2021 18:45:08 GMT
Artist, Entrepreneur, Creator When I first started doing art shows and festivals, I remember being struck by the sense of community and friendship among the artists, entrepreneurs, crafters and creators at these shows. In the few free minutes before, during, or after shows I try to meet as many of my artist neighbors as possible. They’re painters, wood and metal artists, fiber artists and designers, ceramic and jewelry artists, photographers like me, and more. Every artist has a story. Some have been artists and creators their entire lives while others started as a second or third career, or just a hobby. Except for a 16-month pause due to pandemic closures, I’ve been doing art shows for almost 3 years now, and I always come away learning something new and feeling so compelled to share these intriguing and inspiring accounts of artist life that I see.  


At a recent art show –actually the first for me in the post-pandemic period – my art booth was next to entrepreneur clothing designer and manufacturer Heidi Hess (and her sweet pup Henri!). Among so many things I learned about Heidi is that although she now runs an independent fashion label, she was once an On Air Radio Personality in every major market, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Miami.  Heidi calls this her “Life 1”. I asked Heidi to join my podcast and share her story of how she got started with Life 1, Life 2, and if there might be a Life 3.  Blog readers -- head over to the podcast for more!

(Copper Range) artists carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper carolyn copper's podcast clothing design copper creators entrepreneur heidi hess podcast washington Thu, 17 Jun 2021 22:20:20 GMT
What Goes Up Will Come Down – Know the Facts and Laws About Balloon Releases There’s a place in Maryland where I sometimes go to photograph. It’s a stunning and large public garden, meticulously cared for, visited, and appreciated by many.  Along with its beauty, I regularly see balloons and string caught up in the trees around this picture-perfect place. I was even surprised one day last spring when I witnessed a small group releasing several plain, white, Mylar balloons at the garden. The tears in their eyes told me they may have been memorializing a loved one.  Death and loss are sad, but my heart also ached when I thought about the litter they released and the potential harm to birds and other animals their actions created.  


Why Are We Still Littering with Balloons?

Every once in a while, a single balloon accidentally gets loose. A child gets distracted, loses their grip, or a single balloon somehow escapes from a party. That’s a different issue than the intentional balloon releases that have been happening for years. These intentional releases are often done as part of fundraisers, sporting events, weddings, graduations, other ceremonies, birthdays and to recognize the death of a loved one. Some people see balloon releases as having religious or spiritual significance. And there are businesses that actively promote, and sell, balloon releases ( One business refers to balloon releases as a “growing trend”, stating, “Releases are normally done at the end of the service to symbolize letting go of the loved one and letting the grieving process begin. …As the balloons are slowly drifting upward it leaves all involved with a peace and a memory that will last a lifetime.”  Those can be powerful words and promises when people are emotionally vulnerable and grieving.


Putting the Brakes on Balloon Releases: Know the Facts and Laws

Balloon releases have started to lose their popularity and acceptance. There are well-documented harms caused by balloon debris, including death and serious injuries to wildlife as well as the unnecessary litter they produce. There have been debates about the extent of damage from balloons, and what kinds of balloons are most harmful; for example – helium vs. latex vs. Mylar; and balloons with and without strings. Some businesses have caught on to the declining acceptance of balloon releases and now sell, manufacture or promote balloons labeled as compostable or biodegradable. The valid question about those products is how long and under what environmental conditions do they degrade?  For example, do they degrade when they land in open bodies of water, or do they float forever, and never degrade, risking injury or death to sea life? The same question needs to be asked when balloons labeled biodegradable land, on land, – how long does it take for them to degrade?


Some of the injuries and other damage that’s occurred because of balloon releases is staggering.


  • A balloon release in 1986 by the charity United Way Services of Cleveland, in Ohio was a fund-raising attempt to break the world record for the number of balloons in a single release. One-and-a-half million balloons were released. However, an approaching weather front caused them to return to earth, covering the city in balloons, causing cars to crash, and hindering a coast guard rescue mission. It contributed to the deaths of two sailors on Lake Erie (the wife of one victim sued the organizers, and settled out-of-court), resulted in injuries to horses, and caused traffic accidents. A runway at Burke Lakefront Airport had to be closed. The Guinness Book of Records no longer accepts balloon release records. (


  • In 2017, a horse in the United Kingdom was killed when a pink helium balloon with a string dropped into the field where the horse swallowed it and began choking. In a panic, the horse bolted across the field and through two gates breaking two legs and her neck.





Change has happened as more of us are educated about the long-lasting effects of balloons. Today, there are several non-profits and other organizations that actively work to educate on the risks from balloon releases and the alternatives available. In addition, the reality that’s emerged from the debates and analysis on the risks of balloon releases has led to a number of state-wide, or locality-based balloon release bans, with legislation pending in others. The U.S. states with balloon release bans include, California, Connecticut, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia (see, The Maryland state legislature has passed balloon ban legislation which is currently waiting for the Governor’s signature. There are also several localities (towns, townships, counties, etc…) that passed balloon release bans. Visit for a complete list and other excellent resources.



Intentional Balloon Releases are Completely Preventable

Education and facts about the impacts of balloon releases has led to their declining popularity and acceptance.  Even in locations without legal bans, balloon releases have been cancelled or simply not considered based on the facts and knowledge that they’re short-lived feel-good moments, that are also grand-scale littering events.


The non-profit organization, “Balloons Blow,” maintains a list of “Balloon releases averted” ( This list describes actions that the organization has taken, or others have taken, to cancel and avert an intentional balloon release. Here’s a few cases from their website I’d like to highlight:


  • July 2018 - After 35+ years of releasing tens of thousands of balloons at every home football game, Clemson University has finally agreed to end the destructive tradition. Seven years of mass littering alerts, pleading, emails, phone calls, Facebook posts & tweets.  We’re so glad the Clemson football season will no longer include this mass littering event. Much respect to all who spoke up over the years!” (See,


  • “January 20, 2017 – Colorado – Balloon releases were planned today at 16 high schools in Jefferson County Colorado for a Day Without Hate event to promote unity. Thankfully, once they learned that their so-called “biodegradable” latex balloons would still become deadly litter in the environment, they altered the event. Much respect to all at Jeffco Public Schools ~ Colorado for altering plans within hours of the event. We are thankful for all those who added their voice. They have come up with some great alternatives... a mass bubble blowing... “bubbles to release your troubles”, & lining the hallways with positive messages.”


  • “January 23, 2017 – West Virginia – The Relay for Life of West Virginia University had planned a balloon release at their event today. Just being alerted last night, we had no time to spare. We posted a polite comment on their Facebook page & sent an email. Within minutes we received a positive reply.”


  • “March 31, 2017 – Illinois – The Montessori Children’s Centre had planned to release balloons for their 20th year celebration. At first, the false marketing of the balloon industry had them believing latex balloons are biodegradable & eco-friendly. Thankfully, our friend Amanda was not afraid to speak up. She sent a polite informative note, warning them of the greenwashing of latex balloons. We sent them a follow-up email & they confirmed no balloons would be released. Much respect to Amanda for taking action & to the school for quickly altering their plans!”


Alternatives to Releasing Balloons

We can avoid the dark side of balloon releases and find easy alternatives that are also safer.  The first alternative is do nothing – yes, nothing. A life with less stuff does not mean a lesser life. Balloon releases, and their alternatives, are not essential for human life.  With that said, there are alternatives to balloon releases that are less harmful to the environment we all share.  See a few alternatives below, and for more on this topic, visit


  • Plant in remembrance – Plant native flowers or a tree to remember, honor, or celebrate.
  • Build and Install a Bird House – Create a structure for new life.
  • Lighting Candles & Luminaries – On the anniversary of the passing or the birthday of new life, light a candle to remember a loved one.
  • Blowing Bubbles – Blowing bubbles is always fun. Imagine a countless number of bubbles floating away into the sky with a piece of every person that was gathered together.
  • Mass Gathering – Having people come together to create a shape, word, or image can be very unifying and beautiful. Aerial photograph the gathering and share.
  • Sponsor a Bench – Have a sitting bench installed at a park or natural area with the name or organization you wish to honor.
  • Write a message on seed paper and plant it – Seed paper is a kind of paper you can buy or make that’s embedded with seeds. The seeds grow once it’s placed on soil and kept watered. It might have native wildflower seeds, or vegetables, or herbs. Friends and family can write their messages to the deceased on the seed paper. Here’s a recipe for making seed paper, .


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(Copper Range) balloon bans balloons balloons blow balloonsblow carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper celebrations conservation copper funerals litter photography washington wildlife Sat, 22 May 2021 20:29:03 GMT
North American River Otter - Conservation Success Story They’re cute, entertaining, charming, and smart. Beyond the species conservation mission, another reason many zoos may keep Otters is because they’re fun to watch and people flock to see them. I was very excited to have a few wild Otter encounters in 2020 and 2021 and wanted to know more about these charming, semi-aquatic mammals. For starters, like so many wild animals, Otter life has not been easy and has its hardships. By the early 20th century, River Otters had been driven nearly to extinction by over-trapping, habitat loss, and water pollution. They disappeared from much of their North American range. However, as habitat conditions have improved over the past several decades, and because of the success of several state reintroduction programs, river Otters are making a comeback.



In March 2021 I was very excited and surprised to encounter a few North American River Otters in a remote lake in West Virginia -- a state where they can still be legally hunted. I observed a pair of Otters engaged in early spring mating. I would never have known the Otters were in this location, except for the constant “duck-like” sound I was hearing off in the distance. River Otters have a mix of vocalizations, ranging from whistles and buzzes to twitters, staccato chuckles, chirps and growls. When threatened or frightened, they emit a scream that can be heard up to 1.5 miles (2.4 km) across the water. After hearing this “duck-like” sound for about 10 minutes straight, I got my binoculars out and could see brown “things” moving about in the water. I viewed through the binoculars for a while and eventually one head appeared above water and I could see it was an Otter. Later in the morning, in a different part of the lake, I photographed another Otter (certainly could have been one from earlier that morning) who spent some time marking his scent -- an important way Otters communicate their presence and status. Otters were once extinct in West Virginia. As part of a reintroduction program, from 1984 to 1997, over 200 otters were released in 14 major rivers across West Virginia. Since then, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources has determined that the Otter populations are high enough that a trapping season was initiated in 2011 with a limit of one Otter per year.

Conservation SuccessConservation SuccessNorth American River Otter, West Virginia


The name River Otter is a little misinforming. River Otters are not just found in rivers but also lakes, wetlands and ponds if the water quality is good and there's a food supply. In fact, River Otters are an indicator species for water quality and healthy wildlife habitats. Basically, they’ll live wherever they can find food and water to swim in, but they’re sensitive to pollution so they won’t inhabit polluted waterways. Today, North American River Otters live along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts, the Pacific Northwest, the Great Lakes, and most of Canada and Alaska. They often live in the same areas as beavers.



In late 2020 I was also fortunate to see wild River Otters in the marshes and wetlands of Huntley Meadows in Northern Virginia. Once word got out that River Otters were in this location, dozens of photographers and hundreds of visitors flocked to this location and enjoyed a few weeks of observing River Otters very close up, in the early part of the day. These Otters eventually moved on or changed their habits because they’ve not been seen at Huntley Meadows since Jan-Feb 2021. North American River Otters prefer minimal human disturbance, and when people are around, they’ll move on or come out only at night or very early in the morning.


Whiz KidWhiz KidNorth American River Otter Whiz KidWhiz KidNorth American River Otter


River Otters are sometimes called "seadogs" which is understandable because they have canines like a dog, clawed (and webbed) feet, and long whiskers which they use to detect prey underwater. Adult river otters weigh 10 to 33 pounds (4.5 to 15 kilograms) and are about 2.5 to 5 feet (76 to 152 centimeters) in length. Females are roughly one-third the size of males. They can seal their nostrils shut while underwater and can hold their breath for up to eight minutes. They eat fish, crayfish, crabs, frogs, invertebrates, snakes, birds, carrion, and occasionally small mammals or birds. Alligators, bobcats, and coyotes all prey on River Otters. River Otters spend a good deal of time on land, and they travel over land, so they become vulnerable to land dwelling carnivores. A North American River Otter's home range can be as large as 30 square miles (78 square km), but a typical territory is 3 to 15 square miles (4.8 to 24 square km). That range shrinks drastically during breeding and rearing season.



While River Otters tend to live alone or in pairs, they socialize in groups and are known for playful behavior. Male and female Otters come together briefly in early spring to mate. Because River Otters experience delayed implantation (meaning that the fertilized egg does not implant in the uterine wall immediately), a female River Otter will be technically pregnant for about a year even though gestation lasts only 5 to 7 weeks. Females give birth to three or four pups at a time, usually between April and May. The young are born blind, toothless and completely helpless, weighing about 4 to 6 ounces (113 to 170 grams) and measuring 8 to 11 inches (20 to 28 centimeters). The male Otter is generally chased away until the young are weaned and old enough to leave their den, which happens about 3 months after birth. After that, the males may return and help raise the pups. Otters remain as a family unit for seven to eight months or until the birth of a new litter. Otters reach sexual maturity at 2 to 3 years of age. If an Otter survives the critical first year of life, it may live to the age of 12, with some surviving longer. The oldest living river otter on record was 27 years old.


Sources and Information:

(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper otters photography washington wildlife wildlife photography Fri, 19 Mar 2021 17:12:10 GMT
A New Brand Of Duck Hunter In many parts of North America that experience cold winters, the wildlife landscape changes particularly when it comes to birdlife. Many birds migrate to and reside in warmer climates during fall and winter. However, depending on your location, ducks are one kind of bird that may be seen in greater numbers during winter. I live in an area that’s surrounded by large water bodies, including the Potomac River, Chesapeake Bay, and other lakes and ponds and that provide excellent habitat for ducks. My area is in the “Atlantic Flyway,” a major north-south flyway for migratory birds in North America. The route generally starts in Greenland, and follows the Atlantic coast of Canada and the United States, all the way south to the tropical areas of South America and the Caribbean. Every year migratory birds travel up and down this route to their overwintering sites, breeding grounds, and in search of food and protection as the seasons change. Audubon describes the Atlantic Flyway as encompassing “some of the hemisphere’s most productive ecosystems, including forests, beaches, and coastal wetland.”  Just like small birds and raptors, many ducks migrate along the Atlantic Flyway and many species overwinter in my area. In today’s blog I’m spotlighting a few of the beautiful and unusual ducks that I’ve photographed.



Ducks are underappreciated birds. If you search #ducks on Instagram you’ll see as many photos of ducks shot by hunters, duck jewelry, duck decoys, or commonly seen ducks, like mallards, rather than a representation of the beautiful variety of duck species out there. Of course, Instagram is far from the gold standard in wildlife information. In addition, ducks are not necessarily easy to locate or photograph. With a license, most ducks can be hunted during designated seasons, so with a few exceptions, ducks have learned to avoid humans.



There are three things that I find most interesting about ducks: 1) the distances some of them migrate; 2) their nesting behavior; and 3) the diversity of colors and patterns among ducks – and primarily male ducks -- because many female ducks are varying shades of brown.



This Long-tailed duck (non-breeding male) I photographed in February (2021), breeds in the Artic and is spending at least some part of the winter in the relative warmth of Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.  In the fall they leave their Artic homes and migrate west or east. The population that migrates eastward, overwinters in large water bodies like the Great Lakes and the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay. I imagine he thought that the 30-degree day I took this photograph was “balmy.” Long-tailed ducks,  which get their name from the male’s long tail feathers, are considered “sea ducks” because when they’re seen, it’s usually out on open ocean or large lakes. Long-tailed ducks are often the most abundant bird in the high Arctic and are capable of diving as deep as 200 feet (61 m). 


Long-tail Duck - Immature MaleLong-tail Duck - Immature MaleChesapeake Bay, Maryland


The Surf Scoter is another sea duck that I photographed in the Chesapeake Bay this winter. The Surf Scoter has very interesting colors and patterns on their beak. The first time I photographed a Surf Scoter I didn’t know what I was looking at. I was standing on a beach in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, when I observed a couple of birds floating way out on the water. I first thought I was seeing pelicans or seagulls. It wasn’t until I looked through my lens, and then did some follow-up research, that I realized I was seeing a Surf Scoter. That experience was a good reminder to always look through binoculars, a scope, or your telephoto lens because what looks like something “common” off in the distance may not be.  Surf Scoter’s breed in far northern Canada and Alaska and then migrate and winter all along the US Atlantic coast, and other warmer locations.


Surf Scoter - MaleSurf Scoter - MaleChesapeake Bay Maryland


One of the most interesting things I first learned about ducks is that some species nest in tree cavities. Wood ducks, buffleheads, common mergansers, and hooded mergansers, and a few other species nest in tree cavities. Nesting in tree cavities offers protection from the elements and predators. However, the ducks don’t create their tree cavity nests, rather, they’ll occupy cavities created by other birds, including woodpeckers, and cavities that have naturally evolved. These same duck species that nest in tree cavities may also use human-built nest boxes placed along the edge of a water body or wetland. You might ask – how old are ducklings when they fly out of these tree cavity nests?  In the case of wood ducklings and merganser ducklings they leave the nest 24 hours after hatching. Moreover, there’s no flying from the nest – they jump out -- and if all goes well with the jump, they follow their mother (hen) as she guides them to the nearest water. Just after hatching, a hen may lead her ducklings up to a half mile or more over land to find a suitable water source for swimming and feeding. As you might imaging jumping out of the nest and then traveling over land when you’re a day old means not all ducklings survive. Tree cavity nests can be quite high off the ground and may not be very close to water. With that said, if your timing is right and you’ve spotted a duck nest in a tree cavity, you might capture some stunning photographs of ducklings making their first entrance into the world. A couple of my favorite images of wood ducks, common and hooded mergansers and bufflehead ducks, all tree cavity nesters, follow.


Bufflehead - MaleBufflehead - MaleChesapeake Bay, Maryland Male Wood DuckMale Wood DuckRock Creek Park, Washington DC

Common Merganser - MaleCommon Merganser - Male



Other duck species, including the canvasbacks, ruddy ducks, greater scaup, ring-necked ducks, redheads, and occasionally mallards, make their nests over water on “rafts” of floating vegetation. This strategy provides a measure of protection from land-based predators, like racoons, coyotes, foxes, or and even cats and dogs. A little spotlight on the Canvasback -- which is sometimes called "King Can" because of their aristocratic profile, but also because they’re the largest species of diving duck in North America. Canvasbacks are one of the fastest flying ducks in North America, capable of flying at least 60 mph (96 km/h). Like many ducks, Canvasbacks nest in very northern parts of the US and Canada, and migrate to warmer locations for winter. I live near one of the three US regions that the Canvasback overwinters – the Chesapeake Bay – and where the fetching chap’s photo below was taken last week. ️The two other US regions where Canvasbacks are known to overwinter is along the Pacific coast and in coastal Louisiana. Canvasbacks are heavily dependent on healthy watersheds and wetlands because they spend nearly all their time in the water. I love this quote about the King Can --- “May we always have the opportunity to meet these legendary birds up close and personal! This shall be so only if we look after the wetlands that sustain canvasbacks across our continent. Like a flight of cans arrowing through an autumn sky, our course is clear. Let us not fail the birds, or future generations, in our resolve.”  Images of the beautiful canvasback duck, greater scaup and lesser scaup follow.


Canvasback - MaleCanvasback - MaleChesapeake Bay Maryland Lesser Scaup - MaleLesser Scaup - MaleChesapeake Bay Maryland


From a distance if you see a Northern Shoveler you might mistake it for a Mallard because they both have beautiful green heads. But a close look will reveal a big difference which is the shape and length of a Shoveler’s beak -- that’s where they get their name. Northern Shoveler’s have a large spoon-shaped bill with comb-like projections on the sides that they use to forage and filter out tiny crustaceans and seeds from the water. Northern Shovelers are ground nesting ducks as are Northern Pintails and Mallards.


Northern Pintails are considered to be widespread, though I’ve never seen them in large numbers, and each one I photograph is special. During their summer breeding season, the Pintail ranges from Alaska through Canada and into the Great Plains of the US. During the winter, it may be found in southern Alaska, nearly all regions of the interior US and all along the Atlantic Coast. This Pintail was photographed in a Virginia wetland during winter. Waterfowl management experts and advocates have concerns about declining Pintail populations. One factor in their decline is the destruction or alteration of the Prairie Pothole Region. This Region includes five upper Midwest US states (Minnesota, Iowa, North and South Dakota and Montana), and three Canadian provinces (Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Alberta). Increased agricultural and commercial development in the Prairie Pothole Region has degraded or destroyed breeding and feeding grounds for Northern Pintails and many other North America migratory waterfowl. The US Great Plains and Prairie Pothole Region are No. 1 on the 25 most important and threatened waterfowl habitats on the continent.


Images of the Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, and Mallards follow.


Northern Shoveler - MaleNorthern Shoveler - MaleNorthern Virginia Male Pintail DuckMale Pintail Duck Male Mallard DuckMale Mallard Duck Profile of a MomProfile of a MomNorthern Virginia



Life is not easy as a duck. Those that make it are true survivors. Why is duck life hard? First, in most cases, within 24 hours of making their appearance into the world, ducks are essentially on their own, yet they can’t fly and are nearly defenseless. Second, humans can still legally hunt ducks, duck hunting is still incentivized as a conservation tool, and duck hunting remains somewhat popular. Financial support from duck and goose hunters has been a foundation of wetlands conservation ever since the federal duck stamp was first issued in 1934. Waterfowlers have contributed billions of dollars to wildlife management by purchasing duck stamps and hunting licenses, paying excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition through the Federal Aid in Wildlife Restoration Act (Pittman-Robertson Act). And, a third reason duck life is hard is that humans have gotten into some bad, even if well-intentioned behavior, of feeding ducks unhealthy things like bread. Much has been written about this, leading some to call bread “the ultimate junk food for birds”.  Bread is NOT for birds. See below for more information.  Last, and not least, healthy wetlands, marshes and water, the natural habitats of ducks, are constantly under pressure from human development, encroachment, and pollution.



Sources and More Information:

(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper duck hunting duck photogrography ducks ducks unlimited photography washington waterfowl wildlife Fri, 12 Feb 2021 21:53:28 GMT
Our Responsibility to Work Toward A #betternormal - Taming the Monster in Our Closet The pandemic of 2020 irrevocably changed our country and the world. It’s revealed ways we must change. The pandemic response laid bare the truth that we live in an unsustainable world. If nature was allowed to take its course during the pandemic; without shutdowns, closures, masks and social distancing, individuals, families, and health care systems would have been completely overwhelmed, unable to respond, and hundreds of thousands more would likely have died. While the pandemic showed that we live in an unsustainable world, it also showed the power of human resilience, innovation, ability to adapt and adjust our course, and that we are extraordinary problem solvers.  That’s the theme for today – working toward a #betternormal with the power of human resilience, innovation, ability to adapt and adjust our course, and apply our extraordinary problem-solving skills.


We badly need a #betternormal in our consumption habits. How many of us know when we need to go on a diet or kick-up our exercise routine?  Once our clothes no longer fit, or our medical tests reveal new health risks, or we just start to see and feel changes that aren’t working for us, we know change is needed. However, unlike weight gain, not everything that needs changing is easily seen. Our consumption habits -- specifically -- how much clothing we purchase is one of these. We’re badly in need of a #betternormal concerning our clothing consumption. Many of us have no idea how unsustainable our clothing consumption habits are.


Did you know?

  • The consumption of clothing (and footwear) creates one of the biggest injuries to the planet, because most clothing is thrown away and ends up in landfills.


  • Recent numbers show that in the United States, 70% of clothing (and footwear) was thrown away in landfills. That percentage is probably understated, because it doesn’t reflect clothes and fabric thrown away by the fashion industry before it gets to us consumers.


  • The volume of clothing thrown away in the United States each year has doubled in the last 20 years, from 7 million to 14 million tons.


  • The “Fast Fashion” model of some retailers is pushing out cheaper clothing, of lower quality, at very high rates, which contributes to the practice of buying and throwing away more clothing, continually adding burden to landfills and landfill space.


  • The textile and clothing manufacturing process itself contributes to environmental degradation due to the amount of water needed in textile manufacturing, pesticides used to grow fabric materials (e.g., cotton), and other chemicals (nitrous oxide) used to produce nylon and polyester.



What You Can Do for A #betternormal


  • Reduce Your Clothing Consumption-- Go on a clothes diet, and like any good diet, stick with it forever. Buy less; only buy when you really need it; and when you buy, look for retailers that sell recycled or previously worn clothing, like Patagonia’s Worn Wear, or ThredUp (read more next!)


  • Buy Reused Clothing or Sell or Donate Your Used Clothing – Shop previously owned clothing. There are more options than ever to buy previously owned clothing and to also donate or sell the clothing that you no longer want or need. Spending just a few minutes on the internet to research your options could be a bonus payoff for you and the environment. You can shop at your local Goodwill or consignment shop. ThredUp is another on-line consignment and thrift shop with a huge selection of previously owned clothing. They have Gap to Gucci, including Lululemon, Anthropologie, Madewell and more. There’s also the earlier mentioned Patagonia’s Worn Wear program; Eileen Fischer also has a clothes buyback and resale program; Arc’teryx has a buyback and resale program; and others, including REI, are getting on board with this approach. Buying and selling used clothing, vs. new, can make a big difference.  We do it with cars and now many ethically-minded retailers are finding ways to do it with clothes.


  • Think Out of the Box -- Recycle or Repurpose the Clothes You Can’t Sell or Donate – Get creative. If you can’t resell or donate your clothes, recycle your clothes into something else instead of throwing them away. Old shirts, denim, and other clothing fabrics can be turned into functional or beautiful pieces. If you have an old shirt you love but no longer wear, think about making it into a decorative pillow cover, re-upholstering a chair, making cloth placements and napkins, or making a custom fabric wall hanging. Are you a crafter or know a crafter that uses a lot of plastic-based ribbon?  Try a craft project using worn clothing or fabric scraps. Have a pair of well-worn jeans that are falling apart? You can turn them into a braided basket. There are other great on-line tutorials showing creative ways to give your clothing new life. Last, and no way least, don’t underestimate the value of turning your well-worn old clothes into rags. Anything can be a rag, and you’ll always need them. Rags can replace paper towels, which saves trees, and is a great win for the environment.



