Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lighter side of Polar Bears

I put this video together to share with friends and family to give them a look at what I've been up to... I hope you enjoy!

A slightly larger version is available on YouTube now.


If you listen to Stephen Colbert of the Colbert Report, you know that the number one threat to America is: BEARS! "God-less killing machines". Reading all the press these days generated by the increase in infanticide and cannibalism within the Western Hudson Bay population one might start to agree and have a negative image of these amazing creatures. It's important to understand that nature has a way of balancing things out. The loss of the cub has a far better long term return on investment than loosing the male or female bear to starvation.

It sounds cold and heartless, we all love baby animals but nature has to be heartless at times in order to survive. The cub that lost it's life helped that male bear get through an extremely difficult time. The mother is now able to better care for herself and she has the experience to prevent losing cubs in the future. Both the male and female will be in a better position to produce more off-spring because of the loss of the cub. It is sad and we grieve for that little life but we also thank it for helping those in need.

While hardly the same as the cubs sacrifice... I urge everyone to give a little bit of yourselves this holiday season. Times are tough for a lot of people. Foreclosures, homelessness, joblessness - people are just as scared as the bears, wondering when the ice will form, when the recession will end... Think about donating money or food to a local food bank. If you don't have any to spare, give your time. Help those around you to survive and be thankful knowing that others are willing to give of themselves in return.

Monday, December 7, 2009


Finally some good news for the polar bears. The ice has formed on Hudson Bay and the temperatures are staying low enough to keep the ice so they are on their way!!

A big thank you to Polar Bears International for keeping us in the loop on the current conditions.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Polar Bear Diet Expansion with Climate Change

Nature is adaptable. If given time it can adjust, find new niches and new opportunities for survival. While rare, reports are coming in of Polar Bears eating Caribou, Lemmings and Ravens. As the polar ice melts, new species are becoming available as a food source. Harbor Seals are moving in to occupy the shores of Hudson Bay. Polar Bears are finding new sources of food and are being less finicky in what they eat... it's a good thing... right?

Not so much.

I have always assumed that Polar Bears are strict carnivores. All of the documents say that their main food source is the Ringed Seal. It made sense that they are opportunistic and will take advantage of any meal they can find but it didn't occur to me that they would only eat certain parts of the seal. In speaking with the naturalists and scientists associated with Polar Bears International (PBI), I learned that Polar Bears are lipovores.

The Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida) utilizes a thick layer of blubber to keep it warm on the ice floes of the arctic. This fat layer is what the Polar Bear needs to build body mass for it's summer long fast. In most cases, the bear will not eat the meat! I thought they would eat every morsel, taking advantage of every opportunity. I was shocked but suddenly it made sense as to why the arctic fox would follow the bear onto the ice. Why hunt for your own food when all you need to do is wait for someone else to capture it for you?

As it turns out, Polar Bears, in addition to calories, obtain much of their water from the fat of the Ringed Seal. If the bear begins to eat protein they need to take in a higher amount of water from outside sources. Have you ever tried to get a cup of water from snow? Ten inches of fresh snow can contain as little as 0.10 inches of water! It takes 1 calorie to warm 1cc of water 1 degree centigrade. Since temperatures can get as low as -68 C... well... after a lot of math you can see it takes quite a bit of effort to get very little reward.

All of this is leading to more energy expenditure to receive a far smaller amount of benefit and in some cases, a negative benefit or at best no benefit at all. The Harbor Seal (Phoca vitulina) births on shore, not the ice so they have a thinner fat layer than the Ringed Seal. Have you ever seen a Lemming? Not much bigger than the hamster you had as a kid. And Caribou is exceptionally lean meat, great protein but not much water.

Moral of the story? It takes time to adapt, change is happening too quickly, we need to slow it down as much as we can to give these animals a fighting chance. Get involved.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Polar Bear Infanticide

A warning upfront: Some of the images included in this post are graphic and very upsetting but it's a story that needs to be told.

By now we all know about Global Climate Change or Global Warming. We know that the sea ice is melting. We know that these changes are happening rapidly and we know that it is putting more and more pressure on the animals that rely on the ice for their survival. However, KNOWING and SEEING FIRST HAND are two very different things.

