Posts Tagged "wildlife"

Photographing in Florida over the Christmas holidays

Posted by on 31. January 2014 in Blog / Journal, Photography | Comments Off on Photographing in Florida over the Christmas holidays

Photographing in Florida over the Christmas holidays

I spent several days over the Christmas and New Years in Florida. Here is a selected recollection of memorable photography moments, and a few useful travel observations. The primary goal of my trip was to visit in-laws and to recharge personal batteries. I did not expect to spend too much time travelling for the  purpose of photography. Actually, I left Saskatoon with minimal expectations – I was prepared to be happy with whatever images I would capture during the holidays. I also took  bare minimum of the photo gear, although I can not say that I travelled light. A solid tripod, one camera body (Canon 1D Mark IV), and three lenses: 17-40 mm f/4 wide-angle zoom, 70-200 mm f/4 telephoto zoom and a 400 mm f.5.6 telephoto lens. Canon 1D is not a camera that I would normally use for photographing landscapes. My primary goal was bird photography and I chose to bring this camera body for it’s fast frame rate and the 1.3x cropped sensor. Working with a 1.3x crop sensor  effectively turned my 400 mm lens into a 520 mm lens. Our home base was in Fort Myers, on the west coast of Florida. It is a great place for short day trips. Coastal beaches are only a few minutes away and there are several conservation areas ideally suited for observing and photographing birds. Probably the best known among photographers is J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island.     This image is from the Bowman’s beach on Sanibel Island. A gorgeous sandy beach, spreading for kilometres in east-west direction on the outer reaches of the island. A perfect place to look for shells or just enjoy the sun & ocean breeze. The beach is short walk from the parking lot situated at the end of the Bowman Beach Rd. (left turn from the main Sanibel-Captiva Road).There are picnic tables, rest rooms, showers and places to set up a barbecue. There is also a kayak & canoe launch area if you wish to explore the inshore channels.     Bowman’s beach (Sanibel Island, Florida) is also a good place to see birds. Many shorebirds, gulls, terns, pelicans and black skimmers feed along the water edge. They are generally not afraid of people and if you do not make sudden moves, they will allow you to approach very close. You should not abuse the privilege though, as the birds need time to rest and find food. This Willet – a shorebird – was briefly disturbed by beach walkers and quickly returned to look for food among sand disturbed by rolling waves. Another good spot for nature photography in Ft. Mayers area is the Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. The preserve was initiated in late 1970s by a group of Lee County students alarmed by the intrusion of development into this diverse wetland. They acted and saved the area from logging and draining, creating a preserve where people can visit and enjoy the vast array of plants and animals. Today the preserve is surrounded by housing and shopping malls of Fort Myers, providing a welcome oasis of natural world. Although the preserve is good for wildlife photography at any time, I like going there when the cloud cover softens the sunlight to photograph elegant cypress trees. Here is one image of a jumble of pond cypress trees at the Six-Mile Cypress Slough Preserve. I have visited this spot several times as it allows for a good view of cypress tree trunks reflecting in calm waters of the Wood Duck Pond. The image might look messy to some but...

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Calgary Zoo to begin a captive breeding program for Greater Sage Grouse

Posted by on 26. January 2014 in Blog / Journal, Conservation, News & Events | Comments Off on Calgary Zoo to begin a captive breeding program for Greater Sage Grouse