A lot of us may buy clothes only when we really need to. That's a habit to keep. But many others of us buy on a whim, impulse, out of boredom, the need for a "pick me up", because the sale was just too good to pass up, or because “it’s just SO cute.” Those habits have caught up with us and have created massive stress on the environment because most clothes end up in landfills. Natural resources are expended and polluted in the process of bringing us those 4 for $10 t-shirts that never get worn, or worn once and then get trashed. In the United States, we’re free to shop where we want and how much we want based on our own personal decisions. That freedom also comes with responsibility and opportunity to shop sustainably with an outlook on the well-being of our shared environment and its future.


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(Copper Range) #betternormal carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper clothes clothing conservation copper environmental fast fashion landfills pandemic Patagonia photography retail shopping shopping addict textile washington waste wildlife Wed, 13 Jan 2021 22:06:48 GMT
American Robin - Eating Like A Bird  

Eating Like A Bird in winter. Robins are one bird you won’t normally see on a seed feeder. In the warmer seasons, they’re primarily eating worms and insects. In the colder seasons, they’re primarily eating berries. Many of us are pretty familiar with Robins because they’re widespread in North America. They frequent urban areas, backyards, as well as wild areas. Some Robins that breed in Canada come south to the United States for winter while other Robins go as far as Mexico for winter. We don’t always know or get to experience how intelligent birds are, but I have a Robin story to illustrate this. While I was watering our vegetable garden one summer morning, a female Robin hopped up on the garden fence and perched and watched me. She was about 4 feet away and just watched me. I've never seen that. After I finished watering one part of the garden, I moved down with my hose to a new part. As I did that, the Robin flew down to the area that was watered and, using only her beak, started to collect as much of the now muddy, damp soil as she could. She flew off and a few minutes later came back for more. I didn't see where she went, but I'm pretty certain she was collecting material for her nest. Robins use mud to reinforce the sticks and other material they construct their nests with.


What most impressed me is that the Robin showed up just as I turned the water on. It seemed she recognized, and had learned the sound of the water and what that would mean for where it was going. How much I wished I had a video of that smart Robin mom! Speaking of water, Robins also love a good bath. If you put clean bird baths out, they’ll be one of the first to bathe or drink, and they’ll come back often.


Because Robins forage a lot on lawns, they’re vulnerable to pesticide poisoning from lawn applied pesticides.


This is the final episode in my Eating Like A Bird series!  I hope you’ve enjoyed this series; and it’s given you some new information, perspective, or inspiration about our many feathered friends.


Read More about the Eating Like A Bird series:

(Copper Range) babies birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper love photography robins washington wildlife Fri, 08 Jan 2021 20:51:54 GMT
Raptors - Eating Like A Bird

It may not be pretty, but it’s ok, its baby food. The three raptors shown here all had young in the nest, or fledglings that just left the nest, and were delivering or feeding food to their young babies. The Eating Like A Bird series, now enters the apex of the bird world -- raptors! Raptors, including owls, hawks, and osprey are birds of prey that feed on live caught prey, and sometimes dead animals. Three things set raptors apart from all other birds, (1) strong grasping feet with sharp talons used to seize prey; (2) a hooked beak used to kill and rip prey apart and, (3) typically a meat-only diet (some hawks and falcons are known to eat insects). Scroll through -- Photo 1 is a Barred Owl photographed in Virginia after it captured a live snake; photo 2 is an Osprey parent delivering fresh caught fish to its young, and its mate, photographed in North Carolina, and photo 3 is a Red Shouldered Hawk parent feeding a small animal to its young, photographed in Washington, DC.  Yeah, I’m not a fan of watching anything be eaten alive, but raising babies happens in nature too. Some of the hazards these adult and young raptors face in their lifetimes include pollutants in fish and fishing waters, chemically-poisoned prey, habitat loss, and other human-caused actions including vehicle collisions and gunshots.


Here’s a few facts about Barred Owls and Osprey. See my extensive blog on Red-shouldered Hawks for lots of facts about them,  Barred  Owls are native to North America and fairly widespread. Like many raptors, Barred Owls have exceptional vision and hearing, and are widely successful at catching prey. Although owls are skilled nighttime hunters, they also hunt in the day. Barred Owls have traits that help them be successful night hunters. First, they have very large eyes. Owl eyes can be as much as 3% of their body weight. Not only are Barred Owl eyes very large, they’re also forward facing and provide “binocular” vision which provides better depth perception to detect prey. Larger eyes also capture more light at night, allowing for better night vision. Second, although Barred Owls can’t move their eyes in the socket (like humans can), they can turn their heads around 270 degrees in both directions, giving them great field of view.


Barred Owls preferred habitat is old deciduous and coniferous forests close to swamps or marshes. They nest in empty tree cavities or in the abandoned nests of other birds. Their nests are usually lined with a layer of soft feathers. Barred Owls don’t migrate and they usually don’t venture beyond their territory unless food is scarce. In its lifetime, Barred Owls may move no more than 6 miles from its original location. It’s becoming more usual to see Barred Owls living near or in urban and residential areas. This could be due to easier availability of squirrels, rabbits and other rodents, such as mice and rats. The Barred Owl gets its name from the bars of white and brown colors on its body. It has brown eyes, unlike the yellow or orange eyes of other owl species, including Snowy, Great Gray, and Great Horned Owls.


Osprey are hawks that feed primarily on fish which they catch from the water using their long, hooked talons. Ospreys live on every continent except Antarctica and they have a very similar appearance regardless of where they live. Most Ospreys are migratory birds that breed in the north and migrate south for the winter, but not all populations don’t migrate. It’s really something to watch an Osprey hunt and catch fish. An Osprey can plunge so forcefully into the water that it completely submerges. With that said, Osprey can only dive about three feet below the water's surface so they gravitate toward shallow fishing grounds, going into deep water only where schools of fish are near the surface. When carrying prey back to the nest, Osprey will arrange a fish so that’s its facing upright, head forward. Occasionally, an Osprey will catch and eat a snake, eel, or even a frog. Ospreys require nest sites in open surroundings for easy approach, with a wide, sturdy base and safety from ground predators. Nests are usually built on snags (dead trees), treetops, or forks between large branches and trunks; on cliffs or human-built platforms. Osprey differ in several respects from other diurnal birds of prey (raptors that hunt during day). Specifically, its toes are of equal length, its tarsi are reticulate, and its talons are rounded, rather than grooved. Osprey and Owls are the only raptors whose outer toe is reversible, allowing them to grasp their prey with two toes in front and two behind. This is particularly helpful when they grab slippery fish. Osprey also have two other adaptations for their environment: (1) they can close their nostrils to prevent water going in when they dive for fish, and (2) they have dark bands around their eyes, which help reduce the sun’s glare when they scan the water for fish.  


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(Copper Range) babies birdphotography carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper eating like a bird hawks love osprey owls photography raptors washington wildlife Tue, 05 Jan 2021 23:45:57 GMT
Hummingbirds - Eating Like A Bird

A more relaxing approach to getting a meal. There are few birds more captivating than hummingbirds. Their speed, beauty, stamina, and survivability are just so impressive and magical. I also think their tiny feet are incredibly cute. Hummingbirds are the smallest bird species. Ruby-throated hummingbirds, like the one pictured, weigh about the equivalent of a US nickel (other species are even smaller), so perching on a flower stem to collect some nectar – that’s doable for a hummingbird. Eating Like A Bird in this case looks a lot more leisurely than a hummingbird’s usual hovering style. That doesn’t mean it was any less leisurely for me to get this shot when it was taken this past summer! Hummingbirds don’t stay still for long out in the open.They have a very high metabolism and have to eat all day long just to survive. They consume about half their body weight in bugs and nectar, feeding every 10-15 minutes. Hummingbirds eat small insects, beetles, ants, aphids, gnats, mosquitoes, and wasp. We're always learning about these birds. As I write this blog post during winter, birding groups in my area have reported seeing a live, and apparently well, Rufous Hummingbird in Northern Virginia.  We've already experienced snow and below freezing temperatures in the region, so that is a testament to the survivability of some hummingbirds.
See my additional blog post on Hummingbirds here:


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(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper eating like a bird hummingbirds love photography washington wildlife Sat, 02 Jan 2021 22:47:21 GMT
Gray Catbird - Eating Like A Bird  


Don’t underestimate Catbirds. Like many migratory bird species, if you have Catbirds in your area, and your habitat is good for them, they may loyally return year after year. Catbirds are seen in large parts of North America and coastal areas of Central America.This Catbird grabbed some insects in the grass from a driveway reflector used as a perch. Eating Like A Bird -- whatever works.


Migration of Catbirds has been studied and documented through bird-banding and geolocator research which has revealed fascinating facts about the movement of Catbirds. The geo-tracking science tells us that if a Catbird breeds, or spends its spring/summer in the Midwest US, it probably winters in Central America. If it breeds in the US Mid-Atlantic region, it probably winters in Florida or the Caribbean. That means this neighborhood Catbird I photographed this past summer probably spent the winter in Florida or the Caribbean – strong and smart!  


Catbirds eat insects; and they love peanuts and berries. The Conservation and Biology Institute at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, DC has an ongoing study of Gray Catbirds to better understand this common migratory bird that breeds in human-dominated urban and suburban landscapes. Birds are being tagged in the greater Washington, D.C., area, Massachusetts, Georgia and Colorado to better understand how diverse breeding habitats (including urban environments) influence when birds leave, where they stop and where they winter on their long migratory journeys. The birds are banded and tagged with lightweight GPS backpacks that take highly accurate points throughout winter and during fall and spring migration.


Catbirds get their name from their vocalizations, which can be numerous, but sometimes sound like a cat. Because Catbirds are often urban birds, the human noises they’re exposed to such as traffic, construction and ringing cell phones, shape the acoustic environment and may impact the effectiveness of courtship songs of males and the signals preferred by females.


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(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper eating like a bird gray catbird photography washington wildlife Sat, 02 Jan 2021 20:33:47 GMT
Yellowthroat Warbler - Eating Like A Bird Bring on the BugsBring on the BugsImmature Male Yellowthroat with Cucumber Beetle. Northern Maryland

Yellowthroats are vocal birds, and their often-uninterrupted calls and chirps help reveal their presence. But once you’ve seen them, don’t assume you’ll see them again or you can get your camera to focus on them. These are fast moving small birds that forage in dense vegetation, shrubs, and thickets. This is an immature male yellowthroat that captured a cucumber beetle. Cucumber beetles, also known as southern corn rootworm, are a major agricultural pest in North America.  Because of the subterranean nature of their larvae, these insects are hard and expensive to control, so Eating Like A Bird in this case is a nature-designed pesticide. Adult male yellowthroats have a bright yellow body and black mask and are very striking birds. The black mask is an important signal for male birds. When researchers added a black paper mask to a stuffed female, males started attacking the stuffed bird, as if it were a male rival. Yellowthroats are found in most of North and Central America. Most yellowthroat populations migrate with some flying short distances and others go all the way from northern Canada to Central America. Like all wild birds, yellowthroats rely on healthy habitats for survival. Because yellowthroats are insectivores and often live in wetlands, they’re susceptible to poor water quality, pesticides, other pollutants, and declining wild habitat.


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(Copper Range) babies birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper love photography washington wildlife yellowthroat Fri, 01 Jan 2021 20:45:30 GMT
Herons - Eating Like A Bird  

Herons and Egrets belong to the same family (Ardiedae). These wading birds are common to many of us because they’ve become pretty tolerant of humans. Even in populated areas that have good wetland, pond or lake habitats it’s not unusual to see a great blue heron standing quietly looking for a catch. For wildlife and bird photographers, herons and egrets can be such common sightings that we begin to take them for granted and move on to other more “exciting” things.  Though when we do that, we can miss the most exciting and educational moments when they make a catch. In this series of Eating Like a Bird, I share photographs of a Great Blue Heron with a large snake catch, a Green Heron –which aren’t as easy to see in the wild – with a crayfish, and an Egret with a bullfrog. These are exciting events to witness and capture.


Herons and Egrets are very skilled and powerful hunters that depend on healthy wetland and water habitat for their survival.  The Green Heron is one of the world’s few tool-using bird species. It often creates fishing lures with bread crusts, insects, and feathers, dropping them on the surface of the water to entice small fish. Great Blue Herons also forage in grasslands and agricultural fields. Great Blues may eat small mammals such as rabbits and birds including ducklings. Some of the continuing risks herons face include disappearing habitat due to human development and expansion, and injuries or death due to carelessly discarded fishing line.  One of the things I’ve learned from watching herons is that patience and work pays off. Often, these birds stand and watch for hours and then it seems, out of nowhere, they pull up a frog, a fish, or another amazing catch.


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(Copper Range) babies birding birdlovers birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dc egret heron love washington wetland wildlife Fri, 01 Jan 2021 18:14:26 GMT
Cedar Waxwing - Eating Like A Bird


Eating Like A Bird, in style. The stylish Cedar Waxwing is a beautiful bird with its Zorro-like mask. A lot of people love Waxwings. I count myself in that group. Cedar Waxwings love fruit. They’re primarily frugivores -- they feed mainly on fruits year-round, like this one I photographed feeding on wild berries. Cedar Waxwings eat insects as well, but because they’re such fruit lovers, these birds time their nesting period to coincide with summer berry production. What this means is that Cedar Waxwings are among the latest of North American birds to nest. Cedar waxwings are sociable and seen in flocks year-round. The name "waxwing" comes from the waxy red secretions found on the tips of their wings. The function of these tips isn’t exactly known, but they may help attract mates.


Because they eat so much fruit, Cedar Waxwings occasionally become intoxicated or even die when they run across overripe berries that have started to ferment and produce alcohol. There are a few wildlife rehabilitators that have admitted “drunk” Cedar Waxwings. If all else is fine with these birds, they’re usually fed insects and non-alcoholic berries until they dry out. Because Cedar Waxwings are flock birds, a critical issue when releasing them is finding locations where they can locate or meet up with an existing flock.  This is believed important for their survival. Some rehabbers have used bird-watching and recording groups like “eBird” or “Inaturalist” to identify areas where flocks or groups of cedar waxwings have been reported and where healed (or sober!) Cedar Waxwings can be released.


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(Copper Range) birding birdlovers carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper eating like a bird washington wildlife Thu, 31 Dec 2020 19:31:27 GMT
Tufted Titmouse - Eating Like A Bird


One of my bird feeders contains a favorite seed of the Tufted Titmouse and I’m used to seeing them in my yard, energetically moving around the feeders. I also sometimes see them when I’m hiking, like on this recent occasion in South Carolina when I photographed this Tufted Titmouse eating a Katydid.  This was a first. I wasn’t out looking to photograph this bird, but it was calling and chirping a lot, causing me to search around and see what was up.  Glad I did. Tufted Titmice are one of just a few perching birds that can use their feet to hold seeds while they break them open.  As I discovered, they can also hold a Katydid - which is a bit bigger -- with their feet while "breaking it open", so to speak.


Tufted Titmice nest in tree holes, and nest boxes, but they can’t excavate their own nest cavities. So instead, they use natural holes and cavities left by woodpeckers. As I’ve written about in my blog “Dead Trees Are Do-Gooders”, birds’ dependence on dead wood for their homes is one reason why it’s important to allow dead trees to remain rather than cutting them down.  Tufted Titmice often line the inner cup of their nest with hair, sometimes plucked directly from living animals. Old Tufted Titmouse nests have been found with hair from raccoons, opossums, mice, woodchucks, squirrels, rabbits, livestock, pets, and even humans. You definitely want to watch this YouTube video of a Tufted Titmouse collecting hair from a dog,  Like some other birds, Titmice collect extra food and hide it for use in winter. They’re known to stash seeds from bird feeders and can remember the hiding spot of thousands of seeds.


In North America, this variety of Titmouse is found only in the United States, all along the east coast, into the Midwest, and portions of the southwest.  They’re not seen in most of the western United States. Outside of the breeding season Tufted Titmice live in small flocks. As the breeding season arrives, Titmouse pairs guard nesting territories.


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(Copper Range) bird photography birding carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper tufted-titmouse washington wildlife Sat, 26 Dec 2020 23:10:50 GMT
Loggerhead Shrike - Eating Like A Bird Loggerhead ShrikeLoggerhead ShrikePine Glades Natural Area, Jupiter Florida


This Loggerhead Shrike, photographed in Florida, captured a small lizard. Loggerhead shrikes average 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 centimeters) with a wingspan of about 13 inches (33 centimeters). Loggerhead shrikes have a unique habit of impaling small vertebrates, like lizards, on thorns or other sharp objects to kill or immobilize them. This behavior has earned them the nickname “butcherbirds.” Photographer Rachel Kolokoff Hopper has a series of photos called “Death on the Plains”, showing a variety of impaled insects and reptiles from an area in Colorado where she’s been photographing Loggerhead Shrike behavior. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated the loggerhead shrike as a Migratory Nongame Bird of Management Concern in the United States in 1987 due to range-wide declines in populations. Between 1966 and 2015, the species declined by almost 3% per year, resulting in a cumulative decline of 76%, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Habitat destruction and pesticide use are some of the causes believed behind their declining numbers. The Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (affiliated with the National Zoo in Washington, DC) has Loggerhead Shrikes in its care. In human care, Loggerhead Shrikes are fed crickets and mealworms and they’re provided with thorns and barbed wire to skewer their prey!


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More Information:


National Zoo :

Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources:

Loggerhead Shrike Working Group:

Audubon Society:

Photographer Rachel Kolokoff Hopper:

The Spruce, Feeding Birds:


(Copper Range) birds florida loggerhead shrike Fri, 25 Dec 2020 22:41:08 GMT
Wandering Tattler - Eating Like A Bird  

They Call Me EpicThey Call Me EpicNon-breeding Wandering Tattler - Big Island Hawaii


Although this looks like a common shorebird, it’s not. This Wandering Tattler (also called Ūlili in Hawaiian) was photographed on a lava rock coast near Punaluu Black Sand Beach in Hawaii (the big island). I have to agree with another writer that this bird should really be called an EPIC bird. During summer, Wandering Tattler’s breed in the Arctic — including across much of Alaska, Canada’s Yukon territory, and also in eastern Siberia (Russia). Then after raising its young, Tattler’s often undertake a spectacular migration over thousands of miles of open ocean, arriving on a few of the Hawaiian Islands. Although this is one of the least understood North American birds, they’re also known to migrate to Australia and numerous islands in the southwest Pacific. They’ll spend fall, winter, and spring away from the Artic region and then make the epic trip back in summer to breed. This Tattler I photographed, which is immature based on coloring, was hunting in tidal pools and caught a small fish. Breakfast of Champions for a Tattler. These birds get the name “Wandering” because of the wide distribution of their species from the Artic to the tropics. They’re called “Tattler” because they make an alarm call, and may fly away, when predators or threats are detected nearby. I call them EPIC.


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(Copper Range) beach coastline sand shorebirds wandering wandering tattler Fri, 25 Dec 2020 22:38:53 GMT
Eating Like A Bird It’s always a very big deal when I get a (good!) photograph of a wild bird or raptor eating something that it’s caught or gathered in its natural habitat.  It’s educational and informative. We can learn a lot about a species based on how and what they hunt. We not only learn what they eat and when, we also learn the behaviors used to gather and hunt food. The places they hunt and catch food also teach us about the habitats they need to find food and survive. Over the years, I’ve captured more than a few photographs of different wild bird species in the act of catching prey or gathering food. These photographs and moments always amaze me. They always lead me to new discoveries about wild birds and they also greatly test and improve wildlife photography skills, including the skills of being educated about wildlife behavior, and patient and quiet waiting! In this blog post, I’m excited to share my favorite photographs of wild birds in the act of “Eating Like a Bird.” 


Many of us have heard the expression “eating like a bird” to mean someone who eats very little. One thing rings true about this for birds. When birds are healthy, they eat only enough to survive. Odds are low you’ll ever see an obese or overweight bird in the wild. If they ate more calories than they burned, became obese, or just packed on a couple extra pounds, most birds would severely limit their survival chances by becoming an easy/slower catch for predators. With that said, birds may spend a lot of their time eating because many bird species have very high metabolism, they burn a lot of calories just going about their day, and therefore spend a lot of time foraging for food.


Eating like a bird is good for bird health and survival, but of course not all birds eat the same things. There are seed and nut eaters, insect eaters, fruit or nectar eaters, mammal eaters, fish, amphibian, and reptile eaters, crustacean eaters, and some birds will eat a little bit of everything and anything they can find. And, guess what? There are no bread-eating birds. Bread is a creation of humans, not food for birds. Don't feed birds bread or get them accustomed to eating bread.


Click on each link right below for the photograph and facts behind birds in this series “Eating Like A Bird.”  More links will be added, so check back!




(Copper Range) bird lovers bird photography birding carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper macro photography washington wildlife Fri, 25 Dec 2020 22:37:35 GMT
Happy Holidays From Copper Range Photography A holiday note of thanks and good wishes! I’m happy and grateful that you’ve followed with me and enjoyed the beautiful natural places and wildlife I’ve been able to share this year. Illuminating the truths of nature, that are unseen to most of us, opens the door to a new and honest way of seeing our world and who shares it with us. These aren’t secrets we should keep. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone. See you soon on the other side of this mountain called 2020!


Happy HolidaysHappy Holidays


(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper christmas conservation copper merry Christmas new washington year Mon, 21 Dec 2020 19:53:23 GMT
Conservation: The New Normal is Take the Road Less Traveled Symbolically, someone who takes “the road less traveled” has come to mean a person who acts independently, is free from the conformity of others, makes their own choices, and perhaps leaves a new trail that could become the road more often traveled. Many are familiar with the celebrated poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken”, where this famous line comes from. The road less traveled might not be an easy road, it might be full of potholes, bumps and lots of uncomfortable, stressful, things.


On the flip side, people often choose the easiest paths through life because it’s simply less work, hassle, and it seems like it would free us up from a lot of the uncomfortable stuff of life. Many choose to be part of the group, and adhere to the social norms and expectations of families/friends/trending culture/political affiliation/religion/work environment (“the group”), and avoid the perceived, or real problems, that can come along with taking the road less traveled. Social norms, or what’s considered “normal”, are: “the written or unwritten rules that describe what a certain reference group considers to be typical or desirable behavior in certain contexts”. Norms keep societies functioning by providing rules, laws and expectations -- spoken and unspoken. Even in modern-day cultures, those who don’t follow expected norms can suffer disapproval or be rejected by “the group.” So, when people know what’s expected of them, they tend to comply. 


Here’s the thing, some norms -- things our groups think are a good idea – sometimes turn out to be just the opposite. Cigarette smoking used to be a social norm. Lighting up a cigarette in many settings decades ago would have been expected; now it’s almost unthinkable. Child marriage -- any formal marriage or informal union where one or both of the parties are under age 18 – is, regrettably, a social norm in some parts of the world. Slavery, racial discrimination (e.g., segregation), and sexual discrimination (e.g., women can’t vote and shouldn’t work) used to be social norms in the United States. Obviously, not all norms are good, fair, or humane. In fact, we now know that some of our past accepted and expected beliefs and practices were basically inhumane. So, what happened to restrain and change these norms? One person, somewhere, took the road less traveled and created the space to change the norm. Through work and conviction, beliefs and norms that were mistaken or no longer serve us well, can and have been remedied.


Globally, many cultures and countries have embraced norms for environmental conservation and sustainability. As my former employer, the United States Environmental Protection Agency defines it: “Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”  Sustainable economies and lifestyles help us manage the impact of global climate change. Recycling is a social behavior (norm) that many of us engage in and promote to support sustainability. Other examples of sustainable behaviors include living car free, walking or biking more, eating plant-based diets, using renewable energy (wind, solar), consuming and buying less, and conserving water, among others. These are good practices and social norms. However, there’s significantly more to effective resource sustainability. There are a few groups bold enough to recognize what more is needed, to talk it about candidly, and lead us to the road less traveled. 


For climate change and sustainability, the road less traveled that we must now take, is our unsustainable global population growth. An organization confronting this difficult, taboo topic, is Earth Overshoot. “Earth Overshoot builds upon the key messages in 8 Billion Angels, a documentary feature film produced by Executive Director Terry Spahr (a father of three) about unsustainable population growth as a primary driver of our world's environmental emergencies.” The film and Earth Overshoot’s other activities and work, are helping to normalize the discussion about the impact of unsustainable population growth on the environment.


Here's Earth Overshoot’s answer to a question a lot of us have.

Is overpopulation really a problem? Based on current world affluence or wealth times the number of people on the earth, measurements indicate humans as a species are far exceeding earth’s ability to provide us the necessary resources without adverse effects to all living creatures. In fact, we would need to reduce global wealth and economic activity by half if we are going to live sustainably and allow for the abundance and diversity of life to flourish. Getting people to reduce their wealth voluntarily to a sustainable level is not happening. In fact, world bank data cites a 4% average annual growth of the world economy (GDP) since 1961, so we must be honest and address this reality, and the environmental benefits that come from growing smaller gracefully.”


The four actions that most substantially decrease an individual's "carbon footprint" -- in simplest terms this means your contribution to harmful air pollution -- are: (1) eating a plant-based diet, (2) avoiding air travel, (3) living car-free, and (4) having smaller families. Importantly, having one less child is the most effective means of decreasing your contribution to harmful air pollution.


The truth can be hard to hear and sometimes makes us uncomfortable. This kind of truth – overpopulation – might make a lot of us really uncomfortable. This is the uncomfortable stuff we encounter on the road less traveled. It might feel like an attack on our moral/personal/religious values and choices about family and children. Those who love the children in their lives, can’t imagine life without children, those who want children someday, and those who’s culture or religion expect or direct its members to have children, might find this overpopulation topic unbearably difficult or impossible to support. It's understood if that’s you. Earth Overshoot, and other organizations working to educate on sustainable population growth, have created a space and opened a door to discussing and working to fix a problem that’s kept secret and routinely ignored by those with the power to bring about meaningful change in the health of our environment.  A livable world for all people means less people. There are many myths about parenthood, just like there were about cigarette smoking.  We can grow smaller gracefully, without fear, shame, or blame.


