Happy Thanksgiving to everyone, family, friends and those who made it through another year. I have a lot to be thankful for and you are one of the special reasons I can celebrate this day. Happy Thanksgiving.
“Hi, I couldn’t help but notice you’re a turkey.”
“No, I’m not a turkey”
“You look amazingly like a turkey.”
“Well I’m not.”
“Come on, you’re a turkey. Look at that tail, those beautiful feathers. You’ve even got a dewlap.”
“If you’re not a turkey then what are you?”
“What, A Bunting! You’re not a Bunting.”
“You are not a Bunting. Buntings aren’t even around here at this time of year.”
“What month is it then.”
“Let’s see, September, October, Turkeyvember. I’m pretty sure it’s November.”
“Wait, did you just say Turkeyvember?”
“Nope, I said November.”
You said Turkeyvember, I heard you!”
“No I didn’t. There isn’t even a month named Turkeyvember.”
“Are you sure, I could have sworn I heard Turkeyvember.”
“No, no, no. I don’t even know where that came from. But listen, if you’re not doing anything later why don’t you come down to the house for dinner. We’ve got fresh corn.”
“Really, I love fresh corn.”
“Yeah, well, we’d love to have you. Come on I’ll walk you down. I’ve never seen a Bunting as large as you. Do you work out? The family’s going to love you. No, it’s not that far. So, how much do you weigh then. Really! That’s big for a bunting….. No, the family won’t mind if you’re there for dinner…”
You often seen wolves clustered around an elk or bison carcass that they’ve brought down, congratulating each other with high fives, and stuffing themselves until they can’t move. How are they always able to locate these animals so precisely to successfully make their kills.
The short answer is they use paid informants. These ravens are notorious C.I.’s or as they’re known in the trade, Confidential Informants. Because of their incredible mobility and their incredible greed, they are able to find that straggler elk or injured buffalo and will willingly give them up for a small price, usually a piece of liver or maybe a nice strip of tripe, and before you can say “OMG, Look at that!” the wolves are on them and it’s Thanksgiving day all over again.
This CI who is known by his cover as “Ratzo”, has just seen an injured spike left behind when the herd found out the pack was in residence and is in the process of dropping a dime on him right now. Unfortunately for the spike his days are numbered unless he can get to the free clinic and get that leg looked at. I gotta say it doesn’t sound promising however. As they say around here “So sad, Too bad for you Spike” but that’s the way nature works, here in nature. You scratch my fur and I’ll ruffle your feathers.
As we head into the Thanksgiving holidays we can all be thankful for several things, number one, we’re not a spike with a bum leg. Number two, we’re also not out in that cold snow. And number three, you’re fortunate enough to live in a time when you have an organization like “The Institute”, that center of knowledge, little known facts, and misinformation, to bring you the latest exclusive information on the workings of Mother Nature. It’s a new way of looking at the world around us and I’m sure we can all agree, that itself is worth the effort of reading these posts. Happy Holidays.
Images of deserts or sand dunes always seem to exude warmth. They give you the impression that it would be warm there no matter what time of year it was. You wouldn’t need a down jacket or gloves but that’s not so for the Great Sand Dunes, it can get really cold and surprisingly grey when the clouds roll out over Kit Carson mountain and cover the dune field.
The dunes vary in elevation with the average around 8000 +, at least near the visitor center, and Mendano creek flows during high water times in the spring and early summer. That depends on the snow melt so there are times when the creek is empty, especially in the winter. No tiene aqua entonces. So swimming is definitely out. The lowest temp ever recorded in the dunes was -25 below in 1963 and they ‘re still trying to thaw out the swimmers from that day.
Whether it’s cold or warm the dunes are always beautiful. If the sun can make it out the dunes show the golden hues you expect and sunset is the best time for the colors of the park to brighten up a grey cold day. If you plan to visit bring your snuggies and bunny slippers because the temperature will fool you and freeze your little hiney off if you’re not careful. And don’t go swimming.
A lot of you have written in saying “Hey Director, What makes you so special? That wildlife photography isn’t so hard. My Uncle Skid, the loopy bastard, took a picture just as good as the one you posted the other day. Why should you get the big bucks? I want my donation back!”
Well Dear Reader, it’s like this. First let’s get one thing straight. You ain’t getting that donation back. Once you send it in and your check clears it’s gone. The Institute don’t do refunds. And stop calling, I’ve put you on Caller Reject. Besides who donates .86 cents, it cost me more than that to drive down to town in that blizzard and deposit that check.
But the important issue you raise, that of “that wildlife photography isn’t so hard” needs to be addressed. Perhaps some background might help to clarify what goes into producing an image such as the one above.
First is just wading through all the technical aspects of a photography shoot like this one. You have permits to get, which means dealing with government bureaucracy, there’s the talent to obtain which means talent agents, the scum of the entertainment world, there’s the talent themselves who are almost always prima donnas and impossible to work with, and then you get into the crew required to get the shoot ready.
We’re talking staging people who create the set, grips, lighting directors, food services for the talent and the crew, permits to park the catering bus on federal land, makeup, costuming, on site teachers to provide schooling for any minors that may be on the set and Chukar have a bunch of minors, they’re up to their little orange beaks in kids, and on and on. Now there’s even the folks from SPCA and now Peta to make sure no one hurts the feelings of the talent. They monitor how long you keep the talent in a particular pose so they’re not over-worked and see that they get breaks every 30 mins regardless of what that does to the light.. What it all adds up to is mucho dinero and the equivalent amount of brain-shredding hassle.