Calgary Zoo to begin a captive breeding program for Greater Sage Grouse

Greater Sage Grouse populations are at critically low numbers in Canada. The estimated population size is less than 100 birds, most of them can be found in the grasslands of southwest Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta. In December of 2013, Environment Canada published the first ever Emergency Order under the Species at Risk Act to protect the Greater Sage Grouse on crown lands (see the related post, A step in the right direction). Later that month, Environment Canada released a proposal for the Amended Recovery Strategy for this species.   There have been previous attempts to supplement the Canadian population by bringing in adult birds from Montana, where the Sage Grouse is more abundant. Now, Calgary Zoo will begin a captive breeding and rearing program for this endangered species, in attempt to help stabilize the population numbers. The program will receive financial help from the Canadian Government in the amount of $2.1 million over the next 10 years. The Government of Alberta allocated a matching contribution of $2.1 million for the same program. The Calgary Zoo has had previous experience contributing to the recovery strategies for endangered species in Canada. Over the last few years, the Zoo employees took part in reintroduction and monitoring of Black-footed Ferrets in Grasslands National Park in southern Saskatchewan, captive breeding programs for Whooping Cranes, and many other successful initiatives. Watch a short video about the release of Black-footed Ferrets in Grasslands National Park. Here is a press release from the Environment Canada about the Greater Sage Grouse captive breeding program: Working Together to Protect the Greater Sage-Grouse Government of Canada, Government of Alberta and the Calgary Zoo enter into multi-million dollar partnership for new program January 23, 2014 – Calgary, Alberta Minister Aglukkaq has announced a $2.1 million contribution for the Calgary Zoo’s new captive breeding and rearing program for the Greater Sage-Grouse. The Government of Canada is committed to protecting and preserving our rich biodiversity, as seen in the $25 million/year investment for species at risk in Economic Action Plan 2012. This program is breaking new ground—this will be the first time that Sage-Grouse have been bred and raised in captivity in Canada. This program is the next step in a series of actions the federal and provincial governments are taking to protect and bring back the Greater Sage-Grouse in Canada. On December 4th, the federal government published an Emergency Order to protect the Greater Sage-Grouse across 1700 km2 of crown lands in Alberta and Saskatchewan.  On December 20th the proposed Amended Recovery Strategy for Greater Sage?Grouse was published, which outlines the state of the species, provides information about the species and population objectives, and identifies new critical habitat. Quick Facts: In 2012, there were estimated to be between 93-138 adult birds in Canada. The population has declined by 98 percent since 1988. The Sage-Grouse captive rearing and breeding program will cost a total of just over $5 million over 10 years. The Government of Canada and the Calgary Zoo have been collaborating on endangered species recovery for decades. Quotes: “Our Government’s partnership with the Calgary Zoo in a captive breeding and reintroduction program is an important step to recovering the Greater Sage-Grouse in Canada. Our long-term goal is to establish a stable Sage-Grouse population in Canada through stewardship initiatives and partnerships.” – The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment, Minister of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency and Minister for the Arctic Council “The Government of Alberta is proud to be supporting Sage-Grouse recovery in Alberta by contributing $2.1 million over 10 years towards the Greater Sage-Grouse captive breeding program at the Calgary Zoo. This is an...

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BirdWatch Canada cover and article about the PFRA pastures

Posted by on 29. October 2013 in Blog / Journal, Conservation, News & Events | Comments Off on BirdWatch Canada cover and article about the PFRA pastures

BirdWatch Canada cover and article about the PFRA pastures

A few months ago Saskatchewan author Laura Stewart wrote an article about the plight of PFRA community pastures which was published in the Briarpatch magazine. A few of my images were selected to illustrate the story. Laura recently wrote a cover story for the fall issue of BirdWatch Canada magazine titled “Prairie Grasslands in Peril?” The magazine publishes feature articles about the world of birds. Laura Stewart eloquently discusses the threats to grassland birds through recent changes in the type of use and management of prairie grasslands, including changes to and dismantling of the PFRA community pasture system. She managed to present a complex issue in an easy-to-read article. Laura writes: Ongoing loss of remnant prairie and wetland areas has been a concern for decades, but recent socio-economic changes in the Prairie provinces are driving a more drastic shift in the overall pattern of the habitat that remains. Agriculture still dominates the landscape, but much of it is scaled up to industrial operations…. As a whole the landscape is growing simpler: less of a mosaic. It is not only the birds that are loosing, ranchers throughout the Prairie provinces will be negatively affected by the elimination of the grassland research program conducted on the PFRA pastres: The end of the PFRA Community Pasture Program means a loss of resources and information sharing, not only for managing lands within the program, but also for research, innovation, and extension services that help improve grazing practices throughout the prairie region. Several of my images appear with the story. A sunset image of prairie with crocuses at Fairview PFRA community pasture was chosen to grace the cover of the fall issue. I am particularly proud of the cover shot because pictures of birds usually grace the front page of BirdWatch Canada, and landscape images are rarely selected. You can download a pdf of the article fom the Bird Studies Canada web site....