Churchill is a perfect location to view Polar Bears in the wild. Five rivers pour into Hudson Bay near Churchill, the fresh water freezing at a warmer temperature than the salt water with which it mixes. The polar bears stage in the area, waiting for the ice to form so that they can break their summer long fast by hunting the ring seals which inhabit the ice flows. The large males arrive in the first wave. They spend their time sparing with other males, establishing dominance and working muscles that have been neglected during the summers inactivity. When the ice forms they leave and it is safe for the smaller, younger males and females to stage on the shore before they step off onto the ice flow. The final wave of bears to arrive on the sea ice are the females with cubs. They are vigilant about keeping their cubs a safe distance from large males who are feeling increasingly pressured to find food for their starving bodies.

Historically the bears have been able to return to the sea ice to begin hunting by November 8th. Within the past decade that date has moved further out, the sea ice forming later and later and the multi-year sea ice all but disappearing. On November 19th I was witness to an incident which speaks to the pressures these bear are facing. The ice has yet to form. The area is saturated with bears: large males, thin geriatric bears, slender females, rambunctious teenagers and moms with cubs. They are all starving and they are impatient for the ice to form. A young female was guarding her cub when a large male approached too close. She valiantly fought him, attempting to protect her cub but in the end he was too big, too strong and he took the cub.

This is not an isolated incident. It has been recorded a confirmed four times to date during this season with an additional four unconfirmed incidents - eight in total. Retired biologist, Dr. Ian Sterling has been working with the Western Hudson Bay population of Polar Bears for over 30 years and has reported that he has not witnessed an incident of cannibalism in his time.

It would be easy to hate the male bear, to call him a bad seed and dismiss the incident as the harshness of Mother Nature. In speaking with JoAnne Simerson, Senior Keeper and Polar Bear Behaviorist with the San Diego Zoo, we agree that one has to have compassion for the male bear as well as the cub and female. If his normal food source were available to him he would not have wasted his time on the cub. The world is changing quickly and they all have so little time to adapt....

This December the United Nations plans to meet in Copenhagen to discuss a plan to reduce the world's carbon footprint. I was very happy to learn that President Obama will be attending the meeting and has pledged to reduce U.S. emissions 17% from 2005 by 2020.

For more information and resent press releases surrounding this incident and the ongoing research into Polar Bears please visit Polar Bears International (PBI).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

15 Days in the Arctic

Hitting the road to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada for 15 days packed full of polar bears, arctic fox and arctic hare. Hoping for some good sunsets this year... wish me luck! I'll report back in 15 days.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Exhausted and Elated

Enrique and I had the distinct pleasure of working with two very talented couples in a dance studio in Oakland last night. While I am absolutely exhausted (we wrapped at 1:50 AM, packed up and headed home and I was on my way to Elkhorn Slough to photograph otters by 6AM) I am thrilled with the results of the shoot. They have a show coming up in January and needed promotional images, we captured those and then some!

Eric and Chelsea (top) are American Grand Ballroom Smooth Champions and Max and Rachel (bottom) are an up and coming Latin dance couple. I don't
even pretend that I can dance
but I know what it's supposed to look like and these guys have it in spades. And I'm not just saying that because Chelsea is my cousin! They are truly talented. I'll keep you posted on the show when I get more information in case anyone is in town and wants to get tickets.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Desert Stars

On a recent trip to Death Valley I had the opportunity to set my camera up outside my tent without fear of it being stolen in the night. Over the course of the night my camera recorded 545 individual 20 second exposures of the night sky. While I wasn't awake to wish on it, the camera was able to capture a Shooting Star as well as a multitude of airplanes and satellites. The sky is pretty busy up there!

I pointed my camera toward where I thought the equatorial plane may be based on my knowledge of the location of the North Star. As I processed the image and added layer upon layer I was delighted to see the final trails emerging. What I had not anticipated was the variation in color of the trails... As a photographer I should know... light is not always the same. Yet somehow, as I look up into the sky at night, all I see are white and occasionally red stars. The trails tell a different story! They are alive with whites, blues, gold, pink and even teal! I can't wait to get back out there and experiment more!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fantastic News!

I was thrilled to find an email hidden in my Spam Folder which reads...

Congratulations! This email is to officially inform you that you have been chosen as a Highly Honored Photographer in the 2009 Nature's Best Photography Windland Smith Rice International Awards and will be featured in this year's Fall/Winter edition of Nature's Best Photography!