In modern Western cultures, like the United States, social norms about having children, whether and when to have them, have changed in the last several decades. Widespread availability of contraception, the right to choose when and if a woman wants to become a parent, and educational and work opportunities that allow for independent living, are all factors in new social norms about parenthood. Whether by choice or circumstances about 1 in 6 US women live their lives without children, and nations around the world report comparable numbers. In most societies, and for most of human history, choosing not to have children was both difficult and undesirable. Here’s a few interesting facts about the growing new norm of non-parenting:


  • “…just as parenthood is not a monolithic experience that affects well-being, childlessness is not the same experience for all individuals. The available evidence suggests that childlessness has few costs for psychological well-being and may even be associated with enhanced well-being, at least for certain social groups.” SOURCE: Parenthood, Childlessness, and Well-Being: A Life Course Perspective


  • TRANSLATION – Being a parent is not a “one-size-fits-all” experience. It’s good for some people, for others it’s a struggle, not good, and the wrong choice at the wrong time. People without children live full, happy lives, and in cases, people without children are happier than those with children.


  • “Social contexts shape the meaning, experience, and consequences of childlessness in ways that may undermine well-being for some select groups (e.g., young women facing infertility and older unmarried men). Parenthood is increasingly viewed as a matter of choice, and voluntary childlessness has become more common.” SOURCE: Parenthood, Childlessness, and Well-Being: A Life Course Perspective


  • TRANSLATION – More and more people are voluntarily choosing not to have children. How you view being a non-parent depends on where you are in your life. If you’re an older unmarried man without a social network of friends and activities, or if you're a young woman facing infertility, being a non-parent may be difficult.




  • TRANSLATION – Being a parent doesn’t make you happy. A parent’s psychological state and resources can impact how your children turn out.



  • TRANSLATION – Women have to do the most of the parenting work. The strains of parenting are particularly hard for the unmarried and those with less financial resources. American society (work environments, family structures, public policies) do not fully support parents and children.


  • The web platform, “Meetup” has an entire section on “Childfree groups”. There are 150 Childfree groups worldwide with over 38,000 members.The Childfree groups on Meetup openly announce their rules for who can and should join their meetups. One example: “This is an inclusive group (any orientation, race, and 21+ age) for childfree couples and individuals (whether childfree by choice or by circumstance) who are looking to expand their social circles. Make friends with other non-parents for fun and supportive non-kid-related conversation, usually over lunch or dinner.”


  • The organization “theNotMom” has a website, annual summit, and social media presence on Facebook, and Twitter for and by women without children. This powerhouse of fresh perspective and resources on being a “NotMom” is unparalleled. A section of their web site displays the photos of well-known female actresses, media personalities, or other successful public figures that, by choice or chance, don’t have children; “Women You Know Today, With Stories Like Yours.”  The founder, Karen Malone Wright, says about the organization: “We need more spaces where women who don’t have kids, whether they define that as a choice or not, can talk about and celebrate their lives without fear of judgment or reprisal.”



Through work and conviction, social beliefs and norms that were mistaken or no longer serve us well, can and have been remedied. “Everything we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”  A livable world for all people means less people.  Having no children or one less child, whether by choice or chance, is believed to be the most meaningful action to address climate change and impact environmental sustainability. Those that have or will make the choice for smaller families are anonymous, hidden heroes, in a parent-centric, often harshly judgemental world. This is the road less traveled. We can grow smaller gracefully, without fear, shame, or blame. It’s already happening. In the population game, the team that recognizes that their well-being is connected to the well-being of their environment, wins.


“I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken



Sources and Further Reading:

Selfish, Shallow & Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers On The Decision Not To Have Kids, Meghan Daum, Ed., 2015;

Miller, D.T.; Prentice, D.A. The Construction of Social Norms and Standards. In Social psychology: Handbook of Basic Principles; Higgins, F.T., Kruglanski, A.W., Eds.; Guilford: New York, NY, USA, 1996; pp. 799–829

Trickle-down norms; Richard V. Reeves, Jan 4, 2018;

(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper climate change conservation copper earth overshoot environmental protection EPA overpopulation population growth sustainabiity washington wildlife Tue, 13 Oct 2020 20:49:39 GMT
Speaking Up for Wildlife: Let’s Talk About Wildlife Trafficking In a 2016 survey, 80% of Americans said they support wildlife conservation measures, but 80% of Americans aren't aware of the illegal wildlife trade in the U.S. An August 25, 2020 headline from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reads, “Hummingbird Trafficker Pleads Guilty”. This is just one of 10 wildlife trafficking cases, so far in 2020, described on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), Office of Law Enforcement, web site. The FWS defines wildlife trafficking as “the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products.” Hummingbirds are just one of the species trafficked. Others include sharks, turtles, fish, song birds, and the body parts of dead and protected species including rhinos, lions, tigers, leopards, snakes, and crocodiles. The true stories of wildlife trafficking are deeply disturbing and depict a corrupt, selfish world of wildlife traffickers that -- in many cases – are linked to other large-scale criminal activity.



Think wildlife trafficking only occurs in obscure, shabby places where people are desperate or just lack information about wildlife laws?  Nope. In 2018, a 66-year-old shop owner in the upscale community of Middleburg, Virginia, only an hour outside of Washington DC, pled guilty to illegally smuggling items made from endangered animals and other protected species and then selling them in his quaint Middleburg, Virginia shop. He forfeited $275,000, 175 illegal wildlife products, and he’s out of business.  



Maybe you’re like me. I don’t particularly like to hear bad news like this. But however uncomfortable it is, and whether you’re a wildlife lover or not, we need to hear these stories.  We want to be on the right side of wildlife conservation and protection and speak up for wildlife. When it comes to the horrific and inhumane business of wildlife trafficking, information is power.  Read on for understanding what wildlife trafficking is, what laws govern it, what’s being done about it, and things we can all do to help.



What is Wildlife Trafficking?

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) defines wildlife trafficking as “the poaching or other taking of protected or managed species and the illegal trade in wildlife and their related parts and products.”  Wildlife trafficking is a $10-$20 billion-a-year industry that is pushing many endangered species to the brink of extinction.


Illegal wildlife products can include jewelry, traditional medicine, clothing, furniture, and souvenirs, as well as some exotic pets. For wildlife, trafficking often means pain, stress, death, and prolonged abuse and mistreatment.


Here’s a few highlights from wildlife trafficking cases that FWS announced in 2020 (up to this blog date):


January 2, 2020 – “Amherst Man Charged With Trafficking Exotic Cats. A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging a 38-year-old Amherst, NY, man with violating the Lacey Act and the U.S. Animal Welfare Act based on his alleged trafficking of African wild cats in interstate commerce. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The indictment alleges that the defendant, doing business as,  imported and sold dozens of caracals and servals in interstate commerce between February and June of 2018. Caracals, also known as the “desert lynx,” are wild cats native to Africa, and grow to approximately 45 pounds.  Servals, also wild cats native to Africa, grow to approximately 40 pounds. Both species are protected under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and their commercial possession and sale is restricted under New York state law.  The defendant is also charged with disguising his commercial activity by falsely declaring the animals as domesticated breeds, such as savannah cats and bengal cats, on shipping records. People and businesses dealing in animals are required to comply with humane care standards under the Animal Welfare Act. The defendant is alleged to have failed to do so, and to have failed to secure the necessary license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The defendant is charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act for selling animals without a license showing minimum compliance with humane treatment standards.”


July 9, 2020 – “Texas Man Pleaded Guilty to Trafficking Illegal Wildlife Worth Millions. A Texas man pleaded guilty on charges of conspiring to traffic thousands of live reptiles, amphibians, and birds, valued in excess of $3.5 million. The investigation exposed a highly coordinated wildlife trafficking ring responsible for the smuggling of wild caught reptiles destined to collectors and the commercial trade across the U.S. and globe. The number of animals suspected of being smuggled is in the tens of thousands.  According to documents filed with the court, beginning in 2016, the FWS undertook Operation Bale Out, an investigation of a network of individuals involved in the trafficking of wildlife between the United States and Mexico. “Bale” means a group of turtles, and much of the wildlife trafficked by this network involved rare turtles.”


August 25, 2020 -- “Hummingbird Trafficker Pleads Guilty.  A Dallas [Texas] mystic shop owner pleaded guilty to trafficking dried hummingbird carcasses in violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. The shop owner, 48, pleaded guilty to the sale of wildlife taken in violation of federal law. The owner admitted to selling dried hummingbird carcasses known as “chuparosas” without a valid permit or authorization. “Chuparosas” are believed by some to have mystical benefits and are commonly used as amulets or charms. The hummingbird, a migratory bird, is protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Pursuant to Federal regulations, it is illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, or sell a hummingbird, or its parts, nests, or eggs, except under the terms of a valid permit. The shop owner admitted the dried hummingbird carcasses she acquired were illegally imported and smuggled into the United States from Mexico. Without a valid permit or authorization, the shop owner offered the dried hummingbird carcasses for sale in her store. She further admitted to both possessing and selling dozens of dried hummingbird carcasses of different species each of which are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.”


September 3, 2020 – “Operation Apex Shuts Down Operation that Profited from Shark Finning, Much More.  An international conspiracy that profited from drug trafficking and the illegal wildlife trade and conspired to hide the illegal nature of the proceeds has been shut down in a multi-agency law enforcement operation. Initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Operation Apex brought together multiple agencies under the umbrella of the Organized Crime Drug Task Forces (OCDETF) to target two businesses, in Florida and California, and a dozen individual defendants whose activities included international trade in illegal wildlife products, trafficking in marijuana, and a money laundering conspiracy to disguise the massive proceeds of the unlawful activities that spanned at least a 10-year period. As alleged in the 37-page indictment, conspirators in multiple locations in the United States, including the Southern District of Georgia, and in Hong Kong, Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere, were involved in the Wu transnational criminal organization that engaged in wildlife trafficking, shark finning, drug trafficking and money laundering. Shark finning is aimed at supporting the demand for shark fin soup, an Asian delicacy. Certain species of sharks are protected wildlife under federal and state law to ensure their continued sustainability. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began as early as 2010 as members of the conspiracy submitted false documents and used sham businesses and dozens of bank accounts to hide proceeds from the illegal activities. The indictment states that members of the conspiracy would deposit bulk cash from illegal activities, including wildlife trafficking and drug trafficking, into third-party business accounts that dealt in gold, precious metals, and jewels, to hide the illegal activities. Conspirators also deposited millions of dollars from illegal activities into third-party business accounts located in the United States, Mexico, and Hong Kong, in an effort to hide the illegal profits. During the arrests of the defendants and searches of their homes and workplaces, agents seized more than $3.9 million in multiple bank accounts; approximately $3 million in gold, silver, and other precious metals, along with $1 million in diamonds; approximately 18,000 marijuana plants and 34.5 pounds of processed marijuana; multiple firearms; and documented the harvest of more than six tons of shark fins. Agents also seized 18 totoaba fish bladders, a delicacy in Asia harvested illegally from an endangered species.




What Are the Laws or Other Agreements About Wildlife Trade or Trafficking?

There are quite a few laws. As with any law, governments or other organizations charged with implementing and enforcing the law must have the resources, and will, to do so.



CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.


The purpose of the ESA is to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems they depend on. The FWS and the U.S. Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) administers the ESA.


Also administered by the FWS, under the Lacey Act, it’s unlawful to import, export, sell, acquire, or purchase fish, wildlife or plants that are taken, possessed, transported, or sold: 1) in violation of U.S. or Indian law, or 2) in interstate or foreign commerce involving any fish, wildlife, or plants taken possessed or sold in violation of State or foreign law. The law covers all fish and wildlife and their parts or products, plants protected by the CITES and those protected by State law.


All marine mammals are protected under the MMPA. The MMPA prohibits, with certain exceptions, the "take" of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S. Jurisdiction for MMPA is shared by FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)


The Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the take (including killing, capturing, selling, trading, and transport) of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the FWS. The list of migratory bird species protected by law is primarily based on bird families and species included in four international treaties. You can find the list of birds in the Code of Federal Regulations under  Title 50 Part 10.13 (10.13 list). The 10.13 list was  updated in 2020.



Due to the European Single Market and the absence of systematic border controls within the EU, the provisions of the CITES have to be implemented uniformly in all EU Member States. CITES is implemented in the EU through a set of Regulations known as the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.



This law:

  • facilitates partnerships between the US government and other countries fighting terrorist organizations and international crime syndicates that profit from wildlife trafficking;


  • allows prosecutors to treat smuggling or selling endangered species as a predicate offense under money laundering statues;


  • improves transparency and accountability by directing the US State Department to explicitly identify countries that are major sources, transit points, or consumers of trafficked wildlife products; and


  • enhances national security while also benefiting animal welfare—from expanding law enforcement networks to providing targeted assistance via shared intelligence, equipment and training to fight poachers.


  • U.S. Executive Orders

In the United States, there has been bipartisan support in the Executive and Legislative branches of government for preventing and prosecuting wildlife trafficking.


  • The second US Executive Order was issued in 2017, “Enforcing Federal Law with Respect to Transnational Criminal Organizations and Preventing International Trafficking.”  It has a broad focus on transnational criminal organizations, and includes a policy reference to wildlife trafficking in Sec 2(a)(i) “It shall be the policy of the executive branch to: (a)  strengthen enforcement of Federal law in order to thwart transnational criminal organizations and subsidiary organizations, including criminal gangs, cartels, racketeering organizations, and other groups engaged in illicit activities that present a threat to public safety and national security and that are related to, for example: (i) the illegal smuggling and trafficking of humans, drugs or other substances, wildlife, and weapons;



What Organizations and Groups Study, Enforce or Monitor Wildlife Trafficking?

There are multiple national and international government organizations, non-profits, and other non-governmental, private organizations that study, monitor, enforce, and educate on wildlife trafficking. Some, like the FWS, were highlighted above. Several others with varying responsibilities, missions, and authority, are listed below. Click their links for information and resources.


  • The US Department of Justice, Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), together with United States Attorneys’ Offices across the country, is responsible for prosecuting international wildlife trafficking crimes under US laws. ENRD also prosecutes crimes related to wildlife trafficking, including smuggling, money laundering, and criminal conspiracy. ENRD works with the FWS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and other agencies in prosecuting crimes.  A summary of recent ENRD wildlife trafficking prosecutions can be found here.


  • The END Wildlife Trafficking Act directs the US Secretary of State, in consultation with the US Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce, to submit to Congress a report that lists Focus Countries and Countries of Concern. Get the most recent report here.


  • The END Wildlife Trafficking Act also directs the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking (Task Force) to submit an annual strategic review and assessment of its work that consists of the following:  a review and assessment of its implementation of the Act; evaluation of the role of governments of Focus Countries and Countries of Concern in combating wildlife trafficking; a description of Task Force priorities and objectives; an accounting of U.S. funding for combating wildlife trafficking and recommendations for improving U.S. and international efforts to prevent wildlife trafficking in the future. Get the most recent report here.


  • TRAFFIC is a non-governmental organization working globally on trade in wild animals and plants in the context of both biodiversity conservation and sustainable development. TRAFFIC staff around the world carry out research, investigations and analysis to compile the evidence they use to catalyze action by governments, businesses and individuals, in collaboration with a wide range of partners, to help ensure that wildlife trade is not a threat to the conservation of nature.


  • Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking on-line. Launched in 2018 with the World Wildlife Fund, TRAFFIC, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare,  with Google as a key convener, the coalition now comprises 36 tech company members including Facebook, eBay, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. The collaboration aims to unite the tech industry to standardize prohibited wildlife policies, train staff to better detect illicit wildlife products such as elephant ivory and pangolin scales, enhance automated detection filters, and educate and empower users to report suspicious listings. At the core of this effort is sharing learning and best practices across company platforms to avoid duplication and prevent wildlife traffickers from shifting activities from one platform to the next.


  • US Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA). The WTA is a coalition of more than 70 leading companies, non-profit organizations, and accredited Association of Zoos and Aquariums working together to reduce the purchase and sale of illegal wildlife and wildlife products.


  • WildAid. WildAid works to reduce global consumption of wildlife products and to increase local support for conservation efforts. They work with governments and partners to protect fragile marine reserves from illegal fishing and shark finning, to enhance public and political will for anti-poaching efforts, and to reduce climate change impacts.



How Do We Stop Wildlife Trafficking?

There’s things we can all do. First, speak up for wildlife and know how to spot a wildlife crime. Here are some tips from the FWS



  • Be situationally aware and trust your gut

“Trust your gut to know when things just don’t seem right. This happened to a woman in Minnesota while she was on a bike ride and saw someone putting Blanding’s turtles in their trunk. She knew that these mild-mannered turtles are protected and extremely vulnerable during breeding season as they move to nesting habitat to lay eggs. She reported the vehicle’s license plate number and other identifiable information to an officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and her tip ultimately helped to uncover a multistate, illegal trafficking scheme based in Wisconsin. The man involved pleaded guilty to a felony Lacey Act violation, served time in prison and paid heavy fines. During the investigation, officers recovered an incubator with 120 native map, painted and softshell turtle eggs that he had illegally collected in the wild. This wildlife trafficker also left an incriminating digital footprint, using online retailers to traffic additional wild reptile and amphibian species. Just one person speaking for a couple of turtles made a positive impact on local wildlife.” In this case, FWS was able to recognize her contributions with a $1,500 reward through the Lacey Act Reward Account, all while maintaining her anonymity.



  • Know the law

Know the laws that protect wildlife. Many bird species native to the US, including their nests and eggs are protected under the MBTA (see above). Knowing what’s in season under state and tribal law is important too, because poaching isn’t the only wildlife crime, hunting out of season and falsifying records are also criminal offenses. Ethical hunters and anglers respect the biological reasoning behind bag limits and speak up when something doesn’t seem right.


  • Increase whistle-blowing on corrupt border officials and poachers

The website WildLeaks has made this a little easier. WildLeaks, is the world’s first whistleblowing initiative dedicated to environmental crime. WildLeaks is set up to receive and evaluate anonymous information and tips regarding environmental/wildlife crime, and transform that information into concrete action, and possible actionable intelligence. WildLeaks has a “safe space” online, built on the Tor technology, a secure and anonymous platform so that people with information can share that information without taking personal risks, particularly in highly corrupt countries.


  • Increase participation in wildlife management and protection groups


  • Take pride in every action you take to protect wildlife species and not exploit them.


  • Inspire others to take pride in even the smallest actions they take to protect species and habitats.


Here's some more considerations

  • Volunteer. Many conservation organizations depend on volunteers in the U.S. and abroad. Do a web search to find an organization near you.


  • Wild animals do not make good pets and it’s illegal to buy endangered species. Do your research before making a decision to buy a pet.


  • Read your labels. Palm oil plantations are contributing to habitat loss around the world – valuable forests are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. If palm oil is in your product, read the label to check if it was sustainably grown.


  • Before traveling abroad be sure to visit this website for a “Buyer Beware” brochure.

When you travel outside of the United States think about what you’re buying. When purchasing souvenirs or gifts, think about where that item might have come from. Does it contain wildlife products? If so, is it a species that is endangered or threatened? Was the animal harvested sustainably? Was it produced legally? One of the main ways to limit the illegal wildlife trade is to stop the demand for wildlife products. If you don’t know, don’t buy.

  • Be an eco-tourist and travel green. Eco-tourists are able to experience species in their natural habitat while supporting local livelihoods and conservation efforts. These sustainable travel practices allow visitors to experience nature while limiting human impacts on wildlife.


  • Buy local products and support the local economy. Tourism is a large source of income for many local communities abroad. Support these local communities’ livelihoods by purchasing unique, handcrafted goods that do not contain animal products.


Final Word: “Conservation ultimately comes down to people and their behaviors toward nature. Just as people are often the source of environmental problems, they are equally the potential solution.”


Sources and Other References

(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper END Act environmental crimes FWS law enforcement NATGEO TRAFFIC trafficking" US Fish and Wildlife Service washington WildLeaks wildlife wildlife crime wildlife trade wildlife trafficking Sat, 12 Sep 2020 19:51:34 GMT
The Spirit of a Fallen Warrior: A New Year and More Beautiful Hummingbirds Did you know, the Aztec god of war “Huitzilopochtli” is often depicted as a hummingbird? It was believed that fallen warriors would return to earth as hummingbirds and butterflies.



There’s nothing like hummingbirds. In my area they’re very active right now. The nesting season is over. The young that survived are busy trying to secure their own food sources, and the adults are doing the same to build up fat and reserves for their long migration this fall. Because of their size (typically 3-5 inches in length), their constant movement (most flap their wings about 50 times a second), and speed (they can fly about 27 mph) photographing hummingbirds is a challenge. If you want to freeze the motion of their wings and body in an image, a LOT of very bright and direct natural light or artificial light (flash) is a must. Photographs have to be taken at very high speed. Most hummingbirds don’t tolerate people close to them, and ethical photographers don’t trap or bait hummingbirds for photo ops, and this includes using flash traps. If you want to capture the fine detail of a hummingbird, your best bet is a large telephoto lens that let’s you get some distance away. The photos shared in this blog were taken in a mix of clouds/sun, partial shade, and very bright early morning light anywhere from 15-40 feet away using my 560mm Canon lens configuration (400 mm lens w/1.4 extender) with no tripod. All were processed in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for exposure adjustments and cropping.


More incredible hummingbird facts:

  • Hummingbirds are capable of acrobatic flight, but can’t walk or hop. Their feet have evolved to grip and perch, and are incredibly light so they can fly easily.


  • They are marathon fliers.  Most North American hummingbirds migrate south to winter in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, or Central America. A ruby-throated hummingbird flies at about 27 miles per hour if there’s no tail wind or head wind.  This means that for those making the long 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico during migration it would take about 18 1/2 hours.


  • To conserve energy when food is scarce, and nightly when not foraging, they can go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation.


  • The majority of hummingbird activity consists of sitting or perching. Hummingbirds spend an average of 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% perching and digesting.


  • Because their high metabolism makes them vulnerable to starvation, hummingbirds get highly adapted to good food sources. Many North American hummingbird species are territorial and will guard food sources (such as a feeder) against other hummingbirds.


  • The ruby-throated hummingbird – one of the most common species in the United States – averages 3 grams. For comparison, a nickel weighs about 5 grams.


  • Many hummingbirds die during their first year of life. But if they survive, they can live a decade or more. Most hummingbirds live three to five years.


  • Trinidad and Tobago, known as "The land of the hummingbird," displays a hummingbird on its national coat of arms, its 1-cent coin and as the emblem of its national airline, Caribbean Airlines.


Enjoy my images of these truly amazing birds. Except for the third image below, we can't say for certain whether the other ruby-throated hummingbirds are adult females or juvenile males. Juvenile males (1st year males typically) look very similar to adult females. One of the best sources I've found on distinguishing and identifying ruby-throated hummingbirds is here:

  Ruby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileRuby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileNorthern Maryland Ruby Throated Hummingbird, MaleRuby Throated Hummingbird, Male

Juvenile Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdJuvenile Male Ruby Throated HummingbirdNorthern Maryland

(Copper Range) birdlover birds birdwatching carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper ethical photography gifts grief happy how to shoot hummingbirds hummingbird hummingbird photos lovem nature spirit surprise warrior washington wildlife Tue, 28 Jul 2020 20:20:21 GMT
Dead Trees are Do-Gooders If you love birds, you have to love dead trees. I photograph raptors and other birds, a lot. I often notice one thing in common across my many bird shots, in the many different locations I’ve photographed them, and that is the birds are in a dead tree or on dead wood.  Sounds bad, but it’s not. In fact, it’s a good thing because dead trees are do-gooders.


Dead trees, also called “snags”, and dead wood may not look pretty in our human eyes. A lot of us have been conditioned to see dead trees and dead wood as something bad, dangerous, must be cut down, cleaned up, and moved out of sight. But do you know that dead trees are one of the best places to find a variety of birds and other wildlife?  Dead trees provide habitat, which includes nesting, feeding and perching areas for many species of birds and raptors like eagles, owls, hawks, osprey, falcons, woodpeckers, ducks, bats, and many more. Dead trees, and dead wood on the ground, also provide habitat and protection for racoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and amphibians.


Many animals use the nooks and spaces in dead trees and wood to store food. Out West, where the landscape still supports apex predators like grizzly bears, grizzlies can be found eating ants that live by the millions in dead tree logs scattered around forest floors. In aquatic environments, fallen dead trees or wood are excellent hiding places for fish and help them hunt bugs and other organisms.


Even more, a variety of beneficial organisms including moss, lichens and fungi grow on snags and help return vital nutrients to the soil. In forests, decaying logs on the ground also act as a kind of nursery for new tree seedlings. Dead trees and down wood play an important role in ecosystems by providing wildlife habitat, cycling nutrients, aiding plant regeneration, decreasing erosion, and influencing drainage and soil moisture and carbon storage, among other values. The US Forest service states, “Over 85 North American bird species rely on snags to nest, feed, or seek shelter. If they don't pose a hazard, leave snags standing.”


With the right permits, it’s legal to obtain personal use firewood from US National Forests. However, some National Forests clearly prohibit cutting down standing trees of any type, including snags, while others try to educate the public to look for signs of wildlife using snags before cutting. For example, the US Forest Service Naches Ranger District (Washington State), created a video that is shown to woodcutters when obtaining permits at the Naches Ranger District, helping them to look for signs of wildlife in snags and leave those snags standing on the landscape.


Certainly, there are situations where snags and other dead wood can be dangerous. The National Wildlife Federation has some recommendations on when you should consider removing snags from your yard and other dead wood, along with tips on how to garden for wildlife,  Excellent tips and insights are also available at the US Forest Service, . Just remember, if a dead tree isn’t threatening your residence, leave it be, and you’ll see the benefits.


I’ve witnessed it and know the benefits of dead trees. Scan the photos below and see just a bit of what I’ve captured hanging out in, or on, dead trees!

