Saturday, April 21, 2012

Buffalo Field Campaign Comes to Arizona

I had the opportunity on Thursday evening to attend Mike Meese's presentation on the treatment of Yellowstone National Parks wild buffalo herd at the hands of the Interagency Bison Management Plan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the IBMP it does a great deal to protect local ranchers access to public lands and cheap grazing at the expense of the Yellowstone bison and the American taxpayer. Under the guise of disease prevention the last wild buffalo herd has been slaughtered, experimented on, hazed and generally mistreated in a way that can only be described as abusive.
The video presentation was at times hard to watch as well as maddening but it was also at times uplifting in ways that I didn't expect. Images of injured newborn calves struggling to keep up with the herd as they were being hazed by agents of the government forced to run 15 miles in a single day will stick with me for a long, long time but so will the images and words of the BFC volunteers.
The amazing level of commitment Mike and the other BFC volunteers exhibit is nothing short of inspiring. Willing to endure all kinds of weather and to place themselves in harms way to bear witness to the treatment of these magnificent animals while at the same time forsaking the creature comforts that most of us enjoy is frankly one of the most selfless acts I can recall. Bringing the plight of the Yellowstone Bison into public view has slowed their killing to a trickle to the credit of the BFC but BFC marches on not satisfied with their enormous success, concerned only with the work that still needs to be done to protect the bison. After more than a decade of advocating for the buffalo at Yellowstone BFC's commitment has not wavered and I have no doubt that they will continue until the buffalo can roam free.
The buffalo's instinct's lead them to return to their ancestral lands but they are seeking more than just food. They are seeking their heritage, their place in a world that at least on public lands, lands that belong to you and me, should be guaranteed to them. Public lands should not be in the sole control of an industry that seeks only to enrich itself by removing native wildlife to make way for cattle grazing, an immoral and unjust act that should be outlawed.
Buffalo Field Campaign continues to fight for the right of the last wild bison in America to exist. They are  fighting in the field and in the media as well as in the courts and they need our support. The first step is to contact BFC and become educated about what is really going on in Montana. Spread the word in support of BFC and the buffalo and make a donation to this amazing group.
The Buffalo Field Campaign can be reached via: and don't miss these very compelling videos documenting the treatment of the buffalo.

On a personal note I would like to thank Mike and Stephany and all the other volunteers for their hard work and dedication to the buffalo. You guys are awesome!

Ray Goodwin
Sonoran Connection

Monday, April 16, 2012

A Beautiful Day at Madera

We took a walk in the lower canyon just to get outside on a beautiful spring day. The temperature was perfect and although it was somewhat quiet in the birdwatching category we just enjoyed being at Madera. On Whitehouse Road on the way in this Red-tailed Hawk flew up with what I think is a Whip Snake in it's talons from along side the road. It landed on a power pole and we watched as the snake tried desperately to free itself from the hawks grasp to no avail.

I tried not to disturb the drama taking place but I got just a little too close for the hawks comfort and it moved to the next pole with the snake still trying to bite. It was a good reminder of how in nature that it is survival of the fittest and death is not always swift or kind. Red-tailed Hawks are the most common hawk in the country and are perhaps the easiest to identify because of their namesake "red" tail.

On the trail we met a couple from Canada who were adding birds to their life lists at a rate that seemed to make them very excited. This Canyon Towhee was a first for them as was  a Zone-tailed Hawk and the Ash-throated Flycatcher seen below. One of the most rewarding aspects of birding is the chance to meet people from far away places that have never seen some of the birds that we take for granted. It gives me a perspective that makes me want to travel to other places so that I may see birds that while common to the locals are new to me.

Ash-throated Flycatcher

In an unrelated story the other day at Sweetwater Wetlands in Tucson Nan and I took our friend Bosque Bill from New Mexico on a tour in hopes of seeing the Red Phalarope that has been spotted there lately. As luck would have it we easily found the phalarope as well as Long-billed Dowitchers and Black-necked Stilts all mingling together in one of the retention ponds. It was amazing to me and everyone else how small the Phalarope is.
Up to this point it's all good and then I had what I consider to be an incredibly close call with a large Western Diamondback Rattlesnake. Like most birdwatchers my focus is in the trees and ponds and not so much on the path. As we approached the settling ponds I was out in front by 100 feet or so and all of the sudden I was aware of hissing and rattling and coiling at my feet. Well as Nan likes to say "for an old guy you sure can jump high and fast". It must have been my lucky day because the snake let me off with a warning and slithered away into the underbrush. I spent the rest of our visit with one eye on the sky and the other  on the ground!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Doing the Right Thing...


