Category Archives: Nature

I’ll call this one ‘Cardinal Wolsey’

Cardinal

Christmas before last, my wife received a bird feeder for our deck. Things were going pretty well with the Wagner’s Eastern Regional Blend, except for the squirrels.

Initially, we defeated them by swinging the boom holding the feeder out over open space off the deck, but a few months back they figured out how to defeat that, and basically whenever we weren’t looking, they emptied the thing. I don’t know what it was they were so crazy about; maybe the sunflower seeds.

So a month or so ago I bought some seed at Lowe’s that would only attract smaller birds — and cardinals.

So what’s happened? The cardinals tend to hog it, and run the sparrows and wrens off.

And some of them have gotten pretty fat.

Get a load of this guy. Yeah, his feathers are kind of fluffed out, but he’s still rather large.

And he’s not even eating. He’s just sitting there, staking out territory. Very political, very wordly for a bird of the cloth.

I think I’ll call him “Wolsey”…

Hear Joel Sartore and Photo Ark tonight at Harbison Theater

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I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of talented people over the course of my career, and no one fits that description better than Joel Sartore.

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Joel Sartore

Joel was a photographer at The Wichita Eagle-Beacon back when I was news editor there, and I knew he was something special then. Part of my job involved deciding what went on the front page, and I had the privilege of using his work a lot. The times I spent with him at the light table peering at negatives through magnifying glasses and discussing them persuaded me that here was an all-around fine journalist, far more than just another shooter.

And he had an incredible eye for exactly the right shot. I’ll post a couple of prints he gave me back in the day when I’m at home. Amazing stuff.

Well, he’s not in Kansas anymore. Not long after my stint in Wichita, Joel started working for National Geographic, and he’s been with them ever since.

Lately, he’s been working on a monumental project called the Photo Ark, which The State described thusly in their story about his appearance in our community tonight:

National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore is trying to save the planet with his camera….

The project is called Photo Ark, and his goal is to take studio photographs of the roughly 12,000 species in captivity.

“My job, my passion, or what I’m trying to explore and share is the fact that we are throwing away the ark,” Sartore said, adding that he wants “to document as many of the world’s captive species as I can before I die.”

In the past 11 years, he has photographed about 6,500 of these animals. He estimates it will take another 15 years or so to photograph the rest….

So, you know, a herculean task. But Joel’s up to it, I assure you.

He’ll be talking about his work tonight at 7:30 at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College.

I hope to see you there…

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Life, clinging…

clinging

See this photo I took of scraggly trees desperately clinging to a clump of fertile soil on a bleak, muddy, flood-swept landscape?

Actually, it was a tiny weed, about four inches high, in the driveway next to the ADCO building on Pickens.

I was amazed that none of us had run over it. I thought I’d immortalize it before that happened. The very essence of fragile life, clinging on against the odds.

That’s all. No political message…

driveway

A wild, beautiful vision in the heart of downtown

I’ve got this thing about hawks. Whenever I’m driving through the countryside and I see one gliding above the road or the woods and fields to the sides, it’s special to me. I’m like, “Look! A hawk!” And my wife is like, “Yes, I see that — yet another hawk…”

Well, she would have been impressed had she been with me a few minutes ago.

I was eastbound on Lady Street, waiting at that light (which must be one of the Top Five longest red lights in Columbia) to cross Bull. The light finally changed, and as I put the truck in gear and started to move, a hawk came swooping across the street at me, no more than four or five feet off the ground.

It was carrying something furry and rather large — maybe a big squirrel, smaller than a ‘possum or raccoon — and I think maybe that was retarding its effort to gain altitude. It passed my window, almost within arm’s reach. I saw the working of its wings, its fierce, proud visage (which would never show that it was having a hard time), close-up and in action.

As I rolled across Bull, I glanced in the rearview and saw the hawk glide around, rather than over, another vehicle behind me (anything but let go, in keeping with the First Law of the Foot). Then I saw it rise, maybe 12 or 15 feet, toward a tree branch. Then I lost sight of it.

But what I did see was a treat. If you have a thing about hawks, the way I do. I wish I could have gotten a picture. But even if I were wearing Google Glass, it was probably too quick to get the shot — unless I just happened to be shooting video, and it’s hard to imagine why I’d have been doing that at the most boring intersection in Columbia.

I’m sure it was less of a treat for the furry thing. But that’s nature for you. As Woody Allen observed in “Love and Death” (in answer to Diane Keaton’s observation, “Isn’t nature incredible?”):

To me, nature is…I dunno, spiders and bugs and big fish eating little fish, and plants eating plants and animals eating…It’s like an enormous restaurant.