Steady - Juvenile little blue heronSteady - Juvenile little blue heron Tufted TitmouseTufted TitmouseWashington, DC Eastern PhoebeEastern Phoebe Loggerhead ShrikeLoggerhead ShrikePine Glades Natural Area, Jupiter Florida

Blue-Tailed SkinkBlue-Tailed SkinkNorthern Virginia

More reading on the value and purpose of dead trees:

(Copper Range) award winning photography bird phpotography birding blogger carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dead photographer science snags value of dead trees washington wildlife Wed, 22 Jul 2020 17:09:16 GMT
Moonstruck The full moon has a long aura of mystery and magic about it. Some say it triggers “wanderlust" -- a desire to travel, wander, or roam. Travel and new experiences offer empowerment, education, and opportunity, so I’m all-in for the Moon and its wanderlust charm. But our Moon is so much more. It plays a critical role in producing the environment required for life to thrive on Earth. If the Moon suddenly disappeared, the consequences for many forms of life would be devastating. Some species would die off and Earth’s weather and climate would be noticeably altered ( “The moon is the second-brightest regularly visible celestial object in Earth’s sky. As Genesis 1:16 says, “Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night.” ( We all recognize that life on Earth would cease as we know it if the Sun stopped shining, and it’s similar with the Moon.


The April 2020 Supermoon -- the largest of the full Moons in 2020 – inspired me to turn my lens on it; and now, I’m a bit "moonstruck." Below, see my April 2020 Supermoon shot taken with my tripod-mounted, Canon EOS 5D Mark IV, 560mm (400 mm Canon lens with a 1.4 Canon extender), f/8, 1/50 sec, ISO 200. All my photos, including this one, are typically processed in Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop to adjust exposure and preserve the best image clarity possible. Keep reading for images of the June "Strawberry Moon", and illuminating facts from the experts at NASA about our essential night light – the Moon.

SuperMoon April 2020SuperMoon April 2020


If you set a single green pea next to a U.S. nickel, you'd have a pretty good idea of the size of the Moon compared to Earth. The April 2020 Supermoon looked a bit bigger through my lens. It was a beauty. NASA has great facts about the Moon and the history of Moon exploration (; I’ve shared a few below, including NASA’s plans to create a permanent presence on the moon under its “Artemis” program. “The Artemis program will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon and develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon and set the stage for further human exploration at Mars. The program takes its name from the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.  Among other things Artemis is the goddess of the wilderness, the hunt, and wild animals.


The leading theory of the Moon's origin is that a Mars-sized body collided with Earth about 4.5 billion years ago. The debris left by this collision formed our Moon 239,000 miles away. The newly formed Moon was in a molten state, but within about 100 million years, most of the molten material crystallized, with less-dense rocks floating upward and eventually forming the lunar crust.


  • The Moon is Earth's only natural satellite.


  • The Moon goes around the Earth at a distance of about 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers).


  • More than 105 robotic spacecraft have been launched to explore the Moon.



  • So far, the Moon is the only celestial body beyond Earth visited by humans.


  • Twenty-four humans have traveled from the Earth to the Moon, and twelve walked on the Moon’s surface.


  • In 1972, the last human visited the Moon’s surface.


  • NASA is gearing up to set up a permanent lunar presence on the Moon.


  • We always see the same side of the Moon from Earth. You have to go into space to see the other side.



  • There's a few other countries that attempted to land on the moon. Some have succeeded, some have failed. India and Israel tried to land on the moon, but failed. However, in 2019, China successfully landed a rover on the dark side of the moon. That's never been done before. NASA followed this big space news closely.


  • The United States and USSR/Russia have by far had the most missions to the moon, followed by China.


In the 11 days leading up to the June 5, 2020 full moon (also called the “Strawberry Moon”), when conditions allowed, I photographed the moon each night. The Strawberry Moon doesn't refer to the color of the moon, rather it gets its name from a decades-old naming convention established by Indian tribes (see, Some of the best shooting conditions were the days before the full Moon. Unfortunately, the weather was completely overcast on June 5, but I was able to shoot on June 6, when the Moon was 99% full (illuminated). Generally, I used the same settings as my April Supermoon shoot, except no tripod. Even with a longer exposure time, the tripod really made no difference in image clarity. If you have a steady hand and built strength to hoist and hold your 8-10-pound equipment a few times, you might find that a tripod is unnecessary. Hover over each image to see its date.


Enjoy these images and don’t forget to visit my other on-line galleries where you can safely and easily purchase prints and become a collector!


25-May-2025-May-20 27-May-2027-May-20 29-May-2029-May-20 30-May-2030-May-20 31-May-2031-May-20 1-Jun-201-Jun-20 2-Jun-202-Jun-20

June 3 2020June 3 2020


(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dc full moon love lunar images lunar photography moon moon shots nasa photography space exploration space flight space photography supermoon washington wildlife Sun, 07 Jun 2020 18:21:26 GMT
Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest ***UPDATE May 29, 2020*** At this time, all the young hawks are 30 days old, or slightly older. It showed today when I visited the nest. Look at the comparison photos below taken exactly one month apart! On April 29, the young hawks were barely able to stand. In just one month's time they have flight feathers, can feed on their own, and stand, hop and fly small distances.

At least two of the young hawks have fledged the nest, which means they've grown enough to fly and/or hop out of the nest onto nearby branches. The fledglings aren't mature enough to survive completely on their own. They'll stay by the nest for the next few months and continue to be fed by their parents while also practicing their own hunting. As I saw today, they may fly back into the nest to get fed by a parent. Two of the young hawks were fed today when I visited. One parent flew in and dropped the prey item down. Both young that were in the nest were able to tear apart and eat the prey by themselves. One of the young hawks displayed "mantling" of the prey item. Mantling is hunching, crouching, or arching shoulders and spreading wings over a kill to conceal it from other birds and predators who would be potential thieves. See the photo below! Here's a photo of one of the fledgling hawks perched near the nest, about 25 feet away.

Not too far from now all three young hawks will have fledged the nest, but still be nearby. If you're visiting the nest and don't see any signs of birds, look closely in the tree canopy near the nest. If they continue to do well, they'll be there for most of the summer.


(Copper Range) animal lovers babies birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dc ethical photography hawks love photography raptors red-shouldered hawk red-shouldered hawk nest in washington dc washington washington dc wildlife wildlife Fri, 29 May 2020 21:23:33 GMT
Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest *** UPDATE May 19, 2020***, Video Included My last visit to the Washington DC nest was one week ago on May 12. Today's visit reveals all three young hawks are losing their downy feathers, have sprouted flight feathers and all three are up and around in the nest, looking healthy, well fed, and trying out their rapidly growing wings. The mother hawk visited the nest once while I was there today with prey for her babies. The father was in the area and both adults were very vocal.  It won't be long before the largest of the young hawks takes its first leap out of the nest. I've included a short video of the three young hawks from today as well as a photo comparing their size from May 3 to today, May 19  - see what kind of growth occurred in just a little over two weeks!  Listen to and download the podcast I published on red-shouldered hawks. Click  "Podcast" at the bottom of the screen.

(Copper Range) dc animal lovers birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper cleveland park hawks conservation copper ethical photography hawks raptors red-shouldered hawk nest washington washington wildlife wildlife rehabilitation Tue, 19 May 2020 22:13:25 GMT
Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest ***UPDATE MAY 12, 2020*** They grow up fast!  In less than 2 weeks, the largest of the three young hawks, has nearly tripled in size and has grown a lot more flight feathers than just 4 days ago. There are still 3 young hawks in the nest. Mom is perched near the nest when not feeding or hunting (if she hunts). The nest is getting a little crowded, and the largest young hawk was doing a bit of flap-hopping and trying out the wings. The largest young hawk may be ready to fledge from the nest in a couple more weeks, which will create a little more room in what's becoming a crowded nest! Fledglings will typically perch in branches close to the nest and be fed by the parents until they’re capable of hunting on their own. These young hawks could be in the area for a good part of the summer. I know that many of us watching the nest were relieved that our hawk family made it through DC's most recent cold snap and rainy/windy weather.

Video 2

(Copper Range) animal video carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper red-shouldered hawk nest video washington wildlife Wed, 13 May 2020 00:13:53 GMT
Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest ***UPDATE May 8, 2020*** When I visited the nest on May 8, the young hawks were napping and both parents were away. Even when a parent can't be seen at the nest, one is usually perched nearby keeping an eye on things. Within about 30 minutes of arriving, I heard the first call from one of the adults. This can mean that one of the parents (usually the male) has food, and is announcing he's got food to return to the nest with. The young hawks began stirring and moving when they heard the adult's call. The young hawks, within less than a week since my last visit, have started to grow flight feathers. When they stand in the nest they look considerably larger than just a few days ago - nearly double the size. I've included a comparison photo in this post that shows the largest baby on April 29 and on May 8. They're definitely growing fast, which is exactly as it should be since they could start to fledge in 3 weeks.


Sure enough, after a few more calls from one of the adults, one came flying into the nest with a small rodent, possibly a chipmunk. All the young sat right up and waited for feeding time!  Enjoy this video of the feeding. I hope to have another update in at least a week. 

Video 1

(Copper Range) baby birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc hawks raptors red-shouldered hawk nest in washington washington wildlife Sat, 09 May 2020 21:22:44 GMT
Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest, ***UPDATE, May 5, 2020*** There was some sad news from the red-shouldered hawk nest. Based on accounts from residents who live in the building next to the nest location, on May 1, the adult male was found hanging from a tree. It appears he was tangled in netting or fishing line. He was rescued. What this means is that the adult female was the only one looking after the young. When I visited on May 2, the female was in the nest and then eventually flew off. She perched near the nest and called for her mate for close to an hour. Of course, he didn't show up. Unless the adult male is well enough to be released, this very sad turn of events greatly lowers the survival chances for these young hawks. (keep reading...!!)


My April 30 blog post shared several risks that many raptors face, including red-shouldered hawks. The events of the last few days reveal another -- birds getting entrapped in fishing line or netting. Many wildlife rehabilitators and conservation groups have written about these risks and documented tragic, often fatal injuries wildlife receive from improperly discarded fishing line or netting. Here's a few links on this issue for further reading: Wildlife Center of Virginia:; Audubon:; Owl Moon Raptor Center:; US Fish and Wildlife Service: .


May 3rd was my last visit to the nest site and really good things were happening! Within a few moments of my arrival in late afternoon, the female showed up with a large prey item (possibly a large rat). Her young babies perked up and began feeding. I could see through my lens that the young already had very full crops, which meant they were already well fed. If you're unfamiliar with the term "crop", it's a muscular pouch near the throat, which is part of the digestive tract. In birds, and other organisms that have a crop, it's used to temporarily store food.


More, really good news, happened on May 4.  I posted a video I shot of the hawk family feeding and was informed through a Facebook comment that the injured male was released. I'm thrilled.


I'll be back at the nest in a few days and with more updates!


Enjoy these photos of mom and babies from May 3, 2020.






(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper cleveland park hawks conservation copper hawks raptors red-shouldered hawk washington dc washington washington dc wildlife Tue, 05 May 2020 22:36:37 GMT
Red-Shouldered Hawk Nest The red-shouldered hawk is one of the most beautiful (see the photos) and “talkative” hawks in the United States. If you’ve been fortunate to have one come across your path you might just fall in love. My first encounter with a red-shouldered hawk was seeing one, then a pair, perched in a tall tree in my backyard during a cold day at the height of winter about 5 years ago. Although I live in the big metropolitan city of Washington, DC, we have a lot of large tree canopy (urban forest) and we’re adjacent to Rock Creek National Park. The habitat is fairly good for red-shouldered hawks. It was the beauty of these birds, I could see through binoculars, that inspired me to learn more about raptors and how to photograph them. So, this past week when I came across a red-shouldered hawk nest just a few miles from my home, now over two years into my photography business, well, it was heaven-on-earth for me. In this post, I’m excited to share my first images of the red-shouldered hawk parents, their three hatchlings, and information about this species including some of the risks it faces.


Red-shouldered hawks are raptors, or birds of prey. Eagles and owls are raptors too, and this obviously means that there are different categories or types of raptors, each with their own behaviors, colors, sounds, and lifestyles. The red-shouldered hawk is in the “buteo” class of raptors.  Experts differ in their precise descriptions of the size and characteristics of red-shouldered hawks, and tend to give ranges on height, weight, and wingspan. That’s reasonable; there are variations. In general, red-shouldered hawks may be anywhere from 15” to 24” long; weigh 1 to 2 pounds; and have a wingspan of 38” to 42”.  Like some other raptor species, the female is larger than the male and there is no color difference between the sexes. Red-shouldered hawks get their name from the reddish-brown feathers on the upper wings. These feathers give the appearance of having red shoulders, although this part of the wing is actually the hawk’s wrist. Red-shouldered hawks live on the East and West Coast of North America. The eastern population lives from southern Canada to Florida and eastern Mexico and west to the Great Plains. Part of the eastern population is migratory. In the west, the species lives from Oregon to Baja California. The western population is nonmigratory. There is a difference in color between red-shouldered hawks in Florida and those farther north, which are darker in color. See the image directly below of a lighter colored Florida red-shouldered hawk and compare to the coloring of the adult pair from Washington, DC, that follows.  


Red-shouldered hawks are forest raptors. They tend to live in forested areas with an open subcanopy and a nearby water source. Like other raptors, red-shouldered hawks are strictly carnivores. They’re diurnal raptors meaning they hunt during the day; they’re adapted for daytime hunting. They feed on many types of prey including amphibians, reptiles, birds, and small mammals including voles, chipmunks, mice, and possibly rabbits and squirrels depending upon their size. An image in this post shows one of the red-shouldered parents with a captured vole. Crayfish serve as an important food source, particularly in the southeastern US. In much of eastern North America, chipmunks and voles are the main prey. Red-shouldered hawks are chiefly perch-hunters, but may sometimes hunt while in flight. 



Raptors have long been admired for their exceptional vision, which is a key element in helping them to locate and track prey. There are a few features of the raptor eye that contribute to its remarkable vision. First, like many other birds, raptor eyes are very large in relation to the size of their skull and their body mass. Second, even though raptors can’t move their eyes around like us humans, they have extra bones in their neck that allow them to move their whole head around.  As many of us know, some raptors, like owls, can rotate their heads as much as 270 degrees! Hawks can rotate their heads almost all the way around as well. Third, the forward placement of raptor eyes gives them good binocular vision, and this facilitates very accurate judgment of distance. This is an excellent adaptation if you’re a perch hunter going after small, fast prey.  Last, perhaps the most remarkable refinement to raptor vision is the ability to see in the ultraviolet (UV) light range.  For raptors, who prey on rodents like voles and mice, this ability gives them a distinctive edge when hunting.  Rodents, like many other species, use scent as a communication mechanism. For example, to mark territories, for mating, etc.  So, in these species, long scent trails become obvious signs and pointers to where the animal has been. Scent marks of small rodents become visible when the markings absorb part of the UV radiation present in sunlight, and then reemit the absorbed energy as visible light. This is also called the process of fluorescence.  Research has shown scent marks left by voles (who urinate almost continuously), are also detectable by raptors (kestrels) from reflected UV light. This ability, to perceive reflected UV, is particularly useful in the spring before the scent marks are covered by vegetation. For raptors hunting in open grassy areas this means they can rapidly scan large areas in a short period, and perceive rodents by simply following the ultraviolet trails that point to their movements and possible whereabouts.  Put simply, just remember that raptors, including red-shouldered hawks can see the “pee trail” of animals they’re hunting.



Red-shouldered hawks become sexually mature at 1 or 2 years. Red-shouldered hawks, like other hawks, are monogamous and mate for life. However, if one of the pair dies, the surviving hawk may seek out another mate. Mating occurs between April and July. Red-shouldered hawks are particularly vocal prior to incubation, and they call repeatedly while engaged in courtship flights. The pair builds a nest of sticks, which may include moss, leaves, and bark. Nests are typically built at a crook of the main trunk in deciduous trees, more than halfway up the tree but within the canopy. The female lays three or four spotty lavender or brown-colored eggs. Females nest once per year, but may lay a second “clutch” of eggs if the first is destroyed. Incubation takes between 28 and 33 days. The first chick (“eyas” is the technical term for a nestling hawk) hatches up to a week before the final one. The female has the primary responsibility for incubating the eggs, while the male hunts, but sometimes the male cares for the eggs and the nestlings. Adults most frequently bring back mammals to feed the nestlings. Young fledge the nest when they’re between 35 and 45 days old and will try to catch their own prey, mainly insects. However, the young hawks continue to depend on their parents until they’re 17 to 19 weeks old, after which they may start to catch vertebrates. Young hawks may remain near the nest until the following mating season. Only half of red-shouldered hawk chicks survive the first year and few live to 10 years. The nesting success rate is 30%, plus red-shouldered hawks face many predators and risks at all stages of life. For those that survive their first year, red-shouldered hawks can live to be 15-19 years old in the wild, with one report of a 26-year-old hawk!



Threats to raptors come primarily from humans. While all animals are subject to natural threats such as disease and predation, raptors suffer far greater harm from human causes, including the loss of native habitat and habitat degradation largely due to human development and mounting population; intentional and unintentional killing (e.g., vehicle collisions) and poisoning (e.g., pesticides, lead); electrocution; and climate change, to name a few. Red-shouldered hawks, like other raptor and non-raptor species have important protections under various state and federal laws including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. It’s unlawful to kill, capture, collect, possess, harass, buy, sell, trade, ship, import, or export any migratory bird, including their feathers, eggs, and all other parts.  Habitat loss and degradation is the biggest risk that raptors like red-shouldered hawks face. It’s one of the reasons I believe that Land Trusts, which work to conserve land, can be a perfect partner in wildlife protection. I plan to write more on that in the near future. 


A short while ago I wrote a post on lead poisoning in bald eagles.  Red-shouldered hawks can face the same risk. Another distressing poisoning risk that red-shouldered hawks and other raptors face is from traditional rat poison (rodenticides).  Many rodenticides stop normal blood clotting; these are called anticoagulants. Anticoagulants work by blocking an enzyme that controls blood clotting. If an animal (rat, mouse, etc…) is exposed to enough anticoagulant (rat poison/rodenticide), uncontrolled internal bleeding and death can result. Rodenticides have the same effect when eaten by any mammal, including a cat or dog. They can also affect birds. Anticoagulant and other rat poison products designed to kill rodents are also killing birds of prey, pet dogs and cats, and many species of wildlife, including several endangered species. Secondary anticoagulant poisoning of nontarget animals is well documented in a wide range of animals including owls, buzzards, coyotes, feral cats, mountain lions, otters, bald eagles, and more.  Secondary poisoning occurs when a predatory animal consumes a poisoned animal, and ingests the poisons secondarily. Anticoagulant rodenticides are the most common method used for rodent control worldwide and they are frequently used in both residential and commercial areas, as well as in parks, cemeteries, and golf courses.  Advice from the National Pesticide Information Center is helpful:


“When you are deciding whether or not to use a pesticide, balance the potential benefit against the potential costs, including environmental impacts. Sometimes using a pesticide, even according to its label, may cause harm. When that's the case, it is up to the user to weigh the costs and benefits, and if necessary, choose not to use the product.


If you use a pesticide, always be sure you read and follow all label instructions exactly. It will reduce the risk, but it won't necessarily prevent accidents. Read the environmental hazards part of the label carefully. Could use of this product harm bees or bats, or is it very toxic to fish? If so, and if fish or bees could be exposed, you might consider finding another product. Try to find the least toxic product that will do the job. It may be possible to take care of your pest problem using integrated pest management, which may mean using fewer pesticides, or possibly none at all.


You know your application area best. If you know certain spots are important places for special plants or wildlife, try to prevent contamination of those sites, especially at critical times of the year. You may also contact your state wildlife agency or the US Fish and Wildlife Service for more information. There are many federal and state laws protecting migratory birds, animals, and rare plants, but the most important protections come from ordinary people taking steps to avoid accidental harm.


To reduce risks of secondary poisoning for pets and wildlife, search for, collect, and dispose of poisoned rodents. Use gloves when disposing of dead rodents to avoid contact and secure trashcan lids to minimize pet or wildlife access to poisoned rodents.”


I hope to be able to update this post or add new posts as the red-shouldered hawk nestlings grow and fledge. This brings me to one of the most crucial points of this post – use your judgement and don’t unsettle or frighten this nesting hawk pair for the sake of photographs or the desire to simply get a peek.  There’s already a lot of disturbances at this location. When I first came upon the nest site, I was stunned at how easy it was to see from the walking bridge I was on. This location is a popular, high-density, and well-traveled part of Washington, DC; not a location off the beaten path. Many people walk, bike and run across this bridge (often with leashed dogs), and there’s a lot of street traffic and noise. The habitat the hawks chose has many perfect features including high trees, open subcanopy and a beautiful stream, but there are literally people, apartments/condos, and noise all around, nearly all the time, and within easy sight of the hawks.  So, yes, these birds may be somewhat acclimated to city life. Still, it’s crucial that anyone observing or photographing the nest use good judgement concerning the welfare of the hawks and their young. The highest priority here is a successful parenting outcome for this red-shouldered hawk pair, and no harm done by humans. If you stop to visit or photograph the nest site, use your judgement and common sense. Pay close attention to whether the birds are changing their behavior or exhibiting signs of stress due to your presence, or equipment.  If so, back off.  And even if this family of hawks tolerates some noise and a few humans, doesn’t mean they’ll tolerate a crowd or their tolerance will remain static.



Sources and further reading:

(Copper Range) baby hawks birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper love photography raptor red-shouldered hawk red-shouldered hawk nest washington dc rodenticide washington wildlife wildlife rehabilitation Thu, 30 Apr 2020 20:59:42 GMT
Earth Day Earth day is April 22. It’s inspired me to write about a couple of things happening around my home, and to share resources on Earth Day and actions we can all take that support good stewardship of our planet.

PodCast Link:


Around My House

1. Happy Bees, Happy Humans, Happy Earth.


A little over a week ago, I was out in our garden and photographed a honey bee feeding on our Lunaria flowers. The images below were taken late in the day with very low light, so image quality is a little degraded. For science-minded gardeners, Lunaria is a type of flowering plant in the family “Brassicaceae.” It includes two varieties, the annual or biennial “Lunaria annua,” and the perennial “Lunaria rediviva.” Our garden has Lunaria annua.


Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")

Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")Honey Bee and Lunaria Flower ("Money Plant")


The beautiful flowers alone make this plant worth growing, but its benefits for pollinators and beautifying our indoor spaces make this a garden sensation. Lunaria is commonly called silver dollar, dollar plant, money plant, moonwort, and honesty plant. See the photo below for what it looks like in its dried form after the season is over.  Lunaria is a colorful, attractive, honey-bee friendly plant that looks good outdoors and indoors – for years.  It’s an easy win-win for the environment and us.  Happy Bees, Happy Humans, Happy Earth.


Lunaria ("Mony Plant") Dried ArrangementLunaria ("Mony Plant") Dried Arrangement



Here’s a bit more about Lunaria for gardeners and growers, and in the next section I highlight why it’s critical that we’re thinking about pollinators. The Latin name Lunaria means "moon-like" and refers to the decorative seedpods.  “Lunaria annua” are 2-3 feet tall biennials with heart-shaped leaves that carry fragrant, one half inch purple or white spring flowers. Blooms are followed by brown seed pods. Ripened seed pods release their outer covering with the seeds and translucent silvery/white circles remain – this is a favorite for beautiful dried flower arrangements. Lunaria blooms in mid-summer, in hardiness zones 4-8 (, and it requires sun to part shade. Live in a space that doesn't have a garden or you have limited outdoor space? Plant your Lunaria in pots indoors or in boxes or pots on your balcony or patio. Indoor growers will not get bees but will get beautiful blooms and dried flowers if you can follow the growing guides.


Lunaria is properly grown as a biennial, and in its second year makes large well-branched plants, after which it will seed itself freely around the garden. You can allow the seed pods to dry on the plant or you can snip the stems after the pods turn brown, tie a few together, and hang them to dry. To collect the seeds, wait until they’re brown in the pod. Then rub the pod between your fingers to gently remove the outer layer. Store them in an air-tight container, someplace dark, cool, and dry.


Importance of Pollinators (see Sources)

Pollinators provide a nearly invisible service that’s worth billions of dollars and supports human life.


  • Birds, bats, bees, butterflies, beetles, and other small mammals that pollinate plants are responsible for bringing us one out of every three bites of food. They also sustain our ecosystems, prevent soil erosion and produce our natural resources by helping plants reproduce.


  • Worldwide, roughly 1,000 plants grown for food, beverages, fibers, spices, and medicines need to be pollinated by animals in order to produce the goods on which we depend.


  • Foods and beverages produced with the help of pollinators include: apples, blueberries, chocolate, coffee, melons, peaches, potatoes, pumpkins, vanilla, almonds, and …drum roll please…tequila.


  • In the United States, pollination by honey bees, native bees, and other insects produces $40 billion worth of products annually.


  • Global food supply is impacted due to the extensive role that honey bees play in North American agriculture, one of the largest food exporting regions of the world.


Pollinator populations are changing. Many pollinator populations are in decline due to a loss in feeding and nesting habitats, pollution, the misuse of chemicals, disease, and changes in climatic patterns.


How to protect pollinators:


  • Install houses for bats and native bees


  • Supply salt or mineral licks for butterflies and water for all wildlife


  • Reduce pesticide use


  • Substitute flower beds for lawns



2. Old T-Shirts Never Die.


A second thing happening around my house, which we’ve been doing for years, is re-purposing old worn-out fabrics as cleaning rags. More and more people are catching on to this. Rather than send our worn-out towels, sheets, t-shirts, sweatshirts (and the like) to the garbage, we re-purpose them as cleaning rags. Saves on paper towels and their source – trees. There's a lot more we do in my house to lessen our environmental footprint. These are a couple.