‘Recycle Me!’
Sand Island, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, Northwestern Hawaiian Islands
Rebecca R Jackrel
San Francisco, CA, USA

Laysan Albatross shadows skim across a beach on Midway Atoll where the message ‘Recycle Me!’ has been spelled out in the sand with marine debris collected on the island.

Trash from around the world is collected in the ocean currents and dropped off on the shores of islands like Midway. Even more is caught up in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre where Laysan and Black-footed Albatross mistake the plastic for food, bringing approximately 5,000 pounds each breeding cycle back to feed their hungry chicks. We can help stop this ‘garbage patch’ from growing by reducing waste and recycling more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

From Inspiration to Personal View

We all look to others for inspiration especially as photographers and artists. I scroll through Flickr, books, magazines and numerous forums in my scouting for new locations, angles I haven't seen before and times of year to visit.

The Mobius Arch in Alabama Hills has become so well known that a path has been erected to keep people from completely trampling the fragile desert environment.... they still trample it. In 2006 my friend Jim Goldstein visited the arch and captured an image that I love for it's light, color and one simple little cloud. (Click here to see it.) But he in turn was inspired to seek out the location by Galen Rowell's 2001 image 'Arch beneath Mount Whitney in the Alabama Hills'.

I in turn have been inspired to visit the location and try my own hand. I think we all start with the "classic shot'. The need to reproduce the image that drew us to the area in the first place. Some people stop there with the thought 'I got what I came for! Look! It's just like {insert famous photograph's name here}'s picture!' That may be fine for most but for some of us we need more. Once that first image is made we become hungry... we visit the area again and again. We crawl on our hands and knees, we stretch and crane our necks, we hike further and we fall, skid and slid until suddenly we see it. Something we think we haven't seen before... trouble is... once we've captured that... we start all over again! I can't wait to see what I get next time I visit! Until then, Thank you to all the wonderful photographers out there who provide me with inspiration every day!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Polar Bears

Blog Action Day 2009 has got me thinking about Climate Change and my impending visit to the Arctic. For the past few years I have been visiting the Polar Bears of Churchill, Manitoba. They are the Southern-most population and they are being hit hard by the lack of sea ice. Polar Bears are excellent swimmers for sure but with the sea ice disappearing, there is no where for them to swim to... Additionally, the sea ice traditionally holds the sea in place in the Hudson Bay... without it the wind kicks up large waves that even the best swimmers can't fight. The ice that does form is forming later and breaking up earlier... cutting into the bears time limit to capture enough prey to make it through another season. Click here to view an amazing study of the sea ice and it's decline over recent years. Scientists are seeing a trend... bears are getting smaller... mothers are producing single cubs or none at all... One can't help but wonder how long this species has before they reach the tipping point. Here's hoping they can hang on while we get our act together.

For more information on Polar Bears and how you can get involved visit Polar Bears International.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Tracking the Devil

Holly, a Field Officer with the Task Force, releases a Tasmanian Devil.

For the past four days I've had the privilege of following an extremely committed group of individuals as they worked tirelessly to map a disease front in the Tasmanian Devil. The Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD) has erupted and spread through the devil population at an alarming rate. The newly formed 'Devil Task Force' has been charged with the job of identifying the disease front and creating a containment plan. Iain and I captured many powerful images during this trip and intend to use them to generate articles in order to raise awareness of the disease and the people who are involved with combating it. A special thanks to Phil, Holly and Anton for putting up with the cameras and for not leaving us behind in the dust along the forest tracks! ;^)

For more information on the Devil Task Force visit: http://www.tassiedevil.com.au/

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Spirit of BC

It hardly seems possible that a week ago I was sitting in the mud of the edge of a stream watching bears chasing pink salmon. We were so lucky this year with the bear activity and the weather.

Four different Kermode Black Bear (aka Spirit Bears) walked the creek in front of us... chasing fish, taking naps and hiding from the rain storms. In another area we found a mother Grizzly and her cub. She was unconcerned by our approach and continued going about her business of catching fish and playing with baby. Our flight out from Hartley Bay took us over the amazing landscapes of Prince Rupert Island.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Need Coffee? Go to Whole Foods!

In 2003 I was working as a Veterinary Technician at Ocean Avenue Veterinary Hospital near City College. On non-surgical days, my friends/co-workers and I would often race down to grab a bite to eat, and far more importantly a good cup of coffee from Caffe D'Melanio. The days I loved the most were roasting days. The entire block smells of fresh roasted coffee... a siren's call for me. Melanio Duarte always had a smile and a story to go along with the meal. As I transitioned into photography, Melanio let me cover his walls with my images.