Then there is actually working with the talent, if they’re not stuffing their fat little faces at the seed bar until they can hardly waddle onto the set, they’re complaining about makeup, or the costumers didn’t fluff their feathers just right, or they won’t stand in that spot because that’s doesn’t show their good side or they hold the entire shoot up while they take that call. “I’ll just be a minute.” Sometimes it easier to just shoot flowers, all they do is wiggle in the wind a little. That’s an easy problem to solve.
After fighting through all that you may actually get the picture. Then you have post processing, calling your agent so he can get this thing sold and coordinate the print and video sales and try to get that book deal sewn up. This ain’t easy bucko, in fact it’s pretty damn hard. I’d like to see your loopy Uncle Skid pull this off.
I didn’t even get into what happens when we do what is known in the biz as a ‘hazardous shoot’ or what we like to call “You bet your ass someone’s gonna die” situation when we work with the rough trade of the wildlife world, Grizzlies and Wolves. You wouldn’t believe what it costs to have a full-fledged medical team with life-flight helicopters standing by.
Thanks for the letter, it allows us to show you and the rest of our loyal readers what actually happens behind the scenes on your typical, average wildlife shoot. And why I get the big bucks. Hope this clears things up and tell your loopy Uncle Skid I said ‘hey’.
Isis has always been one of my favorite features in the grand Canyon and not just because I can recognize it amongst all the other rocks out there. There’s some magnetic quality about it that catches your attention and is always a prominent feature in your view of the canyon.
I just recently found out that in ancient mythology she was known as a friend to slaves, sinners and artisans which kind of bummed me out after realizing what company that put me in. Then I discovered that she also listened to the prayers of the wealthy, aristocrats and rulers and that brightened up my day some. At least I had the possibility to hang with some of the better folks.
It would appear that those fun-loving Egyptian gods and goddesses had some quirky social behaviors, what with brother marrying sister, having animal heads instead of regular faces and being able to bring back the dead if they felt like it. But then who are we to judge. I mean have you watched TV lately. Seems like that Egyptian bunch didn’t corner the market on weird.
It’s difficult to catch the goddess in a bad light but she really shines when the light is perfect. And the light is rarely bad when you’re at the canyon. I think it’s time to pay homage to the queen again so I’ll be out on the edge at Yavapai Point visiting my girl. Wave if you see me so I’ll know who you are.
I was on the phone talking to one the president’s unofficial advisors, actually it wasn’t one of his advisors it was just some one that happened to answer the phone, about the financial impact to the US economy if the Kardashians were to leave Reality TV and the resulting chaos that event might have on the market and the rest of the free world, when I noticed a flicker of movement out of the corner of my incredible brown eyes.
There sitting on a branch just several feet away was the reclusive but not often seen Pygmy owl. This was a momentous event, not just seeing the small little visitor, but the relief I felt that there were still some left.
As you know things got a little tough here at the Institute during the Sequester/Furlough/Shut-down fiasco and many of the interns and I’m not proud to say this, some of our PhD’s, foraged for extra rations on the Institute grounds. This happened as you know because they weren’t getting paid and couldn’t pay for their meals at the free commissary we run here at the Institute. Unfortunately much of the Institutes’ flora and fauna was stripped bare for consumptive purposes with the smaller birds and animals bearing the brunt of the onslaught.
Burrowing owls were a favorite because they were easily run down and so were the Pygmy owls and there weren’t many of them to begin with. I became aware of the problem by a tragic discovery I made as I checked the outbuildings for damage. Some of the staff had been pulling the clapboards off the walls to burn in their rooms for heat. As I looked about there on the ground was evidence of a horrendous act. I was chilled to the my core, to see that little pile of yellow feet lying out behind the commissary because then I knew what was in that unusual but tasty stew they’d been serving.
Many other animals were affected as well. We were lucky that our established colony of Black-footed Ferrets had been here long enough that they were able to burrow deep enough to be out of reach when the staff tried digging them out. The ferrets were saved due to the famished, weaken state of the foragers so one good thing came out of that whole government screw-up.
As director of one of the leading fact-finding Institutes in the world I must bear the responsibility for some of the outrageous actions of my staff. My only defense is similar to the one that Italian cruise ship captain used when he tipped that big boat over, which was “Hey, I was having dinner. I didn’t want to let my steak get cold or scare my date.” Keeping the staff from finding out about the gourmet selections I had in the Director’s personal food locker kept me busy enough that I was unaware of what my semi-starving employees were up to. Rest assured that as soon as I found out they were immediately put on half-rations and I had the Lamprey locker reopened. No one likes it when I reopen the Lamprey locker so I don’t see this kind of behavior happening again. Unless those splendid individuals running things there in our nations capital have another repeat of this mess in January that is.
For those of you who may need some background on this whole Sequester/Furlough/Shut-down thing and the origin of the Lamprey locker, I refer you to the following posts that may help you understand the situation.
These 10 posts pretty well cover the story to date. I know it’s a lot of reading but I’ve tried to keep the amount of words used to a minimum and still tell the story. Don’t think of it as an assignment think of it as one of the worst history classes you ever had to sit through when you were in school. The boring ones where you thought your brain was going to explode because of the dullness. Then double it. If that doesn’t get you to read them then I don’t know what to do. Just skip them then, but don’t come running to me if I mention something later on that you don’t understand but would if you just did what you were supposed to and read the damn posts.
OK then, I’m sorry my staff ate all the damn owls. I’ve told them “Don’t do that again.” So anyway enjoy the picture.