Old T-Shirts Never DieOld T-Shirts Never Die



3. Earth Day Resources and Tips.


Coronavirus has shut down a lot of things these days, but the 50th anniversary of Earth Day on April 22 is on and going digital. Check out Earth Day Network at There are so many easy things we can each do to improve our environmental footprint. You may already be doing a lot of them. Do a simple search in your web browser for “Earth Day Challenges”, or “Earth Day Tips” and you’ll uncover lots of easy and great tips. Earth Day Network has daily challenges which are very helpful and informative, The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), also turns 50 this year. Check out their incredibly important and challenging work at and get some Earth Day tips,  




Sources on Pollinators:, ; ,  

Sources on Lunaria:

Sources on Earth Day Information and Ideas:,,   

(Copper Range) bees carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper earth day lunaria money plants pollinators washington wildlife Mon, 20 Apr 2020 19:31:15 GMT
14 Days, Over 40 Species 14 days, over 40 species. After a recent trip to Florida I was struck by the number of remarkable wildlife I photographed in just a few days. Even more, in the days just before my trip, locally, I had photographed a lot of delightful and diverse wildlife. I wondered… “How many different species had I actually photographed?” I counted them up. I was stunned, startled, amazed -- you name it.


In the 14 (non-sequential) days, I’d been out with my camera between Feb 5 and March 12 I photographed over 40 species. All the images are at the end of the post in collage format. Not every photograph I took of every species made the cut, and this means I saw well over 40 species. The weather has been warmer and spring is definitely in the air (in most of the eastern US) which can make wildlife easier to spot. Knowledge of animal behavior and habitat are also critical in seeing diverse species. These are some of the best reminders that despite the constant change we’re experiencing there is beauty and life going on normally all around us. If you're feeling the strain of social distancing or working from home, step outside, if possible. When the weather is good, step out for a hike, run or cycle outdoors. Sit in the woods and listen to the birds; breathe in the woody smell. Head up a hill and take in views from the top. If spring has sprung where you are, start looking for early bees and butterflies in your nearest meadow.


Try your own 14-day nature challenge. Do it outdoors or just by looking out a window from an indoor space. Count how many species you can see or photograph in 14 days, in a row, or not in a row. Include whatever species are around you -- wildlife, plants, insects. The only rule is  – never harass, chase, or bait wildlife for photographs and never interfere or damage natural settings for the sake of a picture. Respect wildlife and nature and reap the rewards.



(Copper Range) agama birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dc dove ducks eagle florida florida widlife grebe hawks heron ibis limpkin pelican raptors scaup shrike squirrel washington wildlife Sat, 21 Mar 2020 15:41:26 GMT
My Color Crush I love color and am drawn to it. On a recent trip to Florida I was inspired by so much color. From the color of the sky, the water, the landscape, and the colors of Florida wildlife. Some of the colors just stopped me in my tracks. Enjoy these images of Florida color and read more below about the power of color.

African Rainbow Lizard (also an invasive species in Florida)

Egyptian Goose PairEgyptian Goose PairJupiter Florida Roseate SpoonbillRoseate SpoonbillPine Glades Natural Area, Jupiter Florida Purple GallinulePurple GallinuleLoxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Florida Boat Tailed Grackle - MaleBoat Tailed Grackle - MalePine Glades Natural Area

Brown Anole LizardBrown Anole LizardRiverwalk, Jupiter Florida OceansOceansJupiter Florida

Color evokes both human and animal emotions automatically. In both humans and animals color is used to communicate without saying a word or making a sound. That’s a powerful thing. Many people love color, whether it’s saturated or muted. Color is not completely agreed on universally and can appeal differently to individuals, based on gender and age. But colors and emotions are closely linked no matter what. Color can create certain moods and influence the decisions people make. It can influence what we purchase, the clothes we wear, and the way we enhance our spaces. People often select objects in colors that evoke certain moods or feelings, such as selecting a car color that seems sporty, futuristic, sleek, or trustworthy. Room colors can also be used to evoke specific moods, such as painting a bedroom a soft, muted color to create a peaceful mood. 


There’s been studies in color psychology and we’ve learned some interesting things from them.


Why Do We Prefer Certain Colors?


A review of many studies on color psychology (see: concluded that there’s three main theories. Keep in mind that a theory is used to explain the meaning and nature of a phenomenon --- e.g., why humans prefer certain colors -- so that we can use that knowledge and understanding to act in more informed and effective ways regarding that phenomenon.  Sometimes one or more theories can be used to explain a single phenomenon, and future research can modify existing theories.


1. Biology / Evolution – This theory says that survival happened because our species (whether male or female) was successful in identifying the “right” color of things. For example, in the case of females, finding food sources by identifying red and yellow fruit among green foliage helped survival and therefore color preferences linked to survival were developed for future generations.


2. Gender Schema Theory -- This theory says when children are young, we reinforce gender stereotypes. Boys are dressed in blue, girls in pink. Children then integrate those colors into their schema, or mental representation, of “male” and “female.” Because children feel a need to conform to their gender, males become drawn to blue, whereas females become drawn to pink.


3. Ecological Valence Theory -- According to this theory, we develop preferences for colors, based on our emotional experiences with those colors over time. The more enjoyment and positive feeling we get from experiences with objects of a given color, the more we tend to like that color.


There’s been a lot written about the meaning of various colors. One thing for sure is that color does have meaning and it does activate human (and animal!) emotion. However, human responses to color are not universal; they differ based on our culture, gender, and age.  Here’s a link to good, reader-friendly, information that teases apart the sticky points on what science says about the emotions attached to various colors, Recognizing that there are some differences, the table below summarizes human responses to various colors.

Wishing you a colorful world!




(Copper Range) bird lovers blogger blogs carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper color color psychology conservation copper florida lizards nature photography washington wildlife Thu, 05 Mar 2020 22:53:07 GMT
Spectacular Wildlife Photography Can Be Done Ethically Nearly Anywhere: But Stay Educated Whether your wildlife photography venue of choice is a vast and remote natural area, your backyard, a zoo, a wildlife sanctuary, or a rehabilitation center, you can ethically capture stunning wildlife photos in any of these settings. Yes, the right equipment and skill is needed… and that’s for another post.  


Photographers are not all like-minded; some are opposed to photographing captive wildlife and actively work to devalue this type of wildlife photography.  Other photographers are unopposed and keep ethics in the forefront when photographing captive wildlife. This is a sometimes thorny topic. Captive wildlife aren't domesticated. Domestication takes thousands of years and special circumstances.


I photograph wildlife at any opportunity I get, in any setting I can, including from my office window, and always with ethics in the forefront. This means I travel to remote and not-so-remote locations to shoot wildlife in unconfined, or non-captive settings, like wildlife refuges, national parks, and other natural areas. I also photograph in my backyard (and front yard!), and I photograph wildlife in confined, or “captive settings”, including wildlife in the care of licensed rehabilitators, conservationists, and educators.


Before going further, let me address a “words matter” issue.  In my experience, the term “captive wildlife” is a negative label that conjures up images of chained, neglected, isolated, and inhumanely treated wildlife. Unfortunately, this can and does happen, but this is far from the experience and reality of many captive wildlife, including those cared for in accredited and licensed zoos, rehabilitation centers, sanctuaries, and wildlife parks.  Balance and clarity are essential in the words we use to label wildlife that are under temporary or long-term care of humans.  I don’t use the “captive wildlife” label, but have upgraded and replaced this term with “wildlife in the care of humans”.


My interest and study in wildlife rehabilitation first led me to photograph wildlife that were temporarily or long-term in the care of licensed rehabilitators. Photographing wild animals in the care of humans comes with many of the same major challenges as photographing wildlife that are not, including dealing with lighting conditions, animal movement, composing a meaningful shot of your wildlife subject, and dealing with the people factor – crowds, and nearby people, with large cameras and/or cellphones trying to get the same perfect shot.


It’s critical that photographers who are knowledgeable about wildlife in human care settings, like rehabilitation centers, zoos, and sanctuaries, underscore and debunk myths about photographing this wildlife. First, wildlife in the care of humans are wild animals. Second, wildlife in the care of humans are wild animals. And third, wildlife in the care of humans are wild animals. Detect a theme here?  Wildlife in the care of humans do not become “unwild” because of captivity. If they did, zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, rehabilitators, and facilities like these, could forgo cages, fences, and all the protective clothing and protocols that must be used when humans handle nearly any wild animal. Wild animals may become habituated to humans in captivity. However, there are many tragic examples of human caretakers being attacked, injured, and even killed by wild animals in long-term captivity.


I love being outdoors and seeing wildlife in their natural habitat. However, my photographs of wildlife in the care of humans often engage more conversations, and are among the most powerful images I take, and the most sought after. They showcase details and incredible facets of wildlife that many never have an opportunity to experience or enjoy. My images of wildlife in the care of licensed wildlife rehabilitators, conservationists, and educators have provided my clients and customers with unique and powerful connections to wildlife that are treasured and shared. Because I don’t shy away from, or devalue the work of photographing wildlife in the care of humans, I can help promote the incredibly important work of wildlife professionals who rescue, save, protect and educate us about wildlife.


With that said, there can also be situations where animals in the care of humans are not treated humanely and this is the “stay educated” part. Ethical photographers, whether hobbyist or professional MUST do their homework in picking facilities and organizations that treat animals humanely. The welfare of animals is always more important than a photographer’s interests. If you have an opportunity to photograph wildlife in zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, rehabilitation centers, wildlife parks, and the like, only visit those that have the proper licensing and accreditations for the type of wildlife work they do. If you don’t know the proper licensing and accreditations, a first easy step is to directly ask the facility/organization. Reputable and licensed organizations – and there are many – will be happy to tell you about their permits, licenses and accreditations.


You can also easily conduct on-line research. The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has a rigorous accreditation process. Its scientifically based and publicly available standards examine the zoo or aquarium’s entire operation, including animal welfare, veterinary care, conservation, education, guest services, physical facilities, safety, staffing, finance, and governing body. According to AZA, “fewer than 10% of the approximately 2,800 animal exhibitors licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture are AZA accredited.”  This underscores why it’s important that hobbyist or professional photographers do their homework when photographing zoo wildlife. Visit AZA’s  list of accredited zoos and aquariums to see if an institution is AZA-accredited.


Wildlife rehabilitators or wildlife parks and sanctuaries sometimes offer photo opportunities with their non-releasable wildlife for fundraising events. These events are often widely attended by individuals, families, and hobbyist and professional photographers. Do your homework and attend events and opportunities sponsored by licensed organizations. The Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitators Association maintains a list of permitted rehabilitators by state. The International Council of Wildlife Rehabilitation also has a registry of certified wildlife rehabilitators, and the Humane Society has a list of wildlife rehabilitators by state as well.


There have been more than a few articles written on ethics in wildlife photography. Search Google or your favorite web browser. Many of the wildlife photography ethics guidelines I’ve reviewed have helpful practices that I encourage others to read and work into your photography practice, as aligned with your personal values and experience. At the heart of ethical thinking is a concern about something or someone other than ourselves and our own desires and self-interest. Whether you’re a professional or hobbyist photographer, this is a great place to start your ethics review of your photography practice.


A few of the special images I took of wildlife in the care of licensed, compassionate wildlife rehabilitators follow.




A New StartA New Start Eye Contact - Barn OwlEye Contact - Barn Owl







(Copper Range) captive wildlife carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper ethical photography ethics in photography washington wildlife wildlife ethics wildlife in captivity wildlife park wildlife photographers wildlife rehabilitation wildlife sanctuary zoos Fri, 24 Jan 2020 17:35:13 GMT
The Extraordinary Bald Eagle: See What You Know We all know there’s something special about bald eagles – the United States’ national symbol. They represent strength and determination; they’re strong and independent; they’re incredible survivors; they’re majestic, bold, and faithful; and they’re unique to North America. The bald eagle is a perfect symbol for our nation. This year (2019) I encountered bald eagles on a few of my photography travels. Some I came across in their typical habitats in tall trees along coasts and shorelines. Others were spotted in unexpected and atypical habitats, like at the top of a water tower in Middleburg Virginia (below). They graced me with their presence and motivated me to share a bit of their story.

Let’s start with some of the basics on these incredible birds.


Eagles are one of the largest birds of prey found in North America. They are also considered raptors, like hawks and owls.


These are big birds. They stand about 30 inches high, and that’s 2 ½ feet. Their wingspan is 72-84 inches, and that’s 6-7 feet. One thing a lot of us don’t know is that for all that physical size, bald eagles aren’t necessarily heavy. They typically weigh between 8 and 14 pounds. Hollow bones and adaptations for flying keep them light.


Mature bald eagles are easily identified by their brown bodies, which actually can sometimes look black depending on the lighting and distance from us. Their white heads and tails, and their bright yellow beaks also make them easy to identify.


Male and female bald eagles look identical, except the female is usually about a third larger and heavier than the male. This size difference – with females bigger than males --  is seen in a few other raptor species, including red- shouldered hawks.


One fact that’s a little less commonly understood about bald eagles is that they don’t get their white head and tail until they’re five years old. That’s when they reach sexual maturity. Immature bald are mostly a chocolate brown with varying amounts of white over the body, tail, and underwings. Because of their coloring, juvenile bald eagles are often mistaken for immature golden eagles. I’ve also seen people mistake immature bald eagles for vultures.


The primary prey for bald eagles is fish, though they will take other birds, some mammals, waterfowl like ducks, seabirds, and dead animals, especially during winter. Their vision is off the charts compared to humans. An eagle can see something the size of a rabbit running three miles away. Their eyesight is estimated at 4 to 8 times stronger than that of the average human, they can see more colors than us, and can see in the ultraviolet spectrum. That enables them to see things like the urine trail of prey they may be hunting. Eaglets and immature bald eagles have brown eyes which turn lighter and more yellow in color as they mature. By the time a bald eagle reaches maturity at five years of age, it will have completely yellow eyes. My photo below shows a nearly mature bald eagle with still cream-colored eyes and some patchy brown mixed in with white head feathers.

North American  Bald EagleNorth American Bald EagleWashington State

In the wild, bald eagles can live more than 30 years. They mate for life, returning to nest in the general area from where they were raised. Once a pair of bald eagles selects a nesting territory, they typically use it for the rest of their lives. Because bald eagles are primarily fish eaters, nests are built near water in tall sturdy trees with a clear view of the surrounding area. The same nest may be used year after year. It can be over five feet in diameter and weigh hundreds of pounds. Bald eagles are day-hunters; however, some wildlife cameras have captured them feeding on carrion at night and taking food back to the nest.


Bald eagles are North American birds. They’re currently found in every state except Hawaii, and throughout Canada. On a recent trip to Nova Scotia, Canada I saw more bald eagles than I’ve ever seen in the wild. Some Nova Scotian bald eagles were sent to the United States to help re-establish the bald eagle populations in New Jersey and Massachusetts in the 1980s. This was the period after U.S. bald eagle populations plummeted and were nearly wiped out due to human-created pollution and habitat destruction.

Today, bald eagles are no longer believed to be endangered although they remain protected by federal, state and municipal laws. At the federal level, bald and golden eagles are protected by the Eagle Act, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and the Lacey Act. Eagles feathers and parts, their nests and nest trees, and their winter/nighttime roosts are all protected by federal laws. You can read more about laws that protect eagles and penalties for breaking those laws at the US Fish and Wildlife Service.


I’m thankful that I live in a country that has the know-how and will to establish and enforce laws that protect wildlife. But did you know that despite the existing legal protections for bald eagles, they still face serious and sometimes lethal danger from lead poisoning, due to our own actions?


We learned years ago that lead was toxic to humans. A few decades ago, the federal government successfully phased out leaded gasoline and lead paint. Although dangers from lead paint in older structures, and from lead pipes that transport drinking water still exist; there are laws or practices in place to reduce or completely remove the risk to humans from lead in those sources. Not so for our national symbol, and other wildlife that face the same risk.


Wildlife health officials have documented many cases of lead poisoning in eagles caused by their ingestion of lead bullet fragments. The fragments are ingested when eagles feed on the remains of hunted animals, like deer, that were shot with traditional lead bullets. Lead core rifle bullets can fragment into hundreds of pieces upon impact. These fragments are often found several inches from the site of the bullet hole in large game mammals.  After butchering an animal, many well-intentioned hunters leave the remains --- sometimes called the "gut pile" out in the field for other wildlife to consume. When avian predators, like eagles and hawks, and other scavengers consume the remains, the bullet or its fragments may be ingested and can result in lead poisoning. Most hunters are law-abiding wildlife enthusiasts and are not intentionally leaving poison out for eagles. However, lead from bullets has sadly become a common source of bald eagle poisoning.


The University of Minnesota Raptor Center shared some startling statistics on lead poisoning in bald eagles

  • For the past 40 years lead exposure and lead poisoning have been major health issues for bald eagles received by or admitted to their clinic.
  • 90% of the bald eagles received each year for all types of problems had elevated lead residues in their blood
  • 20–25% percent of these eagles had sufficiently high levels to cause clinical lead poisoning.
  • In the last 24 years, over 500 eagles received or admitted to the clinic had either died or had to be euthanized due to lead poisoning.
  • Data on the location and seasonal timing of lead poisoning events in eagles clearly indicates that lead ammunition from both shotguns and rifles is the source of lead exposure.


The University of Minnesota Raptor Center also conducted a 13-year (1996-2009) retrospective study of lead poisoning in bald eagles. They tested the hypothesis that lead from ammunition in carcasses and gut piles of white-tailed deer is an important source of lead exposure.

Their results:

  • “A statistically significant seasonal and geographical association (p<0.01) between the incidence of eagle poisoning and the onset of deer hunting season and hunting zones was present.
  • A majority of cases occurred during late fall and early winter, with a significantly higher number of poisoned bald eagles recovered from the deer hunting rifle zone
  • Most of the paired blood-fragment samples have a closely matched isotopic signature, thereby demonstrating that ingested lead was the source of lead found in eagles’ bloodstream.
  • The majority of the blood and fragment samples collected from lead-exposed eagles was within the isotope ratio from ammunition samples reported by Church et al. (2006).
  • The kidney copper concentration was significantly higher in lead-exposed eagles (p=0.002), implying the ingestion of fragments from copper-jacketed lead bullets.”
  • About 75% of the lead-poisoned eagles were adult, or breeding-age, birds.
  • There’s conclusive evidence that spent ammunition in deer remains a significant if not primary source of toxicity. There’s also direct evidence that some cases of poisoning are due to shotgun pellets that may be embedded in small, upland game such as pheasants, squirrels, and rabbits that may be wounded and subsequently consumed by eagles.  There is also anecdotal evidence that lead residues left in the carcasses of coyotes may be yet another source.”


Other wildlife rehabilitators that are licensed to care for injured bald eagles have documented many cases of lead poisoning in bald eagles, and even other raptors. Here are just a few:

  • From the Wildlife Center of Virginia: “Lead poisoning is a significant – and preventable – health issue for Bald Eagles.”
  • From the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center: “ >90% of the eagles we treat are positive for lead - a metal that should never be in the blood at all.”
  • From Saving Our Avian Resources (SOAR): Data on lead levels from bald eagles admitted to wildlife rehabilitators in Iowa from 2004-2014 showed that 136 of the 273 eagles tested, or 50%, had an elevated lead level. Lead concentrations were highest during October–January, which coincides with the hunting and trapping seasons in Iowa.
  • From Cornell University, College of Veterinary Medicine: “….in over 300 bald eagles tested for lead over the last 22 years, 17% had lead levels high enough to cause death from lead poisoning. Overall, 83% had exposure to lead. Eagle populations have rebounded, but lead is still a risk particularly to the adult, breeding-age birds.”


The United States Geological Survey (USGS) has also issued a fact sheet on lead poisoning in eagles and birds. USGS notes that lead is a potent, potentially deadly toxin that damages many organs in the body and can affect all animals.


Not only are eagles and other wildlife at risk from lead ammunition, a recent study showed that “human consumers of wildlife killed with lead ammunition may be exposed to health risks associated with lead ingestion. This is based on published studies showing elevated blood lead concentrations in subsistence hunter populations.


Educating hunters and related organizations on the poisoning risk to wildlife from lead ammunition is a critical step in eliminating wildlife suffering and death. Such work is being done by many wildlife health officials, rehabilitators, and others, including the Humane Society, and some National Parks.  


I discovered one wildlife center in California – Ventana Wildlife Society -  that’s advanced protections for wildlife by implementing a program that voluntarily allows hunters to trade their lead ammunition for free non-lead ammunition. There’s lots of very important details to this program, and an important backdrop on this is that in July 2019 the state of California’s ban on the use of lead ammunition for all hunting took effect.  But, based on its website, Ventana Wildlife Society still runs its trade-in program. It’s a very innovative way to partner with hunters and protect wildlife from the dangers of lead poisoning.


I’ve learned a lot about bald eagles from watching and photographing them in the wild, and from my wildlife rehabilitation experience and research.  Here’s a few final thoughts, facts, and myths that I find interesting and not always commonly known about our amazing national symbol:


I hope that all your eagle sightings are happy and inspiring! However, if you see someone harassing or injuring an eagle, or if you spot destruction of eagle habitat or find an injured or dead eagle, report it to your state fish and wildlife agency. Here’s a list.  If it’s a time urgent issue, call 911, take as many photos of the situation as you can, and record the location of the abuse. If your area isn’t equipped to handle wildlife or animal emergencies, contact the Humane Society.

(Copper Range) bald eagle carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper eagle eagles Humane Society lead poisoning lead poisoning in bald eagles raptor Raptor Center University of Minnesota USGS washington wildlife Wildlife Center of Virginia Tue, 17 Dec 2019 21:33:48 GMT
On the Road For Conservation I recently visited Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, Pennsylvania where I took part in a 4-day, field-based, raptor trapping and banding course taught by Gene Jacobs of Linwood Springs Research Station. Included with this post are a few images from the course, including several wild raptors that were banded and released. The Fall raptor migration is underway. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and surrounding areas are located along a major raptor migration route, making it a perfect location to capture and band raptors. Banding requires capturing a bird, collecting measurements, banding it, and releasing it unharmed. All banding in the United States is supervised by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL). CAPTURING AND BANDING CAN BE PERFORMED LEGALLY ONLY WITH FEDERAL AND STATE PERMITS. The BBL distributes uniquely-coded bands to licensed banders, collects reports on banded birds, and shares that information with the banders, researchers, and those who report the band. Every band placed on a bird is reported to the BBL, along with the bird’s species, age, sex, and other measurements, as well as date, time, location, and how the bird was caught.


So, why band birds? Birds are good indicators of the health of our environment. The status and trends of bird populations are critical for identifying and understanding many ecological issues and for developing effective science, management and conservation practices. Bird banding supports studies of bird dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life span and survival rate, reproductive success, and population dynamics. The importance of following and monitoring bird populations was emphasized in a study published in the journal Science last week that reported an alarming decline in many common birds. The study found that since 1970, North America has lost more than 2.9 billion birds. According to a summary of the study in Smithsonian Magazine:


“In less than half a century, the avian population of the continent has declined by some 29 percent, or more than one in four birds. …Birds are considered indicator species, or animals used to infer the health of an entire ecosystem. They are worldwide “canaries in the coal mine,” which refers to the 20th-century practice of carrying caged birds into mines to detect toxic gases before humans suffer harmful effects… The new study used nearly 50 years of monitoring data collected largely by bird watchers and citizen scientists. These efforts include the North American Breeding Bird Survey coordinated by the United States Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service, Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count, and the International Shorebird Survey. The team then cross-referenced bird count data with radar data from 143 weather satellites that have been used to track migrating birds at night for the last decade.”


There is good news in this study! Not all species are in decline. Wetland birds were up 13 percent; waterfowl—a subset of wetland birds—are up 56 percent from 1970s numbers; and raptors, including eagles and hawks, and game birds like turkeys and grouse, gained 250 million individuals since 1970. Raptors in particular have recovered from severe losses since the government banned the pesticide DDT. In addition, dedicated conservation efforts including habitat protection, smart land use, public education, and dedicated funding to support species protection are also major factors that support secure raptor populations.


Are you bird lover and watcher?  Keep those binoculars and zoom lenses focused while you’re out and about because you may come across a banded bird. Banded birds can easily be reported on-line to the BBL.  Not long ago, I came across a banded Trumpeter Swan in northern Ohio which I reported to the BBL (see my earlier blog post).  Shortly after reporting the band, I received a certificate and learned that the swan was a 12-year-old female. She was banded before she learned to fly and in a location on Lake Erie about 20 miles from where I took from my photo. Trumpeter swans can live 20-30 years. She was on her way to a long swan life!


Behind the Bird BlindBehind the Bird Blind Banding of Juvenile Sharp-Shinned HawkBanding of Juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk Newly Banded Juvenile Red Shouldered HawkNewly Banded Juvenile Red Shouldered Hawk Taking Measurements of a Juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk Before Banding and ReleaseTaking Measurements of a Juvenile Sharp-Shinned Hawk Before Banding and Release

(Copper Range) audubon bird banding birdwatching carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper hawk mountain hawks hawkwatch ohio pennsylvania photography raptors science smithsonian usgs washington wildlife wildlife photography Sun, 22 Sep 2019 20:22:34 GMT
The Spirit of a Fallen Warrior: The Wonders of Hummingbirds Did you know, the Aztec god of war “Huitzilopochtli” is often depicted as a hummingbird? It was believed that fallen warriors would return to earth as hummingbirds and butterflies.



There’s nothing like hummingbirds. In my area they’re very active right now. The nesting season is over. The young that survived are busy trying to secure their own food sources, and the adults are doing the same to build up fat and reserves for their long migration this fall. Because of their size (typically 3-5 inches in length), their constant movement (most flap their wings about 50 times a second), and speed (they can fly about 27 mph) photographing hummingbirds is a challenge. If you want to freeze the motion of their wings and body in an image, a LOT of very bright and direct natural light or artificial light (flash) is a must. Photographs have to be taken at very high speed. Most hummingbirds don’t tolerate people close to them, and ethical photographers don’t trap or bait hummingbirds for photo ops, and this includes using flash traps. If you want to capture the fine detail of a hummingbird, your best bet is a large telephoto lens that let’s you get some distance away. The photos shared in this blog were taken in a mix of clouds/sun, partial shade, and very bright early morning light anywhere from 15-40 feet away using my 560mm Canon lens configuration (400 mm lens w/1.4 extender) with no tripod. All were processed in Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom for exposure adjustments and cropping.


More incredible hummingbird facts:

  • Hummingbirds are capable of acrobatic flight, but can’t walk or hop. Their feet have evolved to grip and perch, and are incredibly light so they can fly easily.