In 2007 I was lucky to have the opportunity to visit Argentina and photograph near Melanio's home town. Images from that trip still grace the walls of Caffe D'Melanio and now one of my images of Iguazu Falls is gracing Melanio's coffee.

On his 10 year anniversary, Melanio has just started to distribute his yummy coffee through Whole Foods Market!! I couldn't be more happy for him. It is currently available in the Franklin store in San Francisco and the Walnut Creek store with plans to expand into the Potrero Hill store and beyond. So if you can't visit Melanio in the restaurant on Ocean Avenue, you can still pick up some really delicious coffee from Whole Foods! Just save a cup of Roastmaster's Blend for me!

Caffe D'Melanio
1314 Ocean Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94122
Phone: 415-333-3665

Whole Foods Market Franklin Store
1765 California St
San Francisco, CA 94109
Phone 415.674.0500

Whole Foods Market Walnut Creek
1333 Newell Ave
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
Phone 925.274.9700

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Where have I been all this time??!!

Well, it seems that I have been absent of late and with good reason! Really! While some National Parks are now boasting internet access I am pleased to report that there is NO INTERNET in the High Sierras! I spent an amazing 9 days hiking the back country with friends. You can read all about the High Sierra Camps in Yosemite on the California Nature Blog.

Almost immediately upon my return, I washed some clothing, packed up the heavy duty camping gear and headed out the door to Alaska! Where the float planes and high winds were numerous and prevalent and the internet access was sparse. I was lucky enough to have won two lotteries this year. The first for access to the High Sierra camps and the second for access to an amazing area called the McNeil River Game Sanctuary. Let me tell you... my friend Enrique and I can pitch tents! 50 MPH winds and the tent we nicknamed "The Marriott", due to it's HUGE size, stood the test.

The bears were nothing short of spectacular! I'll leave you all with this little video clip of the falls to wet your appetite! Did I mention I now have a video camera? Life is good my friends!!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Show Time!

I've been quiet for a while now as I've been preparing for a show at A Woman's Eye Gallery. Well, this weekend is it! I've cut my mats (and my hands), framed my prints, dusted and buffed the glass and am ready to hang. The opening reception is Saturday from Noon to 5pm so if you are around, stop in and say 'Hi!'

A Woman's Eye Gallery is located at
678 Portola Drive, San Francisco, California,
across from Tower Market in Miraloma Park.
Free Parking at the adjacent Ebenezer Lutheran church. It's the big purple one... you can't miss it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Back in Business!

With 10 minutes to spare, my gear is home, safe and sound and upgraded... according to Canon at least... "It was found that the adjustment to the AF assembly was incorrect the auto focus did not operate properly. Electrical Adjustments were carried out on the AF assembly." I'm really hoping that means it's fixed! I'll be playing with the autofocus over the next few days just to be sure. Maybe I'll be able to actually take some sharp images now... wouldn't that be novel!

So.... CPS gets an D- for communication and an A+ for speed. Grade for accuracy is pending... Now, out the door before the dog bursts from repressed excitement, his walk is WAY overdue at this point. Poor Milo!


A call to the Irvine service center went straight to voice mail but 45 minutes later I received a phone call from a very pleasant rep who told me that all of my gear is finished and was sent back to me via Fed Ex last night and should be at my door before 3PM today.... it's 1:50 pm now...

I've had a bad history with Fed Ex just leaving door tags and not ringing the door bell or knocking so... I'm going to go sit by the front door until they show up... I can't wait to have everything back in my hands! Heading down to the Baylands tonight if it all arrives in time! Hummmm probubly better not to count my stilts before they've hatched.... waiting is painful.

Waiting is painful

It's been 6 days since I've had a camera in my hand. I forgot that this past weekend was a holiday weekend... silly me. And so Friday, I packed up my long lenses and my camera bodies and shipped them off to Canon for cleaning, calibration and minor tweaks that have been long neglected. I had been counting on having a full week for these repairs but I didn't count on everyone being closed down for Memorial Day. One day lost.

Thanks to UPS tracking, I know that my gear arrived safe and sound in the Canon Repair Center in Irvine, CA at 9:05 AM Tuesday morning but that is all I know. Not one peep from Canon about having received them, an estimate, a time table... nothing.