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A step in the right direction: endangered Greater Sage Grouse to be protected by an emergency order

Posted by on 18. September 2013 in Blog / Journal, Conservation, News & Events | Comments Off on A step in the right direction: endangered Greater Sage Grouse to be protected by an emergency order

A step in the right direction: endangered Greater Sage Grouse to be protected by an emergency order

After many months of inaction and a few lost court cases, (see also news item about a court order requiring the government to designate critical habitat under the Species at Risk Act), the federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced today that an emergency order to protect an endangered species Greater Sage Grouse will be issued in the coming months. The order will impose restrictions on development and industrial activities to protect the Sage Grouse and its habitat on provincial and federal Crown lands in Alberta and Saskatchewan. The proposed restrictions will not affect activities on private land, nor will they restrict cattle grazing on federal and provincial Crown lands. The emphasis is on controlling the industrial activity that has had the largest impact on the species’ survival. Information posted on the Environment Canada’s backgrounder info sheet explains the intent of the announced measures: “Some constraints would applied to land use on approximately 1200 km2 of crown land in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The intent is to address seasonal noise, destruction of habitat, disturbance of breeding sites, and the creation of new structures without imposing restrictions on activities on private land, nor on grazing on provincial or federal crown lands. Our goal is to achieve the best protection for the Sage-Grouse while minimizing impacts on agricultural producers.”     An emergency order – a rare measure that has not been issues since the Canada’s Species at Risk Act was proclaimed in 2002 – can be issued when a species faces “imminent threats to its survival” and existing protection measures are deemed inadequate. Concerns have been raised that the endangered Sage Grouse could disappear from Canada after a dramatic drop in its population numbers over the last few years. Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Environment surveys conducted in 2012 show that there were only 55 to 80 individual birds left in the province, which is a 49% decline from the year before, or an 81% decline from 1994 when lek (breeding ground) counts first started. Situation in Alberta is even worse, with only a few dozen birds remaining in the province. The Greater Sage Grouse was present in British Columbia but is now considered extirpated there. According to the Environment Canada, fewer than 140 birds are left in the two western provinces, and the species’ population size has fallen 98% since 1988. The causes of the population decline include: loss or degradation of habitat, predation, and disease. Because there are so few individual birds left in Canada, the species here is vulnerable to extreme weather events.     Announcement of the emergency order to protect the Greater Sage Grouse is a step in right direction. Although, it is important to note that this is just an announcement that the order will be issued sometime in the future. In a statement issued to the Canadian press, Melissa Gorrie, lawyer for the group Ecojustice, said that “(We) have yet to see when – or even if – the emergency order will be implemented, and whether it will provide real, meaningful protection for these prairie birds and their critical habitat”. It is possible that the federal government will continue delaying the implementation of emergency measures or talk about “gradual implementation” of recovery measures. Delaying any activity and decision-making on the Species at Risk in Canada is a standard mode of action for the current federal Environment Ministers. In a recent article published by Globe and Mail, three scientists from the group called Scientists for Species reveal how recommendations for listing of Species at Risk in Canada can be delayed for over 1519 days in transit from the minister’s...

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News: City of Saskatoon seeks community input on wetlands policy

Posted by on 6. September 2013 in Blog / Journal, News & Events | Comments Off on News: City of Saskatoon seeks community input on wetlands policy

News: City of Saskatoon seeks community input on wetlands policy

Hot off the press, this community announcement arrived this morning. It is for a good (and important) cause so I am posting it here for your information. The City of Saskatoon (City) is seeking input on a new planning initiative that will establish a framework for the identification, preservation, and management of wetlands in the City’s future growth areas.  The Wetland Policy will ensure that impacts to wetlands are an important consideration in any future development decisions within Saskatoon. Saskatoon is growing and with that comes pressure on the natural environment. Saskatoon and the surrounding areas contain a significant number of wetlands that when preserved can provide many social, environmental, and economic benefits to the community.  The benefits of integrating wetlands into the urban landscape include: replenishing ground water supply; reduced flooding; less reliance on traditional storm water infrastructure; habitat preservation; improved water and air quality; and recreational and educational opportunities. The Wetland Policy will require developers to account for and address impacts to wetlands as part of the development of new neighbourhoods so that the effects can be minimized and important wetlands can be preserved and integrated into the city. The preservation of important wetlands supports many of the strategic goals identified in the City’s Strategic Plan 2012-2022.  Specifically, the Wetland Policy furthers the strategic goals of Quality of Life and Environmental Leadership by preserving natural areas for citizens to enjoy, reducing damage to property from flooding, improving water quality, and providing habitat for plant and animal life. To provide feedback on the draft Wetland Policy or to learn more about wetlands in Saskatoon, please visit the City’s wetlands policy project website at...

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