  • They are marathon fliers.  Most North American hummingbirds migrate south to winter in Mexico, the Caribbean Islands, or Central America. A ruby-throated hummingbird flies at about 27 miles per hour if there’s no tail wind or head wind.  This means that for those making the long 500 mile flight across the Gulf of Mexico during migration it would take about 18 1/2 hours.


  • To conserve energy when food is scarce, and nightly when not foraging, they can go into torpor, a state similar to hibernation.


  • The majority of hummingbird activity consists of sitting or perching. Hummingbirds spend an average of 10–15% of their time feeding and 75–80% perching and digesting.


  • Because their high metabolism makes them vulnerable to starvation, hummingbirds get highly adapted to good food sources. Many North American hummingbird species are territorial and will guard food sources (such as a feeder) against other hummingbirds.


  • The ruby-throated hummingbird – one of the most common species in the United States – averages 3 grams. For comparison, a nickel weighs about 5 grams.


  • Many hummingbirds die during their first year of life. But if they survive, they can live a decade or more. Most hummingbirds live three to five years.


  • Trinidad and Tobago, known as "The land of the hummingbird," displays a hummingbird on its national coat of arms, its 1-cent coin and as the emblem of its national airline, Caribbean Airlines.


Enjoy my images of these truly amazing birds. Except for the first image below, we can't say for certain whether the other ruby-throated hummingbirds are adult females or juvenile males. Juvenile males (1st year males typically) look very similar to adult females. One of the best sources I've found on distinguishing and identifying ruby-throated hummingbirds is here:

  Ruby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileRuby Throated Hummingbird, female or juvenileNorthern Maryland Ruby Throated Hummingbird, MaleRuby Throated Hummingbird, Male


(Copper Range) birdlover birds birdwatching carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper ethical photography gifts grief happy how to shoot hummingbirds hummingbird hummingbird photos lovem nature spirit surprise warrior washington wildlife Mon, 19 Aug 2019 19:05:40 GMT
Why Frogs and Toads? Our lifestyles and habits often mean that many people don’t see frogs or toads very much. So, when I come across one or travel to a location where they’re known to be thriving, it’s a big deal. I’ve posted a few of the frog and toad shots that I unexpectedly got when I was out looking for bigger critters.


Frogs and toads aren’t as abundant in nature as they used to be – although it’s getting better in some places. And, just because we can’t see them, doesn’t mean they’re not there doing big work for our environment. These amphibians eat insects that cause human diseases, they provide food for many bird and other species, and they make great music.


An easy way to know if you’re looking at a frog vs. a toad is that toads have “warty”, bumpy skin and frogs generally have smooth skin. Frogs and toads are vitally important in the field of human medicine. Compounds from their skin are currently being tested for anti-cancer and anti-HIV properties. Frogs and toads like and need a good place to live. 


There have been many terrific citizen science projects, biologists, environmental scientists, and others whose work is responsible for increasing and conserving frogs and toads and their habitat. A few excerpts from some of these projects and organizations are below, and links are also provided:




Five Tips to Help Frogs and Toads in Your Yard

“Reduce Your Lawn, Plant Natives

Lawns are the standard in American landscapes, but unfortunately, they provide no habitat for most wildlife.  Reduce the size or your lawn–or get rid of it altogether–and add more native plants. Frogs and toads don’t eat plants, but they still benefit from a garden filled with natives. Native plants support exponentially more insects than non-natives do, and insects are amphibian food.

Don’t Use Pesticides

Don’t spray pesticides in your yard, whether they are insecticides, herbicides or fungicides. They can kill amphibians directly, cause deformities, or eliminate their habitat and food sources. Use organic gardening practices at home, don’t hire lawn care companies that dump pesticides everywhere, and try to educate your neighbors about the harm that these chemicals can do to wildlife.

Provide Cover

Amphibians are on the menu for many other wildlife species, so make sure to offer plenty of cover and hiding places from potential predators (including kids and pets). Again, the best way to offer cover is to eliminate lawn areas in favor of densely planted beds of native wildflowers, groundcovers, ferns, and shrubs. You can also create small brush piles or put out a “toad abode” as hiding places.

Add Water

Frogs and toad lay their eggs in clean bodies of standing water with lots of natural vegetation. A garden pond can be the perfect place for them to breed. Even if you don’t have space to add a pond for breeding amphibians, a simple birdbath placed right on ground level can be a great water feature for moisture-loving amphibians.

Protect Wetlands

Fight to protect local natural areas, especially wetlands. Many species can be bolstered and supported by “backyard habitats” but if all the surrounding natural area is paved over and developed, most species will decline regardless of what we do in our yards.”




“Ultimately, the key to protecting amphibians and reptiles is to conserve natural habitat.


Habitat can be protected in many ways: a landowner’s personal stewardship of his or her property, government incentives or regulation, or acquisition and dedication as conservation lands. International organizations, government agencies, and private organizations (e.g., The Nature Conservancy) have protected millions of acres of habitat that sustain amphibians and reptiles.


Conservation efforts for species with complex life cycles must protect the full range of habitats required by all life stages. For example, …. pond breeding amphibians require undisturbed spawning sites, safe migratory routes, and upland habitats, often at considerable distances from ponds, for feeding and overwintering. Conservation efforts need to ensure that habitats are connected to avoid the consequences of isolation and habitat fragmentation and shredding.


Habitats need to be protected in a manner that recognizes the dynamic nature of reptile and amphibian populations both in space and time.”



Northern Leopard FrogNorthern Leopard Frog American ToadAmerican Toad Red-Eyed Tree Frog, Costa RicaRed-Eyed Tree Frog, Costa Rica

(Copper Range) amphibians babies birds carolyn carolyn cooper conservation copper dc" frogs herpetology herps love national wildlife federation amphibians red-eyed tree frog toads wildlife Tue, 30 Jul 2019 20:55:40 GMT
A Place to Be and Photograph This Summer “Forget The Hamptons, Chincoteague Island Is The Place To Be This Summer”. I relate to this attention-getting 2014 headline and story from Forbes Magazine (see: I just returned from a week at Chincoteague and loved this Virginia Atlantic Coast destination.  The Assateague/Chincoteague wild ponies are beloved here, but Chincoteague is much more than wild ponies. It has clean uncluttered beaches, and even remote beach areas if you have an OSV, or Over Sand Vehicle permit (Google it); it has well-maintained biking and hiking trails; minimal coastal development; relaxed culture and lifestyle; the 14,000-acre pristine Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge providing many wildlife viewing and photography opportunities; great local seafood, and great people. Bottom line… there are definitely signs that Chincoteague is a wild-pony/family-centric tourist destination; yet it’s different, more varied, and relaxed than so many Atlantic Coast destinations.


The wild ponies are a fascination and loved by many visitors. They live in small herds and are distributed on both the Assateague National Seashore (a National Park) and in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.  This means that pony herds are located in and can usually be seen in both Maryland and Virginia parts of Assateague and in the National Wildlife Refuge.


The population of horses in Maryland, are treated like any kind of wildlife, except they are on a managed birth control program. Beyond that, they’re not fed, unless an emergency arises, and are left to forage and fend for themselves. The population of the ponies in Virginia is controlled by an annual auction run by the Chincoteague Fire Department. The annual auction occurs after the ponies are rounded up and complete a swim across the Assateague Channel, (NOTE -- thousands visit the island to witness this). Before auction they get a check-up and some vaccinations by a veterinarian team. Other than this yearly check-up, the ponies live like any other wildlife, subsisting on marsh grasses and unaided by humans.


Veterinarians, biologists, firefighters, government employees, businesses, local residents, and compassionate and generous volunteers have all come together to manage, watch over, and help this species survive.


I spotted and photographed so many other stunning species and sites in the Wildlife Refuge and on Chincoteague Island. I linked a few of those photos to this post. While I traveled through the refuge, I heard more than a handful of visitors say they saw nothing. Because humans are known to wildlife as predators, and themselves the prey, you're not likely to see anything except the animals that have become accustomed to humans and learned not to fear them. Wildlife viewing is usually best when you just stop, get quiet, wait, and don't appear to be a threat. There are also better times in some seasons to see wildlife and the best wildlife viewing is usually in the early morning and later in the evening.  


Juvenile CormorantJuvenile CormorantAssateague Island, Maryland Mother and Child - Chincoteague Wild PoniesMother and Child - Chincoteague Wild Ponies Snapping TurtleSnapping Turtle Protecting Our Young - Chincoteague Wild PoniesProtecting Our Young - Chincoteague Wild Ponies

(Copper Range) assateague national seashore baby ponies bald eagle pictures carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper chincoteague island sights chincoteague national wildlife refuge copper eagle horse ibis images from wildlife refuges images of birds images of wild ponies nature photographers reptiles turtle virginia tourism washington dc photographers wild ponies wildlife wildlife photographers Wed, 12 Jun 2019 20:35:35 GMT
Dragonflies -- They call them Mosquito Hawks! Dragonflies are a prize of nature that will, and should, change the way you think about insects. Have a mosquito problem? Dragonflies can help with that. A single dragonfly can eat 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes a day. It wasn’t until I got a camera lens big enough that I paid much attention to dragonflies, other than being charmed by their flitting nature. I spend a lot of time visiting wildlife refuges where there's usually wetlands, marshy areas, or ponds in the refuge. Depending upon the time of year, this is often where you will hit dragonfly jackpot!


The dragonfly images in my current portfolio are attached at the bottom of this post. These include a Halloween Pennant; Roseate Skimmer; Four-spotted Pennant; Tawny Pennant; Great Blue Skimmer; Blue-eyed Darner; Green-eyed Darner; and a Widow Skimmer. There are thousands of dragonfly species and a single species can vary in appearance based on age and gender. I did a lot of research to make the right ID on the dragonflies I captured, but it's not easy. OdonataCentral was a terrific resource for me.


Do I have a favorite dragonfly?  I absolutely love them all, but -- yes -- the Halloween Pennant dragonfly which I recently shot while visiting Savannah National Wildlife Refuge in Savannah Georgia is really something. All but one of my dragonfly images (the widow skimmer) were taken with my telephoto lens - 560mm. Many people shoot dragonflies and other insects with a macro lens. This can produce other-worldly, phenomenal detail and very impressive images. I use my telephoto lens when I’m out in the field for long periods and need the flexibility for close-up telephoto (the same as macro in many respects) as well as longer distance zoomed-in shots.  


So, let’s talk about the amazing dragonfly! The experts call them “Odonata”.  Please see my sources and links to more reading at the end of this post. 


Why should you care about dragonflies?

Dragonflies are beneficial and can be an asset to a garden or yard by keeping insects, including mosquitoes, to a minimum. A single dragonfly can eat 30 to hundreds of mosquitoes per day.

Dragonflies are also food for many birds, providing them with natural nutrients and fuel they need to survive.

Last but not least, dragonflies are incredibly beautiful and will make you smile. 


What risks do dragonflies face?

Dragonflies start their life in water. They’re often found in wetlands, ponds, and marshy areas. Like most living creatures, they need clean and suitable habitat to live. However, suitable habitats are disappearing faster than new ones are formed and, until that trend is reversed, there's risk. Rivers become polluted; ponds are allowed to become clogged up with debris; marshland is drained to satisfy the ever-increasing human demand for roads and houses; forests are disappearing due to human “needs” and natural disasters including fire and, with them, the mountain streams which contain dragonflies and many other species are also disappearing.


What can I do to attract dragonflies?

Add a small pond to your garden or yard; add larger ones in school playing areas (what a great educational opportunity for kids!); and even larger ones in various types of open space.

Farmers and other landowners can preserve their hedgerows and thickets where adult dragonflies shelter in poor weather. Farmers should keep ponds and other water on their land clear of run-off. Lakes and ponds should not be allowed to get overgrown with reeds or other aquatic plants, nor should overhanging branches of trees be permitted to totally block out the sun.

Join or set up a local group of conservation volunteers that promote and build dragonfly habitat.


What do dragonflies eat?

Adult dragonflies mostly eat other flying insects, particularly gnats, flies, and mosquitoes. They also eat butterflies, moths and smaller dragonflies. The larvae, which live in water, eat almost any living thing smaller than themselves. Larger dragonfly larvae sometimes eat small fish or fry. Usually they eat blood-worms or other aquatic insect larvae.


How long do they live?

Not long at all! Most species live as adults less than a month, though some can live as long as six months.


What animals rely on dragonflies as a food source?

Birds, spiders, frogs, larger dragonflies. In the larval stage, they are preyed on by fish, frogs, toads and newts, and other water invertebrates.


How fast can a dragonfly fly?

It is estimated that the top speed for a dragonfly is between 30 and 60 km/h (19 to 38 m.p.h.). The maximum speed varies a lot between different species, with bigger dragonflies generally flying faster than smaller ones.


How strong are their eyes?

A dragonfly can see nearly all the way around itself –it can’t see behind itself. Its eyes have about 30,000 lenses. However, the human eye with only one lens can see more sharply, though we only have front and side (peripheral) vision.


How long have dragonflies been around?

About 300 million years. It’s believed that huge dragonflies were flying when dinosaurs roamed the earth.


Where do dragonflies live?

Dragonflies start their life in water; therefore, they are often found near water: wetlands, ponds, lakes, canals, streams, rivers, marshes and swamps. Some dragonflies with a short larvae cycle (a few weeks) also can live in rain puddles. Since dragonflies are very good flyers they can sometimes be found a very long way from water.


Do dragonflies bite or sting?

No. Sometimes large dragonflies will try to bite, but they fail to break the skin.


Do dragonflies migrate?

Some migrate. The green darner in New Jersey migrates short distances - averaging about 7-1/2 miles per day, and generally moving every third day. The globe-skinner migrates the farthest of any insect, about 11,000 miles across the Indian Ocean.




Halloween Pennant Dragonfly - MaleHalloween Pennant Dragonfly - Male

Roseate Skimmer DragonflyRoseate Skimmer Dragonfly

(Copper Range) animal lovers award winning photographers babies birds bugs carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dc dragonfly hilton head i hate misquitoes mosiquito hawks mosiquito killers NATGEO national geographic odonata odonatacentral pennant photography refuge savannah georgia places to see travel photography washington wildlife Thu, 16 May 2019 00:46:43 GMT
New Additions! It's been a very busy time since my last post at the end of March. Three art shows, Easter holiday, family visiting, and a lot of travel!  But, I've found a little time to photograph a few of the beautiful birds in the area that are more visible these days of nesting season.  Enjoy these news additions to my portfolio. I'm taking the rest of the spring and summer off from art shows and will be working on several new projects and travel. More to come soon!


(Copper Range) animal lovers art Audubon award winning photographers babies bird lovers bird photographs bird photography birding birds blue jay carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper crow dc facebook help me how to take photographs instagram love nesting photography robin spring success top photographers washington wildlife Mon, 29 Apr 2019 21:14:31 GMT
Think Before You Think It’s Ok To Raise a Wild Animal – Squirrels Included I knew something was wrong when I saw the photographer posting images of a squirrel roaming around a household refrigerator. The wildlife protector in me cringed. Some would see it as wildlife exploitation. I saw it as probably illegal and exploitative. I’ve debated whether to post this story because I’m not a believer in finger pointing or embarrassing people who have made honest mistakes. The reason I decided to post it, is its value in raising awareness, educating, and protecting wildlife. In describing the events, I don’t reveal names or companies because it’s not my goal to make headlines or embarrass. I believe the photographer whose actions are described, understood and accepted the mistake once I explained it, and then took actions to fix it.

American Gray Squirrel PortraitAmerican Gray Squirrel Portrait

I belong to a few photography organizations and post on social media. I follow other photographers and enjoy viewing the gifts and talents of fellow photographers. I came across a few dozen public photographs posted by a well-followed photographer that showed a squirrel in various settings in close contact with humans in a house. After scrolling through the squirrel photos, the photo of a squirrel in a refrigerator (composed to suggest, “what will squirrel have for dinner?”) cemented my alarm. I contacted the photographer. The story goes that the photographer found in her/his yard what was believed to be an orphaned baby squirrel. The family’s pet cat was also in the yard, which worried the photographer. As often happens, our caring and nurturing human selves led the photographer to “rescue” the baby squirrel.  The photographer then kept the baby squirrel for several months, raised it, and documented it on at least two highly recognized websites, showing repeated pet-like human interactions with the squirrel.


I asked if the photographer had the appropriate licenses and permits to hold and care for wildlife, including the squirrel. The answer was no, and why was I asking? All the licensed wildlife rehabilitators out there already know the answer, but, of course, not everyone knows that in most states, laws and regulations govern the possession and rehabilitation of wildlife. While the rules differ from state to state and species to species, taking a wild animal into care/captivity, without the required licenses and permits (and the training that backs those up) is usually illegal.


I informed the photographer that he/she could be in violation of state laws regarding the rescue and care of wildlife. I also informed him/her that one of the photography websites where the squirrel photos were being posted has a code of ethics for photographers and the photographer appears to have violated the code. The ethics code prohibits photos obtained in violation of local laws – likely the case if the photographer lived in a state that requires licenses and permits for wildlife rehabilitation.


While all the photos that were posted showed a healthy-looking squirrel, I informed the photographer that he/she needed to contact a local licensed rehabilitator or their state division of wildlife to decide arrangements for this squirrel. Sadly, because the squirrel was hand-raised by humans, it may never be able to survive in the wild.  If it is released, and hasn’t learned to fear humans, it will follow humans, possibly begging or harassing them for food --- most humans won’t accept this or tolerate it. Imagine being hounded by a hungry squirrel, who only knows humans as its source for food, as you’re out for your walk.  Let’s hope that the photographer's well-intended human intervention (“rescue”) hasn’t doomed the squirrel’s ability to survive in the wild where it’s best equipped to live.


Raising a wild animal in captivity without the proper training is never recommended and is illegal in most states. “The regulation of wildlife rehabilitation involves many areas of the law; some of which are not immediately obvious. There is no legal “right” to rehabilitate wildlife and existing regulations exist as an exception to the legal norm (that possession of wildlife for any purpose is unlawful).” (Source: The best outcome for all wildlife is to be raised in its natural environment by a species-specific caretaking parent, or parents, as appropriate. The most compassionate thing you can do to help an animal that is genuinely in need is to hand it over to someone who has the proper training and license. It is easier than ever to locate licensed wildlife rehabilitators.


Here’s a few simple ways how:



Here’s a source to check a state’s legal requirements for rehabbers:



There are so many excellent resources out there to help people get information on what to do when they find what appears to be an injured or sick wild animal. I’ve provided some detailed information on squirrels.


From the Wildlife Center of Virginia

Ideas for Re-Nesting a Baby Squirrel:

Additional resources:

(Copper Range) trauma Animal Behavior Institute animal lovers babies baby squirrels carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper dc" ethical photography ethics how to raise wildlife humane society international wildlife rehabilitation council love NATGEO national geographic national wildlife rehabilitator's association orphaned animals photographer rehab rehabbers squirrels washington wildlife wildlife center of Virginia wildlife education wildlife emergency wildlife rehabilitation your shot Thu, 21 Mar 2019 18:25:22 GMT
Learning and Resources I was happy to recently do an interview with the Animal Behavior Institute (ABI) for their "Success Stories" feature ( This feature shares stories of recent ABI graduates to highlight what students can do after completing their certificate programs.  It's a great inspiration and resource. ABI is where I earned my wildlife rehabilitation certificate -- all in the comfort of my home (except for a valuable 40-hour field requirement!) and on a schedule I had control over ( 


Opportunities for on-line, distance learning, that is outside of traditional classroom settings has greatly increased in the last decade. Jump in and explore these opportunities. 

(Copper Range) Animal Behavior Institute carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper on-line learning washington wildlife wildlife rehabilitation wildlife rehabilitation courses Mon, 25 Feb 2019 14:28:44 GMT
The Majestic and Endangered Honu - Green Turtle Maybe like me, as a kid, you had (or still have? 😊) turtles, fish, and all sorts of little critters you kept in small aquariums and loved. We might like turtles so much because they seem to have no fear of us, they typically aren’t aggressive, they seem very laid back and easy to care for, and what I’m most amazed by – they’ve managed to survive millions of years despite the stress we humans put on their habitats and resources.


On my recent trip to the Big Island of Hawaii my high hope was to see turtles in the wild. Hope works, and so does good planning and talking to the locals who helped me, a-green-turtle-novice, spot some green turtles. These are very large turtles, also called “Honu” in Hawaiian, typically weigh between 300 and 400 pounds. They can be black/gray or very dark green in color. They are hard to see sometimes because they often look like part of the stony/rocky coastline landscape (clever camouflage!). I would not have captured these photos without help of the local experts and spotters.


See the photos below that I took in two locations where green turtles were resting on the beach or in shallow water near the beach. First, at Black Sand Beach, also known as Punalu’u beach in the southern end of the Big Island, and second (and all remaining photos) at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park (KKNHP) in the Kailua-Kona area further up north and west. Getting to the turtles at the national park was tough due to the government shutdown in effect at the time and the meandering hike we took through lava fields and isolated coastline to finally reach an area where turtles were spotted. It was a really strenuous hike made even more strenuous with camera gear – but so worth the turtles waiting at the end! Green Turtle resting at Punaluu Black Sand Beach, Big Island, Hawaii

Green Turtle feeding at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Green Turtle resting at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, Big Island Hawaii

Green Turtle feeding at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park


As I got better at locating turtles in the shallow water, through my telephoto lens (560mm), I noticed a few had numbers on their shells, like the one below.  After a little research, I learned that NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had a project in 2018 to number and track all the green turtles in Hawaii (;  I have since reported all the numbered turtles I encountered.


Green Turtle "174" at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park  

Green turtles are named for the green color of the fat under their shell, not their outward shell color. They get this green-colored fat from the plant matter they eat, including algae. As adults, green turtles are believed to be strictly herbivores. In some areas, the Pacific green turtle is also called the black sea turtle. The turtles I encountered appeared either black, dull gray, dark/mossy green, or had a mottled shell color. Turtle identification is not necessarily easy, but one thing does make it easy -- green turtles are easily distinguished from other sea turtles because they have a single pair of prefrontal scales (scales in front of its eyes), rather than two pairs as found on other sea turtles. (;


NOAA has important information on the status of green turtles, a portion which I’ve quoted below (source:

“Today, all green turtle populations are listed as either endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The primary threats facing green turtles are bycatch in commercial and recreational fishing gear, direct killing of turtles and harvest of eggs, vessel strikes, loss and alteration of nesting habitat, degradation and loss of foraging habitat, and entanglement in or ingestion of marine debris. While many countries prohibit the killing of green sea turtles (including the United States), in other areas, the killing of turtles for their meat and collection of eggs continues today. Illegal fisheries also operate to supply shells to the wildlife trafficking trade. In addition, rising sea levels and an increase in the frequency and severity of storm events are likely to inundate some nesting beaches.” 


By early February, the rest of my Big Island photos will be on the website.  Check back for incredible scenes from paradise!


(Copper Range) Big Island black sand beach carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper endangered species green turtle hawaii hawaii photography honu Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park kona NOAA travel travel photography turtle conservation turtles washington where to see turtles in Hawaii wildlife Thu, 31 Jan 2019 22:52:06 GMT
Give Them Their Space In late December while out taking photos of a flock of mallard ducks, I came across (nearly stepped on by accident…) the Northern Water Snake below.  Although taken with my 400mm Canon lens, with a 1.4 telephoto extender/magnifier attached, I was still very close!

Northern Water SnakeNorthern Water Snake This was a new encounter for me, which I love because it gives me a chance to learn something new. It's a little unusual to encounter a snake out in the open like this in late December in the northeast. Snakes "brumate" in the cold months, which is a little like hibernation, but not exactly. Snakes, like other reptiles, can’t raise their body temperature independently of environmental conditions. Many reptile species, like this Northern Water Snake, inhabit regions that get very cold in the winter, so they need to have behavioral adaptations in order to survive. Brumation is a survival tactic hard wired into the brains of these animals for well over a million years.  This snake may have been brumating somewhere in the rock ledge that was nearby or even underneath the leaf pile where I encountered it.


It's possible that the recent warm weather in my area (60s), along with rain brought this adult Northern Water Snake out. Not a snake person? …here's a few good to know facts about this snake that might surprise you: 1) The round pupils on this Northern Water Snake tell you that it's non-venomous; venomous snakes like Copperheads have pupils that are vertical, like a cat. 2) Snakes can be very good at keeping the rodent population under control. 3) Northern Water Snakes may bite if provoked, scared, startled, attacked, threatened, etc… but remember they are not poisonous. 4) Another reason to give them their space is that they can release a foul smell if threatened, and 5) The color of these snakes can be highly variable (brown, gray, tan), and adults don't have the bolder patterns that juvenile snakes have.


Snakes have a purpose in our ecosystem, give them their space, observe from a distance, and do keep an eye on where you walk if you're in snake territory. 


The mallards also made an appearance and charmed the photographer!

Male Mallard DuckMale Mallard Duck



(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper ducks fear of snakes love new poison washington dc wildlife year Mon, 31 Dec 2018 22:13:00 GMT
We Can Start New Holiday Traditions and New Resolutions That Are Easier on the Planet This is a special time of year. For many, a big part of it is giving gifts and making holiday preparations – just a really joyful time of the year. We (sometimes!) get some down time from work, attend parties and events, get a chance to spend extra time with family and friends, and enjoy the anticipation of giving and receiving gifts.


What’s also the case, and what we sometimes talk less about at this time of the year is that the holidays have an enormous environmental impact in terms of water use, greenhouse gases, and land use caused by the production and later disposal of some of our favorite holiday treats and staples.


We often do we what we do during the holidays because of family traditions and keeping special memories. Family traditions and celebrations are very special and have great meaning. While still respecting and cherishing our holiday traditions, we can start new holiday traditions that also give our planet much needed relief, directly address the dire climate change scenario ( we now face, and help protect resources for the benefit of those who come after us.