This is my first time using my new status as a CPS member and I really have to say I am not in the least bit impressed. I leave on Sunday for a photo trip to Montana... it's not going to be much of a trip if I have no camera or lens to use... I'm hoping that BorrowLenses.com will be able to bail me out at the last minute if Canon fails to come through.

It's so rare that I have a solid week without anything to photograph and even now, I am jonesing to get out there and shoot. I know where several black-neck stilt chicks are testing their tiny wings, I've seen sparrows galore, the tides are great for landscapes.... the photos are calling me but I have no equipment to answer with.... I hope it comes back to me soon.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

California Photo Forum

I'm currently exploring a new forum I've found that specifically targets California based Photographers of all styles and genre's. So far so good... there seem to be a lot of active people, more each day in fact as they are in a giant membership push at the moment... and they feature "What the Duck"!! So... check them out and see if they are a good fit for you... you just might find a new shooting buddy or a few new locations you didn't know about.

California Photo Forum

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New Adventure

I've recently begun a new adventure in my photographic career: People. I've rented a studio space with a friend of mine, Enrique Aguirre, in a building full of artists... painters, sculptures, wood workers and welders... you name the art medium and I'm certain there is someone in the building to fit the bill. I'm still meeting everyone and learning what they do but already two of the artists really stand out, Eric Joyner and Rebecca Fox (and not just because she is named Rebecca!). Check out their work when you get a chance! I'm sure you will be as impressed as I am.

But on to my PEOPLE! For the longest time I have avoided photographing people... in snapshots they always look away at the last second, close one eye, tuck their chin or squint... you name it... I can make the most gorgeous person in the world look horrible in a snap shot! In my work with animals I have found that shooting captive animals is actually harder than true wildlife. I think the reason is just in the fact that expectations are so much higher in captive shoots. If you have a willing wildlife model and you don't get the PERFECT SHOT, well..... you've failed. Whereas if you have a wild critter people will forgive a few misplaced twigs or a bit of shadow int he wrong spot. I thought it would be just as hard for "captive" people. I couldn't have been more wrong. For people it's all about the light and the rapport. If you can make people laugh just a bit, they loosen up and relax and eventually they stop being so conscious of the camera.

My wonderful cousin and his fiancee were so kind as to be my first studio guinea pigs. Practicing with people I know and love took a lot of the pressure off. We spent the entire day, made costume changes and backdrop changes... played with the lights and really had a fun time.

Next, I got brave at my salon and asked one of the girls working there if she would mind coming in and spending a couple hours in exchange for some prints. She brought her boyfriend along and they were both such good sports!

It's really beginning to gel and I am having a ball with it. I can't wait to sucker... I mean... convince more people to come in for sessions. So many ideas rattling around in my brain - this is a whole new world of opportunity! Don't worry, I'm not abandoning the wildlife! Just to prove it... I was in Elkhorn Slough this past Sunday working with Otters and Birds! You can see more about this outing at the CalNature Blog.

Thursday, April 30, 2009


One of the best reasons to head back to Midway in April was for the opportunities to photograph babies! The Albatross chicks are heading into their awkward toddler stage. They reminded me of my nephew as he launched himself across a room... feet pumping as if the sheer push forward could keep him on his feet... followed quickly by the pause and uncertain swaying... concluding in the drop down onto his diapered behind. The albatross chicks had the exact same process to their movements and they became more and more mobile every day. All the fuzz of their down coats reminded me of a big, thick diaper and I had to giggle every single time I saw one sit down suddenly after the sway.

Many of the the chicks end up sitting in the middle of the roadways. The traffic is very light and is limited to a few gold carts and some bicycles. For the most part you slalom back and forth across the road between chicks but on occasion, the chicks are too closely paced together and a bird has to be moved out of the way. They don't appreciate it and they let you know in no uncertain terms of this fact by raking the inside of your arm with the hooked end of their beak. Not everyone can point to a small scar on their arms and say "Albatross". I hope my little mark stays with me! ;)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Monk Seals