There are a couple of events taking place next week that have to do with endangered species that I wanted to highlight here at Sonoran Connection. The first has to do with the last wild herd of buffalo at Yellowstone National Park. Next week Mike Meese co-founder and President of the Buffalo Field Campaign will be coming to the University of Arizona in Tucson to give presentations about the work of his group in Yellowstone. I have long been concerned about the treatment of the Yellowstone herd and have followed the Buffalo Field Campaign's struggle to save the bison against powerful anti buffalo interests in Montana.
I will be attending at least one of the presentations and look forward to meeting Mike and hearing about this important issue.
The dates and times are as follows:    4/18/12 @ 6 P.M.
                                                          Nugent Building Room 205
                                                          University of Arizona
                                                          Tucson, Arizona

                                                          4/19/12 @7 P.M.
                                                          The Historic Courtyard
                                                          300 East University Blvd.
                                                          University of Arizona
                                                          Tucson, Arizona

The second is Borderlands Habitat Initiative sponsored by he Friends of Buenos Aries National Wildlife Refuge which will take place at the Arivaca Community Center. The guest speaker will be Ron Pulliam Professor of Ecology at the University of Georgia. Details below:

                                                          4/18/12 @ 6P.M. to & P.M.
                                                          Arivaca Community Center
                                                          Arivaca, Arizona

Monday, April 9, 2012

Tohono Chul

 While my foot is still recovering, a process that's taking far too long, I continue to take my camera to places that are close by and don't require long periods on my feet. Tohono Chul fits the bill and is worth a visit just to see the gardens and do a little bird watching. Spending a couple of hours there on Saturday morning was quite uplifting.

  I feel like my photography has suffered from being so immobile and spending so much time sitting around but I have put some of the time to good use studying both technical and creative aspects of the craft with an eye to improving my images. Of course this kind of self evaluation inevitably leads to wanting better equipment and really points out the weaknesses of my current equipment especially in the lens category.

My current Canon 70-300 USM IS Telephoto take good images at 70mm but at 300mm it's much harder to achieve good results and I shoot allot of images at 300mm in the field. My goal is to upgrade to an L series telephoto which from everything I read will help me to produce better images at this distance. I have rediscovered my 55mm lens lately and am enjoying using it it on the 7D which for some reason I had not done that much.

I have to say at this point that I don't really enjoy working with a tripod because of all the missed shots that get away especially birds and animals. however I would like a new tripod that is much lighter than my current one which was made for studio work and is very cumbersome in the field. 

As you can see in the photo above a good polarizer would have improved the sky and the overall effect of the picture. It's on the list for multiple lenses as is a lens hood for the 55mm which for some reason I never purchased.

You can access Tohono Chul's website here and I encourage you to take the time if you have it to visit as it is well worth the admission which is $8. They have a tea room and green houses which add to the experience.

This hummingbird feeding was taken with my 70-300mm  at the maximum focal length of 300mm with an aperture setting of 5.6 and a shutter speed of 800 and an ISO set at 200.  Although it's a nice shot it's not the result I had hoped for.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring is sprung.....

One of the most pleasant aspects of living close to the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum is being able to take a ten minute ride through the Saguaro forest and find almost unlimited opportunities for photography. At the present many of the cacti are in full bloom and I was able to take a few shots that I hope will help people who have never experienced the "desert" to realize this place is more than a pile of sand.

The cacti at the museum have decided to put on quite a show this year and all of these photos were taken within an hour of just walking around a small area within the grounds. I find it somewhat unusual that a plant that has the ability to go long periods without water and is very painful to touch ( I can vouch for this personally) produces such amazing flowers.

The photos here represent a small portion of the flowers that bloom in the desert and it is not uncommon to see blossoms along the roadside or places that you would swear that nothing could grow let alone produce such amazing beauty.

Most of the cacti do not bloom for very long and it is not unusual to see a blossom one day and not the next.

 I love the colors and the symmetry and even the fact that most plants here have vicious thorns, a tactic that has allowed many of these plants to survive in this place that can be very, very harsh.

All of the pictures in this post are the result of my experimentation with different lenses and manual settings so I did not spend time identifying the plants. The great thing about photography is you are never done learning and changing equipment or light can cause a whole new set of challenges. Hope you enjoy the images.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Flanders Fields where the Poppies Blow

When I was a child many years ago I heard someone recite this poem written by a Lieutenant Colonel who was also a medical doctor in the Canadian military. It had such a profound effect on me that I never forgot it and every time I see poppies growing it takes me back to earlier times.

In Flanders Fields
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.