The statistics on how we humans impact the planet’s resources during the holidays is astonishing. A few examples: (sources:;

  • Approximately 1.5 billion cards are sent over the holiday season in the U.S., which requires 300,000 new trees to be harvested per year. 
  • About 40% of all battery sales in the U.S. occur during the holiday season.
  • Holiday lights in the U.S. use enough electricity to run more than 173,000 homes for a year. 
  • Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the amount of trash produced in the United States increases by an estimated 25%— about one million extra tons of garbage each week. Annually, Americans discard an estimated:
    • 38,000 miles of ribbon, or enough to wrap around the planet (with some left for a bow);
    • $11 billion worth of packing material;
    • 15 million used Christmas trees.


The good news is we can always start new holiday traditions. There are lots of easy, affordable, and creative things we can do to reduce waste and make our impact a little less over the holidays. I’ve shared a few below...and if you’re already doing these things – Thank you for making a difference! At the end of this post, I provide a few web sources that have much more on planet-healthy ways to ring in the holidays.

  • If we each sent just one less holiday card, we’d save 50,000 cubic yards of paper.
  • If every family reused just two feet of holiday ribbon, the 38,000 miles of ribbon saved could tie a bow around the entire planet.
  • If every American family wrapped just 3 presents in re-used materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.
  • Instead of wrapping paper, try using colorful pages torn from magazines to wrap small gifts, and old maps or the comics for larger boxes.
  • Avoid using paper entirely by using reusable decorative tins, baskets or boxes. Hint: all those Amazon shipping boxes can be used for your gifts, no need to buy and use more boxes!
  • Instead of buying new gift tags, cut off the front of any holiday cards you received in the previous year and use them as gift tags. 
  • If you use a live tree for Christmas set it aside for recycling when the holiday is over. Many areas collect trees in the first few weeks after Christmas to be mulched and used for water conservation and weed control.


One of my favorite ideas is to give a donation in another’s name to a charitable or non-profit organization. For example, supporting wildlife rehabilitators is important to me. I might make a donation in a family member or friend’s name to any number of wildlife rehabilitation organizations to help support the lifesaving work and public education they perform. Visit the National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association ( to locate a wildlife rehabilitator near you. You can also visit Charity Navigator on the web ( to find charitable organizations, including those in your local area. The web also provides other resources to locate non-profits and charities and provides resources on smart giving (very important).


Find more ideas and information at:

32 Homemade Eco-Friendly Christmas Decorations That Look Stunning:


Snow BirdSnow BirdBeautiful red cardinal for a stunning holiday card selection.



(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper christmas climate change conservation copper eco-friendly green decorating holiday waste holidays redecorate washington ways to reduce waste wildlife Thu, 29 Nov 2018 22:55:05 GMT
Adventures this Season Thanks for visiting the blog! So much has been going on the last few months. To keep things simple, I decided to recap the highlights! I’ve had two juried art shows and two more coming later this month and early December. In September, I was at the West End Art Show in Glen Allen Virginia, just outside of Richmond (, and in October at the Sugarloaf Crafts Festival in Chantilly, VA (  I’m now preparing for the Nov 16-18 Sugarloaf show in Gaithersburg, MD. ( followed by a Holiday show again in Chantilly, VA ( running December 7-9.


Anyone who does art/crafts shows knows the amount of organization, planning, and heavy lifting that can be involved. It’s all worth it for the chance to meet new people, new customers, clients, artists and exhibitors, and share my photography and stories with others.  If you haven’t checked out my show schedule, it’s on my front web page, just click “Shows” ( By the way, for the Sugarloaf shows I have a few free admission tickets to each show. Contact me if you’re interested in a free admission ticket. I’d love to see you at a future show.


Last weekend, I attended the Wildlife Center of Virginia’s Annual Gala and Benefit Auction at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel in Staunton Virginia ( All I can say is “WOW” and I hope to be able to make it next year! I was honored to have two of my photographs entered in the silent auction event and I was delighted that both were bid on and now have new owners. I was also the winning bidder on a full day behind the scenes tour and visit with staff at the Wildlife Center, to include five guests. More to come on that later this year! Most important of all, significant funds were raised to support the vital work of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.


In between shows and fundraisers, I managed to squeak in a trip to beautiful Hilton Head, South Carolina. I’ve made this trip a few times and will visit often in the future. If you’re an avid golfer, then you know Hilton Head. It’s at the top of my favorites for its weather, beautiful beaches, lovely people, and primarily the beautiful wetlands areas which are all over the island. These very natural areas are embedded right in communities and neighborhoods, which makes the area magical, unique, and very special. They make room for wildlife in Hilton Head. In addition to having a wonderful trip with family, the chance to photograph a large diversity of wading birds, alligators, and other very cool inhabitants of wetlands made that trip a winner. Several of my favorite images are posted here. You can purchase prints and other photographic products right from my web site, or come visit me at a show where my prints are sold. 

Steady - Juvenile little blue heronSteady - Juvenile little blue heron

Spicebush Swallowtail ButterflySpicebush Swallowtail Butterfly Tricolored Heron - Adult, non-breedingTricolored Heron - Adult, non-breeding Roseate Skimmer DragonflyRoseate Skimmer Dragonfly

(Copper Range) art art shows artists best on-line shopping best photographers carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper Christmas gifts copper dc" donate dragonfly fundraising gifts for animal lovers gifts for someone special gifts for wildlife lovers herons Hilton Head images holiday holiday gift ideas nature photography photographers south Carolina sugarloaf shows top photographers washington wetlands wild images wildlife wildlife center of Virginia wildlife photography Thu, 08 Nov 2018 18:38:02 GMT
"Learning from Weirdos?"....Blessing of the Animals Many churches in the United States celebrate the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi ( on October 4 each year. It’s a popular day for pets to be “blessed”. The feast commemorates the life of St Francis, who was born in the 12th century and is the Catholic Church’s patron saint of animals and the environment, because of his love for animals and the environment. Today, St. Francis is also the patron saint of ecologists. Why have I titled this “Learning from the Weirdos”? The website “Christianity Today” has a great article by this same title ( which covers the works of St. Francis of Assisi and other people who were referred to as “mystics” in their day and looked down on as weird. We’ve come a very long way since those days.

I attended the Washington National Cathedral’s blessing of the animals on October 7 ( It was such a beautiful and fun ceremony. A couple of my photos from the event follow. This is such a special event because it gives us chance to think about animals’ place in religious belief, faith and spirituality. So, what brings a church to bless animals?

Many religions provide reverence and respect to animals, recognize them as created by God and some confer spirituality to animals of all kinds. In the Christian faith, many Bible passages recognize the importance and significance of animals:

Genesis 1:21 

  • “So God created the great sea creatures and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarm, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.”

Christianity also recognizes that in Genesis 9:9-10 animals were saved from the flood and afterwards made a part of the covenant with Noah.

  •  “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth.”

Father Richard Rohr of the Center for Action and Contemplation ( says:

  • “God shows authentic, primal concern for all animals by directing Noah to take a male and female of every species onto the ark to be saved (see Genesis 7:2-3).  Apparently, animals matter and are worth “saving.” After the flood, God makes a covenant, not just with people but with all of creation.”

The answer to my question about what brings a church to bless animals, was even further clarified by these passages I’ve come across:

From Father Richard Rohr:

  • “Every day we have opportunities to reconnect with God through an encounter with nature, whether an ordinary sunrise, a starling on a power line, a tree in a park, or a cloud in the sky. This spirituality doesn’t depend on education or belief. It almost entirely depends on our capacity for simple presence. Often those without formal education and “unbelievers” do this better than a lot of us.” 
  • “Each and every creature is a unique word of God, with its own message, its own metaphor, its own energetic style, its own way of showing forth goodness, beauty, and participation in the Great Mystery.”
  • “The world is created as a means of God’s self-revelation so that, like a mirror or footprint, it might lead us to love and praise the Creator. “
  • “Anyone who truly knows creatures may be excused from listening to sermons, for every creature is full of God, and is a book.”

From Meister Eckhart (13th century German Catholic “mystic”, theologian, and spiritual psychologist”

  • “Apprehend God in all things, for God is in all things. Every single creature is full of God and is a book about God. Every creature is a word of God. If I spent enough time with the tiniest creature—even a caterpillar—I would never have to prepare a sermon. So full of God is every creature.” 

From Pope John Paul II:

  • During World Environment Day in 1982, Pope John Paul II said that St. Francis’ love and care for creation was a challenge for contemporary Catholics and a reminder “not to behave like dissident predators where nature is concerned, but to assume responsibility for it, taking care so that everything stays healthy and integrated, so as to offer a welcoming and friendly environment even to those who succeed us.”

From Pope Francis, 2017:

  • “The story of creation presents us with a panoramic view of the world. Scripture reveals that, “in the beginning”, God intended humanity to cooperate in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.”

God bless all creations.

Blessing of the Animals - Washington National CathedralBlessing of the Animals - Washington National Cathedral Blessing of the Animals - Washington National CathedralBlessing of the Animals - Washington National Cathedral






(Copper Range) animal lovers bible blessing of the animals carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper environment god saints st. francis st. francis of assisi washington washington national cathedral wildlife Sun, 07 Oct 2018 21:06:38 GMT
Take Nature's Messages to Heart in Whatever Way They Come To You In just a few short weeks most hummingbirds will have made the long flight south for the winter. We still have a few, like this juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird, stopping by for a good meal at the feeder or the flowers in our yard. 

“Operation Ruby Throat, The Hummingbird Project”, ( is the best internet resource I’ve reviewed for detailing the ways to distinguish male and female and juvenile hummingbirds.  Distinguishing females from males is not difficult when they’re adults but it’s difficult with juvenile males who  look very similar to adult females. “Operation Ruby Throat” provides good information and photos on how to distinguish. Did you know that all hummingbirds are fully grown and capable of flight when they leave the nest; there are no "baby hummingbirds" at feeders.

For centuries, our ancestors looked to nature to bring them important information on their health, love, prosperity, and more. Many civilizations relied heavily on the messages that birds brought to them, including Native Americans, the Celts, and other cultures. Just like other birds, hummingbirds were thought to be messengers between humans and God. Take nature's messages to heart in whatever way they come to you.

Juvenile male ruby-throated hummingbird in the rain.


(Copper Range) birds carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc" God hover HUMMINGBIRD PROJECT hummingbirds males migration nature. OPERATION RUBY THROAT ruby-throated washington wildlife Wed, 26 Sep 2018 01:08:56 GMT
Witnessing Nature: Take It In… It’s Good For You Being in natural environments, even viewing pictures of natural environments, has positive psychological benefits. This is meaningful because more than 50% of people live in urban areas, and by 2050, it’s estimated that 70% of us will live in cities. Although urban life has some benefits, like providing easy access to schools, medical care, food, and transportation, urban life is also associated with increased levels of mental illness. Understanding how nature provides a buffer for the negative parts of urban life helps us plan smarter for an ever more urban world.


How is nature good for mental health?

Many ways, but here’s something that we don’t hear much about -- Laboratory research and studies conducted out in natural settings have shown that contact with real or simulated green settings, including photographs of green settings, as opposed to built settings has positive effects on mood, self-esteem, people’s reported feelings of stress and depression, and can help people recover from stress. Research shows that exposure to nature, by – for example – taking a walk in the woods, or by looking at an image of a patch of greenery, can reduce stress, negative moods, negative feelings (e.g., anger), and attentional fatigue. These results occur mostly when people are exposed to unthreatening natural environments.


“Living and working in busy, overcrowded, and information rich cities, drains the mental resources controlling attention.” ( Attention can improve after experiencing or viewing “restorative” nature scenes. Sustained attention is vital for learning and memory, performing everyday tasks well, and for effectively interacting with others.


Taking a short break to look at nature scenes during the day, can just be enough to help people refresh their mind and improve productivity. Subjects in experiments who had just a 40 second view of images of green roofs (e.g., a small grassy area with flowers on top of a high-rise city building) said it was more “restorative”, and it boosted their attention more compared to participants who viewed images of a concrete roof on a high-rise building.


Some researchers have concluded that an underlying reason for positive mental health effects of viewing nature is that it reduces “rumination” (e.g., mentally dwelling on things) While rumination is good for some animals, like cows, horses, deer, and giraffes (among others), in humans, rumination is a harmful pattern of self-focused negative thought. Rumination (the human kind) is associated with heightened risk for depression and other mental illnesses. Rumination has been shown to predict the onset of depressive episodes, and other mental disorders.  Mental rumination is essentially filling your mind with lots of negative, often fear-focused thinking. It’s easy to slip into habits of ruminating on the wrong things (e.g., what’s wrong with our life, how we messed up, what we failed at, etc...), vs. what’s right in our life (e.g., what we’re doing well, that we’re healthy and employed, and where we’ve succeeded).


Positive distractions, including views of nature, has been shown to decrease rumination. In one study, people who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment. These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.


To be effective in decreasing rumination, these positive distractions must be “engrossing”. In other words, the distractions really need to grab your attention.


Studies provide compelling evidence that visual nature experiences may confer real psychological benefits. And what’s even more is that psychologists found that people who are more connected to nature are happier. (


So, take in nature regularly ….walk in the woods, your local park.. get out there ...and keep images of nature in your indoor places.


  • “The relationship between nature connectedness and happiness: a meta-analysis”, Colin A. Capaldi, Raelyne L. Dopko, and John M. Zelenski, Frontiers in Psychology, 2014; 5: 976.
  • “Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation”, Gregory N. Bratman, J. Paul Hamilton, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, and James J. Gross. Proceedings of the National Academy Sciences, July 14, 2015. 112 (28) 8567-8572,
  • “40-second green roof views sustain attention: The role of micro-breaks in attention restoration”, Kate E. Lee, Kathryn J.H. Williams, Leisa D. Sargent, Nicholas S.G. Williams, and Katherine A. Johnson, Journal of Environmental Psychology, June 2015 (42), 182-189,
  • “Autonomic Nervous System Responses to Viewing Green and Built Settings: Differentiating Between Sympathetic and Parasympathetic Activity”, Magdalena M.H.E. van den Berg, Jolanda Maas, Rianne Muller, Anoek Braun, Wendy Kaandorp, René van Lien, Mireille N.M. van Poppel, Willem van Mechelen, and Agnes E. van den Berg, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2015 Dec; 12(12): 15860–15874,
  • “The Health Benefits of Urban Nature: How Much Do We Need?”, Danielle F. Shanahan, Richard A. Fuller, Robert Bush, Brenda B. Lin, Kevin J. Gaston, BioScience, Volume 65, Issue 5, 1 May 2015, 476–485,
(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc" depression forest therapy green space happiness health help with depression how can I be happy mental nature pain psychological research psychology walk in the woods washington wildlife Thu, 16 Aug 2018 20:36:31 GMT
Tale of a Tomato Hunter You might think that living in a city means -- if you have a vegetable garden -- it comes with no care about wild critters munching on the garden goodness. Not so. Our nearby Rock Creek National Park is home to many veggie loving wildlife, including deer and rabbits, they move about the neighborhood, and they love a good garden snack. And so, we’ve always had to maintain at least a 6-foot tall fence around our small veggie garden. This brings me to the tale of a tomato hunter.


A few years ago we began losing our beautiful red-ripe tomatoes, not to deer or rabbits, but birds. The 6-foot-high heavy-duty plastic fencing we have is very effective against our wild mammal friends (deer, rabbits), but did nothing to keep our birds out.


We have seed feeders for birds; we attract a lot of birds; and we love our birds …. but not when they eat our hard-earned tomatoes. After considering a few options, we decided to cover the tomato “patch” area of the garden with a fine reusable plastic netting (see top half of photo below). I used only a handy point-and-shoot camera for these pictures. The netting goes over the tomato patch area as they start ripening and stays on until we’ve harvested all we want for the summer. The netting is secured/tied down in multiple areas and weighted on the ground in our efforts to seal every small entrance from birds.


For a small garden, the netting has proven really effective. It holds up well, is inexpensive, and generally won’t require maintenance. We remove it at the end of the season, roll it up and store it for the next year. In the growing season it has to be checked periodically for damage, holes, and wear and tear.


In the five or so seasons we’ve used the netting, we’ve had two birds that breached it, and got themselves trapped inside. I’m happy to say that both situations ended well. We were able to safely release the birds; one, an adult cat bird, and the other, just last week, an adult female cardinal.


During my morning garden check from inside the house, I saw the cardinal flying about in the enclosed netted area. I bolted outside to free her. The bottom half of the photo below shows she got herself pretty tangled trying to get out but also trying to avoid me as I was approaching her. Again, I used only a handy point-and-shoot camera for these pictures and did not delay to get my professional gear.


Tomato Hunter


Rescuing a small, healthy bird is not an easy task because their instinct is to fly and/or fight if they can. When they do this inside a very small enclosed netted area, they can obviously end up injured. Working fast as possible, I cut an opening in the net and then “moved her” towards the direction of the opening. I moved her by walking in her direction, which caused her to get away from me and go in the opposite direction.


This tomato hunter’s tale ended well. She found the opening and flew out like a rocket. A relief for both of us.


After this episode, I surveyed the netting and found a few small holes torn on the top. I can only attribute this to clever birds who made a way in to munch on our ripe tomatoes.  Eventually, they created a hole big enough and got inside before my human eyes could detect any damage.


We will still use our tomato netting, and continue checking it daily, and continue feeding our birds --- seeds. We pick our tomatoes when they’re just about fully ripe. I try to avoid letting many ripened tomatoes sit for long before picking. Seeing those beautiful red fruits just raises the temptation for birds and will coax them in.


Netting is non-lethal, non-chemical, lightweight, lets sun, rain and pollinators in, and virtually requires no maintenance. A great option for smaller gardens that are well-monitored.

(Copper Range) a bird birds cardinals carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc" from garden gardening growing how nets pests protect to tomatoes washington wildlife Fri, 10 Aug 2018 02:33:00 GMT
Preserving Opportunities for Future Generations With awareness that just a few months ago, sharpshooters were two blocks from my home carrying out their approved shoot of over a hundred deer, I was overjoyed to see this fawn in my neighborhood. We Love Animals - White tailed deer fawn, 2018We Love Animals - White tailed deer fawn, 2018

I live in a big city but also just a few blocks from Rock Creek National Park. This means I’ve been fortunate to see many species of local wildlife up close and personal, like this fawn whose portrait I took last week. Not everyone that lives in my area feels “fortunate”, because some of the wildlife include deer that like to browse (eat) nicely landscaped gardens and yards. For the most part, we’ve learned to peacefully coexist with the local wildlife by learning about their behavior and diets, which means learning what they don’t like to eat. Peaceful coexistence doesn’t mean we have no wildlife moving through our yard, rather, it means we’ve learned to manage the potential conflict between us and them. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The opportunity to see wildlife up close and personal is priceless, educational, inspirational, and something everyone should have a chance to experience.


The story of white-tailed deer in our neighborhood is not without controversy. Prompted by a decline in forest regeneration, Rock Creek Park officials initiated a public process to create a plan, finalized in 2012, for quickly reducing the density of deer in the park to support long-term protection and restoration of native plants and to promote a healthy and diverse forest ( As part of implementing the deer management plan, this past winter, parts of the park were closed off at night and sharpshooters entered to cull (shoot) the deer down to numbers the Park determined were feasible.


Wildlife management specialists recognize that shooting animals (“lethal control”) is one means of managing conflicts with them; others include fertility control; moving animals to other places where their numbers are lower (translocation); using repellants; and putting up fences, among others. All of these methods have various tradeoffs, risks, costs, and levels of effectiveness. Culling deer is not uncommon in the United States. Perhaps it’s a culture of hunting that makes it so common. There’s a group in Michigan that maintains a list of many areas in the U.S. that have resorted to lethal deer culling methods (

As a wildlife professional, I recognize that wildlife management decisions often have to be made, and sometimes they’ll involve lethal methods that are very difficult to contemplate. For example, official documents describe the lethal methods that were used in Rock Creek Park as follows:

“Every effort will be made to conduct the shootings as humanely as possible. Deer injured during the operation will be euthanized as quickly as possible to minimize suffering…. Bait stations will likely be used to attract deer to safe removal locations, concentrate deer, improve removal success, and allow the maximum use of ground as a backstop (i.e., shooting will be directed downward toward the ground). ...In very limited locations, deer removal may be done using archery (bow and arrow). ...Deer will be captured with nets, traps, or chemical immobilization by dart gun and euthanized as humanely as possible. If trapped or netted, deer will be immobilized prior to any type of euthanasia being administered. Euthanasia methods would include those approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and could include use of a penetrating captive bolt gun, chemical injection, or exsanguination [the action of draining a person, animal, or organ of blood]. Several methods of wildlife trapping could be used, including but not limited to drop nets and box traps. Most trapping methods involve using bait to attract deer to a specific area or trap." (


We have to trust that the cull was carried out humanely and that difficult actions like this result in preserving opportunities for future generations to experience and benefit from the natural world.

(Copper Range) photography trauma washington babies carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper deer deer cull government love national parks summer washington white tailed deer wildlife wildlife management Fri, 13 Jul 2018 18:57:39 GMT
What's In Front of the Lens is More Than Fur or Feathers What inspires me as a wildlife photographer is knowing that the animal in front of the lens is much more than just fur or feathers, but often a companion and healer. Wildlife rehabilitators, animal rescuers, and everyday pet owners and animal caretakers know the impact that an animal in need, or even a healthy, strong, and loving animal can have on our human hearts and spirits. Its powerful and its real. More and more, the human-animal bond is a recommended prescription for reducing stress, depression, and anxiety.


There’s science and very compelling personal accounts that show animals may provide unique elements to address Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  PTSD is a mental health problem that may develop after a person has been exposed to one or more traumatic events. Traumatic events that may cause PTSD include physical or sexual assault, war-related combat stress, terrorism, natural or man-made disasters, and other threats on a person’s life. Not everyone with PTSD has been through a dangerous event. Some experiences, like the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, can also cause PTSD We often associate PTSD with war veterans, but it’s not isolated to them. PTSD is a disorder that develops in some people who have experienced a shocking, scary, or dangerous event.


It’s natural to feel afraid during and after a traumatic situation. Nearly everyone will experience a range of reactions after trauma, yet most people recover from initial symptoms naturally. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re not in danger.


Animal assisted interventions (AAI) is a broad term that’s now commonly used to describe the use of various species of animals in diverse manners beneficial to humans. Animal assisted therapy, education, and activities are examples of types of animal assisted intervention. (


For military members and veterans, the National Institutes of Health has reported that the addition of trained service dogs to usual care may result in meaningful improvements in PTSD symptoms. In research, military members and veterans with service dogs, compared to those on a waitlist, had lower depression, higher quality of life, and higher social functioning. There was lower absenteeism among those with a service dog who were employed.


Other research has shown that the presence of an animal:

  • Acts as a comforting reminder that danger is no longer present
  • Acts as a secure base for mindful experiences in the present
  • Elicits positive emotions and warmth, which may reduce the emotional numbing that individuals with PTSD often experience.
  • Can be a social facilitator that connects people and reduces loneliness which may assist individuals with PTSD to break out of isolation and connect to the humans around them.
  • Has been linked to secretion of oxytocin (often called the “love hormone”) and reductions in anxious arousal which may be a particularly important feature for individuals who have experienced trauma.


Species other than dogs are used in AAI, including horses, different bird species, and wolves. An exceptionally powerful account of the healing power of birds (parrots) with military veterans suffering from PTSD is written by Dr. Lorin Lindner (, and just released in May 2018. This magical book (“Birds of a Feather: The True Story of Hope and the Healing Power of Animals”) beautifully and clearly describes not only how the course of Dr. Lindner’s life was changed by rescuing abused and neglected parrots, but how her course then changed, and saved, the lives of in-need military veterans. The traumatized and neglected birds elicited compassion and understanding from the traumatized and neglected veterans that took them into their care. Dr. Lindner’s book describes not only how animals impacted and changed the trajectory of her life but how the birds and the veterans’ lives were changed and saved through the human-animal bond. Among many accomplishments, Dr. Lindner is president of the Lockwood Animal Rescue Center (


In addition to its use with military members and veterans, AAI has been related to increased social interaction among children with autism spectrum disorder, increased social behaviors and reduced agitation and aggression among persons with dementia, reduction in symptoms among patients with depression, and increased emotional well-being.


As we make medical advances, it’s necessary to remain vigilant in knowing that healing often comes from unexpected places. What inspires me as a wildlife photographer is knowing that the animal in front of the lens is much more than just fur or feathers, but often a companion and healer.

That Face - Barred OwlThat Face - Barred Owl



American Veterinary Medical Association:

Animals & Society Institute:   

US Veterans Affairs:

National Animal Service Registry:



National Institutes of Health:


Psychology Today :;


Mayo Clinic :



(Copper Range) divorce faith god grief happiness healing "lorin lindner" love photography ptsd rescue trauma veterans war washington wildlife babies carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc Wed, 13 Jun 2018 21:32:15 GMT
Pufferfish Encounter I’ve been thinking a lot about a washed-up pufferfish I came across on the beach in Costa Rica. This was weeks ago, but you’ll understand when you see the photo I captured of this baby-faced fish. This lone fish washed up feet from where I was shooting an astonishing sunset on a quiet beach. Everything happens for a reason, and this chance meeting sent me on a journey to learn more about pufferfish.

I Made ItI Made ItWashed ashore pufferfish. Left is from a distance; Right is close-up.

First things first, despite its endearing face, these are super deadly fish. There’s enough toxin (called tetrodotoxin) in one pufferfish to kill 30 adult humans, most pufferfish have this toxin, and there’s no known antidote. Again, pufferfish = deadly. I’ve read that pufferfish are considered the second most poisonous creatures in the world, after the poison dart frog. You don’t even want to touch a dead one. In parts of the world, they’re considered a delicacy and are eaten. When prepared by skilled chefs who know how to remove the poisonous parts, they can be safe to eat. But every year, deaths are still reported from eating pufferfish. There are some tips/facts for keeping puffers in aquariums (, but that’s an undertaking best suited for facilities like managed zoos/aquariums that can specialize in underwater enclosures, rather than a home aquarium.


The ability to quickly ingest huge amounts of water and turn itself into an inedible ball is what keeps the pufferfish generally protected from being eaten by a predator. This is also where the pufferfish gets its name. The pufferfish’s stomach works like a water balloon, expanding to 100 times its normal size. Some pufferfish, like the departed one I encountered, are covered in spines (not scales) that stick out when they inflate. This is a further deterrent/weapon they have against predators.