The nice warm, sunny days brought out lots of Monk Seals to the beaches of Midway. The majority of the beaches are closed to human activity because the Monk Seals are so easily disturbed. Too bad they don't seem to know which beaches belong to them and which belong to the people! Seriously though, they can have whatever beach they want. I managed to find one seal sound asleep on the beach. By positioning myself behind my cart and some shrubbery... and of course the camera... I managed to look entirely NOT human. I watched her for a little while, firing off shots now and again. At one point she rolled over, looked right at the camera, scratched and rolled the other way and went back to sleep. That split second was all I needed to grab my portrait with my long lens and teleconverter. When I was certain she was asleep again I crept away. I always love being able to get within photography range of an animal, getting the shot and getting away without effecting the animals behavior in the slightest. A great feeling.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Marine Debris

I was sitting in the airport in San Francisco eagerly awaiting my plane to begin my journey back to Midway Atoll when I overheard a conversation. A woman was running back to her family waving a package in the air... "Look what I just found! Aren't they cool? It's a whole package of disposable toothbrushes! You use them once and throw them away!" I could feel my gut twinge as I listened to them 'oooo' and 'ahhhh' over the brightly colored plastic brushes... 6 to a pack.

All I could think of were the bodies of the albatross chicks I saw in November from last season and how every single one I looked at had a bolus of plastic in it's stomach when I looked. Mono filament fishing line, lighters, toothbrushes, combs, hairbrushes, fishing floats, children's toys, bits of undistinguished plastic, bottle caps, lipstick tubes.... the list goes on and on. It's estimated that Albatross bring FIVE TONS of plastic marine debris to Midway Atoll EVERY year.

In November our group took to collecting lighters whenever we found them... We picked up 150 lighters even after a bag malfunction lost several on Eastern Island. This April we made a more conserted effort from the very begining of the trip. Every single person in the group participated, some passing me lighters as if they were covert secret messages. We collected 304.5 lighters in 6 days.

So why is it that we need to manufacture a toothbrush that you use only once, that goes on to last 100 years???? Where do people think these items end up? Many of us concientiously recycle every bit of plastic we can find and yet... some of this is still ending up in the oceans. 80% of the plastic in the ocean arrived there from stream and sewer run off. And not just from the coasts! A plastic bottle dropped in a storm sewer in South Dakota will make it's way along to a stream, then a river and eventually into the ocean where they float along, eventually becoming trapped in a current and grouping with other plastics.

Naturalist, Wayne Sentman, speaks to a group of visitors to Midway Atoll on the hazards of Marine Debris.

There are so many reasons this is a bad thing. Albatross ingest the plastic as they are feeding and return to feed this plastics to chicks in the nest. The chicks can't regurgitate and so they end us starving to death because the plastic makes then feel full. Turtles eat the plastic bags and die from stomach blockages. Larger bottles become brittle in the sun and break into smaller pieces. Many of these pieces have sharp edges which can perforate the stomach wall of any sea bird which eats it leading to massive infection and death. PCP and DDT is attracted to plastic bits. These toxins build up on the edges of the plastic... The bits break down into even smaller bits and are ingested by plankton and jellyfish... the toxins and plastic are condensed in the bottom of the food chain and has no where to go but up.... guess who is at the top...

So the next time you think, "Hey it isn't MY problem." Think again. This issue is touching us all.

A few things beyond just recycling that you can do to help:
1. Take tops off of plastic bottles. If they DO end up in the ocean they are more apt to fill with water and sink to the bottom, hopefully to be buried.
2. Participate in Beach and Roadway clean ups. Every bottle or piece of debris that is picked up from the road or beach and put in it's proper place to be disposed of is a piece of plastic that will not become marine debris.
3. Buy fewer plastics. Tracy Ammerman,Visitor Services Manager - Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, related how her purchasing decisions changed after experiencing the marine debris at Midway. She elected to spend $.50-cents more to buy a ceramic soap dish rather than a plastic one. Such a simple, every day item but a small price to pay to reduce the demand for plastics.
4. If you go on a cruise ship, encourage them to bring their garbage back to the US where it is more likely to be handled properly. Many cruise lines leave their garbage in foreign countries like Belize simply because it is less expensive. These countries are often ill equipped to handle the waste and it end up in run off and eventually in the oceans.
5. Encourage the manufacturers of your favorite products, by letters or email, to switch to shorter lived packaging. 100 years is too long for a bottle of laundry soap to stick around.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Hawaiian Green Turtle

The weather was so nice out on Midway... very different than in November. Warm summer days with a night light breeze, just enough to take the edge off without keeping you out of the water... unless you are an endangered Hawaiian Green Turtle. I had a good feeling when we found three turtles hauled out on a beach in Kona. The beach was pretty busy but there were signs asking people not to harass the turtles as they were "resting". Most people obeyed much to my delight.

Once we got to Sand Island on Midway Atoll (the only island of the three that is populated by humans) I checked out Turtle Beach. On one day I counted 15 turtles hauled out and saw several more cruising the shallow waters near the beach. The turtles are not actively nesting on Sand Island so he popular theory is that they are hauling out because of the high predator load in the waters surrounding the Atoll. Tiger sharks and Reef sharks are found in the waters in great abundance. In the late summer they feed on the unfortunate albatross chicks that don't learn to fly quickly enough. We spotted four different Reef sharks by the pier on a day we were returning from a snorkel trip. The good thing about the shallow water is that dark shapes like turtles, sharks and seals stand out from a great distance. It would be very difficult for one of these critters to sneak up on you if you were in the water.

There are other hazards out there for the turtles, man-made hazards.

Plastic bags floating in the ocean look a lot like jelly fish, a turtles favorite food. Once the bag is ingested it blocks the turtles stomach opening so it can't take in any real food. The turtle then starves to death. What you can do to help: Use a cloth bag for your groceries and keep using it. If you forget to bring your bag to the store, ask for paper which can then be recycled. Participate in a Beach Clean up day. Pick up any errant plastic bags you see in the street and place them in a proper waste receptacle.

Ghost nets: Turtles don't have very good eyesight. They can easily become entangled in netting that is adrift in the ocean and will drown. They don't have gills, they need to surface to breath! In 2003, NOAA and the Coast Guard removed 100,000 kilograms of derelict netting from the reefs in the Northwest Hawaiian Islands... in 2004 there was another 100,000 kilograms to be removed. The collected debris is transported to Honolulu where it is cut into managable pieces and then incinerated to create electrical energy which is then used by the residents of Oahu. In 2003 that was 111 metric tons which was enough to power 42 homes for a full year, the equivalent of 120 barrels of oil. This debris is worth far more out of the ocean!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

and Home Again

Just home from Midway and all I can say is that the 'Photo Gods' were extremely kind! I can't express what an amazing place Midway is and how significant the three tiny islands are historically, environmentally and conservationally. I am sunburned, have bite marks from aggressive Albatross chicks, an allergic reaction to an invasive species, bumps and bruises galore and all the photos to show a glimpse of just how many 5 million sea birds really are... I'll start sharing those photos after I get some sleep!

-- Post From My iPhone

Monday, April 13, 2009

Return to Midway

I'm so excited! Today I return to Midway Atoll to check on the progress of the Albatross chicks. I'm sitting in the Kona airport waiting for the flight to Honolulu and I can hear the clatter and chatter of the albatross in my memory. I picked a few nests to revisit while I was there in November. I'm hopeful that the eggs will have hatched and I will be greeted with fuzzy chicks. I'll let you know as soon as I get back on the 22nd! I hope you all have a wonderful week!!

-- Post From My iPhone

Friday, April 10, 2009

Rainy Day in Paradise

What else can one do on a rainy day in paradise but photograph birds??? With the techniques I learned in Texas with Alan I was able to get great photos of the birds here without running all over the property chasing them. I sat with a cup of coffee beside me in a very comfy chair and waited for them to come to me. I just hope the garden staff doesn't get too upset about the perches I "liberated"... I made certain they weren't from obvious spots on the trees.... :)

Three Days in Roma

I just spent three amazing days in Roma, Texas with acclaimed bird photographer, Alan Murphy. What an incredible experience! I can tell you unequivocally that three days is not enough time. I was able to photograph twenty-six different species and I learned to identify several by their calls... Alan has been a birder his entire life and has avidly studied avian behavior. Add to this a propensity for perfect planning, a wonderfully artistic eye and the patience of a saint and you've got yourself an amazing photographer AND TEACHER.

The workshop was about more than getting pretty images to take home. Alan taught us techniques to use right in our own backyards. Every step of the way he explained what he was doing and why... from perch selection to placement... every call, every wing flap... Alan knew what birds were out there, when they would appear and what perch they would choose.

I can't wait to start playing in my own backyard... which I always assumed was too small to get anything good... Alan has changed my mind!

Check out my Flickr page for more Roma, Texas birds.