What’s even hipper about pufferfish is that male pufferfish are also artists – maybe accidental artists – but artists nonetheless!  I don’t know the gender of the fish I encountered, but let’s think guys for now. Take a look at this image ( that was taken by Japanese divers and later led to the discovery that it was created by male pufferfish during mating rituals.  Pufferfish create "underwater crop circles" to attract a mate. According to a study (, males spend seven to nine days constructing intricate patterns in the sand to attract females. Researchers don’t know exactly what causes females to choose a nest site, but they do believe female’s evaluation of the nest characteristics makes a difference. Researchers concluded:

  • “Therefore, it appears reasonable to assume that females visiting male nest sites evaluate nest characteristics and that these characteristics play an important role in female mate choice. However, the definite factors affecting this choice remain unknown, i.e. size of the circular structure; symmetric properties, peak height, number of radially aligned peaks and valleys; size, colour, number and arrangement of the ornaments; and the design, amount and quality of the fine sand particles in the irregular central pattern. “ (page 4,


There are over 150 known species of pufferfish. Whether the one that I had a chance meeting with is a species that performs this mating ritual, or is even a male, I can’t say. But, let’s just say he got my attention.  Hopefully, he also got the attention of a special mate before he came ashore.

(Copper Range) beach carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper costa dc" love mating pufferfish rica washington wildlife Thu, 17 May 2018 21:05:33 GMT
Saving Others There are many compelling and heartwarming stories about dogs nursing motherless tiger cubs, cats nursing motherless puppies, and other cross-species examples of surrogate animal parenting. It’s special to witness this behavior in animals.


For the last couple of years, I’ve made a small yearly donation to the Wildlife Center of Virginia (WCV) to support the care of one of their non-releasable hawks named Keeya, a female red-shouldered hawk. In the last few years Keeya was given a chance to be a surrogate/foster parent to young hawks who somehow got separated from their parents and were brought to WCV. When I read about Keeya’s story and the chance that WCV gave her, I wanted to help.


Keeya was found by a road in Hanover County Virginia in September 2013, possibly hit by a vehicle. When she was first admitted to the WCV, she was extremely thin and dehydrated. She had been unable to hunt and care for herself for several days. Radiographs revealed two fractures in her right wing but WCV vets couldn’t pin the broken bones in surgery. Keeya also had an injury to her left eye, leaving her with a significant blind spot.


Raptors, like Keeya, generally must be able to have superb vision to hunt and survive. Just some blindness in a raptor can mean death – and not necessarily quick death either. It can also mean immediate euthanasia when brought to a wildlife rehabilitator or vet that can detect a raptor is blind.


WCV was able to give Keeya a second lease on life and she became an education bird at the center in 2014. In that role, Keeya was shown to the public for educational purposes in different settings and environments. Sadly, despite training efforts, Keeya remained nervous around people and never settled into her education role.


Despite her handicaps, Keeya still had a vital purpose in her. In the summer of 2016 WCV found a new opportunity for Keeya as a surrogate to several young red-shouldered hawks who were brought to the center after being found without parents. In this role, Keeya serves as an adult role model, or a visual surrogate, for young releasable wild hawks helping them to develop natural hawk behaviors.


See this photo from WCV of Keeya and one of her adopted hawks in their enclosure (  


This kind of same-species surrogacy/fostering is critical to avoid human imprinting among young birds that may be or are releasable ( Imprinting on its own species – not human caretakers -- allows baby birds to understand appropriate behaviors and vocalizations for their species, and also helps birds to visually identify with other members of their species so they may choose appropriate mates later in life ( A young bird deprived of the sight, sound, and touch of conspecifics (others in its species) during this developmental stage will be unable to interact with its own kind in a normal manner.


Given the good outcomes that can result from having surrogate/foster raptor parents, ideally, wildlife rehabilitation facilities would want to have non-releasable adult raptors available for fostering. During the breeding season, these foster parents are typically allowed to build nests and lay unfertilized eggs.


UPDATE: Sadly, due to concerns about her deteriorating physical conditions, combined with behavioral concerns, Keeya was euthanized in July 2019. 


Here’s links to other examples of raptor foster parenting and saving others.


California Raptor Center (Great Grey Owl).


Owl Moon Raptor Center: (Black Vultures).


Florida Red-Shouldered Hawk


(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc" foster parent raptor red shouldered hawk surrogate washington wildlife wildlife center of virginia Thu, 10 May 2018 01:36:41 GMT
Great Places - Costa Rica I just returned from a week in Costa Rica. First things first…one week is not enough. I’ll be making a return trip… or three! 


Many have visited this gem in Central America.


Once you’ve made the trip, it’s easy to understand why. Costa Rica is beautiful. Costa Ricans are friendly, accommodating, bright, and happy to show you their country. And there’s so much more that makes Costa Rica the kind of place I’m eager to invest my travel dollars and time in.


Here’s just a few highlights of this really special place (key source:

  • Despite being anchored in a Central American region rife with political and social turmoil until the late 20th century, Costa Rica stands out as the longest working democracy in Latin America.


  • Costa Rica is ahead of other Latin American countries in the region in “governance” or its ability to govern effectively (see the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators project


  • Costa Rica has set aside 26 percent of its land area for protected areas, including national parks; making it a welcoming destination for tourists.


  • Renewable sources provide nearly 100% of Costa Rica's energy needs. Most from hydroelectric (dams), and the remaining from wind, geothermal, solar, and biomass.


  • Sometimes referred to as the “Switzerland of Latin America,” Costa Rica’s strategy has brought economic, social, and environmental dividends, with sustained growth, upward mobility for a large share of the population, important gains in social indicators, and major achievements in reforestation and conservation.
    • Poverty rates in Costa Rica are among the lowest in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    • The Costa Rican middle class has become the largest socioeconomic group of the country, comprising about 47 percent of the population.
    • Costa Rica has built a world-­renowned “Green Trademark” centered on conservation, reforestation, and national parks. It’s the only tropical country in the world that has reversed deforestation, increasing the area covered by forests from 26 percent in 1983 to 52 percent in 2015.
    • Costa Rica is the only country in Latin America that adopted the goal of achieving carbon neutrality by 2021. This is all about climate change. Carbon neutrality means, for example, that organizations, businesses and individuals remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as they put in to it. The overall goal of carbon neutrality is to achieve a zero-carbon footprint.
  • Costa Rica is an eco-tourism pioneer. The resident naturalists who work in eco-tourism are exceptional and among the very best.


  • Costa Rica has a tradition of negotiation over confrontation, social development over military spending and tolerance over hostility. 


  • Costa Rica abolished its military forces in 1949 and since then devoted substantial resources to investment in health and education. It prioritizes investment in public education, including the university system, as well as technical and vocational training. Since 1869, public education in Costa Rica is free and mandatory. 


  • Its literacy rate is 96% and life expectancy is 79.3 years.


  • Costa Rica accounts for only 0.03 percent of the earth's surface, yet it contains nearly 6 percent of the world's biodiversity.


This visit to Costa Rica was at the end of the dry season, which runs from December to April. Different regions of the country experience the dry season a little differently. If you visit during the dry season -- depending on where you travel -- you might see a lot of brown (similar to many parts of the US in fall and winter) or you might see some brown and some green. In any event, before your visit, do your research on the dry/wet season timing. Also, find a good, local, nature guide for the region you’re visiting. Trip Advisor can help a bit with that.


Visit the “Landscape and Nature” and “More Wildlife” galleries to see my photographs of sloths, toucans, monkeys, red-eyed tree frogs, stunning sunsets and more. Hover over the images – those with Costa Rica in the title are from this outing.


Three-Toed Sloth, Costa RicaThree-Toed Sloth, Costa Rica

(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper costa rica sloth tenorio washington wildlife Sat, 28 Apr 2018 02:40:30 GMT
Underdogs and Faith Every March we rally up for “March Madness”. The annual men’s college basketball tournament where 68 college teams who’ve earned the right to play in the tournament get a chance to play for a national title or maybe just a chance to compete in the sweet 16, elite 8, or final four. Those who watch the Madness know that every year there are upsets…meaning, for example, the number 5 ranked team may get beat by the number 22 ranked team. If you’re a bracket player you have to plan for these kind of upsets, even though they’re essentially unpredictable. Madness-fans never know how things will turn out.  A history making example happened this year when the number one seeded team in the south region (University of Virginia) was defeated by the number 16 seeded team (University of Maryland-Baltimore County). Another stunning upset occurred when number 11 seeded Loyola-Chicago defeated a string of higher-seeded teams. Both of these upsets “busted” my bracket, but like many others who watch the Madness, I loved seeing the underdogs overcome the odds and create a new destiny for themselves.  A lot has been written about underdogs and there’s some science behind why we humans like to see an underdog overcome the odds. A key reason is that we see inequity in life and a winning underdog restores a sense of equity, fairness, and levels the playing field.  The routine, but necessary ranking of teams that precedes the Madness, explicitly engages a sense of inequity and sets the stage for underdog fans everywhere. We want to believe in a fair world and the winning underdog makes our dreams a reality.  

What does it take to be a winning underdog? Here’s some insight. (Source for some information provided:

Underdogs shine when they let underestimation become their motivation. No one else may think you’re up to the task, but YOU do. Not because of some inflated ego, but because you have confidence from knowing you were born with the gifts it takes to succeed.  

Underdogs know that money, pedigree, and status don’t always decide success: heart, tenacity, and will to win do. Some of the biggest heroes in history were underdogs. The Bible’s King David (the guy that beat Goliath) was the short, young guy whose own dad didn’t think he had what it took to succeed. Abraham Lincoln was a tall, awkward, bad speaker that grew up in a log cabin and barely attended school. Only once in the last ten years has the MLB team with the highest payroll won the World Series. Even if you don’t have the most resources, you can ALWAYS choose to have the most “undefeatable” spirit. Peacemaker -  Jackson WyomingPeacemaker -  Jackson Wyoming

Underdogs succeed because they say no to fear. Underdogs choose faith over fear. Successful underdogs put aside fears of going up against the powerhouses and take one game at a time instead of worrying about who they’ll take on next. Don’t sit around worrying about whether you’re as equipped as the next person to “win”. “Courage is not the absence of fear; it is the disregard of it.” Successful underdogs become champions when they live that motto.

Successful underdogs respond well to adversity. The reason no one picks that perfect bracket is because sometimes the “experts”, the decision makers, are wrong in their assessments of strengths and weaknesses. Maybe a decision maker in your life has been wrong about you. So, what? You can decide to respond to being slighted in one of two ways: by saying “you’re probably right” and retreating to your corner or saying “I know I’m better than you think I am” and let being underestimated motivate you to being even better.

Underdogs have other people that believe in them. One of the greatest and true, underdog stories about the racehorse Seabiscuit demonstrates that the support, compassion, faith and belief of others is critical. YouTube has a short trailer from the 2003 academy award nominated movie about the horse Seabiscuit ( Seabiscuit was sired by the legendary Man o’ War racehorse ( but in his early years didn’t produce the racing wins of his father; he ran funny; was temperamental; mistreated by his caretakers; and run into the ground on a grueling race circuit. He was rehabilitated by a new owner and trainer who changed his diet, got him a companion horse, let him get adequate rest, and created for this animal the right conditions to win. Under new owners, trainers, and a jockey that believed in him and treated him with compassion and intelligence, Seabiscuit went on to beat American horse racing records and odds of all types. Once an underdog, now a legend.

Back to Madness... the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers is made up of young men that believe in and support each other, led by a Coach (Porter Moser) and a 98-year old team chaplain (Sister Jean Delores Schmidt, AKA “Sister Jean”) that also believe in them and set their stage for success.

There are so many inspiring underdog stories that show what happens when others’ underestimation of us is turned into motivation for success.


(Copper Range) carolyn cooper copper underdogs wildlife Tue, 27 Mar 2018 22:18:30 GMT
Women Environmental Pioneers – Telling Truths No One Else Dared to Tell In honor of women’s history month (, I’m excited to write about two women pioneers who devoted themselves to environmental and wildlife conservation -- Rosalie Edge and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.


We can agree that there are more than a few women environmental pioneers. These two women are stand outs because they were tenacious and bold at a time and place when women were encouraged to be neither. There was simply no one who had done what they were striving for. They listened to their hearts and went against the grain when it was unpopular. They withstood criticism, the loss of friends and family, at times isolation and alienation, and attempts by others to publicly humiliate and embarrass them. These women paved the way for other women and men. They lit a path for others, and ultimately became leaders in creating protections for some of our nation’s most valued and cherished natural resources.


I first learned about Rosalie Edge from the book “Rosalie Edge, Hawk of Mercy: The Activist Who Saved Nature from the Conservationists”, by Dyana Z. Furmansky. As one of the earliest environmental pioneers, in 1934, Rosalie Edge founded the world's first preserve for birds of prey — Hawk Mountain Sanctuary near Kempton, Pennsylvania. Hawk Mountain's web site describes how Rosalie Edge leased the land for the sanctuary, having been spurred by photographs showing massive hawk kills by hunters during hawk migration periods ( Rosalie Edge, who had an early life of privilege and wealth, accomplished other impressive feats for the environment and conservation, including tackling the Audubon society which in its early days was not a shining example of a conservation group. She testified before Congress in her lifetime and was a powerful voice and advocate for conservation.


In the forward to the book I cite above, Bill McKibben ( writes:

 “Edge had the same patrician access that defined conservation for most of the twentieth century, but thank heaven she didn’t play by the same rules. She wrote new ones, most importantly with her willingness to forgo politeness and accommodation when necessary. She spoke and wrote with vehemence and urgency, and hence was a thorn in the side to the more staid environmentalists of her day. These kinds of battles are still underway of course, and she is an inspiration to those of us who must sometimes fight almost as hard to move the establishment “green groups” that dominate Washington discourse as we do the Congress or White House.”


Marjory Stoneman Douglas was best known for her staunch defense of the Florida Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. Like Rosalie Edge, she was a fighter.  

She wrote the 1947 bestseller “The Everglades: River of Grass”, which changed forever the way Americans look at wetlands,” according to her New York Times obituary. The book transformed popular views of the Everglades from a worthless swamp to a treasured river. “There would most likely be no Everglades wilderness without her,” the Times noted.


According to a profile of Douglas on the National Park Service website

“In the 1950s, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers rose to the top of her list of enemies. In a major construction program, a complex system of canals, levees, dams, and pump stations was built to provide protection from seasonal flooding to former marsh land—now being used for agriculture and real estate development. Long before scientists became alarmed about the effects on the natural ecosystems of south Florida, Mrs. Douglas was railing at officials for destroying wetlands, eliminating sheetflow of water, and upsetting the natural cycles upon which the entire system depends.”


Some close readers may recognize that the recent and tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida was at the high school named after Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Of the many commentaries I’ve read since that heartbreaking day, one struck me. It noted that Marjory Stoneman Douglas would likely have been incredibly proud of the student activists at the school that bears her name who have stood up in the face of this tragedy and are now effectively using their voices to bring about change, just as she did.


Douglas once said:

“Be a nuisance where it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action."


Young Lesser Black-backed GullYoung Lesser Black-backed Gull


(Copper Range) environmental advocates green groups marjory stoneman douglas rosalie edge Sat, 03 Mar 2018 23:31:40 GMT
What We Rarely (ever??) Get to See in the Wild... I just returned from a perfect-weather week in beautiful Southwest Florida. I’ve visited this area a few times. One of my favorite places for photography in Southwest Florida is the Big Cypress National Preserve area (


Big Cypress Preserve, a National Park, covers about 729,000 acres of a freshwater swamp ecosystem. It provides refuge to a wide variety of plants and animals. Big Cypress was created in 1974, to protect the water quality, natural resources, and ecological integrity of the Big Cypress Swamp. This is a unique and beautifully protected ecosystem and landscape. This area was impacted by Hurricane Irma which hit this past September (2017). Fortunately, the impacts were generally not acute and damage was isolated.


Big Cypress National Preserve provides so many opportunities to see really beautiful and some rare wading and diving birds (wood stork, herons, egrets, ibis, roseate spoonbill, anhinga, cormorant), raptors (red shouldered hawks, osprey, vultures), alligators, snakes, and turtles.  Hover over the wildlife names in parens and click on links revealed to see photos I’ve added to the gallery from this recent trip. 


There were lots of highlights of this trip, but one really stuck with me. One early morning while photographing in the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge ( I saw something (Loch Ness Monster??, moving slowly about 150 yards out in the shallow water. I initially thought it was an alligator, which were common here.  


Just so I had a record, I took several photos of this “thing” off in the distance (see the upper half of the photo below). As I continued shooting other photos of the incredible mangrove and wetlands landscape before me, this “thing” kept moving at a good pace toward the tower I was on. The tower about 20 feet up, provided for public viewing, was on a walkway just at the edge of the wetlands area.  As “thing” got closer, I could see “thing” was a turtle. Next thought …. this is a REALLY big turtle. I started taking LOTS of pictures!  


The photo on the lower half below shows what “thing” was – a Florida Soft Shell Turtle.  The turtle was generally submerged in the shallow murky water and occasionally raised its head up for air.  I had to do some homework on this reptilian turtle because I’ve just never seen anything like it. Here’s a few good sources I used (;; These turtles are found primarily in the south. They’re called soft-shelled because their shell is actually a leathery-like skin.  Florida soft-shells are the largest species of soft-shells in North America. Females can reach up to two feet and weigh over 40 pounds. This is the size of a medium-size dog. That’s a big turtle.


The turtle I had an opportunity to photograph was quite large and appeared close to two feet, if not more. The photograph doesn’t reveal any neck or snout markings of a juvenile soft-shell. The general size leads me to believe this is an adult female. The pig-like snout on this turtle is  the strangest thing I’ve seen in a while, but it’s for real!  Check out the claws on the webbed foot that’s in the image. That’s for real too.


Florida soft-shells are carnivores.  They mostly eat fish and snails. However, they’re also known to prey on waterfowl like ducks, and even small-size herons. They have powerful jaws and a powerful bite.


In southern Florida, these turtles nest between mid-March and July. In a single season, the female can nest 2-7 times, and can produce almost 225 eggs every year. This is more than most other species of reptiles. ( These reptilian turtles may live for more than 20 years in the wild, and 30+ years in captivity. Only alligators and humans pose a threat to adult soft-shell turtles.


The protected Florida ecosystems provide days of free wonder, enjoyment, education, and relaxation.


Near and Far - Florida Soft Shell TurtleNear and Far - Florida Soft Shell TurtlePhotos Taken in Feb 2018 at Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge

(Copper Range) blog carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc" florida islands shell soft ten thousand turtle vacation washington wildlife Tue, 20 Feb 2018 00:00:43 GMT
Update on Bird Heroes! In my January 30 post, I shared the photo and story about a banded Trumpeter Swan I encountered while out shooting (photos!) in Northern Ohio. I visited the North American Bird Banding program web site to report my sighting of this swan. I've heard back from the program and received a certificate of appreciation (so nice!) with information on this swan. In short, what we know because of the bird banding program is that this is a 12 year old female Trumpeter Swan. She was banded before she had learned to fly and in a location on Lake Erie about 20 miles from where I took from my photo. Trumpeter's can live 20-30 years so she's on her way to a long life. Trumpeter's form typically lifetime pair bonds when they're 3 to 4 years old and this female had her mate with her. I appreciate the work of the North American Bird Banding program and the individual from the Ohio Division of Wildlife who banded this bird. 

The North American Bird Banding Program also provided this important information:

"Bird banding is important for studying the movement, survival and behavior of birds. About 60 million birds representing hundreds of species have been banded in North America since 1904. About 4 million bands have been recovered and reported.

Data from banded birds are used in monitoring populations, setting hunting regulations, restoring endangered species, studying effects of environmental contaminants, and addressing such issues as Avian Influenza, bird hazards at airports, and crop depredations. Results from banding studies support national and international bird conservation programs such as Partners in Flight, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan, and Wetlands for the Americas.

The North American Bird Banding Program is under the general direction of the U.S. Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service. Cooperators include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Mexico's National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity and Secretary of the Environment and Natural Resources; other federal, state and provincial conservation agencies; universities; amateur ornithologists; bird observatories; nature centers; nongovernmental organizations such as Ducks Unlimited and the National Audubon Society; environmental consulting firms and other private sector businesses. However, the most important partner in this cooperative venture is you, the person who voluntarily reported a recovered band.

Please Report Bands at"

North American Banded Bird ProgramNorth American Banded Bird Program



(Copper Range) carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper copper dc" washington Thu, 08 Feb 2018 20:58:18 GMT
“Critter Cams” – Investing in Wildlife Protection and Conservation “Critter Cams” – Investing in Wildlife Protection and Conservation

One of my biggest “ah ha” moments came several years ago when I was on-line viewing the “critter cams” at the Wildlife Center of Virginia ( The Center has three live cams and also periodically offers a live cam into their animal hospital. To say I was totally awestruck when I first starting viewing the critter cams is incredibly understated. The live cams give any viewer a chance to see wildlife up close, learn about species, and understand what they need to survive. For wildlife rehabilitators, live animal cams enable the public to understand the challenges, demands, and skills and successes of wildlife rehabilitators.

Certainly, there’s a lot of superb animal cams or video production that enables the public to see up close the everyday work of rehabbers. Audubon provides a list of the top ten wildlife cams in the nation ( Unfortunately, none focus on wildlife rehabilitators.  I’d love to hear about wildlife rehab centers that have live animal cams in place and the benefits they experience from them.

Live animal cams don’t come free and require investment of people and money to install and maintain. The “people and money” aspects of running a successful non-profit wildlife rehab center is something to plan and set priorities for. Sponsors and donations can be found. The Wildlife Center of Virginia has a program that enables the public to sponsor their critter cams (, which helps support operational costs. The Center lists on their web site the names, when provided, of past and future sponsors.  In a lot of cases these are private individuals who use their Critter Cam sponsorship as a birthday present or anniversary recognition, including remembering the passing of a loved one. 

Another larger scale example of sponsorship is at the Smithsonian National Zoo. Ford Motor Company sponsors the live Giant Panda Cam (  Macy’s sponsors the live Lion cam ( These are just two, and there are other corporate sponsors.  

Last, not least…I love the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s “All About Birds” site which provides links to multiple live bird cams, including a live Albatross cam in Hawaii ( and a live Red Tailed Hawk cam in Ithaca, NY ( Some of these cams are business-sponsored.

People love watching animals. Wildlife rehabilitators provide a unique window into the world where people care about the animals that share our planet.  That’s something to see. The image below is a female bald eagle who is blind due to West Nile virus and permanently cared for at Back to the Wild in Castalia Ohio.

Blind Bald Eagle ProfileBlind Bald Eagle ProfileFemale bald eagle blinded by west nile virus and permanently cared for at Back to the Wild in Castalia Ohio.

(Copper Range) animal cams conservation critter education public rehabilitation wildlife Sun, 04 Feb 2018 21:34:00 GMT
Here's to Valentine’s Day – Sweet Swans Forever As I was driving to the release location for the snowy owl (previous post!), I went past a large pond with dozens of waterfowl in it. The 10-acre pond is fed by artesian springs, which means it won't freeze and so it provides great habitat for waterfowl that winter in that area of northern Ohio. I promised myself I would stop by the pond the next day and get some shots of the dozens of geese, ducks and swans. My favorite images are now in the gallery ( During my time there, two beautiful and large (!) swans swam up a few feet from the pond’s edge where I was taking shots. I noticed one of them had a band around its neck. The swan, pictured here, is a Trumpeter swan. Why banded?  Trumpeter swans were once endangered.  Market hunters and feather collectors had decimated Trumpeter swan populations by the late 1800s. Swan feathers adorned fashionable hats, women used swan skins as powder puffs, and the birds’ long flight feathers were coveted for writing quills. Aggressive conservation helped the species recover by the early 2000s. Banding allows for studying the movement, survival and behavior of swans, and many other birds also banded. The Ohio Division of Wildlife has completed annual trumpeter swan surveys since the species’ reintroduction in 1996. I reported my sighting of this banded Trumpeter to the North American Bird Banding Program, jointly administered by the United States Geological Survey and the Canadian Wildlife Service.  Depending on availability of records for this particular swan, I may learn more in a few weeks about its history. I can’t wait and I hope to share some news!  More cool facts about the Trumpeter swan are here,

Banded Trumpeter Swan

(Copper Range) banding bird conservation swan trumpeter wildlife Tue, 30 Jan 2018 16:45:00 GMT
Snowy Owl Release and a Week of Wildlife Rehabilitation Last week I had an incredible experience at Back to the Wild (BTTW) in Castalia, Ohio (, where I completed a 40 hour field work requirement for my wildlife rehabilitation certificate. Often, this time of year is slow for rehabilitators. Migrations are over and nesting, or "baby" season is also over.  Up north, many species are hunkered down and just trying to get through winter. However, I not only witnessed and participated in BTTW's  first snowy owl release in about 15 years, but another injured snowy owl was admitted to the center last week. BTTW had a highly successful release of its snowy, with a crowd of over 100, on a picture perfect (and just a little chilly at zero degrees windchill!) winter day. Every step in this release, from identifying and securing a release site, to informing the press and public, preparing the snowy owl for safe transport to the release site, and educating those in attendance about snowy owls and the work of wildlife rehabilitators went beautifully. These spectacular raptors are like heaven touching earth, so it was such an honor for me to see one safely released back to the wild.  Snowy owls are typically found in the high Artic tundra. However, in some winters they make their way to Northern US states that border Canada ( Some have been reported even further south. Here's a couple links to press or other coverage of this release (  Many images were taken this day; here's one from me that I particularly love which shows the snowy with us humans for the last time (we hope).  

Snowy Owl Back to the Wild


(Copper Range) back to the wild birds blogger blogs carolyn carolyn cooper carolyn copper conservation copper environmental photographs ohio photography raptors snowy owl washington wildlife wildlife blogs wildlife photography wildlife rehabilitation Tue, 23 Jan 2018 21:48:00 GMT